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Can White House Weather Political Storm?; Florida Officials Assess Damage From Hurricane Wilma; Family Torn Apart in Susan Polk Murder Case

Aired October 24, 2005 - 20:00   ET


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: And good evening, everyone. Glad you could join us.
Tonight, much of South Florida is reeling in the wake of Hurricane Wilma.


ZAHN (voice-over): Hit and run -- Florida gets rolled again. What will it take to recover from Florida's fourth major hurricane this season?

In Washington, the gathering storm: top aides under fire, a nominee on thin ice, and the war in Iraq, an uphill battle -- can the White House weather the perfect political storm?

And the Polk murder case: a family torn apart, a wife accused of murdering her prominent husband -- why does one think it was self- defense?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He said that he would destroy her and told me that if I, you know, stuck with her, that I would be destroyed.

ZAHN: While her other son believes, it was murder.


ZAHN: It's kind of hard to believe, this far into the storm, that Wilma is still a Category 3 hurricane. It's out in the Atlantic right now heading northeast. It will contribute to a wet, windy day in New England tomorrow.

But Wilma, fortunately, is no longer a threat to hit the U.S. mainland. It's already done enough. The eye of the storm came ashore about 6:30 this morning, near Marco Island, on Florida's southwest coast. Wilma made landfall as a strong Category 3 storm, with 125- mile-an-hour sustained winds.

Florida officials blame the hurricane for at least six deaths. There is damage everywhere you look, streets flooded, trees like this just about everywhere down. The situation is Naples is typical of what we're seeing all across Southern Florida tonight.

Now, in the big cities, the hurricane shattered many skyscrapers' windows, which you are about to see in the next shot. Look at that. This is Fort Lauderdale, where they are calling Wilma the worst hurricane since 1950. One early estimate predicts between $6 billion and $10 billion in insured losses across the state.

Very early this morning, the hurricane's southern eyewall brushed Key West. More than one-third of that island is flooded tonight -- all of the Florida Keys without electricity. But that is just the beginning. The storm knocked out power to at least six million Floridians. That is one-third of the state's population.

Now, in some cases, the winds were so powerful, it peeled the lawns away. This is in Pompano Beach. The force of the wind is too much for this tree and the sod holding on to it. That was one powerful wind.

And then there was the force of the waves. Some of today's most spectacular pictures came from Havana, Cuba, where the storm sent huge waves crashing into the city. Neighborhoods up to four blocks inland were swamped under three feet of water. Parts of Havana look very much like what New Orleans looked like after Hurricane Katrina -- rescuers using small boats and amphibious vehicles to pull dozens of people from their flooded homes.

Right now, Wilma is about 200 miles north of the Bahamas and moving very fast. What she left in her wake is our main focus tonight.

CNN has correspondents throughout Florida, deployed throughout the disaster zone. Gary Tuchman is in Key West. Rob Marciano is in Naples, on Florida's West Coast. David Mattingly on Florida's east coast in Hollywood, as is Jason Carroll, who started the day in our Hurricane One mobile unit, and chased the storm from west to east.

You had quite an adventure, Jason. Thankfully...

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Oh, Paula, it was quite...

CAVUTO: ... you came out of it alive.



CARROLL: Oh, yes.

It was quite a wild ride, actually. And right behind me there, that is Hurricane One. That's the vehicle that we did that ride in. And we took precautions. You know, we pulled over on the side of the road when things got rough, which was often. But, by doing that, we were really able to get a -- a real sense of just how widespread the damage was.

And it really seemed to cause widespread minor damage. And then there were pockets of more serious damage.


CARROLL (voice-over): Our goal, follow Hurricane Wilma as she tears across Southern Florida.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Of course, the big thing this morning is Wilma.

CARROLL: We begin in Naples, early Monday morning. Winds topping 100 miles per hour slow our progress. Uprooted trees and downed power lines block nearly every street.

(on camera): So we decide to pull over here.

(voice-over): Pockets of flooding here, too. Six inches of rain have fallen in hours.

(on camera): So, right now, we have jumped outside just to show you a little bit of the minor flooding that we have experienced out here. This is downtown Naples.

And you can see, this is a strip mall, and how far the water has come here.

Walter (ph), I don't know if you can hear me. But get a shot of the newsstand over there.

You can see, the newsstand is partially submerged. That gives you a sense of just how deep the water has gotten at this part.

