THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.
JUDY WOODRUFF, HOST: Thank you for joining us. I'm Judy Woodruff and this is INSIDE POLITICS. We are following a number of political developments here on Capitol Hill at this hour. But before we begin our coverage of those stories, let's go to CNN national correspondent Bob Franken. He has the latest on new developments in the Chandra Levy case -- Bob.
BOB FRANKEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Judy, the development is that D.C. police have told CNN that they are, in fact, going to follow up on a tip that they got on a Californian Web site yesterday and will be checking a parking lot under construction near Fort Lee, Virginia. Fort Lee is close to Richmond and Fort Lee is about a two hour drive from here. You're seeing the Web site. It is a California-based Web site: WeTip. The tip came in yesterday, according to the authorities. The tip was that Chandra Levy was buried under a parking lot under construction by Fort Lee.
There happens to be such a parking lot under construction, so the police decided that they would, in fact, follow up on this. They called the Provost of Fort Lee, Provost Marshals, in effect, is the police chief there. There are cadaver dogs down there. They're organizing the search.
As you can tell from the description of events, this is being conducted very methodically. It is important to point out, as the police have, they get dozens of tips similar to this and have gotten hundreds of tips about the possibility that Chandra Levy is located here, there or somewhere else. They check out virtually every one of them.
Of course, it's been exactly three months since the last time they were able to account for Chandra Levy. The police have been very frustrated. Just about every effort they've made to try and solve this case have ended up without any further knowledge about the whereabouts of Chandra Levy. This is just another tip. And it is in that spirit that the police are organizing a check. The fort itself has cadaver dogs. We know that expression now, dogs that are specifically trained to sniff out human remains.
There was an understanding earlier that the dogs would come from Washington, D.C., but there are ones on the base, so those are the ones at Fort Lee that are going to be used. They're organizing now. It could be several hours or even overnight before the actual search occurs. Again, one of many, many tips that they get here in Washington and on the various tip lines that they have. This one they're going to check out thoroughly -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: Bob, is there something about or was there something about this tip that has caused them to give it this much credibility and pay it -- give it so much attention?
FRANKEN: Well, the answer is, yes. The answer is that when they got the tip, the tipper, tipster specified that there was a parking lot under construction where she was. First thing they did is to check, and sure enough, there was such a parking lot. There is a construction project going on right now. I will point out, however, that they have checked out the most vague of tips. For instance, there was a period of time on weekends when anybody that was discovered anywhere would cause the Washington, D.C. police or FBI agents to go out and see if that was the one, bodies that would be found in the adjacent counties, that type of thing. So they are being very, very, very liberal in checking out the many, many leads that they get, leads that thus far have not borne fruit. This is another one. It has given credence though by the fact that this parking lot under construction exists.
WOODRUFF: Bob, have every one of these tips that they've received been publicized like this one?
FRANKEN: No they have not been publicized like this one. This one, the word came out. It just went out in the way that things often times spread through the media. We were all extremely careful throughout the afternoon to check and see if this one, in fact, was valid, that the story was valid, given the fact that the police are organizing, using cadaver dogs to check out this one because of at least the shred that there might be something to it because of the existence of this parking lot that was specified on the Web site. They decided that they were going to proceed with the investigation of the tip. And, of course, that was something that we wanted to report also.
WOODRUFF: Bob, one of the thing about the person who's providing the tip, did they have the identity of this person or is this an anonymous thing?
FRANKEN: To be perfectly honest, I don't know. Now, if you make a tip on a Web site, there's probably a signature that comes from your Web site or your location, so chances are -- and I'm just speculating here and I hate to do that -- but the fact that it's on a Web site might mean that they have some indication where it came from.
Of course, in a case like this, they encourage people to report things anonymously. And possibly, that's what the person did.
WOODRUFF: All right, Bob Franken, we'll be coming back to you throughout the hour. Bob, of course, following this breaking development having to do with Chandra Levy, this tip that her body -- no way to know if there's any validity at all that her body is buried under a parking lot under construction in Fort Lee near Richmond, Virginia.
And for more now on these developments, let's go down to Modesto, California. CNN national correspondent Gary Tuchman standing by outside the home of Chandra Levy's parents -- Gary.
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hello to you, Judy. And we can tell you right now that nobody is inside the home. The parents, Dr. Robert and Susan Levy, are out. Dr. Robert Levy is at work right now. He is an oncologist. Susan Levy went out to lunch with some friends. As far as we know, they do not yet know about the tip. And for that reason, a very close family friend and adviser is here in the yard right now waiting for the Levys to come home so she could tell them firsthand about the tip.
