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Woman in Pennsylvania Allegedly Has Terrorist Sympathies, Former Democratic Congressman Attacks Democratic Leadership; Who is Jihad Jane?; No More Debit Overdrafts for Bank of America; Toyota Attorney Turns Tables; Claims Toyota Concealed Damaging Evidence
Aired March 10, 2010 - 07:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you. It's Wednesday, March 10th. Glad you're with us on this AMERICAN MORNING. I'm Kiran Chetry.
JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you. I'm John Roberts. Thanks for being with us this morning, and here are your top stories today.
It wasn't groping. It was tickling. Former New York Congressman Eric Massa denies having sexual contact with one of his staffers and offers up a laundry list of reasons why he left Congress. The latest live from Capitol Hill in just a moment.
CHETRY: And 6,000 Toyota documents turned over to Congress by an attorney who once defended Toyota for a living. He says they prove the automaker kept safety problems from the public and routinely defied the lay. He's also claiming the company has a secret file called "Books of Knowledge" containing every damaging detail.
ROBERTS: And listen up. You want to stick around for this one. How long will your sex life last. A new study shows it depends on your health now, especially for men. Elizabeth Cohen joins us to tell you what you can do to add more time to your sexually active clock.
CHETRY: We begin with a curious case of Eric Massa. The now former New York congressman is trying to set the record straight on his sudden resignation as well as allegations of sexual misconduct with his staff, and that's proving easier said than done.
He did two TV interviews, including one with Larry King, and in them Massa managed to raise even more questions about his seemingly curious behavior. Our Brianna Keilar is following the latest developments this morning from Washington. Hey, Brianna.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, there, Kiran. Let's start with what Massa said, his reaction to something that broke yesterday. It was "The Washington Post" that first reported that Massa was under investigation for allegedly groping male staff members.
In the earlier interview yesterday, Massa said, yes, he did grope, but he insisted it wasn't sexual. It was a tickle fight. And then he told Larry king this -- (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LARRY KING, HOST, "LARRY KING LIVE": You acknowledge that at your 50th birthday party you groped a male staffer? What is this all about?
FORMER REP. ERIC MASSA, (D) NEW YORK: Well, when four guys jump on you to wrestle you to prove that you're 50 years old, anything can be called anything, Larry. And what it's all about is innuendo.
KING: You said, quote, "Not only did I grope him, I tickled him until he couldn't breathe, and then four guys jumped on top of me." So you did grope someone, right?
MASSA: Larry, when you grab someone and you're wrestling, I don't know how to describe that word. So if that's the word you want to have an entire debate about, then I can't stop you.
KING: No. I'm just asking. You said you groped -- so a lot of people associate groping with sexual.
MASSA: Well, it wasn't sexual, period.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: Again, Kiran, we've not heard from the alleged victims of this sexual harassment, so we're really only getting one side the story here.
CHETRY: Did he explain why it is he's leaving?
KEILAR: He seemed to say it was a number of things. He seemed to say it was his health, because he potentially has a recurrence of cancer. He also seemed to say it has to do with the fact when you buck your party, you go by the wayside, because, of course, he was planning on voting no on health care.
But he also said earlier yesterday he wasn't forced out. So we kind of heard many of the different things he's been saying over the last few days.
CHETRY: Yes, and also some really tough words for Rahm Emanuel as well over the past few days, and he went on saying that he was confronted by him in the shower, and on and on and on, after being in the Congressional gym. And is he backtracking on any of that this morning?
KEILAR: You know, I wouldn't say he was backtracking. What he had for Rahm was a very sarcastic apology. At first it sounded like he was back pedaling, because he said "I have an apology for Rahm."
He had said over the weekend that Rahm was the son of devil spawn, that he would basically give anything for a vote, that he would strap his children to the front of a locomotive. That's what Massa said.
Yesterday he said, "I owe Rahm an apology. He wouldn't strap his kids to the front of a locomotive, he'd strap mine," meaning Massa's. so he kind of came back with an insult there.
And this comes on the heels of that allegations over the weekend that Massa had that Rahm confronted him in the showers of the Congressional gym not wearing any clothes because he was planning on voting no on the presidential budget, but we have to tell you, Kiran, a couple White House sources say that incident never happened, period.
CHETRY: All right, as you said, it's a strange saga, and it gets stranger as we hear from him more. We'll talk more about that coming up. Thanks, Brianna.
By the way, at 7:30 Eastern, Craig Crawford from CQpolitics.com as well as "Washington Post" political reporter Chris Stilizza (ph) will both join us.
