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THE SITUATION ROOM
House Panel Finds Rangel Guilty; Groundbreaking for New Bush Library; Prince William Engaged
Aired November 16, 2010 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Brooke, thanks very much.
Happening now, it's a royal wedding for the history books -- now a giddy Prince William and his long time love, Kate Middleton, are revealing firsthand the dramatic details of the moment they got engaged, including why he decided to give her the late Princess Diana's ring. Stand by.
Guilty on multiple counts -- a veteran Congressman is charged with serious House ethics violations. And he's calling the findings "deplorable."
Plus, he's known as the Merchant of Death -- an alleged international arms dealer is extradited to the United States on terror charges.
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
One of the most popular and longest serving Democrats in Congress is fighting for his political life this hour. Charlie Rangel, who was forced to step down as chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, is now getting a formal lashing from his peers after being accused of House ethics violations.
Our Congressional correspondent, Brianna Keilar, is standing by on Capitol Hill.
She has all the dramatic, late breaking developments.
What happened -- Brianna?
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this is what it came down to after a two year investigation. And we're talking about Charles Rangel. He's 80 years old, in the twilight of his career. And this did not go his way.
REP. ZOE LOFGREN (D), ETHICS PANEL CHAIR: The majority found that to be proven by clear and convincing evidence on a vote 7-1.
KEILAR: (voice-over): On 11 of 12 counts, a bipartisan ethics panel found Charles Rangel guilty of breaking House rules, for failing to pay taxes on income from a rental villa in the Dominican Republic, where he's seen vacationing in this photo; and not disclosing hundred of thousands of dollars in assets; also, misusing a rent-controlled New York apartment as a campaign office and using Congressional letterhead and staff to solicit donations for a college center named for him, including from companies with business before his tax-writing committee.
The top Republican and Democrat on the committee seemed somber after the charges were read.
REP. MICHAEL MCCAUL (R), TEXAS: No one asked for this assignment. Sitting in judgment of a fellow member, a colleague, is very difficult.
LOFGREN: We have tried to act with fairness, led only by the facts and the law. And I believe that we have accomplished that mission.
KEILAR: But Rangel wasn't in the room to hear the verdict. He boycotted his own trial, saying his lawyers withdrew their reputation and the committee wasn't giving him time to mount a defense.
Our camera caught him near his office.
(on camera): Are you hoping for just a reprimand?
REP. CHARLES RANGEL (D), NEW YORK: I don't know.
KEILAR: (voice-over): In a written statement, Rangel called the decision "unfair" and "the inevitable result of the committee's insistence on moving forward despite the absence of any legal representation on my behalf."
But even some of his colleagues, like fellow New York Democrat, Eliot Engel, seemed to understand why the committee judged the 20 term Democrat as they did.
REP. ELIOT ENGEL (D), NEW YORK: They did it because they -- they saw there was substance there. And, you know, as a -- as a friend of Charlie's and someone who has respected him for a long time, I'm -- I'm kind of sorry to -- to see this happen toward the end of his career.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you want me to stop so you can do what...
KEILAR: And the next step -- the next step here, Wolf, is for the Ethics Committee to, in essence -- the next step here, Wolf, is for the Ethics Committee to, in essence, sentence Rangel. It's called a sanctions hearing.
It could it happen as early as this week. And there are a lot of different options they have. The worst would be to expel him from the House of Representatives. That's seen as very unlikely, normally, held for members who have actually been convicted of criminal charges, which Rangel has not been, obviously -- has not had that. The -- the other different kinds of rebukes that he could face might be a censure or simply a letter of reprimand, more of a slap on the wrist, maybe even a fine, having some privileges revoked. Some of those items would have to go before the full House. But, of course, we're waiting to see exactly what the rebuke is.
BLITZER: All right, Brianna.
Thanks very much.
We're going to have more on this story later this hour.
Let's move on to some other news we're following. Many of us remember that iconic royal wedding of Prince Charles and Princess Diana. Now, nearly 30 years later, the world is once again captivated, this time with the engagement of their eldest son, Prince William, to Kate Middleton. In their first television interview since announcing the news, the young couple is taking us behind-the-scenes of an emotional and sometimes challenging love story.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you kind of always have at the back of your minds that you wanted to marry each other?
Did that come slowly?
Did you suddenly decide a couple of weeks ago?