(voice-over): Moments later, it takes a CNN photographer Walter Imarado (ph) one frustrating minute of fighting the wind just to shut the door again.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hold on. Hold on. Hold on.

CARROLL: Once back on the road, we track Wilma as she heads east toward Miami, across the 130-mile stretch of Interstate 75, known as Alligator Alley. Finally, visibility improves as Wilma moves into the Atlantic.

We head to a community of houseboats north of Miami Beach. Several are destroyed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm coming. I'm coming.

CARROLL: And we find an 80-year-old man being rescued.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right there in the middle of all of that, (INAUDIBLE) probably about a three-by-six hole that we cut in the roof.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We had to use a -- a lounge chair, because we had to improvise out here. We put the gentleman on a lounge chair and a backboard and pulled him off to safety.


CARROLL: Carl Benz sees it all happen. He and his wife used to live next door.

CARL BENZ, RESIDENT OF MIAMI: And we're watching all the devastation here. You see this. We're watching docks ripped out. We're watching boats sinking. This is our community, our friends. And we have lost it all. It's all gone.

CAROLYN BENZ, RESIDENT OF MIAMI: It's very surreal to us at this moment because, I -- you know, I can't even think.

CARROLL: Yet again, weather-weary Floridians begin cleaning up after a hurricane. But they will not soon forget the hurricane season of 2005.


CARROLL: Again, Hurricane One behind us kept us safe, as we moved from the west to the east.

I think those who lived on the Gulf side really, pretty much, expected our Hurricane Wilma to do what it ended up doing, after talking to the many people who live in places like Naples. But, after speaking to those who live on the east, in the Miami region, in that area, I think those people, some of those people were really caught off guard -- one gentleman telling me -- quote -- "We didn't think it was going to be a big deal."

Then he said, "All the sudden, things just broke out with incredible intensity" -- Paula.

ZAHN: And, Jason, we have heard that over and over again today -- people really surprised by how strong the storm was.

Well, we owe a debt of gratitude to Hurricane One for bringing you to us safely tonight, Jason. Thanks.

We're going to move on now to a different part of Florida, the Florida Keys. They are in the dark tonight. Hurricane Wilma knocked out power there.

Gary Tuchman joins me now by phone from Key West.

There's no power at all, is there, anywhere?

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Complete and utter darkness, Paula, all over the Florida Keys, except for places like this Walgreens behind me that has generator power.

But it's really dark. You are dealing with here in Key West, the largest city in the Florida Keys, about 60 percent of the homes that have been flooded. And there's a curfew in effect between 11:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m.

And, very importantly, Paula, one thing we want to point out, for people who left Key West, they can't come back right now. For people from here who want to go to the mainland of Florida, they can't go there because part of the Overseas Highway, US-1, has been washed out.

ZAHN: That is an astonishing statistic, that 60 percent of all the homes there are flooded.

And I guess, when you combine that with the fact that only 20 percent of the residents there evacuated, you have got some folks, I guess, that could argue they are pretty lucky tonight that they made it through the storm at all.

TUCHMAN: You have a lot of very soggy people.

I will tell you, there's no question about it, Paula. There was nobody seriously hurt, nobody killed. That's the good news. But there were a lot of frightened people. The police and fire officials said they would not go out for rescues last night for people who didn't evacuate. But, indeed, they ended up doing that. They got calls from the 911, people saying, please come rescue us. And they went to rescue those people.

So, there were a lot of people who wished they would have left and who ended up staying.

ZAHN: So, how strong did the winds actually get, Gary, when the storm was at its most powerful?

TUCHMAN: Between 2:00 and 4:00 in the morning, Eastern time, this morning was the most intense here in Key West. And, according to the authorities here, we had sustained winds for two hours of 120 miles per hour.

I will tell you, I have seen winds of a lower velocity cause much more damage than here in Key West. I was impressed with how these structures, many of them very old, held up in that intense wind. It was a wild morning, Paula.

ZAHN: But the pictures certainly show us what kind of work folks there have in store for themselves. We wish them luck.

Thanks so much, Gary Tuchman. Appreciate that live update.

Hurricane Wilma is moving north and east tonight, as we mentioned a little bit earlier on. And there has been some concern that it might merge with another weather system and cause even more trouble.

Let's see what the forecast is with meteorologist Rob Marciano in Naples.

What can you tell us tonight, Rob?

ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, it's not too far off the map, Paula.