ROBERTS: New details emerging this morning about a woman from suburban Philadelphia who is facing charges of terrorism this morning. Officials claim that Colleen Larose called her "Jihad Jane" and used the Internet to recruit jihadist fighters.
She was also allegedly plotting to kill Swedish cartoonist Lars Wilkes. He's the artist who angered Muslims back in 2007 for drawing the head of the prophet Mohammed on the body of a dog.
American officials say the indictment of Jihad Jane shatters any thought that we can spot a terrorist just by appearance. So who is this woman? What are we learning about her? Our Susan Candiotti is live in Pennsylvania this morning. Susan, what do we know?
SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, John. Authorities have said this is a woman who kind of lives on main street. In fact, she does live on Main Street in Pennsburg, Pennsylvania. That's about an hour or so north of Philadelphia.
Here's her house, this duplex. It's a two-story right here. She lives up on the second floor on that balcony you can see. That's where her apartment is where the wind chimes are.
Not many people around this town we spoke with so far know much about her. They remember, one does, going to a Halloween party with her just a couple years ago, but this is how another woman reacted to hearing about the charges.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It scares the hell out of me. Sorry, but it scares me, because I have three young kids. And it scares me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CANDIOTTI: We do know this additional information. We know that she has two arrests in her past, both from 1997. One of them is for a DWI, another one if for passing a bad check, both in the San Antonio, Texas, area. She is reportedly divorced, and she moved from Texas to Philadelphia back in 2004.
We also discovered information she was very active online. We found evidence of this on a number of Internet postings, including one dated February, 2008, in which she is writing a message to some unknown individual, unknown to us.
And it starts off -- "As-Salamu Alaykum," which means "All, peace be with you." She says "You make me so happy. I cannot put into words how much you make my life complete. Insha-Allah," which means "god willing," "one day I will be at your side as your wife and never leave your side."
Prosecutors have said that about four months after that posting she indicated on another Internet site, calling herself Jihad Jane, that she desperately wanted to help the suffering of the Muslim people.
She's also known to be an online follower of another group called RevolutionMuslim.com. That is a group led by an American Muslim in New York City. He is known to be an Al Qaeda sympathizer and he supports Usama bin Laden.
He also supports attacks on Americans overseas. And, in fact that group calmed the alleged Fort Hood shooter Nidal Hasan "a hero."
Back here at the house, we'd also understand from neighbors that she had a boyfriend with whom she lived, a man with those same initials. Those initials showed up in the prosecutor's indictment as having had his passport taken by Colleen Larose.
She is not here now. She has been in custody since October at the federal detention center in Philadelphia, and an arraignment is expected in about a week from now. John?
ROBERTS: Susan Candiotti for us this morning. Susan, thanks.
Stay with us, because in less than ten minutes' time we'll break down what this case tells us about the changing face of terrorism when we talk with Karen Greenberg. She's the executive director of the New York University Center of Law and Security, and Tom Fuentes, a former FBI assistant director of international operations.
CHETRY: Eight minutes past the hour right now.
ROBERTS: At 19 after the hour this morning -- a big change for the country's biggest bank when it comes to your overdraft fees. Christine Romans is "Minding your Business" for us today.
CHETRY: Also at 25 minutes past the hour Deb Feyerick join us with reports on thousands of documents turned over to Congress by a former lawyer for Toyota, documents that he claims prove the car company kept safety problems from the public and routinely broke the law.
ROBERTS: And at 55 after the hour, you've heard that sex is good for you, but we'll tell you how your health determines how good and how long your sex life will be. How long into life can you expect to -- whatever.
You're watching the Most News in the Morning.
ROBERTS: It's 12 after the hour.
This morning we've been telling you about someone who may very well represent the new face of terrorism, a woman from suburban Philadelphia who calls her Jihad Jane. Colleen Larose is accused of trying to recruit Islamic fighters and plotting to kill on behalf of terrorists. She even claimed that her appearance would help her to blend in.
Does this tell us anything about how terrorist are recruiting? Here to help us understand this morning, Karen Greenberg. She's the executive director of the New York University Center on Law and Security, and with us from Washington is CNN contributor Tom Fuentes, the former FBI assistant director of international operations.
Tom, look at this woman Colleen Larose, also goes by the handle of Jihad Jane, 46-year-old, blond hair, blue eyed. You take a look at Karen, she now fits the profile. What do you make of this?
