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The Situation: Thursday, August 11

The Morning Grind

Editor's Note: The Situation Report is a running log of dispatches, quotes, links and behind-the-scenes notes filed by the correspondents and producers of CNN's Washington Bureau. Watch "The Situation Room" with Wolf Blitzer on CNN 3 p.m. ET to 6 p.m. ET weekdays.

Stephen Hadley briefing

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Posted 7:34 p.m. ET
From Steve Redisch, White House unit

Some nuggets from an on the record/off camera briefing from National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley on today's meetings at President Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas:

Meetings with the National Security principals began early in the morning, starting with U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad, General George Casey and General John Abizaid on a teleconference from Iraq.

Hadley said the military commanders discussed security and training Iraqi forces. He said Khalilzad noted progress on meeting an August 15 deadline to publish a draft constitution.

Hadley said Sunni, Kurd and Shia representatves are meeting around the clock, there are six to eight "issues of principle which are well understood" and some efforts underway to bridge some compromise.

Yet, Hadley says Ambassador Khalilzad is optimistic about meeting deadline. When asked, "What if they don't?" Hadley said, "Deadlines have a...useful forcing function to force people to compromise" and reminded reporters that the Iraqis passed up an opportunity to extend the constitution deadline by six months.

Secretary of State Rice then briefed on Iran's nuclear program and the IAEA's actions, the next steps in the 6-party talks on North Korea's nuclear program and Israel's disengagement from Gaza.

Before lunch, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and his aides briefed the president on personnel management, including changing call-up procedures to get more predicitability for families, the Quadriennial Defense Review and with budget issues.

Public diplomacy was a lunch time discussion topic with both Defense and State Department teams.

After lunch, it was the State Department's turn, with Middle East issues and the Freedom Agenda among the topics discussed.

Responding to a question about his meeting Saturday with war protestor Cindy Sheehan, Hadley said he and Deputy Chief of Staff Joe Hagin expressed their condolences and sympathy for her loss. They wanted to hear what she had to say. Hadley said the president respects her right to hold her views, but respectfully disagrees with her.

Iran escapes U.N. Security Council -- for now

Posted 5:30 p.m. ET
Elise Labott, CNN State Department unit

If Iran does not suspend its uranium activity by the next IAEA board of governors meeting, the United States and EU3 will jointly recommend Iran be referred to the U.N. Security Council, a senior State Department official told reporters Thursday. But he acknowledged that they did not know whether there would be a consensus within the IAEA Board of Governors to pass a resolution referring Iran to the United Nations at it's next meeting.

Meanwhile President Bush squashed rumors the United States would deny Iran's president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a visa to come to the U.N. General Assembly next month. Bush told reporters at his ranch in Crawford, "I suspect he will be here to meet with the United Nations."

Unmanned aerial vehicle crashes in Iraq

Posted 5:03 p.m. ET
Larry Shaughnessy, CNN Washington Bureau

A U.S. unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) has crashed in Mosul in Northern Iraq, but before U.S. troops could get to the wreckage, it was gone.

The U.S.-led Multi-National Force-Iraq released a statement Thursday that one of its UAV's had gone down Wednesday night. Within an hour of the crash, U.S. troops stationed nearby went to the crash site. They determined that no buildings or people on the ground had been harmed by the UAV crash. But they couldn't find any of the wreckage.

Apparently local Iraqi's had carried it away. The military did not say which kind of UAV was involved nor if it was armed. The cause of the crash is under investigation, but the statement referred to it as an accident.

Sources: arrest warrant for lobbyist Abramoff

Posted 4:25 p.m. ET
Kevin Bohn, CNN America Bureau

There is a sealed arrest warrant for Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff in connection with an indictment relating to bank fraud charges, two government sources familiar with the investigation tell CNN.

The indictment is being handled by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Miami, which refused comment until there is a public announcement. The office has scheduled a news conference Thursday afternoon, but said only that it's to announce the unsealing of an indictment relating to wire fraud and conspiracy.