We're not quite done with Wilma entirely, although we don't expect another U.S. landfall. This thing is really moving off the coast. But it already did the damage. I mean, we had winds, reported, gusting over 120 miles an hour in spots -- and then over -- even over on the east side of Florida, West Palm Beach, the Miami area, wind gusts reported, 101 miles an hour -- so, tremendous amount of wind.

And it continues to pick up at least forward speed, now moving northeasterly at 27 miles an hour. That puts the center of it -- still a Category 3 storm, by the way -- about 300 miles to the northeast of West Palm Beach. The forecast track now does keep it offshore, but it kind of parallels the Northeastern Seaboard.

And now there's another little weather system that's diving down from Canada with some cold air. And that's going to take up a little bit of moisture from Wilma, a little bit of the wind energy from Wilma. And that's going to bring some wind, some rain to the New York area, to the Boston area as well. And there may very well be enough cold air to where we see some snow, mostly in the mountains, you know, above -- above 1,000 or 2,000 feet, places like the Poconos, the Catskills, the Berkshires, certainly the Green and White Mountains of Vermont and New Hampshire.

And because of that, the -- the National Weather Service actually issued a winter storm watch for those areas in anticipation of this storm coming together -- so, not entirely from Wilma -- two storms kind of getting themselves together, one storm on the East Coast tapping into the energy and the moisture of Wilma.

And that means that you folks in New York are going to see -- well, you are already seeing some rain, but you will see some wind as well. And, if you head to the mountains, you might even see some early winter -- or late fall -- snow.

ZAHN: Well, not that it's...

MARCIANO: Crazy stuff, Paula.

ZAHN: ... such a big deal, Rob, but I did lose two umbrellas earlier this evening. We are already having 20- to 30-mile-an-hour gusts of wind.



ZAHN: Not what any of us needed anywhere along this coast.


ZAHN: Rob Marciano, thanks. Stay dry.

Just a few minutes ago, we showed you the tremendous waves the hurricane sent crashing in Havana. What else did the storm do to Cuba's capital city? Our Havana bureau chief, Lucia Newman, will show us straight out of the break.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MILES O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I got nothing to hang on to here. I'm going to stay near this sign. I can't even stand up. I think we got to be getting close to a hundred miles an hour here now. I don't know if Chad has that dialed up.

Chad, do you have that dialed up right now?



ZAHN: Boy, I have got some amazing pictures for you tonight.

Just look at this. All day, Cuba has been lashed by huge waves from Hurricane Wilma, leaving parts of Havana completely under water.

Our Havana bureau chief, Lucia Newman, joins me now with the very latest on the damage caused by the storm.

Lucia, what have you been able to see?

NEWMAN: Well, Paula, what stands out tonight is not what you see, but what you can't see, which is Havana's emblematic Morro Castle Lighthouse. It's out, after being pounded, along with a great deal of this city, by 24 hours now of enormous waves. It's caused the kind of damage that many people in this country, which usually prepares for the worst, had never, ever bargained for.


NEWMAN (voice-over): The waves nearly reached the top of Havana's Morro Castle Lighthouse. No one had ever seen anything like it, not even what Cubans call the storm of the century 12 years ago -- Wilma's storm surge turning the city's avenues and streets into saltwater rivers in a blink of the eye.

Donna Raquel (ph) barely had time to get out of her basement apartment in the middle of the night.

"It was very quick, very fast. The sea is full of surprises," she says.

Cuba's civil defense is using boats and anything else that floats to rescue people, while the army joins in with Soviet-made amphibious vessels. These alleged looters were among the passengers.

The flooding extends all along the shoreline for at least 10 miles, from downtown to midtown, to the Fifth Avenue Tunnel, to the Santa Fe area on the city's outskirts, where these homes were covered by the water.

Elena (ph), a hairdresser, takes us to see where she lives. Everything she owns is now under water.

"Down there, there's nothing left, not even the walls. But I have to keep on living there," she says. These soldiers rescue a sofa. In Cuba, items like these are too often once-in-a-lifetime purchases, impossible for many to ever replace.

(on camera): These people are taking advantage of low tide to cross here. The current is very, very strong. And, in a few hours, the water level will go up again.

(voice-over): It's a race against time to get the sick, the young and the elderly to dry ground, to save as much of what's still salvageable, in a country where people already have very little.