I mean people have assumed you're going to be married for a long time.
How did you both come to it in your heads?
PRINCE WILLIAM, UNITED KINGDOM: Well, from my point of view, I -- you know, when I first met Kate, I knew there was something very special about her and that I knew that there was -- there was possibly something that I wanted to explore there. But we've ended up being friends for a while. And -- and that just sort of was a good sort of foundation, because do I generally believe now, especially, that, you know, being friends with, you know, one another is a massive advantage. And it just went from there. And over the years, I knew things were getting better and better. And we went through a few stumbling blocks, as every -- as every relationship does.
But we -- we picked ourselves up and carried on. And we -- you know, from where you had, you know, the odd problem when you were first getting to know each other, those have all gone and it's just really easy being with each other and it's really fun. And -- and I'm obviously extremely funny and she loves that.
So it's -- it's all good.
KATE MIDDLETON, PRINCE WILLIAM'S FIANCE: If you say so yourself.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kate, you obviously -- you're obviously upset when you -- you still have all your friends -- both of your friends talk about, you know, this is -- this is a very substantial love that's built up over a very long period of time, you know, that's part friendship and, obviously more than that.
MIDDLETON: Well, I think if you -- when you go out with someone for quite a long time that you do get to know each other very, very well. You go -- you go through the good times, you go through bad times and you're both -- both personally, but also within the relationship, as well.
And, you know, I think if you can come out of that stronger and, you know, learn, as I said, things about yourself, you know, certainly -- it's certainly, yes, it's been a good -- a good, how many years?
PRINCE WILLIAM: A lot.
PRINCE WILLIAM: Three, four.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It must be. I was going to say, did you ever want to come on?
MIDDLETON: Well, we do -- we've -- we've had our -- we've had our conversations. But I think, you know, it was...
PRINCE WILLIAM: We've talked about today, for one, haven't we?
MIDDLETON: -- fun, yes.
PRINCE WILLIAM: We've talked about this happening for a day. So Kate wasn't in the -- in the dark, however, at all. And we've been planning it for, you know, for at least a year and if not longer. It was just finding the right time. And that was what -- you know, as most people -- people say with couples, it's all about timing. And I had my, you know, my military career. And I really wanted to concentrate on my flying. And I couldn't have done this if I was still doing my training. So I've got that out of way. And Kate's, you know, in a good place for -- in terms of work and where she wants to be and stuff. And we just both decided now was a really good time.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're obviously going to enter this family, the most famous, you know, royal family in -- in the world. William's mother was this massive iconic figure, the most famous figure of our age.
Is that worrying?
Is that -- is that intimidating?
Does that -- does that -- do you think about that a lot, both of you?
You particularly, Kate, obviously.
MIDDLETON: Well, obviously, I'd be -- I would have loved to have met her. And -- and -- and she is, obviously, she's an -- she is an inspirational woman to -- to look up to. And, obviously, on the -- to this day and, you know, going forward and things.
You know, it is, you know, a wonderful family, just the members who I've met have achieved a lot and, you know. Very inspirational, too. And so, yes, I do.
PRINCE WILLIAM: Because (INAUDIBLE), like Kate said, you know, it's about carving your own future. No one is going to try and, you know, no is trying to fill my mother's shoes and -- and she -- what she did is fantastic.
It's about making your own future and your own destiny. And -- and Kate will do -- will do a very good job of that.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
BLITZER: We're going to have a lot more of this interview coming up. We're only just starting. Throughout this hour and the next hour, you'll see much more, including how he popped the question to Kate Middleton, as well. So stand by for that.
So just who is the woman soon to become royalty?
Twenty-eight-year-old Kate Middleton is the daughter of self-made millionaires from rural England. Her mother was originally a flight attendant and her father a pilot. The eldest of three children, Middleton holds a degree in art from St. Andrews University in Scotland, where she met the prince. And much like his mother, the late Princess Diana, Middleton is no stranger to style. Back in 2008, she joined the likes of the first ladies Michelle Obama and France's Carlo Bruni Sarkozy on "Vanity Fair's" international best dressed list.
Once again, much more coming up on this story and more of the interview.
His nickname is the Merchant of Death and he's allegedly smuggled weapons of death all over Africa and the Middle East. Now he's being taken right here to the United States to face charges.
So why is Russia calling it -- and I'm quoting now -- "outrageous justice?"