A short time ago, a car pulled in with a woman who looked like Mrs. Levy. It turns out it was another family friend who's been gardening and doing some watering of flowers behind us for the Levys while they're away today. But as far as we know, the Levys and their son, Adam, who's 19-years-old, who also lives here, don't know about this tip just yet. Virtually every day the Levys come out and talk to us about the case, and this morning was no exception. Before Dr. Levy went to work, he talked to us about the hope that they still find his daughter alive.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. ROBERT LEVY, FATHER OF MISSING INTERN: We keep the faith up, you know, faith and prayer. And a lot of people are praying. And we hope, you know, that we'll -- someone will see her and will find her alive. We've got to keep that up, you know, as long as possible unless someone -- you know, unless we have other evidence.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TUCHMAN: You can see the pain in these people's faces every day when they talk to us. But they have been told by family friends, they have been told by public relations advisers and their lawyer that it's a good thing to keep this in the news media, and that's why they come out and talk. We have an agreement with them. We don't come to their door and bother them. They come out and talk to us, and sometimes they come out three or four times a day to talk to us about the case and sometimes to find out from us what's happening in the case.
Judy, back to you.
WOODRUFF: Gary, I think it's right to assume, though, if CNN is reporting this, they could be hearing about it on the radio, through news sources or someone could be calling them wherever they are letting them know. Isn't that is right?
TUCHMAN: That's very possible, Judy. What this family friend who is here is telling us, though, is that Mrs. Levy does not have a cell phone. She's at a restaurant with some friends. She believes Mrs. Levy doesn't know. They kind of have an agreement that whenever there's big news breaking about this case, she calls this adviser who happens to be the executive director of a missing persons foundation. So Kim Petersen, the executive director, hasn't received a call from Mrs. Levy, and therefore, she is feeling that Mrs. Levy doesn't yet know about this tip.
WOODRUFF: All right, Gary Tuchman in Modesto, California.
Joining us now from Atlanta, Mike Brooks. He is a former Washington, D.C. police detective, now a CNN consultant.
Mike Brooks, is this normal for just one more tip to be getting this kind of attention from the police and to be publicized this way?
MIKE BROOKS, FORMER D.C. POLICE DETECTIVE: Well, I think because it's so specific, and apparently the tip so specific to say that there's a body at a certain location, and they have checked that out. And apparently, there is something under construction. I think they're taking it probably a little more seriously than they would just an anonymous tip that would say there's a body here or there's a body at this particular location. Again, they would follow up on all of these tips, but this one has a little more specific information, so that's probably why they're going ahead and taking these measures.
WOODRUFF: But how do they know that someone's not just sending them on a wild goose chase?
BROOKS: They don't. And that's why within the confines of a military reservation, and that's what makes it a little more unusual. It's a military reservation and not a public place. So it would be fairly easy to check that out to see if there is something under construction, to see if there are some specifics that are in the tip. And so far, apparently, that's -- they believe there is and that's why they have to follow it up.
WOODRUFF: Mike, since this tip was given on a Web site, it is possible to trace the source of it. Isn't that right?
BROOKS: It is. But there again, there are some things that have to been done to check the source of using a Web site. Because it's over a phone line, they may have to get a subpoena. The U.S. attorneys' office may have to get a subpoena to go back, work with that particular -- you know, the Web browser. There's a lot of steps that have to be taken, and they'll do this, and I'm sure they will check this out.
But first, they want to find out, you know, the veracity, the validity of this particular threat. And if it does wind up being something, I'm sure they will definitely kind of fast track that and find out the source of the tip.
Based on what you've been hearing, Mike, I mean, how big an undertaking are we talking about here? I mean, parking lots are big. And if this has been under construction for some time, this could take some time, right?
BROOKS: This could take some time. Again, not knowing exactly what the parking lot looks like, not knowing the area myself, it would be hard for me to say exactly how long it would take. But they're going to take whatever time that they need to make sure that they check this out thoroughly.
WOODRUFF: Mike, I'm told that we now have some pictures, some aerials that were taken by CNN affiliate WTTG. This is in the air over Fort Lee, Virginia or near Fort Lee, Virginia near Richmond. They are now looking, I'm told, in this helicopter for the site, the parking lot on the ground. Is it your understand, Mike -- and I know you're hearing this pretty much the same way we are -- that they know exactly which parking lot to look for?
BROOKS: Apparently, it's one under construction. I hope to find out a little more information about that a little bit later on. But I think they have it kind of narrowed down to one under construction. Now is there more than one under construction right now? We don't know. And I think that's what they're trying to figure out. But again, it could be some under construction, it could be that it's buried underneath something. So I'm sure they'll go in, take a look, make a plan, and then decide exactly how they're going to go about this search. Again, they want to make sure that they do it methodically. There's no reason to rush into it. You know, they have a number of hours of sunlight if they decide to start today. Also make sure that that they have the proper equipment there to do the search before rushing into to do this. You know, should there be something in parking lot under construction, there may be some digging involved. Again, not knowing the specifics, it's really not proper for us to speculate exactly until we know exactly what the search will entail.
WOODRUFF: And clearly, we are doing a great deal of speculating, because all we know is the tip said that Chandra Levy's body was buried under a parking lot under construction. I just want to add that those pictures we were just looking at are courtesy of WAVY Television presumably out of Richmond, Virginia, which is very close to Fort Lee.
