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Judging Alito; A Bomb Found in a Starbucks

Aired January 10, 2006 - 07:00   ET


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. I'm Miles O'Brien. Judging Alito, the Supreme Court nominee should expect some tough questions from senators today. We're live in Washington.
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Soledad O'Brien. President Bush turns his focus back on Iraq, but who's his new message really aimed at? We're going to go live to the White House this morning.

M. O'BRIEN: And a bomb found in a Starbucks. And parts of San Francisco evacuated, police looking for leads and details on all of this, ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

S. O'BRIEN: Good morning, and welcome, everybody. Lots to get to this morning, especially our top story, which is Judge Alito back on Capitol Hill today.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes, good to have you with us. Let's get right to it.

It's sure to be a long day for Judge Samuel Alito. In less than three hours, senators will start asking him direct questions about what he'd do on Supreme Court. That process could be going on well into the evening.

AMERICAN MORNING's Bob Franken live on Capitol Hill.

And, Bob, I assume you packed a lunch and maybe a dinner for this one?

BOB FRANKEN, CNN NATL. CORRESPONDENT: So it's going into the evening, is it?

M. O'BRIEN: So I hear.

FRANKEN: So nobody told me that.

M. O'BRIEN: We'll get you some catering.

FRANKEN: OK, well, look, this is what we can expect. The Democrats are going to be breathing fire. The Republicans are going to be breathing fire about the Democrats breathing fire. And from everything we know about Samuel Alito, he definitely will not be breathing fire. And of course all of this is important because style matters.


FRANKEN: Leave it to the sometimes quirky chairman of the committee to best tell us what to expect this week.

SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (R), JUDICIARY CHAIRMAN: It has been my experience that the hearings are really, in effect, a subtle menuet.

FRANKEN: Democrats are hoping for something a bit more revealing.

SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D), DELAWARE: I really hope that this doesn't turn out to be a menuet; I hope it turns out to be a conversation.

FRANKEN: On day one, Judge Samuel Alito did not demonstrate any fancy footwork at all. He didn't have to.

SAMUEL ALITO, SUPREME COURT NOMINEE: A judge can't have any agenda. A judge can't have any preferred outcome in any particular case.

FRANKEN: Now that all of the senators and Judge Alito have labored through their polite opening statements, Democrats are bristling with questions, impolite ones, political ones.

SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: In an era where the White House is abusing power, is excusing and authorizing torture, and is spying on American citizens, I find Judge Alito's support for an all-powerful executive branch to be genuinely troubling.

FRANKEN: Republicans contend the priority issue is not presidential power but judicial power.

SEN. MIKE DEWINE (R), OHIO: Our constitutional system is founded on democracy. The will of the people, not the unchecked rule of judges.

FRANKEN: And, of course, there's that old hot button issue, abortion, opposed in past statements by Alito, but supported by the justice he seeks to replace.

SEN. DICK DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: Now, Justice O'Connor was the critical fifth vote to protect our right of privacy. We want to know whether you will be that vote as well.

ALITO: Good judges are always open to the possibility of changing their minds.


FRANKEN: Now comes the battle of wits. And in this process, Alito has the inherent advantage. All he has to do, Miles, is stay out of trouble.

M. O'BRIEN: Let's pick up on that last point in your piece there, Bob, this whole issue of the seat that he would replace, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, that pivotal swing vote for so many years. That has sort of ratcheted up the pressure on Judge Alito, hasn't it? FRANKEN: That's right. Because in the case of the chief justice, John Roberts, was considered a conservative replacing a conservative, the late Chief Justice William Rehnquist. But in this case, Sandra Day O'Connor has carved out a career in the middle of the road, and President Bush clearly appointed Samuel Alito because he is on the right side of the road. Remember, his nickname, which is a hearkening to Justice Scalia, is Scalito.

M. O'BRIEN: Scalito. All right, thank you very much, Bob Franken. We'll see you in a little bit. Live coverage of the hearings coming up 9:30 Eastern Time. Wolf Blitzer with a special edition of THE SITUATION ROOM.