TOM FUENTES, FORMER FBI ASSISTANT DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF INTERNATIONAL OPERATIONS: John, there have been some women who have become jihadists in the past, but I think that the fact of the way she went about her business, going on the Internet, blatantly calling attention to herself, there's no indication that Al Qaeda central or whether it be Al Qaeda in Yemen or other main Al Qaeda groups actually recruited her.
It looks like she was trying to send out messages, "To whom it may concern, I'm available for jihad."
ROBERTS: Wow. I mean, Karen, in your experience, as Tom was saying, there have been other women have been involved in terrorist conspiracies here in the United States, but does she represent something brand new? Does she represent a new threat that now law enforcement has to deal with?
KAREN GREENBERG, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, NYU CENTER OF LAW AND SECURITY: Maybe. I mean, what it is is an indicator there's always something else coming down the road that might be a threat to us.
But as a large category that we have to worry about, absolutely not, I would say. We should always have been aware women could be used. We've seen maybe three or four women come across our terrorism trials in the United States. There's one case now in Belgium a woman who's rather a high-profile woman who has been associated with terrorism for a long time. But we haven't seen a large number of women, no.
ROBERTS: And Tom, do we know anything how she came to her radical views? We know something about her background. She's from Texas, apparently according to the indictment involved in some minor crimes, but nothing that would lead you to believe she would suddenly start reaching out to jihadists around the world offering her services.
FUENTES: Right. There's no clue what caused her to become that way or to advertise herself as being available.
I agree completely with Karen. I think this is an anomaly. I don't think it's any great trend. If you look at the vast majority of terrorists, they have been young males, and that's true actually with violent crime in general. The profile of most violent criminals is young male. And they either grow out of it or change their mind.
But the women in the past have been either followers or supporters lending material support, not trying to take on the leadership position, as she was trying to do by her e-mail messages.
ROBERTS: You know, Karen, according though to some reports in which neighbors of hers were interviewed, there were some signs that maybe not everything was right. Some neighbors said that she talked to her cats all the time. That they knew her as that, quote, "crazy lady."
You know, there are some -- inevitably when you take a look at this, like Major Nidal Hasan, there were dots that can be connected, but can you connect those dots to terrorism and do law enforcement officials need to start being aware of that? That even though you've got someone who, you know, from just a physical description looks almost identical to you. Blond hair. You've got brown eyes, she had blue eyes apparently. But they have to start looking at these things in a different way?
GREENBERG: Well, actually I think law enforcement did a good job on this one. If you think about it, the Internet has been creeping up as a way to recruit, either being reached out to something she did. But the FBI was on top of this, they were monitoring it.
And I think it tells you that, yes, there are a number of people who are unstable in some way or we see many of them eventually become associated with crime and many with terrorism, but you can't assume that everybody who's unstable is going to go that way. Instead, you have to monitor the actual behavior. And that's what the Internet is.
ROBERTS: You know, Tom, Karen says that the FBI did a good job here and certainly she has been arrested, but she also posted a comment on YouTube. She was out there on the Internet in a fairly overt way offering her services trying to recruit people. If somebody like her was determined to fly below the radar, what kind of a challenge does that pose to law enforcement and does law enforcement in this country need to, as a result of this, start to rethink the way that they pursue potential terrorists? FUENTES: Well, John, there's only so much rethinking you can do. If the FBI starts looking at people who talk to their cats, there won't be enough agents if they have 100,000 agents they won't be able to track that.
So, you know, there has to be a reasonable level of dot collection, if you will in cases like this. Once those cartoons were published, in this case, the cartoons in Sweden were published almost two years ago, June 2007, and later jihadi Web sites were offering up to $150,000 rewards if individuals would go to Sweden and kill the cartoonist and offer even more money if they slaughtered him like a lamb, to quote some of the jihadi Web sites, you know, that brought a lot of people out of the woodwork who may normally have not risen to the level of violence.
I'm not saying she was motivated by money. She could just be unstable and her neighbors might be right.
FUENTES: But you just don't know and there's so many indications in hindsight when we look at people who have done something violent or attempted to do something violent, as in her case, of what level you're going to have. And, of course, the Irish authorities, the Garda (ph) just arrested seven people in connection with a similar related plot to go to Sweden and kill that cartoonist.
So, a lot of individuals around the world came to the attention of law enforcement in a number of countries. The Headley case out of Chicago which is not related to this one, at first, Headley intended to go to Copenhagen and kill people, a newspaper editor for the cartoons there.
FUENTES: So these cartoons that have created so much ire in the Muslim world, unfortunately, the fringes of that have decided to try to kill the people responsible.