Mike, one other question. The fact that this is a military installation, does that tell you anything about how much easier or how much more difficult it's going to be for the police to do their work there?
BROOKS: Well, you have the military police and you also have the Army's criminal investigation division, Army CID. They will probably be the initial responders to go out and check the site. They know the base better than anyone else because they work there on a regular basis. If there is a body there, that will -- it would be a crime on a military reservation. Those crimes fall under the jurisdiction of the FBI. As we know, the FBI's already involved in this investigation. So I'm sure there will be a great deal of liaison between the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the military police and the Army's CID.
WOODRUFF: All right, Mike Brooks, former Atlanta -- I'm sorry, former Washington, D.C. police detective, now a consultant to CNN. And just quickly wrapping up, CNN has been reporting that there was a tip on a California Web site indicating that the body of Chandra Levy was buried under a parking lot under construction in Fort Lee, Virginia. This is a military base near Richmond. Right now, police in Washington are scrambling to locate. There apparently is a parking lot there under construction. They're scrambling to get there to get police dogs there and to begin what could become a painstaking search. But at this point, no way of knowing whether there's any validity to this tip or not.
We'll be right back with more of our special coverage.
WOODRUFF: Back now with breaking news. We are in INSIDE POLITICS, but we're very much following these developments in the Chandra Levy case. Just learning within the hour that police have received a tip about -- in effect saying Chandra Levy's body buried under a parking lot under construction in Fort Lee, Virginia, near Richmond.
CNN's Bob Franken is with us.
Bob, you have some new information?
FRANKEN: Well, Judy, as you know, we've all emphasized that this is just one of scores of tips that D.C. police have gotten, that the only reason they are particularly focusing on this one is that there, in fact, is such a parking lot under construction, the police, however, are about to put out a news release which will point out that there will be no D.C. police on the site for this search. They will be relying strictly on the military police at Fort Lee. They are not sending down detectives. The FBI, we're told, is not going to be involved in the search. And the reason they're being as assertive as they are about this is to emphasize the fact that this is not considered the tip. They have no reason to believe that this is the one that is going to pay off.
They want to point out, as we pointed out so many times, they check out every tip. This one had a tiny bit of credibility, according the assistant police, chief Terry Gainer, because in fact there was a parking lot under construction as specified in the tip they received over a California Web site yesterday. They've been moving on this at that pace. It was yesterday. And there's now some question whether they're even going to involve the cadaver dogs at Fort Lee. The whole mood is that this is just another check of a tip, one of hundreds that they've received, scores about the location of a body that they received in the three months from today, as a matter of fact, that Chandra Levy has been unaccounted for.
WOODRUFF: All right, Bob. And as you and I have been talking just moments before that, the mother of Chandra Levy returned to her home in Modesto, California. I think we have pictures of Mrs. Levy returning to her home. It is possible that she just heard this news about this tip, which is we've been stressing is completely unfounded. We have no idea if it is -- will lead to anything or not. But there was, we were told, a friend, a neighbor who was there waiting at Mrs. Levy's residence to share this piece of information with her with her. And this is Mrs. Levy just arriving home just moments ago to her home in Modesto, California. Joining us now on the telephone is Miriam Brownell, who is the chief operating officer of WeTip.com. Now this is the tip Web site in California where this tip claiming that the body of Chandra Levy is buried at this Army base in Virginia came in.
Ms. Brownell, how exactly does the Web site work, very quickly? Are you there? Ms. Brownell, are you there?
OK, our apologies. We were trying to talk with one of the executives of WeTip.com, and we'll try to get her back on the phone.
Bob, it sounded like from what you were saying just a moment ago that the police are not so much pulling back but they're warning everybody that this is just one more piece of information out there. We don't know if there's anything to it.
FRANKEN: Well, they don't know if there's anything to it. They have checked out some leads that are even more vague than this one, and the only difference here is, is that the parking lot that was described on the Web site tip in fact does exist. So they are interested. But they are not sending detectives, we're told, by the Washington Metropolitan Police Department.
In fact, they're going to put out a news release that says that they're going to rely on the military police at Fort Lee, which I should point out is about a two-hour drive south of Washington. It is near Richmond. They're going to rely on them to see what they can find. They may not even employee the cadaver dogs that were originally being discussed. The cadaver dogs, of course, so named because they're trained to sniff out human remains.
There you see, courtesy of our affiliate, WAVY in Richmond, a shot of the area that will be searched. This is an area at the military base, Fort Lee, described as a parking lot under construction. You can see that it looks like there is some work going on there. That was what was specified in the tip over the WeTip Web site that came in yesterday -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: All right, Bob Franken. Again, those pictures, live pictures coming in from WAVY TV. Helicopter looking for the precise area.
Joining us now on the telephone, I believe, is Miriam Brownell, who's with WeTip.com.
Ms. Brownell, are you there?