And of course, Pipeline subscribers can go gavel-to-gavel with coverage of the hearings, and they can replay the highlights as well. We invite you to check that excellent service out at -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: President Bush talking to veterans about the war in Iraq, focusing on the training of Iraqi troops, this after two violent weeks in Iraq. More than 150 people were killed within just one week. Also more than 20 Americans have died.

Elaine Quijano is in Washington this morning. Elaine, good morning.

What do you think we're going to hear from the president?

ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, Soledad.

Well, the president's remarks today are really part of the effort launched by the White House last month amid falling poll numbers for the president, particularly on the issue of Iraq.

Now, you'll remember, it was in December that the president delivered a series of speeches about the war on terror, looking at Iraq, specifically trying to turn around public opinion. Well, today, we are expecting the president to look ahead to 2006 and to say that this year will be one of more testing and sacrificing in Iraq.

Now, the president is also expected to address the issue of prisoner abuse at the hands of police forces in Iraq.


SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECY.: One area that the president will talk about is the steps we're taking to make sure that the police forces adhere to the highest ethical standards. We've seen some recent news reports of a few or some who have engaged in abuses of the prison system, and I think the president will talk about the training that we are providing to the police forces in human rights and rule of law.


QUIJANO: As he did last month, the president expected to focus on those three areas we heard him talk about earlier" the political, the security fronts, can including, as we heard Scott McClellan say, the training of Iraqi security forces. And also to look at the reconstruction efforts and what the administration sees as progress on that front as well -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Elaine, we know the president is expected to ask other countries to fulfill their pledges to Iraq. Just what are we talking about?

QUIJANO: Well, the U.S. says that there's been more than $13 billion pledged by the international community. The president today will call on countries to fulfill those commitments. Soledad, the White House believes that they're a critical component in helping Iraqi people.

S. O'BRIEN: Elaine Quijano is at the White for us this morning. Elaine, thanks -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: A raid on a mosque in Baghdad failed to turn up any clues in the abduction of an American journalist. Jill Carroll, a writer on assignment for "The Christian Science Monitor," has been missing for three days. The government killed Carroll's Iraqi interpreter when they abducted her on Saturday.

Our Michael Holmes is in Baghdad checking on this for us this morning.

Michael, any leads?

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Not so far, or not that security officials are telling us anyway.

Miles, Jill was and is a very popular member of the press corps here, a 28-year-old. She's been in the region for many years, actually. She had been in the office of the Sunni politician, a senior politician. His name is Abdel Al Dulami (ph). It's thought that she thought she had an interview set up with him. Al Dulami's office says he wasn't even there. And Al Dulami himself says he had no appointment. Despite that, Jill stayed there for sometime, anywhere from 15 for up to 25 minutes. As she and her interpreter attempted to drive off, they were stopped by half a dozen men. As you said, her driver did escape. He later told officials this. I'm going to quote him now. He said I saw a group of people coming as if they had come from the sky. One guy attracted my attention. He jumped in front of me screaming "Stop, stop, stop! with his left hand up and a pistol in his right hand." Miles, the driver said he was pulled from the car, a kidnapper got in, and drove off with Jill and her translator, that 32-year-old translator, later found dead, shot twice in the head -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Michael, the translator was shot dead and the driver lived to tell the tale. Is there any focus of attention on the driver here?

HOLMES: Not at this stage that we're aware of. He was pulled out of the car. A shot was fired at him, and one of the kidnappers apparently swore at him and told him to run away, which he duly did. And he's given a pretty good account to authorities. In terms of whether this may have been a setup, I tell you, the evidence points to it. It's unlikely that she would dress, Jill, in Muslim dress with a headdress and the scarf. When she was out and about, she spoke Arabic, and she was pretty low key, so for somebody to just have been driving by and grab her would be very unlikely. This seems to be a pretty organized abduction, and one would imagine that there was some kind of setup involved, maybe some tipoffs given -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Michael Holmes, thank you very much -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: These pictures are coming into us just about an hour ago. It's a house fire in Camden, New Jersey. Let's show them to you know. Two people dead. More than a dozen people taken to the hospital.