Plus, a young American hero receives the Medal of Honor from President Obama for extraordinary courage in Afghanistan. But you're going to find out what would make him give the medal back in a second.
And ground-breaking day in Dallas -- familiar faces join George W. Bush on a key milestone for his presidential library, including the former vice president, Dick Cheney. You'll see them -- all of that coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Tough economic choices are on Jack Cafferty's mind.
Jack is here and he has The Cafferty File -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Ever since the proposals of that bipartisan deficit reduction commission have begun to emerge, critics from all over the political spectrum are trying to shout the loudest about what they don't want to see cut. And now you can add Defense Secretary Robert Gates to the list.
Gates is blasting the proposed reductions in military spending, saying such cuts would be catastrophic to national security. Gates says he's trying to use a scalpel instead of a meat axe to make cuts to his department. Gates adds that when it come to the deficit, the Defense Department is not the problem.
But that is the problem here. Nobody wants to see the programs that are near and dear to them cut. And yet if we're going to get serious about this almost $14 trillion national debt, we're going to have to do a lot of cutting.
The Deficit Commission seems to have put nearly everything on the table with its draft recommendations, the overall goal being to reduce the debt by $4 trillion by 2020. In addition to cuts to the Defense Department, the Commission recommends cutting Social Security and Medicare, raising the retirement age, increasing taxes, cutting contractors for domestic government agencies, freezing the pay of federal workers and shrinking the size of the federal workforce, plus eliminating all earmarks.
Now Congress is already hard at work on that last one, the earmarks. They're voting on a symbolic nonbinding resolution to ban emerging markets.
A non-binding resolution is about as worthless, as, well, Congress.
Here's the question -- in light of the Deficit Commission's draft recommendations, where do you expect the federal government to make the deepest spending cuts?
Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile.
BLITZER: Jack, thank you.
It's something we rarely see -- the award of America's highest military honor to a living recipient. But that happened today over at the White House today. President Obama awarded the Medal of Army -- the Medal of Honor to Army Staff Sergeant Salvatore Giunta. On October 25, 2007, Giunta and his squad were ambushed by Taliban fighters in Afghanistan. Giunta braved enemy fire to help a fellow soldier who had been shot. Then he chased down militants to pull another wounded comrade to safety and give him first aid. He's the first living veteran of the Afghanistan war to receive the Medal of Honor.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Sadly, our nation has been unable to present this decoration to the recipients themselves, because each gave his life -- his last full measure of devotion -- for our country. Indeed, as president, I've presented the Medal of Honor three times and each time to the families of a fallen hero.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STAFF SERGEANT SALVATORE GIUNTA, MEDAL OF HONOR RECIPIENT: This is a -- this is an incredible time. But it's also kind of a bittersweet time. Times like this, because of this day, I lost two dear friends of mine, Specialists Hugo Mendoza and Sergeant Joshua Brennan. And although this is so positive, I would give this back in a second to have my friends with me right now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Giunta added that there are -- that the true heroes are those two fellow soldiers who lost their lives on that fateful, fateful night.
Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice and, of course, the former president, George W. Bush -- a veritable who's who of the Bush administration -- they were in Dallas today for the groundbreaking of the Bush Presidential Center Library.
CNN's Ed Lavandera is there, as well.
He's joining us now with more.
How did it go -- Ed?
ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, in many ways, it was like a blast into the past. There were protesters outside the event chanting that President Bush was a war criminal. Inside, the biggest collection of Bush president alumni that have gathered since he left office a little -- almost two years ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Time to shovel dirt. Hold it up, look at the camera, turn it.
LAVANDERA (voice-over): It's the type of photo-op President George W. Bush has avoided for two years since leaving office.
GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It is hard to believe that there is this much excitement about shoveling dirt.
LAVANDERA: But there he was breaking ground on his presidential library on the campus of SMU, surrounded by hundreds of people, who worked in the Bush White House. Dick Cheney looked much thinner and walked around with the help of a cane. Condoleezza Rice will play a major role at the Bush Institute, working in the public policy arm of the president's library. Critics have said the goal of the Institute is to rewrite the history of the Bush years. But those closest to the former president say the Institute is designed to help people understand the decisions he made.
ANDREW CARD, FORMER BUSH CHIEF OF STAFF: I don't think that he's trying to change how people perceive him. He's asking for people to better understand what they saw and what their perceptions might be of what they saw.