MIRIAM BROWNELL, COO, WETIP.COM: Yes, I am.
WOODRUFF: Can you just quickly tell us how does the Web site work?
BROWNELL: Right. Well, WeTip has been taking information on 800 phone lines for nearly 30 years. And five years ago, we started a Web site: www.wetip.com. And four years ago, our We master found a way to take the tips anonymously on the Web, and so we get many tips each month. And this is one of the tips that we did get on the Web site.
WOODRUFF: Now, have you received many more tips relating to the Chandra Levy disappearance?
BROWNELL: Yes, but this looks like the -- either it's somebody that likes to write books or it's a very definitive tip. It gives a lot of detail.
WOODRUFF: Can you share with us any more detail? All we know is something about a parking lot under construction at Fort Lee. What else can you tell us about the tip?
BROWNELL: Well, I'm not really allowed to give you information about a tip. But let me tell you that it sounds like an extremely interesting and very complicated tip. It has a lot of aspects, and the main one, of course, is the parking lot and the fact that this alleges that the body has been shrink wrapped and put under -- and put in the parking lot where the cement was over it. So it would take quite awhile, I imagine, for them to figure out if this is a true tip. Most of our tips are, but we get a lot of crazies, too, just like any other service. But WeTip is a people program not a police program. So the people can feel very confident that what they give us they will merely get back a code number and that we will never divulge, because we don't know who they are, so we will never tell who they are.
WOODRUFF: So there's no way to trace this person. Is that right?
BROWNELL: No. And we wouldn't want there to be. See, the whole thing about WeTip as opposed to 911, where they know who you are with Caller ID, our phone lines are not traceable. We never tape, we never trace, and we have 878-CRIME we had for almost 30 years. And people call in and they know that they're going to be anonymous. It's the same way on our Web site.
WOODRUFF: Ms. Brownell, as I'm talking with you, we're looking at live pictures from WAVY Television in Norfolk, Virginia. It appears from these pictures that a group of people are coming together at a site at Fort Lee, this military base in Virginia.
WOODRUFF: And we can only surmise that this is near or at the location of this parking lot that has been under construction. I want to come back to you, though, about your comment about the tip that there was a lot -- there were a number of aspects to it. Can you give us a sense of how long -- was it a page or two, single-spaced? Was it a few sentences? I mean, how long was it?
BROWNELL: OK, give me a minute, honey. Three.
WOODRUFF: Three pages single-spaced?
WOODRUFF: And when you say detail over a timeline of what happened, does it describe how she died, for example, if this were to be -- if this were Chandra Levy?
BROWNELL: I'm sorry, could you repeat that?
WOODRUFF: Does the information on these pages of the tip describe how Ms. Levy allegedly died?
BROWNELL: Yes, it does.
WOODRUFF: And is there a sense of who was involved and who would have killed her, if again, this is all -- if it were true?
BROWNELL: Just tells the how, and really a little bit about why. But as I said, you know, this is an allegation, nothing else.
WOODRUFF: But you -- there's something clearly about this that made you take it seriously enough to share it with the police. Is that right?
BROWNELL: Well, let me explain how we work. All our tips go to the police department or the fire department, depending on whether it's like murder or an arson. And they all go to the sheriff's department. I mean, these are shared tips.
In this particular case, the police department and the sheriff's department would get all the information. In this case, there is a task force that's working on it, so they get all the information. So it's a shared tip. But we don't make the determination. It's a people program. We don't make a determination if this is "important," quote, unquote, or useful. We just send it on. And the case is something like this: It immediately is -- immediately sent and faxed and called, you know, when we're dealing with a murder, no matter whether it's considered the most important murder or the least important murder.
When we have a bank robbery, you know, I mean, when we have a little candy store that's robbed, it's all very important to us. So we don't try to make a determination whether it is important enough or correct. We just send it onto the police and we let them make the -- they do the investigation, we do no investigation.
WOODRUFF: All right. We're talking with Miriam Brownell, who is the chief operating officer of WeTip.com. This is the Web site based in California where the tip came in allegedly. Again, none of this is known to be whether it's true or not the body of Chandra Levy may be buried under a parking lot. Fort Lee, Virginia. It's a military base.
We just heard Ms. Brownell say that this is a three-page long, single-spaced document that came across the Web. She said a lot of details about how the murder or a murder was committed, why it was committed and what happened to the body. She mentioned the body having been shrink wrapped. She went on to say she could not share much more information because it's in the hands of the police. And we want to continue to stress none of this is confirmed. Even Ms. Brownell herself said this could be true or it could be the work of somebody who likes to write novels. Now joining us on the telephone, WRC Television reporter. This is a station here in Washington. Is it Rucks Russell outside the gates of Fort Lee? Is it Rucks?
RUCKS RUSSELL, WRC-TV: Yes, Yes, Judy it is. We are outside...
WOODRUFF: Can you describe what you're seeing? Go ahead.