ROBERTS: Seems every day, a new challenge for law enforcement. Tom Fuentes, Karen Greenberg, great to see you this morning. Thanks for coming in.
It's coming up now on 19 minutes after the hour. Stay with us.
ROBERTS: It is 21 minutes now after the hour. It is. It means it's time for "Minding Your Business" this Wednesday morning.
CHETRY: That's right. Christine here. She's talking about overdraft fees, "Minding Your Business" this morning. You just, as you said before, you just can't let it happen to you because once you do, it's just --
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Overdrafting is -- CHETRY: Burning money.
ROMANS: Insulting. They're completely insulting and they're just giving money to your bank. Look, there will be no overdraft fees anymore for debit buys from Bank of America. Bank of America, of course, you and I have a big investment in Bank of America. Bank of America has said starting June 19th, for new accounts, there will be no overdraft fees. When you go and you try to overspend on your debit card, you will not be able to.
In August, for existing accounts -- I'm wondering why it's taking so long. They're going to get a little more money from us probably in the meantime.
Now, if you go to the ATM and you try to take money out, and there's not money in the account, it will say you are overdrawn on your account. Do you want this money still? Because it's going to cost you $35 in a fee, and it will say there very clearly, that you will pay $35. And that's one of the beefs from a lot of people is that for years you didn't know. All of a sudden you were just racked over and over and over --
ROMANS: -- by $35 fees again and again and again.
ROBERTS: You got a "Romans' Numeral" for us this morning.
ROMANS: I do. It's $3.
ROBERTS: Oh, I know what that is.
ROMANS: Now, here it is. That's $3 in fees for every $1 in overdrafts.
ROBERTS: She didn't even let me guess.
CHETRY: All right, go ahead. Let's not guess.
ROBERTS: Oh, no, never mind.
CHETRY: Pretend you didn't hear that.
ROMANS: What group, John -- what group, John, spends $3 in fees for every $1 that they overdraw on their debit card?
ROMANS: Students. College students.
CHETRY: College kids, right?
ROMANS: This is a financial literacy issue, too. But yes, so they're going to be (INAUDIBLE). Bank of America credit cards are not going to be able to do that anymore. So that reminds me, it raises the question of how much money are these kids spending in fees on their credit cards, or that you're spending for your kids on their fees and the credit cards? So, anyway, I was going to try to shut that. I'm going to try to shut that fee machine down for these --
CHETRY: I bet you it also happens a lot between the hours of 11:00 p.m. and 3:00 in the morning.
ROMANS: I bet you're right. And I bet you take out $20 and then you get a $35 fee.
ROBERTS: Right. Try to avoid them at all cost.
ROBERTS: Even if it's $3 for every $1 in overdraft. Christine Romans "Minding Your Business" this morning. Christine, thanks so much.
Did Toyota conspire to hide information that said that it had a safety problem? One attorney is saying, yes. We'll find out that story coming up next. Stay with us.
ROBERTS: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning. Twenty- six minutes after the hour. Your top stories just four minutes away now. But first, an "A.M. Original," something that you'll see only on AMERICAN MORNING.
CHETRY: Bringing you the story this morning of a former attorney for Toyota who claims that the automaker conspired to conceal evidence from the public about safety problems. He also says thousands of company documents that he's turn over to Congress will prove it.
Deb Feyerick is with us this morning. She's been tracking the latest developments on this story. He claims he has thousands and thousands of pages of documents.
DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Oh, and he does. As he says, he knows where the skeletons are. But this isn't just any lawyer. It's the lawyer who defended Toyota in liability and negligence cases brought by people hurt in Toyota vehicles. He's accusing the carmaker of playing by its own rules. Toyota calls him a disgruntled employee, but he has a lot to say and a lot of people are listening.
FEYERICK (voice-over): When Dimitrios Biller left his job as a top in-house lawyer for Toyota, he walked out with a nearly $4 million buyout. He also walked out with something perhaps even more valuable. Internal documents, 6,000 of them, some potentially damaging.
DIMITRIOS BILLER, FORMER TOYOTA LAWYER: Not potential. They are. They are very damaging because these documents can be used to establish liability against Toyota.
FEYERICK: Biller, who defended the auto giant in liability cases from 2003 to 2007, is now accusing Toyota of withholding information it was legally required to turn over during lawsuits.
BILLER: There is a regular pattern of practice of not producing memos, minutes, reports, e-mails.