LAVANDERA: President Bush has reemerged into the spotlight to, in his words, peddle his new book and kick off the library construction.
But don't expect to see the former president offering opinions on the politics of the day.
BUSH: The decisions of governing are on another president's desk and he deserves to make them without criticism from me. Staying out of current affairs and politics does not mean staying out of policy.
LAVANDERA: President Bush might not be interested in fighting political showdowns anymore, but Dick Cheney showed he still enjoys throwing the political jab for a friendly Republican audience, who didn't like President Obama's stimulus plan.
DICK CHENEY, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Of course, the George W. Bush Presidential Center isn't much to look at just yet, but the workers are ready. Construction will move fast after today's groundbreaking. This may be the only shovel ready project in America.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
LAVANDERA: A lot of talk of Dick Cheney at this event today, as well. One noticeable absence, President Bush's parents were not here today, as well, Wolf. And this library is scheduled to open in the spring of 2013 -- Wolf.
BLITZER: I know...
BLITZER: -- they're going to be on Larry King's show this week.
Why weren't they there?
Are they saying?
LAVANDERA: Well, they're -- they -- we weren't able -- we weren't told why that is. Of course, the former -- the first President Bush was here in the Dallas area a few weeks ago, throwing out the first pitch at a Texas Rangers game of the World Series. And many people commented about how frail he looked. So perhaps the journey up here is -- is, perhaps, a little too much at this point.
BLITZER: All right.
Thanks very much for that, Ed.
Violent riots erupting in Haiti right now amid rumors that a United Nations military contingent is responsible for a deadly cholera outbreak. We're going there for a live report.
And a potential roadblock for President Obama's plan to dismantle nuclear arsenals in both the United States and Russia. There are new developments.
And it's the car of the year -- and this time the honor is historic. We're going to tell you why.
BLITZER: Mary Snow is monitoring some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now, including a potential blow to the ratification of the US-Russia START Treaty.
What's going on?
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the Obama-backed START Treaty to reduce the U.S. and Russia's nuclear arsenals won't have much of a chance in Congress' lame duck session. That warning coming from the Republican Senator John Kyl. He says lawmakers have too much other work to do and the treaty is too complex to vote on before the newly elected Congress convenes in January. Vice President Biden warns the failure to pass the new START Treaty this year would endanger national security. In a new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll, 73 percent said the Senate should ratify START. Twenty-three percent disagree.
General Motors' Chevrolet Volt is the Car of the Year. That's according to "Motor Trend" magazine, which calls the award one of the most significant in its history. The Volt is just entering production this month. The plug-in car can drive for 40 miles on battery power before a gasoline fuel engine kicks in.
After getting stranded at sea last week, Carnival Splendor cruise ship won't be sailing again until the new year. That's to allow time for repairs following the engine room fire that crippled the ship off Mexico's coast. Thirty-three hundred passengers were stranded at sea for days with no power, no A.C. No hot showers and no hot food.
And President Obama's new book hits store shelves today -- and it's for kids. The book is titled, "Of Thee I Sing: A Letter To My Daughters." It was inspired by the first daughters, Sasha and Malia. Publishers Random House says the book is a tribute to 13 ground- breaking Americans who made a difference and shaped America's ideals. They include George Washington, baseball icon Jackie Robinson and artist Georgia O'Keefe -- Wolf.
BLITZER: I'm sure that it's going to be a huge best-seller and probably very quickly.
Thanks very much for that, Mary.
Hearts may be breaking all over the world right now. Britain's Prince William is off the most eligible bachelor list and engaged to his long time girlfriend, Kate Middleton. How did they first meet?
Much more of their joint interview in London today. Stand by for that. And a royal biographer will share some special insight with us.
And push-back on airport pat-downs and screenings. But now the outrage isn't coming from passengers.
BLITZER: Let's get back to one of top stories today -- the highly anticipated wedding of Prince William to Kate Middleton.
And joining us now from London, the royal biographer and former royal reporter, Mark Saunders.
Mark, thanks very much for coming in.
They gave a joint sit-down interview today.
I want to play this little clip.
They talk about how they first met.
Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRINCE WILLIAM: We met at the University of St. Andrews. And we were friends for over a year first. And it just sort of blossomed from then on. We just spent more time with each other and had a -- a good giggle, had lots of fun and realized we shared in the same interests and just, you know, had a really good time. She's got a really nice sense of humor, which kind of helps me, because I've got a very dry sense of humor. So it was good fun. We had a -- we had a really good laugh. And then things happened.
MIDDLETON: Actually, I think when -- when you said I actually went bright red when I met you and sort of scuttled off, you know, very shy about -- about meeting you. But -- and, actually, William wasn't there for -- for quite a bit of -- of the time. Initially, he wasn't there for the first week. And -- and so it did take a bit of time for to us get to know each other. But we did become, you know, very close friends from -- from quite early on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Mark, they've been dating, obviously, for -- for many years. So this is not a huge surprise.
But what's been the immediate reaction from the people in Britain?
MARK SAUNDERS, ROYAL BIOGRAPHER: The -- the reaction here has been tremendous. In fact, it's been tremendous all over the world. It's almost as if a breath of fresh air is -- has -- has swept across the country. Everybody is terribly excited. And now, already the talk has moved from the engagement to the wedding, where it's going to be.
But this is -- this is just what the country needed in -- in terms of a -- a really good news story which everybody can enjoy.
BLITZER: Does it make any difference at all that she's not royalty, at least not yet?
SAUNDERS: Well, no. I don't think so. It is a very modern relationship and it looks like it will be a very modern royal wedding. Everybody, they have been dating for some time now. So we've become quite familiar with Kate Middleton and being with William. And unlike Diana who suddenly seemed to appear, just from nowhere, Kate has been part of the William package for some time now. So it is not a surprise that they're get go engaged. It was just that it happened today.
BLITZER: Just the timing of this right now. They actually got engaged a few weeks ago on a trip to Kenya but today they announced it.
Listen to this other exchange they had in this joint sit-down interview today. The pressure on her is going to be enormous right now. The paparazzi and everything else. Listen to this exchange.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRINCE WILLIAM: We talked about it a lot, haven't we? It's always something we've had a good chat about. And like I said, both of us have come to the decision pretty much together. I just chose when to do and it how to do and it obviously being a real romantic, I did it extremely well.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kate, coming to a close, people have put, placed some criticisms of you about your work and so on. Does that hurt? How do you respond to people who say those things?
KATE MIDDLETON, PRINCE WILLIAM'S FIANCEE: Well, I think I know I've been working very hard for the family business. Sometimes those days are long days. And I if I know I'm wok hard and I'm pulling my weight, both work and playing hard at the same time, you know, I think everyone high work with can see that I'm there pulling my weight. That's really what matters to me. They felt you are doing the right thing. You can only sort of treat yourself and you have to ignore a lot of what is said.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: How much is Princess Diana hovering over this upcoming wedding?
SAUNDERS: To begin with, today, she wasn't really. It was about Kate and William. But once everybody saw the ring and realized it was the same one that Prince Charles had given Diana, then all of a sudden, it shifted. A new a great deal toward Diana. It is such a terrible shame that she isn't here. Because it she would be the perfect person to guide Kate through the next few months, at least. The presence of Diana, it is always been there throughout William and Harry's life. And it will now become even greater. Because Kate is going to be compared at every turn. And we're supposed to call her Katherine now. Katherine will be compared to Diana constantly. It will never go away.
BLITZER: That ring is a spectacular ring indeed. It brings back a lot of memories. Thanks very much. We'll stay in close touch with you. This build-up to the wedding will be enormous, I suspect. Appreciate it. Mark Saunders joining us from London.
We'll have much more of the interview with this new couple. That is coming up later here in THE SITUATION ROOM including how he actually proposed. Stand by for that.
Could politicians agree to give up their pet projects, money for their home districts? This hour Republicans are pushing to give ear mark the axe even as some Democrats are crying foul.
And screaming mad over screenings. Passengers voice their outrage. But homeland security officials say they're just keeping travelers safe and sound. Stand by new information coming up.
BLITZER: Fueled by sweeping tea party wins in this year's midterm elections, a fierce political battle is now brewing in the Senate over the push to ban wasteful spending. Right now Republicans are voting on whether to voluntarily give up earmarks in the next Congress. Meanwhile many Democrats are divided on the issue. Let's bring in our senior Congressional correspondent Dana Bash with the latest on the GOP vote. I understand it may have just happened, Dana.
DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It just happened. And we can report that Senate Republicans, as expected, did vote by voice vote to stop ear marks. At least Republicans have voted to stop ear marks. No more earmarks for Senate Republicans. It is something that they had pretty much agreed to after Mitch McConnell reversed himself in a pretty stunning way yesterday. What is also interesting is that they passed another resolution to put pressure our Democrats to do the same.
I want to show you how hard this will be. This will be some pretty tough medicine for some of these Republicans. Look on the screen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi requested $368 million in earmarks over the past couple years. Richard Shelby requested $173 million in earmarks. Both told me today that they're going to abide by their party's resolution. They voted for it just moments ago.
BLITZER: So Dana, the bottom line is they're going to give up on determining where this money should be spent and allow the Obama administration to make these decisions, the various departments and energies of the executive branch will have this authority? The Congressional leadership is willing to defer to the executive branch, is that what's happening now?
BASH: Effectively. There will be for the Republican side, they will no longer direct money back to their home states as they have been doing, tens of millions of dollars, as I just showed, as they have been doing. The interesting thing to look for in the future is what happens with Democrats. And Claire McCaskill is a Democrat who is already saying that she and several others are pushing for a full Senate vote. A full Senate vote to have a two-year ban on earmarks. This will be in the public very soon. It will put pressure on Democrats to follow what Republicans just did now. But I will tell you that the Senate majority leader Harry Reid doesn't go along with this at all. He gave a full throated defense of earmarks today. Let's take a listen.
HARRY REID (D), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: I think I have an obligation to the people of Nevada to do what is important to Nevada. Not what is important to some bureaucrat down here with green eye shades. So I'm not going personally going to back off bringing stuff back to Nevada.
BASH: Now a lot of Democrats I talk to say this is kind of a political red herring. That Republicans began to push themselves say that earmarks in general really make up less than 1% of the budget. And that Republicans who are, have been pressured by their constituents and voters to deal with cutting spending are trying to put this out there as something that proves that they're actually listening to them. But I will also tell you there is a growing sentiment among Democrats to follow what Republicans did today. And it will be very interesting to see this play out in public if there is in fact a full Senate vote in the next week or two.
BLITZER: I know you'll stay on top of it for us. Dana, thank you.
He is certainly one of the most familiar faces and voices in Congress. We're talking about Congressman Charlie Rangel. Today he was found guilty of multiple ethics violations by colleagues on the house ethics subcommittee. Is he though, getting fair treatment? We'll discuss that in our strategy session. Stand by.
Is what you're breathing in everyday slowly killing you? Our own Dr. Sanjay Gupta reports on the risks.
BLITZER: Let's get to our strategy session. Joining us, our CNN political contributor Roland Martin and Republican strategist Leslie Sanchez, the founder and CEO of the Impacto Group. Thank you for coming in. Charlie Rangel was found guilty on these ethics violations today. Do you believe he is getting a fair shake right now? A fair trial?
ROLAND MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: First of all, this has been going on for quite some time. He had a legal team, a Washington, D.C. powerhouse that frankly, took about $2 million of his dollars. He says they withdrew in October. They say that they did not quit on him. The fact of the matter is, he has had ample opportunity to set up a legal defense fund. So I think that it was indeed proper for them to move forward. So I don't really understand how he did not receive a fair shake from the ethics committee based upon all the information that we have in front of us.
BLITZER: He says he was found guilty these last few days Leslie because he didn't even have a lawyer. He didn't even show up today. They just sort of rammed this down and didn't give him a chance to create a new legal defense team. What do you think?
LESLIE SANCHEZ, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I think that is a weak defense and it is a sad case. It makes the case for why people should retire early. This is a decorated war hero and this is not the way he really, I think anybody would want him to see the end of his career. The reality is, if you look at the New York Post article, there are allegations that he inappropriately used his political action committee campaign funds to the tune of almost $400,000 for his personal defense. He is not allowed to do that. There are a lot of questions. He had ample time to get counsel. As Roland alludes, to he had the resources.
BLITZER: He was just reelected so he has two years ahead of him in Congress. He is obviously not going to go to jail or anything like that.