Amy Buckman of our affiliate WPVI is live in Camden, New Jersey. It's just across the river from Philadelphia.

Amy, good morning.

Those pictures look just devastating. How bad is the damage?

AMY BUCKMAN, WPVI REPORTER: Well, two homes, this is a twin house, so there are two homes involved here in the 4100 block of Westfield Avenue in Camden in this blaze that broke out at 3:00 this morning. But even more tragic than the damage to the homes, of course, is the loss of life. A 1/2-year-old little boy, an adult man both dead after this early morning house fire. There are three other people who lived in the house who remain in critical condition at various hospitals in South Jersey and also in Philadelphia, and about a dozen other people who were taken to area hospitals to be observed for smoke inhalation. Some of them have been admitted. Others have been released.

Now the cause of the fire is under investigation. This is what firefighters do know. When they arrived on the scene here about 3:00 this morning, there were heavy flames shooting out of the first-floor front of one of the two houses in the twin. The heat spread to the second home. But in that house of origin, the flames destroyed the first floor went up into the second floor and down into the basement. Three people were rescued from inside the house. And the firefighter who made that rescue was among those who were treated for smoke inhalation. But at this point, the fire marshal's office and his investigators are on the scene, trying to determine what caused this deadly blaze this morning -- Soledad.

Amy Buckman of our affiliate WPVI, thank you for that update -- Miles.

BUCKMAN: Police say an explosive device found in downtown San Francisco in a Starbucks could have caused some injuries, but luckily, it was founded before it exploded.

CNN's Sumi Das more from San Francisco.


SUMI DAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The San Francisco Police Department has launched an investigation after an improvised explosive device was discovered, and then rendered safe at this Starbucks at (INAUDIBLE) and Bush, a busy intersection in San Francisco. A source from within the San Francisco Police Department has told CNN the device was a large firecracker that was housed in an empty flashlight. Police officers spent several hours talking to Starbucks' employees on Monday afternoon. We also spent a fair amount of time peering into the coffee shop. We noticed that there was a surveillance camera trained on the front door. We haven't been able to confirm whether or not authorities have begun reviewing videotape from that camera.

We can tell you that the restroom inside the Starbucks remains locked. So whenever somebody wants to use that restroom, they have to request a key from one of the employees. San Francisco Police Department has said they have some pretty good leads which they are pursuing. The coffee shop remained closed after the incident on Monday, but a handwritten sign taped to the front door says that it will reopen for business on Tuesday.

Sumi Das, CNN, San Francisco.



M. O'BRIEN: Coming up, something we haven't seen on Wall Street since before 9/11, the Dow hitting 11,000 yesterday. I believe I predicted that, Soledad, didn't I?

S. O'BRIEN: Yesterday when it was 10,982?

M. O'BRIEN: Yes, went way out on a limb, said it could happen today.

S. O'BRIEN: Good work, Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes, this is why I buy high and sell low all of the time.

Andy breaks down what it means for investors and how long it could last.

Also this morning, much more on today's hearings for Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito. Will a job application from the 1980s cause him some trouble? We're going to check in with senior legal analyst Jeff Toobin just ahead. Stay with us.



S. O'BRIEN: Ahead this morning, we're going to preview day two of the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito. Will his past come back to haunt him in questioning today? We're going to check in with CNN's senior legal analyst Jeff Toobin just ahead.

Plus, a record-breaking milestone on Broadway: "Phantom of the Opera" becomes the longest running show in Broadway history. We will take a look at how the "Phantom" became a phenomenon. That's ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.


S. O'BRIEN: In just about two hours, expect to see senators firing questions at Supreme Court nominee Judge Samuel Alito. How tough is it going to get in day two of Alito's confirmation hearing? Senior legal analyst Jeff Toobin is in Washington this morning.