NEWMAN: Again, Paula, nobody can really remember ever having seen anything like this, unless they were around back in 1917, which is the last time that the Malecon seaside wall was broken by the savage force of the ocean.

Now, officials here cannot tell us at this point how many people were rescued, how many people were left homeless. What they are saying, though -- and that is good news -- is that, so far, there have been no fatalities at all reported -- Paula.

ZAHN: We hope it stays that way. Lucia Newman, thank you so much.

Now, after hitting Cuba, Hurricane Wilma moved on, coming ashore just south of Naples, Florida. And, tonight, that city is shut down -- no power, no water, no one allowed back in.

The mayor of Naples, Bill Barnett, joins me now on the telephone.

Mr. Mayor, thanks so much for joining us tonight.

What's your biggest challenge?



BARNETT: Well, we are -- we have a -- we have a lot of challenges, Paula.

The -- the citizens want to get back in to, you know, inspect their homes and see, you know, what damage there is, etcetera. And we, of course, have a problem of safety issues. There is -- there is a lot of flooding. As you said when you introed, there's no power. We have no water, no food, actually, because with -- obviously, there's no stores that are open.

So, we have a curfew. And we -- as of tomorrow morning at 7:00 a.m., we are going to let residents back into the city, and business owners and business owners' employees back in, because, you know, it's -- it's more grief the other way. You know, you're damned if you do and damned if you don't. ZAHN: Oh, absolutely. But it's got to be pretty frustrating, knowing that a fair number of your residents decided not to evacuate.

Do you think they at least prepared, in terms of having enough food and water on hand?

BARNETT: Well, you know, I think that the ones that didn't are the same ones that would not evacuate, no matter, you know, what the circumstances were.

But it's more of the ones that -- the ones that are more annoyed now are the people that did evacuate. And they want to get back in to the city. And we are -- today, we wouldn't let anybody back in, because this place was a mess. So, you know, we are -- we are just going to, you know, let them come back in tomorrow and we will -- we will work through the problems. I mean, there's nothing else we can do.

ZAHN: Well, we were looking at some of the pictures at the height of the storm, when you were being buffeted by almost 100-mile- an-hour winds and it really did look like a mess.

So, is the cleanup just going to be a huge undertaking for you?

BARNETT: Yes. It -- it really is. And it's a lot of -- you know, we're a -- one of America's tree cities.

And we have, like, 20 -- we have 27,000 trees in this city of Naples, and a good many of them are gone down, across rooftops. And, you know, they are blocking streets. They broke -- they are probably some of the cause of some of the water problems, because they have broken water mains, and we can't get to the water mains or the water problems until we remove the trees.

So, it's going to be a mess. But we will -- you know, we will -- we will do OK. The -- the good news is, if there is any there, we had very little structural damage. And -- and that's really a miracle, considering.

ZAHN: I think that's the first piece of good news I have heard -- heard this night from anybody reporting to us.

Mayor Bill Barnett, right on the front lines of the storm there, thank you so much for joining us. Good luck.

We're going to turn away from the hurricane in just a minute. There is another story with incredible pictures. Stay with us and see the frightening power of an attack by suicide car bombers.

And then, a little bit later on, a death brings a bizarre murder case to a sudden stop. Will an accused killer ever go on trial again, now that her attorney's wife has been murdered?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) ZAHN: Right now, we want to turn away from our hurricane coverage for just a moment to the latest deadly strike in Iraq. Bombings have become a devastating, almost daily occurrence there. But, today, a series of explosions in Baghdad were captured in stark detail by security cameras. I think you will agree, the images are alarming.

Senior international correspondent Nic Robertson has more from Baghdad.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Security sources describe this as a complex attack. Police say it was perpetrated by at least three suicide bombers. They say that the first vehicle approached the security barrier outside these two hotels housing many international journalists and Western workers.

This first car approached the security barrier, detonated its explosives, blowing a big hole in the perimeter of the hotel security. The second car bomber approached, was unable to get through when -- when gunfire was -- was targeted in his direction. He detonated his bomb about 100 yards away.

About 30 seconds after that, a large cement mixer, packed full of explosives, tries to drive through that breach in the hotel security. He gets tangled up in the wire -- again, gunfire trained on him.


ROBERTSON: The truck explodes.

But, inside the hotel, there's much damage. There are several injured journalists, walking wounded. Several hotel employees are injured. We understand from the police that at least 10 people have been killed -- 22 others injured. The area has now been secured by more U.S. troops.