MARTIN: First of all, the lead counsel for the ethics committee stated that of these particular, frankly, violations, he said himself that it was a corruption and he wasn't sure that he personally benefited. The real issue now is, what are they going to hand down and then how will Congress vote? The big issue for him, could he possibly lose his seniority? That's the real issue. So there's no doubt. Look. I believe the person is innocent until proven guilty. He had the absolute right to move forward with the trial. So I never want to believe that should you resign until this whole matter was resolved. I don't believe in that. I believe you go to the end. The question, is will he lose his seniority? That's the real concern right now for him and his supporters.
SANCHEZ: It puts the ball in exactly the right court. That is with Nancy Pelosi. The question, she came on a wave of support. People basically upset with Republicans, upset with corruption. She said she would have the most ethical and honest Congress and she has stood by Rangel certainly consistently all the way to the end even as the ethics committee came over and said there were violations among his staff knowing about some of these trips. She stood by him. The question is, will she continue to stand by him?
BLITZER: All right. Let me move on.
MARTIN: Hold on. Stand by? First of all, he is no longer chairman of the house ways and means committee. He lost the leadership post. Congress still has to vote and so it's really not up to Speaker Pelosi.
SANCHEZ: It is -- there is a lot of optics here. When you say you want to be the speaker of the house of the most ethical Congress.
MARTIN: I understand that.
SANCHEZ: Massive abuse. And she is silent. She stands by him silently.
MARTIN: Congress has to vote.
SANCHEZ: That's very true. But I think perception and optics people know what's going on.
BLITZER: In fairness though Leslie, she did force him in effect to give up his chairmanship of the house, ways and means committee. That's not something he wanted to do and they stripped him of that chairmanship. And she was a part of that decision.
BLITZER: Let's talk a little about what's going on in the Republican National Committee. Michael Steele is giving indications he wants another two-year term. There are others who are now emerging saying he shouldn't get the job. Others should get the job. And now we've learned that there is this scoring system they're setting up to determine whether or not these potential candidates really are with the tea party, really adhering to the principles of the Republican National Committee. Is this a good idea? Let me start with you, Leslie.
SANCHEZ: Sure. The problem with a lot of these lists is the lists tend to get longer and longer. I think ultimately we have a lot of really strong candidates. And everybody, you know, important people are wanting to throw their hat in and lead this party. The real question is can they raise money? Can they recruit good candidates and are they good spokespeople for the values of the Republican platform? I think ultimately it comes down to that. And adding beyond that is up for discussion.
BLITZER: There's 13 point on this so-called --
SANCHEZ: Go on and on.
BLITZER: In your opinion, the way that these potential candidates should be judged? The challengers to Michael Steele if he runs?
MARTIN: I believe it is. Look. When you have anywhere from five, ten, 15, 20 people, you need to be able to establish a criteria. You need to be able to say, frankly, who is, for a community year, one work the, three, four, five. When Steele was elected, there were several ballots that got to that particular point. You don't want a long drawn out process when it comes to voting. You should be able to weed some people out whose name is being thrown out there who frankly cannot fit the bill. So these kinds of things are used in corporate America every single day. They're used in HR departments. I see no reason why the RNC should not use a particular criteria to determine --
BLITZER: Leslie, you know, they are obviously being influenced by the tea party movement and its success because one of the notions in these 13 points is whether or not these candidates will actively graft into the party, the tea party activists branches and make up the freedom movement, who make up the freedom movement in this country.
SANCHEZ: You're right. When you look at the list, does it give a competitive advantage to an outsider? For example, a lot of the state party chairman, the national chairman tend to come from inside the infrastructure. They were state party leaders among most parts. I talked to former chairman my old boss Jim Nicholson about that and he said it was really tough to get somebody outside the system to come in because they had to know all the Republican committee members. They had to build time and kind of a legacy. People had to know what they stood for. That's the difference there.
BLITZER: We've got to leave it there. Leslie, Roland, hold that thought for another day.
MARTIN: Not a problem. I'll be on "JOHN KING USA." I'll save it for his show.
BLITZER: Save it for him. Thanks very much.
Jack Cafferty is coming up next in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Plus, he's known as the merchant of death now. This alleged international arms dealer is about to face terror charges right near in the United States.
BLITZER: Jack is back with the Cafferty file. Jack?
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The question this hour is in light of the deficit reduction commission's draft recommendations, where do you expect the federal government to make the deepest spending cuts?