The charges to be brought in the indictment, according to several sources, concern a purchase made by Abramoff of a casino.

A separate federal investigation of Abramoff and his business dealings in Washington is ongoing, sources have previously told CNN. Abramoff's business practices have generated controversy in the past few months because of his close ties to House Majority Leader Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Texas.

Four-star general failed to obey instructions

Posted 4:00 p.m. ET
Barbara Starr, CNN Pentagon unit

General Kevin Byrnes, commanding general of the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, was relieved of his command on August 8, the day his divorce became final. His attorney issued a statement on Monday saying that Byrnes and his wife separated in May 2004 and remained separated until their divorce became final on August 8, 2005.

General Kevin Byrnes, commanding general of the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, was relieved of his command on August 8, the day his divorce became final. His attorney issued a statement on Monday saying that Byrnes and his wife separated in May 2004 and remained separated until their divorce became final on August 8, 2005.

The four-star Army general stripped of command for an alleged adulterous affair, failed to obey instructions to end the affair when it was first alleged in 2003, according to military officials.

At the time of the warning, he was still married to his wife, and not yet separated. These details have been confirmed by his military attorney as well as senior Army officials familiar with the case.

General Kevin Byrnes, commanding general of the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, was relieved of his command on August 8, the day his divorce became final. His attorney issued a statement on Monday saying that Byrnes and his wife separated in May 2004 and remained separated until their divorce became final on August 8, 2005.

Preparing for former President Clinton

Posted: 2:25 p.m. ET
Wolf Blitzer, CNN Washington Bureau

Since I am interviewing Bill Clinton today, I have been thinking about his presidency and his years in politics. It seems that I have been covering Bill Clinton for a long time.

In fact, I have. I spent nearly eight years following him around when I was CNN's senior White House correspondent. Those were jam-packed years; I need not remind you. Those of us in the White House press corps used to joke about what we called "Clinton years" -- comparing them to "dog years." The thought was that one Clinton year equaled four or five years of other presidents.

That was because Bill Clinton tried to pack so much into his White House years. I am not joking when I recall his day trips to Bosnia or Jerusalem.

Please join us in "The Situation Room" today when I speak with the former president. I have lots of questions; limited time.

The Morning Grind

Posted: 8:55 a.m. ET
From John Mercurio, CNN Political unit

Pirro vs. Clinton

We've got ourselves a ball game in New York, where Republicans, one year before the primary, have apparently brushed aside conservative Ed Cox and embraced moderate Jeanine Pirro as their chosen challenger to Hillary Clinton.

Pirro's debut yesterday in Manhattan is being described as "rocky," mostly because of a 32-second pause she made while searching in vain for Page 10 of her speech. "Vote for me because ... Uh, where's page 10?" screamed the headline in the New York Daily News. The campaign also decided to exclude husband Albert from Day One. (He was convicted of tax fraud over returns she also signed, although she was never found guilty of any wrongdoing).

Still, an overnight poll (the first conducted since Pirro announced Monday that she was running for Senate) showed double-digit movement away from Clinton.

In a Marist College poll conducted Tuesday night, the senator took 50 percent of registered voters (down from 64 percent in April) compared with 28 percent for Pirro. More than one in five voters are not taking sides, a significant increase from a similar poll conducted in April.

Fifty-four percent of registered voters rate the job Clinton is doing as senator as either excellent or good, about the same rating she received in a similar poll conducted in April.

As for Pirro, a majority of New York's registered voters, 56 percent, are unfamiliar with her. Twenty-six percent view her favorably, while 18 percent view her unfavorably.

It's too early, of course, to make any big predictions about this race. But one thing we feel compelled to suggest is that Pirro get a hold of Rick Lazio's '00 campaign playbook, read it carefully, and disregard it entirely.