And we have learned, just in the last few hours, from security sources, that not only were there these three suicide bombers, but there were gunmen -- gunmen -- involved as well, who fired at least two rocket-propelled grenades at other parts of the security structure around the hotel.

Nic Robertson, CNN, Baghdad.


ZAHN: Now, before we get back to the hurricane, we're going to get an update on the hour's other top stories.

And, for that, we turn to Erica Hill at Headline News -- Erica.


There has been another positive detection of the avian flu in Eastern Europe. The European Commission says imports of live poultry and feathers from Croatia have been banned now, after a bird tested positive there.

Meantime, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control is warning Americans not to forget their annual flu vaccines for the usual winter flu season, which is, of course, just beginning.

On the CNN "Security Watch" tonight, an accused Afghan drug lord now on his way to the U.S. for trial -- drug enforcement officials accuse Haji Baz Mohammad of plotting to finance the Taliban by selling hundreds of millions of dollars worth of heroin on the streets of American cities.

And that is the latest, Paula, from Headline News at this hour. We will hand it back over to you in New York.

ZAHN: All right, Erica. Thanks so much.

We're going to take a short break here.

When we come back, Hurricane Wilma was the eighth storm to hit Florida in some 14 months. We will have more on that.

And there's been another positive detection of the avian flu in Florida -- more of the details on that as well.

We will take a short break. We will be right back.


ZAHN: Pictures certainly showing the power of Wilma.

We have been trying to go back and forth between a couple of stories here tonight. The impact of Hurricane Wilma that hit Florida this morning. And we are also talking about the new positive case of avian flu in Eastern Europe, and somehow in going between the two stories we made a mistake and implied there was a case here. That is not the case. We meant to talk about the hurricane. So we apologize for that.

But Hurricane Wilma, as I mentioned, did come ashore on Florida's west coast, not far from Naples, and slammed the area with 125-mile- per-hour winds. Here is what Jeanne Meserve saw as she rode out the storm in Naples.


JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): We're at the Admiralty, the condominium in Naples, Florida. We've been holed up here for about three and a half hours while Wilma has been whipping this area. I want to show you from this vantage point what she's been doing.

Look at all this water. This down here was driveways and roadways. And now it is a river. And look at these trees. You can just see how the whole roof system has come right up out of the ground. Just the pressure of the wind and the moisture in the soil conspiring to bring these gigantic and old trees right down.

Now, we look around at some of the other buildings in the area, and you know, they don't look all that damaged. This white one over here, I see what looks to be a window out, and some things flying out. I've seen a couple of awnings down. But the physical structures actually seem to be fairly intact. It is the vegetation that is really suffering in this wind and in this rain that Wilma has produced.

This is that same area, but here from ground level, you can see this water and how the wind is just beating it, just beating it, whipping it along, and you also get a better sense of the debris that's coming down.

Look at this. Huge limbs! Huge limbs! And we're really getting battered here, still, three and a half hours after Wilma really made her force known here.

This is sand. What makes this unusual is that the beach is on the other side of the building. But the sand has been blown over here by the wind, through these portals on the first floor of this building.

This is the beach, where we were earlier. Come out here now, it's pretty amazing. If you look down here, you can see how the waves have totally eroded this beach front. This was a nice, smooth decline before. The water is way offshore. I'm not sure if that's tide or if that is the result of these incredible winds.

For a while out here, it looked like Moses parting the Red Sea. There was just a wall of water out here. And the sand really hurts, let me tell you. We're being sandblasted, all of us.

Let's go!


ZAHN: And hopefully, Jeanne is standing still tonight. Jeanne Meserve reporting from Naples, Florida.

Florida's peninsula is so narrow that what hits one side almost always causes trouble on the other. In a minute, the situation up and down the coast that Wilma didn't hit first, but just how big is the mess?

And then, life in the eye of a political storm that may be about to break. Is the Bush administration in serious trouble?


ZAHN: Lots of folks in -- having some serious problems tonight; 6 million folks in Florida without power after Hurricane Wilma swept through. And the man you are about to meet faced a unique challenge during the storm. Naples' zoo director David Tetzlaff had to round up 200 wild animals, from snakes and monkeys to tigers and lions, and get them to safety before the storm.

Thanks so much for being with us. How did it all turn out?