Kathy says, "If they were really representing us they would cease funding for the two endless wars started by Bush, close military bases around the world. No other country has a military base here. Stop outsourcing our jobs, stop catering to illegal aliens and enforce our immigration laws."
Annie writes, "Since Republicans are taking charge in the House, I imagine that the deepest pending cuts will be to the programs that help the most vulnerable among us. Grandma, you better stock up on cat food."
Bud in Washington writes, "One thing is for sure, they won't go near social security or Medicare. My guess is they'll take a swipe at defense and the so-called discretionary spending budgets. The federal government is like a bamboo tree, you cannot stop it from growing. You can cut it back, by it will come back spending twice as much and twice as fast."
Joanne in Minnesota, "The most intelligent prudent cuts would be across the board cuts for at least 10% to 15%. The departments that have shown zero or little accomplishment over the years should be shut down. Redundant programs terminated as well." David in California, "I don't expect them to have the courage to make any significant cuts until China and Japan quit buying our debt. Even then they might print money instead of facing the fury of the voters."
Bonnie in New Jersey writes, "I expect it to be entitlement and public education programs. They only affect the middle and low income people. Any Congress full of rich white old men is not going to touch defense, it's their Viagra. And they don't have to send their family members to war or to the unemployment line or to community college."
Paul in Florida suggests, "Pencils and paper clips have got to go."
You want to read more on this go to my blog, CNN.com/CaffertyFile.
BLITZER: Well, thank you, Jack. It could be deadly and you might not even realize you've been exposed.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, as things stand right now, about 1 billion people around the world are breathing in air too dirty to breathe. That's according to some environmental organizations. They say that if you look at the developing countries specifically, 20%, a fifth of the health problems in those countries can be attributed to environmental causes such as pollution.
BLITZER: We will talk to Sanjay. He is in Japan right now. Also, more of the interview today with the newly engaged Prince William, and Katherine Middleton, and including why he gave her his mom's ring.
BLITZER: You surely can't see it with a naked eye, but you are breathing it in, and it may be slowly killing you. Let's find out more from our CNN chief medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta. He is in Kobe, Japan. Sanjay?
GUPTA: What you are looking at is urbanization or at least the consequences of it. Big factories as your neighbors. Here in Kobe, it is a beautiful city, but they suffer from the pollution problems like so many cities do. You have 15 factories in this small area and you add to that the exhaust from the cars, trucks and buses, and you have the smog that hangs over so many cities. The problem is the air is just too dirty to breathe. Here is the most frightening part, you are likely not to notice it. Your body becomes accustomed to this after just four days of breathing it in. These tiny particles are smaller than a strand of hair and inhaled almost like gas. It constricts the muscles around the airways. Think of it like breathing through a straw. All of it can impair your airway and cause increases in blood pressure, heart attack risk and the chances of heart disease. You may think health impacts of breathing in toxic air would take years to develop, but that is not true. On days when you have particularly bad pollution in cities, they say emergency room visits spike over the next 24 hours. It is not just adults at risk either. There are studies that show that babies are being born pre-polluted with more than 230 chemicals in the system at the time of their birth. Truth is that progress is starting to be made and in fact, places in China that we have visited where they are starting to move the coal- fired power plants outside the big urban areas into more rural areas where fewer people are around. And also in New York there are new laws on idling for buses and trucks. Of course, there are other things we can all do to try and make our lives a little bit better; for example, driving less and using public transportation such as this can help. Also, keeping in mind when pollution is at its worst. Hot days are worse, and also in the mid-day. If you are exercising in these times, you are taking in seven to ten times as much air and seven to ten times as much pollution as well. Here is something else that may surprise. Indoor air quality can be worse than outdoor air quality, sometimes 50 percent worse. So open up a window or at least make sure you have good ventilation.
Urbanization is here to stay, no question about it, but these are some tips for individuals and society to try to make the beautiful city that you live in a safe and healthy one as well.
Wolf, you may be wondering what is the most polluted city on the planet, and Lipton, China seems to have the dubious honor. They say that spending one day there is like smoking three packs of cigarettes. Unbelievable. Los Angeles and Phoenix in the United States are among the most polluted as well. You know, but there is some progress being made, Wolf. Pittsburgh used to be one of the most polluted cities in the states, and the numbers are better there, and as a result, they say that on average residents can expect to live 10 months longer, so Wolf, good news there. Back to you.