Lazio, bless his heart, had several challenges she won't face, most notably his late entry into the race and his unease with the media. And if Pirro chooses to physically confront Clinton during a televised debate, it won't alienate women voters like it did when Lazio did so in '00.

But like Lazio, Pirro seems prepared to run up and down the state calling Clinton a carpetbagging president-in-waiting, without telling voters much about herself. That won't fly, especially Upstate, where Clinton has shown surprising strength.

Don't believe us? Look at the Marist poll, which already suggests that voters aren't likely to respond strongly to one of Pirro's central campaign themes: That Clinton should vow to serve a full six-year-term and not run for president. Only 39 percent of voters said Clinton should make such a pledge; 44 percent said there was no reason for her to do so.

* Meanwhile, President Bush meets today in Crawford with Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice, the Defense Policy and Program Teams and Foreign Policy Team. There will be a media availability with Bush, Rumsfeld and Rice at 1:05 p.m. ET.

The meeting comes as insurgent attacks over the past several weeks have taken an increasing toll on U.S. forces. Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, a Democrat, announced yesterday that seven members of the state's National Guard were killed within the last week in Iraq, a tragedy he says "brings home the crushing reality of this war." Among those killed were a city police officer and a suburban firefighter.

Political Hot Topics

Posted: 8:36 a.m. ET
From Stephen Bach, CNN Washington bureau

DICK, CONDI, RUMMY AND GEORGE IN JEANS: Keeping up an annual tradition, President Bush was meeting with his defense and foreign policy teams on Thursday at his ranch, where he is spending August. Vice President Dick Cheney and top-rung advisers, including Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, will come casual for serious talks about issues ranging from ongoing violence in Iraq and standoffs with Iran and North Korea over their nuclear programs to anti-American sentiment abroad, especially in the Middle East. Yahoo! News: Bush, Defense, Foreign Policy Teams to Meetexternal link

NARAL AD ANGERS RIGHT, PROVOKES QUICK RESPONSE: The focus of the 30-second spot, which Naral Pro-Choice America is spending $500,000 to place on the Fox and CNN cable networks, as well as on broadcast stations in Maine and Rhode Island over the next two weeks, is on an argument in an abortion-related case that Judge Roberts made to the Supreme Court in the early 1990's. Several prominent abortion rights supporters as well as a neutral media watchdog group said the advertisement was misleading and unfair, and a conservative group quickly took to the airwaves with an opposing advertisement. NY Times: TV Ad Attacking Court Nominee Provokes Furorexternal link

'WASTING THEIR MONEY': Advocacy groups running ads for and against Supreme Court nominee John Roberts are wasting their money, the Senate Judiciary Committee's top Democrat says. The Roberts nomination is seen as a mini-presidential campaign, with organizations on both sides expected to spend millions of dollars fighting or endorsing him. "These outside lobbying groups, whether on the right or the left, have become, for me anyway, basically irrelevant," Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy said. Yahoo! News: Sen. Leahy: Roberts Ads a Waste of Moneyexternal link

$100K TO HANG WITH KEITH, MICK, AND ARNOLD: Here's the ticket: a private evening rockin' the night away with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger during the kickoff of the Rolling Stones' "A Bigger Bang'' U.S. tour on Aug. 21 at Boston's Fenway Park. Here's the bottom line: $10,000 a pop to get in on a private preconcert reception and front-and-center seats to watch the show -- or $100,000 to sit with the governor in his luxury box. SF Chronicle: Governor cashing in on Rolling Stonesexternal link

ROMNEY'S RELIGION: As Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney weighs a presidential race, the former business executive brings assets, liabilities and one wild card: his Mormon religion. Religion hasn't played a major role in a presidential race since John F. Kennedy was the first Roman Catholic elected 45 years ago. Yet Romney's membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, nicknamed the Mormon Church, may complicate his courtship of Republican social conservatives and evangelical Christians. Bloomberg News: Romney U.S. Presidential Run May Make Religion Political Issueexternal link

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