DAVID TETZLAFF, DIRECTOR, NAPLES ZOO: As well as could be expected, for the complexities of, like you said, 200 animals, 45 acres, and we're a botanical garden as well. So the loss of life for animals is actually we lost one animal due to stress, which was a small species of walloby. But the biggest damage was infrastructure, to enclosures. Thankfully, animals did not escape. We actually had two kangaroos that we had to corral and put back in. But the biggest loss was to the botanical collection, which has been growing there since 1919.

ZAHN: Sorry to hear that. Now, once you get the animals evacuated, they still are feeling the force of this storm. How do they react?

TETZLAFF: Better than you would assume, because we put them in solid concrete buildings. We're talking about the more dangerous, potentially dangerous animals like venomous snakes, our big pythons, our large cats, our primates, they all go in concrete buildings that are obviously proved to be hurricane-proof for this Category 3 we had coming through.

But we tried to leave them alone, believe it or not. We'd put them in and before dark when -- before the storm, and we checked on them about 11:00 and then about 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning. And you want to keep that minimal, because when they see you and they see flashlights and lights, then they think they're going back outside. So if it's dark, they stay calm and quiet.

ZAHN: How much damage do you think, besides the botanical garden, the rest of the zoo suffered?

TETZLAFF: We've got about six enclosures that are no longer inhabitable to animals. So we're doing a lot of musical cages, so to speak, and jockeying some animals around. So when -- we got some back out today. We hopefully will get the rest back out tomorrow, so they can at least have some room to get up and move around until we sort out the infrastructure problems.

ZAHN: Do you have any idea when you might ever be able to open again?

TETZLAFF: By looking at what our peers went through last year and some of the other zoos such as West Palm Beach, assuming we are having similar damage to trees and infrastructure, so if we're open by the holidays, I'll be happy.

ZAHN: And we'll be happy for you. David Tetzlaff, good luck to you.

TETZLAFF: Thank you. ZAHN: Thanks for your time.

Some of the storm's strength was blunted by the time it actually got to Florida's east coast, but it was still bad enough for cities like Hollywood, Florida, and that's where David Mattingly is tonight -- David.

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Paula. Here in Hollywood, like in much of Florida, we are in the dark tonight. If we turned our lights off, we'd be absolutely pitch black out here. Millions of people in the dark, preparing tomorrow to get out and start to repair some of the damage that was done by this massive, massive storm.

We were actually out on the beach as the eye of the storm came across Boca Raton earlier today. And at that point, we really felt the full fury of this storm. It was packing quite a punch as it came all the way across the peninsula and exited out into the Atlantic Ocean.

And all along the Interstate 95, we saw vehicles turned over. We saw power lines down. We saw trees down. It was a mess all the way up and down the east coast here.

In fact, here in Hollywood, some residents say they believe that a tornado may have touched down here, tossing around cars and doing a great deal of damage to some of the high rise buildings here.

So again, a lot of work to do when the sun comes back up tomorrow. And as usual, after a hurricane, we are expecting bright blue skies and a really beautiful day to get this work done, Paula.

ZAHN: So what do you think seems to be the biggest challenge as we see shot after shot of homeowner and their front yard looking at downed trees. What do they have to get cooking?

MATTINGLY: Every storm has its own signature. And this one it's just the massive scale. This was such a huge storm. There was damage from Key West to Miami, all the way up the east coast to Melbourne in some cases. And there's going to be people having to do repairs to their homes all over Florida.

There is -- in some of these storms you see, they have a narrow path where there's a very narrow path of destruction. This one, there doesn't seem to be much part of this section of Florida that was not touched by this storm in some adverse way.

ZAHN: Pictures say it all tonight, David Mattingly. That was quite a trip you had through the state. Thanks so much.

There is a different kind of storm brewing in Washington tonight. Coming up, why President Bush may need more than an umbrella to weather a political storm. It could be a very serious one.

And a little bit later on, a shocking twist in a murder case. He was defending an accused killer. Now his wife has been killed. Could the investigation over his wife's murder compromise his client?


ZAHN: We've been talking so much about Hurricane Wilma tonight. But literally and otherwise, storm clouds are also gathering over the White House tonight.

We asked Suzanne Malveaux to show us why the political forecast for the Bush administration may be downright gloomy. Suzanne, what's the latest?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Paula, of course, the big question is whether or not the Bush administration can weather this huge political storm involving an investigation of top White House officials and also a mutiny of sorts within the own party.