RUSSELL: This is a very large military complex, and from where we are, you can see the gates behind me. No activity at this precise location, but again, just a lot of fluidity at this time in this report. All of the media from around the area has descended upon this fort, and we are responding to that tip that was phoned in from that organization in California, passed along to D.C. Metropolitan Police.
The tip, of course, that a body believed to be that of Chandra Levy could be buried beneath a parking lot that is under construction here at the base. We can update you that we have learned just moments ago that the FBI is going to be out here along with police, D.C. Metropolitan Police, the local police, military police as well conducting a search of that area along with some cadaver dogs. Obviously, following up on this lead very seriously given the nature and the serious nature of this lead -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: Now, Rucks, what are you seeing right now? Are you seeing activity? What are you seeing there at the gate?
RUSSELL: At the gates, we're seeing business as usual out here, a trickle of automobiles either heading inside the base or out. But all around the base, we've seen a lot of us, the media, from all over the place, just everyone is basically here looking for some evidence of this location. But no one has, to the best of my knowledge, seen this precise area, at least not from the ground, perhaps from the air, but not from the ground. It's a parking lot under construction somewhere on the base itself.
WOODRUFF: And again, how large is the base and how close to Richmond?
RUSSELL: I don't have any precise dimensions on the base, I can tell you it is quite large, we are located about 35 miles or so southeast of Richmond, close to a neighboring city of Hopewell, Virginia.
WOODRUFF: All right, Rucks Russell with WRIC television. I misspoke earlier, and said WRC -- WRIC-TV in Richmond I'm presuming, thank you very much.
RUSSELL: You are welcome.
WOODRUFF: And we'll be back with more of our coverage of this breaking story and more news in a moment.
WOODRUFF: I'm Judy Woodruff in Washington. We continue to follow developments in the Chandra Levy case. Just learning within the last hour or so, police have received a tip, a very detailed tip on a Web site in California, saying allegedly that the body of Chandra Levy buried under a parking lot that's been under construction at the military base Fort Lee near Richmond, Virginia. There are press, police, moving in that direction, we will bring you any information that we can as it comes in. At this hour, we have no way of knowing if there is anything to it.
Meantime, other news today, a patients' bill of rights, other developments here in Washington. Here on Capitol Hill, patients' bill of rights has been moving through the Congress, but at the White House, the president has been meeting with one of the lead figures in the bipartisan effort to come up with a patients' bill of rights. Republican Congressman Charles Norwood of Georgia.
And CNN's Kelly Wallace is there at the White House now. Kelly, what's going on?
KELLY WALLACE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Judy, we just learned about three minutes from now, President Bush will be coming into the White House briefing room along with Republican Congressman Charlie Norwood of Georgia. As you noted, the congressman came over to the White House about 40 minutes ago, we understood that he would be meeting with White House staff and would also be meeting with Mr. Bush.
One Hill aide was describing this really as a make-or-break meeting. As our viewers know, there have been negotiations going on between the White House and Congressman Norwood to try and find some compromise, the president has said he would veto the bill backed by Congressman Norwood, as well as Congressman Dingell and Ganske, because he thinks it would lead to too many lawsuits and it would increase the cost of health care and that could force small businesses to drop their health care coverage. So there have been efforts under way to try and strike some deal. To try and find a compromise.
We understand from a Hill aide that there have been negotiations going on today. It was not clear, two things. No. 1, if Congressman Norwood was able to get the support of the Democrats and Republicans and the other people backing his bill, or if the president was able to support what Congressman Norwood would be coming to the White House with. So in a few minutes from now, we are expecting the president and Congressman Norwood to come forward.
We will find out, A, if they have in fact reached a compromise, a compromise that would bring over some Republicans and Democrats. That would lead to a bill that the president could sign. Again, the big stumbling block continued to be over a patient's right to sue in state or federal court and how much of a cap should there be on damages that the patient could recover.
The other possibility could be that there is no deal. But then the question would be: would Congressman Norwood support an amendment to a GOP alternative backed by Congressman Ernie Fletcher, a Republican, this is a bill the president says he could support because it puts more restrictions on a patient's right to sue his or her HMO. Basically all suits would be in federal court. You would, though, be allowed to go to state court if the HMO went against the decision of an independent review panel. So a lot of unknowns right now.
Again, expecting the president and the congressman to come to the podium just moments from now to tell us exactly where things stand -- Judy?
WOODRUFF: Kelly, we've been told by your colleague, John King, who's been inside the White House while you have been talking to us, told by senior White House officials that an agreement has been reached between the president and Congressman Norwood. We don't know if this means with the other key people in this -- who are sponsoring this bipartisan piece of legislation, and that that presumably is what will be announced when the president and Congressman Norwood step before the cameras in just a moment.
Kelly, I want you to stand by.
Joining me here at the Capitol, CNN's Congressional correspondent Kate Snow.
Kate, as we wait for the president and Congressman Norwood to come out, do we know any more details of what they might have agreed on?