Hey, Jeff, good morning.


S. O'BRIEN: You know, I didn't think there were any big bombshells yesterday, but, boy, was it partisan. Did that surprise you?

TOOBIN: You know, yes, to answer your question directly, because it was just so different from the Roberts' hearings. You know, the Roberts' hearings you had three Democratic senators, the ranking member, Leahy, Cole, and Feingold who all wound up voting for Roberts. Here, it seems almost certain that there will be a 10-8 split, completely partisan split on the committee and the vote, and that's reflected in the opening statements and you can be sure it'll be reflected in the questions today.

S. O'BRIEN: Can Samuel Alito, do you think, get away with doing what John Roberts did a lot, which was essentially not really answering any of the questions?

TOOBIN: I think he will have a somewhat tougher time, but, you know, he's got the majority of the Senate in Republican hands, and that's a tremendous advantage to him. There will be a lot of questions.

You saw a big part of his strategy yesterday in his opening statement. Basically, he is trying to distance himself from the lawyer he was in the mid '80s. He wrote that now famous, or infamous, job application in 1985, where he talked about what a passionate conservative he was, how he believed strongly that the constitution did not protect a women's right to choose abortion.

What he said in his opening statement yesterday was, "An advocate is one thing, and I've been a judge the last 15 years, and a judge is something very different; you have no agenda. That is who I have been the last 15 years. That is what I will be on the Supreme Court."

S. O'BRIEN: His defenders sort of seem to be singing the same song, which is essentially he's a different guy in a different role than he was 15 years ago and maybe even more. Do you think that that could work, that that's going to work? TOOBIN: You know, I think it's been very successful for justice nominees of both parties not to answer a lot of questions. The line that you always hear from them is that's an issue that may come before us on the court, so I don't want to prejudge the issue. It's sometimes known as the Ginsburg rule, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Bill Clinton's first nominee, used that answer a lot, or some version of it, so yes, the non-answer is often pretty successful.

S. O'BRIEN: Do you expect to see a filibuster by Democrats, do you think? I mean, they've obviously haven't really threatened it, but sort of hinted that they could use it.

TOOBIN: It's really too early to say. We'll know a lot more after today, because today is the day Alito will define himself in front of the Senate. He'll define himself in front of the public. These are the answers that we will know him by for all of the decades he's going to serve. This may be his most important public utterances, because once they get on the bench, they don't say much in public at all. I think it's unlikely, but not impossible. He's not out of the woods, although he is certainly a strong favorite at this point.

S. O'BRIEN: Do you think, in fact, it is possible that these hearings could derail his nomination?

TOOBIN: They could. I think it's unlikely.

What was interesting yesterday was how much, you know, the political day-to-day activities affect a nomination. Presidential power, ever since "The New York Times" reported the warrant-less spying that's going on, that issue has really captivated Congress, and there are going to be a lot of questions about presidential power, and Alito has a record that is very strong pro executive branch. The senators, even some Republicans, are very jealous of Congress' power, so the Democrats are going to try to pull the Republicans in saying look, look what he's trying to do as our prerogatives as the legislative branch of the government. It's going to be an effort to try to reach out to the Republicans. We'll see if it works.

S. O'BRIEN: We'll see.

TOOBIN: Jeff Toobin, thanks, as always, Jeff. Appreciate. All right, we start 9:30 in THE SITUATION ROOM.

S. O'BRIEN: We'll be watching.

TOOBIN: All right.

S. O'BRIEN: You have the hearings in fact, as Jeff said, beginning at 9:30, and a special edition of "THE SITUATION ROOM." And Wolf Blitzer will be anchoring that coverage. Also CNN Pipeline subscribers can view live gavel-to-gavel coverage of the hearings, as well as replays of highlights. You can just go to -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Still to come on the program, what to expect from your expectorant. Do over-the-counter cough syrups really work? We'll tell you why some doctors are saying not to waster your money, ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.



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