MALVEAUX (voice-over): As three different fronts converge on the White House, some analysts see the perfect political storm. On one front the Harriet Miers nomination to the Supreme Court, under a dark cloud for weeks and despite a cloud of criticism, still backed by the president.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Harriet Miers is a fine person. And I expect her to have a good, fair hearing on Capitol Hill.

MALVEAUX: Mr. Bush pushed back on a demand from Senate Democrats and some Republicans for documents for Miers' tenure in the White House.

BUSH: That would breach very important confidentiality. And it's a red line I'm not willing to cross.

MALVEAUX: A red line some conservatives see as a way out from a beleaguered nomination.

On another front, the ongoing violence in Iraq, now closing in on 2,000 American troops dead and an exit strategy far from sight.

And the third front, the CIA leak investigation with top political aides Karl Rove and Scooter Libby in the eye of that whirlwind. The administration is now bracing for an announcement of possible charges.

DAVID GERGEN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE ADVISER: They've just been hit by a category three, possibly category four and if it goes to the indictments could be category five tidal wave because there are so many different things coming together. It's very difficult to handle any one of these.

MALVEAUX: Mr. Bush hunkered down with his cabinet and top advisers to map out a strategy to navigate through his administration's difficulties. Keeping an eye on Hurricane Wilma, he declared a major disaster for the state of Florida. BUSH: I urge local citizens to listen to the local authorities.

MALVEAUX: Later, he announced his pick to replace Alan Greenspan as the man charged with keeping the economy on course.

BUSH: Today I'm honored to announce that I'm nominating Ben Bernanke to be the next chairman of the Federal Reserve.

MALVEAUX: Privately, White House insiders say they are anxious about the future, because there is so much that is out of their control.

GERGEN: There's no easy path out of this valley. It's going to take a long while. How to get there: keep cool heads, admit mistakes when they are made, bring in some fresh blood so that it reassures the country and you get fresh energy and pray.


MALVEAUX: And, Paula, that is exactly what some people may be doing at the White House. One Republican insider telling me that all they expect to do is to hope to get through the next 80 days. And then they believe they can regain their political footing -- Paula.

ZAHN: Suzanne, there are a couple of reports out there that would suggest that the president is very bitter about what's happening now and is lashing out as his aides. Can you confirm those?

MALVEAUX: Well, what this report is "The New York Daily News" actually gave a report about that. And I talked to one political insider, White House insider, about that. And what he says is that this article indicates a rift that is taking place between the Cheney/Scooter Libby camp and the Rove camp.

He say that this article basically outlines, suggests that the president is dressing down Karl Rove and other staffers because of such high tensions. He says it follows an article in the same paper from last week where it seemed as if the suggestion was that they were dressing down Scooter Libby and Cheney. So he says there's a rift taking place between these two camps.

Also I've talked to several people who are in these meetings all the time who say, you know, this just doesn't sound like the president's behavior. That he is always tough. He's always been blunt, but always fair with his staffers. One person said, you know, if he doesn't approve or you say something dumb in a meeting he'll give you a look over his glasses, something like that, but usually nothing more.

Having said that, Paula, however, a lot of White House insiders say that it is a very tense time here in this administration.

ZAHN: Suzanne, I want to come back to a point you made earlier in your piece when you were talking about perhaps the administration using this executive privilege as a way out of what you called a beleaguered nomination. Exactly how would that work? MALVEAUX: Some conservatives are saying that the Republicans within the Senate Judiciary Committee, several who have already come forward who said, look, we want you to present these particular documents and they are pushing the White House on that particular point. The president and others are pushing back saying, no, that is executive privilege or it's attorney/client privilege. We're not going to give you those documents.

Those conservatives are hoping that this is the kind of, I guess, attention if you will. They'll say, well, this just isn't going to work out. Let's pull out this nomination, let's pull out this nominee because obviously we're not going to agree over the document issue.

But there is someone inside the White House who I spoke to who said, look, if the conservatives are hoping for that strategy, it's just not going to work, that it is wishful thinking. They say this president is still moving forward, pushing forward to get Harriet Miers, at the very least, to those hearings.

ZAHN: Thank you so much, Suzanne Malveaux, reporting from the White House tonight with that update.

As Suzanne just said, the president had an important announcement today, one that could affect your money. Erica Hill has more details in today's HEADLINE NEWS business break.