KATE SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We don't just yet. Judy, let me clarify one thing, it's interesting, Charlie Norwood, the congressman from Georgia, was on his way over to the White House about an hour ago, just as some of his key allies, including Senator Kennedy and Senator Edwards, who supported his version of a patients' bill of rights, were waiting for him over here on Capitol Hill. They weren't aware that the congressman had gone to the White House.
So in terms of whether all of his allies, if you will, have backed him on what he's deciding, we're not clear on that. One could presume that perhaps he's made a phone call and they are all on board now.
I did want to tell you one thing, Judy, that I was told earlier before this latest meeting between Charlie Norwood and the president, President Bush, I was told by aide to Mr. Norwood they did not think they were going to have any kind of new, big compromise in terms of a completely rewritten bill, which is what the White House had been pushing for.
But that rather, perhaps what they would do is settle on a system where tomorrow they bring up the patients' bill of rights, but then as Kelly Wallace just mentioned, they allow for some amendments. Some changes to Mr. Norwood's bill to be voted on by all the members of the House, those changes being the language that President Bush would like, language making it a little bit more limited in terms of people's right to sue their HMOs.
WOODRUFF: All right, Kate Snow here at the Capitol. Kelly Wallace at the White House, we are told that the president, Congressman Norwood are just seconds away, they're walking into the briefing room at the White House as we speak. Presumably to announce the details, the outline of this agreement.
That's Nick Calio, who works in the White House legislative office there with his back to the camera. We see Ari Fleischer. And now, coming down the stairs, behind other members of the staff, we've got our camera trained right there. We expect to see -- of course, the press is gathered there in the press room -- here is President Bush, followed by Georgia Republican Congressman Charles Norwood.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Today, I'm very pleased to announce that Congressman Norwood and I have reached an agreement on how to get a patients' bill of rights out of the House of Representatives.
Charlie started on this issue six years ago. He's worked diligently to protect America's patients from wrongdoings. I appreciate so very much his spirit because I share the same concerns. And now, after long, hard labors, we've reached an agreement on how to amend his bill that will meet the principles that I outlined.
When I first came to Washington I gave -- right after I came to Washington I gave a speech that talked about the principles necessary for a patients' bill of rights, but in that speech I wanted a bill: a bill that was good for patients, a bill that allowed for people to be able to air their grievances, a bill that did not encourage frivolous lawsuits.
Charlie also shares the deep concern, I'll let him express his concerns, but there's not question that he, himself, wanted to get a bill. He was practicing the art of what is possible. It's a spirit we need more of in Washington: people who come to this city with the intent of doing what's right, the intent of having accomplishment, the intent of not playing, you know, bickering over politics and getting intransigence because you don't get everything you want.
And so after a lot of labor and a lot of hard work and a lot of discussion, we shook hands in the Oval Office about 10 minutes ago. And Charlie's going to head up to the Hill, I've spoken to the speaker, and he's going to take -- we're going to work on the language of the agreed-upon amendment, and it'll give the members something positive to vote for.
BUSH: And I want to thank Charlie Norwood for his hard work, for the Southern gentleman that he is, for his willingness to work with the White House. It's a good signal for a lot of folks on Capitol Hill.
Now, Mr. Norwood.
NORWOOD: Thank you very much, Mr. President.
It's a rather exciting time for me. It's been a long six years, and we've all written a number of bills and we've destroyed a lot of trees. And my goal this time was to work with this president, who as Governor Bush we had a few fun rides in Georgia in a van, and I knew he wanted a bill to protect the patients of this country, and I knew it was just a matter of time to keep working until we could get there.
However, the bottom line and the goal is, we want to change the law. And the last time I looked, that's pretty difficult to do without the presidential signature.
So it was a situation where we had to keep talking through this thing to where we could get the president satisfied and willing to sign it, but at the same time abide by the principles that we started out to do.
And the outline of this agreement, which will later tonight be put into language, does just that. It does protect the patients of this country. The stakeholders that have worked for me and with me in both parties are going to be very pleased with this, because we accomplished the very goals we started out to do.
And when we set out, what we wanted to do was have standards changed in this country regarding health care as it has developed over the last 30 years. We wanted to make sure people could choose their own doctor. We wanted to make sure that if a patient was harmed, they had recourse in some type of court setting other than the situation we have now where so many cases are preempted.
And lastly and very importantly, we wanted to have a good external review by independent folks to give patients a place to go, someone to turn to when nobody would help.
NORWOOD: And this president's going to deliver that for them. And I think the people of America should be very, very grateful for the hard work he's put in, arm twisting he's done. And this has worked out to be, I think, a great opportunity.
So thank you very much, Mr. President.
BUSH: Get to work up there on the Hill, Charlie.
Thank you very much. I appreciate it.
Thank you all.
WOODRUFF: Well, three you hear it. President Bush, along with Georgia Congressman Charles Norwood, who's been the leader, one of the leaders in this bipartisan legislation to come up with a patients' bill of rights. Until now, the president was not willing to go along with the language in the Norwood/Ganske/Dingell bill, but evidently, they've been able to agree to language to amend the bill, to make it acceptable to the president so that he would sign it.
Now, what we know so far, Kelly Wallace, is that the president and Congressman Norwood agree. What we don't know is do his colleagues in the House and the Senate agree? Kelly -- and I also have Kate Snow here at the Capitol with me, who's been on the telephone -- Kelly, are you getting any sense of that, and then I'll turn to Kate.
WALLACE: Exactly, Judy. No, I've been watching just as you have, with the president and Congressman Norwood, just as you and Kate have mentioned. We did hear Congressman Norwood, though, did say that the stakeholders in this would be very pleased. Presumably, Congressman Norwood referring to the other cosponsors of the measure he has been pushing, as well as those on the Senate side -- Senators Kennedy, McCain and Edwards, who were instrumental in passing a bill in the Senate a month ago.
But again, we don't really know. We don't exactly know what the language is here, and what the agreement is here. What we do know is that the Dingell-Norwood-Ganske bill will come to the Senate floor and there will be this amendment. And this amendment, we presume, will be liability, will restrict a patient's right to sue. We could assume that it may be that Fletcher Amendment, which would basically give patients less of a right to sue in state court, that you could only go to state court if your HMO did not abide by this independent review panel decision. But again, we just don't know at the moment -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: All right, Kelly at the White House. Kate Snow here at the Capitol. What are you finding out, Kate?
SNOW: Well, I just spoke with our producer, Dana Bash, who spoke a short time ago with those who work with Senator Kennedy, who is told that they actually did not know that Charlie Norwood was on the way to the White House. As I'd mentioned before, there was a meeting that had been previously scheduled between Mr. Norwood and some of his allies, that being Senator Kennedy, Senator Edwards, also Senator John McCain from Arizona, along with Congressman Dingell and Congressman Ganske, who he's been working with quite closely all along.
I'm told initially now by -- via our producer, by Senator Kennedy's staff, that at least that senator didn't know about this deal, and we're in fact watching the media coverage to find out what kind of a deal had been brokered.
Another point to make, though, Judy, is that when you talk about a deal, you notice the president said we have agreed on how we can amend this bill, Mr. Norwood's bill. Some might argue that that's not really a deal or a compromise, that what it is is they're going to bring up the Norwood-Dingell-Ganske bill tomorrow in the House of Representatives, and then they're going to vote on amendments.
That doesn't mean that those amendments, the changes that the president would like to see, are necessarily going to pass. In fact, I'm told privately by many people here on the Hill, Republicans and Democrats, that they think it's going to be very close. One of those amendments deals with the issue of liability. It has already been filed in the House, if you will. It's already ready to be taken up tomorrow. And I think we can show you a graphic that talks about what Kelly Wallace had mentioned a few minutes ago.
That amendment would essentially limit the amount that the liability, or limit what people can do in terms of suing their HMOs. It would allow for some suits to go into state court, but only limited suits in state court. It would put a $500,000 cap on pain and suffering awards, and it would not allow punitive damages. This amendment is the Fletcher Amendment, who, of course -- Ernie Fletcher has been working, a Republican -- working with the Bush White House. This is the language that President Bush would like to see.
We can only presume from what the president just said that that is at least one of the amendments that they will try to bring up tomorrow and see, indeed, if they have the votes to pass it -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: And, Kate, we can also presume that some of those who have not been willing to go along with that language before may not still be willing to go along with it. CNN's Jonathan Karl is elsewhere at the Capitol.
Jonathan, what are you finding out?
JONATHAN KARL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, what's interesting, Judy, is that Senator Kennedy, who Kate was just talking about, obviously the key player in the Senate on this question, is actually right now in a meeting with Tommy Thompson, Bush's secretary of Health and Human Services. Not about this question, but about the question of Medicare reform.
What's interesting is that they say, exactly as you heard Kate say, that Senator Kennedy apparently had no knowledge of this, not been told about this deal before it happened. I also spoke with somebody in Senator McCain's office, who said that they did not know about this deal before it's announced. They watched very closely, very intently to the president and Charlie Norwood talking about that. As you heard in that press conference, still no details as to what this compromise is. So what you have here among the key players in the Senate is some scrambling to find out exactly what's going on and what Charlie Norwood has agreed to.
They've been talking to Charlie Norwood as he's been in the process of negotiating with the president. But apparently, there's been very little contact today on this. So right now, a real kind of wondering what's going on and what this compromise is, and very noncommittal as to whether or not they're ultimately onboard.
WOODRUFF: Well, Jon Karl, we want to keep you standing by.
Kate, I want to come back to you. To get back to your point earlier about what -- the the language that was in the Fletcher -- the Fletcher proposal, the Fletcher Amendment, people like John Dingell, for example, who's one of Congressman Norwood's co-sponsors, have not been willing to go along with this language, correct?