ZAHN: Thanks so much, Erica. Coming up, a murder case that has pitted one son against another as their mother stands accused.


SUSAN POLK, MURDER SUSPECT: I stabbed him five or six times.


ZAHN: Coming up next, the shocking reason why her case has been declared a mistrial and why any future trials may also be compromised.


ZAHN: Recently we've been covering the murder of the wife of high-profile defense lawyer Daniel Horowitz. The case continues to make headlines, and not just because Horowitz is famous as a legal analyst on TV. It's also because he's running the defense in another high-profile murder case. His client is Susan Polk, who is charged with murdering her psychologist husband. Her case was declared a mistrial after the murder of Horowitz' wife. But now, Polk is worried that when she goes on trial again, if she does, her defense could be compromised because investigators have seized Horowitz' computers and his plans for defending her. Now, here's Ted Rowlands with more on the murder case that was stopped dead in its tracks because of another murder.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): October 2002, in a hillside neighborhood of multi-million-dollar homes, Felix Polk, a prominent San Francisco Bay area psychologist was found dead in his poolside cottage.

POLK: My recollection is that I stabbed him five or six times. I was on my back the entire time. He was aggressing the entire time. He was biting my hand and wrestling for the knife. And I thought I was going to die. So I did -- I mean, it was horrible, but I did what I had to do to survive.

ROWLANDS: Forty-seven-year-old Susan Polk is in jail facing first-degree murder, in a case that pits mother against son and brother against brother. It is a story that began in 1972, when then 15-year-old Susan Bowling went to see 42-year-old psychologist Felix Polk.

POLK: He was my psychotherapist at the time. What I really needed help with was, like, tutoring and, you know, getting prepared for school.

ROWLANDS: By 17, Susan says she was a willing participant in what had become a sexual affair with Polk, who was married and still her therapist. Later, at the age of 25, 10 years after she started therapy, Susan married Felix Polk. Together, they had three children -- Adam, Eli and Gabriel.

POLK: I had a lot of fun. Being a mom was great.

ROWLANDS: With her two oldest children teenagers, Susan says the reality of a psychologist having sex with a 16-year-old patient finally hit her.

POLK: When I confronted him about it, he got very, very nervous, and he told me I could never leave him because of what I might say. That it would destroy his career.

ROWLANDS: Susan says she did decide to leave Felix, initiating divorce proceedings, that soon turned ugly.

ELI POLK, SON: My dad was enraged, just completely enraged, you know, with the idea of my mom leaving, and said that he would destroy her, and told me that if, you know, I stuck with her, that I'd be destroyed.

ROWLANDS: Prosecutors claim Susan Polk brutally attacked her 70- year-old husband while he was reading a book, first hitting him on the head, then stabbing him. The coroner's report says there were 27 separate wounds.

Susan, on the other hand, says she and her husband were arguing, and he turned violent, coming after her with a knife.

POLK: I was lying there just for this instant. I thought of myself as that 15-year-old girl, and I thought, no, I'm not going to die here. I'm going to live. And I kicked him as hard as I could with the heel of my foot, in his groin. And at the very same time, I reached up, and his hand just loosened on the knife -- and it was a very small knife. And I just took it out of his hand and I said, stop, I have the knife. And he wouldn't stop.

ROWLANDS: Barry Morris, a criminal attorney and friend of the family is an expected prosecution witness. He says he had seen signs of instability in Susan for years.

BARRY MORRIS, ATTORNEY & FAMILY FRIEND: She's delusional. And, I mean, it doesn't make any sense. It doesn't make any sense, but people in that state of mind do things that don't make sense.

ROWLANDS: The prosecution's strongest witness is expected to be Gabriel Polk, Susan's now 18-year-old son. Gabriel told a grand jury that he actually heard his mother threaten to kill his father a week before he died. He also says that his mother allowed him to find his father's body almost a full day after she killed him.

While one son has turned against Susan, another is standing by her side.

E. POLK: I know it was self-defense because I know my dad. I knew who he was and I know my mom. And there's no way. There's just no way.

ROWLANDS: With one son ready to testify against her, Susan says she knows the odds are against her.

POLK: Do I think I'm going to be convicted? Yeah. But I'm going to give them a fight.


ZAHN: Ted Rowlands reporting. And we'll keep a close eye on whether that amounts to another case again.

That's it for all of us tonight. Thanks so much for joining us. "LARRY KING LIVE" starts right now.


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