SNOW: With that particular liability language, Judy, you're absolutely right. In fact, they have said -- I have been told by some members that people who are most adamantly talking to Charlie Norwood about being careful not to deal too much were, in fact, John Dingel and also Greg Ganske, a fellow Republican from Iowa, both of whom are cosponsors of Mr. Norwood's bill. I've been told that they were sort of a little more gun-shy about dealing with the White House and giving up too much, because they feel that people need to have an expansive right to be able to sue. WOODRUFF: It's almost as if he has been going to the White House and being pulled in one direction by the president, then he comes back to the Hill and talks to Democratic and Republican colleagues who are with him on this and pulling him in another direction.
SNOW: On the other hand there are some whom he has been working with, for example Senator John McCain. I was told earlier today by a Republican member who is very close to this process, that Senator McCain, in the words of the White House, has been very helpful to them, has been willing to deal. So there is some give and take on both side, a little bit confusing right now what is going to happen tomorrow when they really start to vote.
One other note on that, Judy. I was told earlier today that on the Fletcher amendment, as we keep calling it, this amendment, this change the president wants to make to limit the number of suits that can go to state court, I was told earlier today that about five Democrats probably support them on that in the House. That is probably not enough for them to get that through.
WOODRUFF: To get that language through.
SNOW: That language, right.
WOODRUFF: Kate Snow here at the Capitol. And we've been talking also with Kelly Wallace at the White House, Jonathan Karl elsewhere at the Capitol.
We're going to take a break. We will be back with more INSIDE POLITICS after this.
WOODRUFF: I'm Judy Woodruff in Washington. We are following not only patients' bill of rights but new developments, potential developments in the Chandra Levy disappearance, the former intern. Police reporting today that they've received a tip that they're following, a report, no way to know if it's true, that Chandra Levy's body was buried underneath a parking lot under construction at the military base Fort Lee, near Richmond Virginia.
CNN's Bob Franken joins us now with more -- Bob.
FRANKEN: Judy, the police, all the authorities are quite concerned that this is going to unnecessarily raise expectations. The D.C. police as a result of this have put out a news release and I think I'd like to ask if I could read the substantial part of it, and I am quoting now from the news release:
"Today a number of members of the media called the department about unconfirmed rumors as to the whereabouts of Miss Levy. Last night a California-based organization called WeTip faxed an anonymous tip stating Miss Levy's body was buried on the grounds of a military installation called Fort Lee, in Petersburg Virginia," you are seeing that installation right now, continuing with the police, "The D.C. metropolitan police department in turn called the base's Provost Marshall," that is the police chief there, "who indicated that the base would look into the unconfirmed rumor. It must be noted that the department," meaning Washington, D.C., "is not sending any cadaver dogs, but has reached out to the military, which will coordinate the search and possibly use local cadaver dogs."
And again, they close it by saying, "It must be emphasized this is but another of the many unconfirmed tips circulating about the disappearance of Miss Levy." And of course we've gone to great lengths to emphasize that, but we heard in an interview just a short time ago from the person who is involved with the WeTip Web site.
And Judy, as you know, she specified that this was really a three-page, single-spaced tip. It was not just a couple of lines, and it went into great detail, among other things, that the body was shrink-wrapped and went into detail some detail, which she did not specify as to how and why this occurred.
And law enforcement sources have been talking to the CNN justice correspondent Kelli Arena, and the law enforcement sources say if necessary, they would be able to trace, if they wanted to, who sent this tip, No. 1.
And that if it turned out that it was true, given the detail, there would be a strong interest in subpoenaing the identity of that person, and also of course, they would have a very strong interest, the FBI would, in finding out how the person knew all that.
But anyway, that is the latest. The emphasis must be made repeatedly, D.C. police say they get dozens of tips like this. The only thing that gave this any credibility whatsoever, they say, is that there was the specificity of a parking lot under construction at Fort Lee, so they have decided to follow it up.
They emphasize that they follow up tips all the time. Some are more flimsy than this. They in fact got this tip yesterday, so this is not something that have acted with a great deal of urgency. They are operating, Judy, very methodically as they are now descending on, so to speak, Fort Lee, Virginia.
I should also point out the D.C. police have said they will not be sending their detectives down there. This will be in coordination with the FBI. It is unclear at this point whether FBI agents will actually take part in the search, or whether it will be simply conducted by the military police on the base at Fort Lee, Virginia, which as you can see on the map is about just very close to Richmond, Virginia, Petersburg, Virginia. It's about a two-hour drive from Washington, D.C.
That is where the focus of all this is now -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: Bob Franken reporting. Washington, D.C. police calling these unconfirmed rumors of this latest tip on the potential, alleged whereabouts of Chandra Levy's body. We will be right back.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) WOODRUFF: And this final note we had planned to air today an extended interview I did today with Secretary of State Colin Powell. Because of breaking news we will air that interview with the secretary of state tomorrow. That's in for INSIDE POLITICS. I am Judy Woodruff in Washington and now we go to (END OF AUDIO)
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