FEYERICK: The document, now the focus of hearings on Capitol Hill, include e-mails and memos Biller sent to Toyota officials concerning so-called "Books of Knowledge," highly secretive data and testing records allegedly generated by Toyota engineers on everything from rollovers and roof safety to sudden unintended acceleration.
(on camera): Are the documents that you have seen, are they a smoking gun or are they worse potentially?
(voice-over): Committee Chair Ed Towns says Toyota's documents show a systemic disregard for the law.
REP. EDOLPHUS TOWNS, CHAIRMAN, HOUSE OVERSIGHT & GOVT REFORM CMTE: The material, I must admit, is very, very disturbing.
FEYERICK: Toyota defends its action saying, "We are confident that we have acted appropriately with respect to all product liability litigation." Yet so far the company has fought to keep the documents confidential and away from court cases like Pennie Green's.
PENNIE GREEN, PLAINTIFF IN LAWSUIT AGAINST TOYOTA: We were going to the movie, and I didn't make it.
FEYERICK: Pennie Green was 17 when the 1997 Camry she was driving swerved, rolled over and landed upside down.
GREEN: I remember when I opened my eyes my nose was, I felt like it was almost touching my belly button. I was so curled up.
FEYERICK: Green never walked again.
GREEN: The roof didn't withstand the way that a car like it was supposed to.
FEYERICK: The case in 2006 settled for $1.5 million. The summary e-mail Biller sent to his bosses says, quote, "TMS concluded that it would be better to pay a premium to settle this case and avoid producing the "Books of Knowledge." Believing it had been given all relevant Toyota documents, Green's attorney, Jeff Embry, had no idea how close it come to uncovering Toyota's alleged secrets.
JEFF EMBRY, PENNIE GREEN'S ATTORNEY: They were very careful to keep design information and very important information in Japan out of reach of our system.
FEYERICK (on camera): Toyota says these are trade secrets. Do you feel that way?
EMBRY: Saying they're trade secrets doesn't mean you get to keep them secret from the court system.
FEYERICK (voice-over): So why as Biller knew a judge had ordered all information be produced didn't he produce it? He says he tried and was told not to by his superior who told him --
BILLER: They have to protect the client at all costs. I said even if that means committing criminal acts of violating the law? And he said, yes.
FEYERICK: Asked about Biller's charges, Toyota says Mr. Biller continues to make inaccurate and misleading accusations about Toyota's conduct that we strongly dispute and will continue to fight against vigorously. Before leaving Toyota four years ago, Biller had a nervous breakdown caused he says by stress. Still he's confident his e-mails left a trail saying he tried to change Toyota.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The documents speak for themselves. I know what happened. I know exactly what happened. I know the names of the people who are responsible for it. I know where the skeletons are hidden.
FEYERICK: As for Penny Greene, if a judge finds Toyota did hide documents --
PENNY GREENE: All I want is justice. They just need to take responsibility for their actions.
FEYERICK: And Greene's lawyer is asking a judge to review Biller's documents to see whether in fact, to see, if Toyota should be held in contempt. And in case, you have any doubt. Well, yes, Toyota is suing Biller to keep quiet. Biller is suing Toyota for criminal conspiracy.
CHETRY: Meanwhile, as you said, Congress wants all of these documents as part of their investigation on Friday.
FEYERICK: NHTSA wants them. These are books that could potentially show how Toyota was developing its product, what was right with it, what was wrong with it. What they were trying to fixed. All of that is legitimate to be entered into a court case and they never did. So the lawyers just didn't have access to it.
ROBERTS: Pretty difficult to keep it under wraps now.
FEYERICK: Oh, there's no way. It will be very interesting.
ROBERTS: Deb Feyerick for us this morning. Deb, thanks.
We're crossing the haft hour here on this morning's top stories.
Former Congressman Eric Massa who resigned yesterday, speaking out about the sexual harassment allegations swirling around him. Last night on "Larry King Live," Massa, a democrat called the allegations that he groped a male staffer "not true," insisting instead that he got into a tickle fight with staffers.
CHETRY: Defense secretary Robert Gates says that some of the U.S. forces involved in the Afghanistan surge could actually leave the front lines early. Gates who is in Afghanistan, said any withdrawal would have to be conditioned based. President Obama has said that U.S. troops would start begin to start coming home from Afghanistan in July of 2011.
ROBERTS: And intelligence officials say the number of people on the government's no-fly list has nearly doubled since the attempted Christmas day attack on a Detroit-bound plane. According to the "Associated Press," the list has grown to 6,000 names and now includes names associated with Al Qaeda in Yemen and people who may have had contact with the alleged Christmas bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.
CHETRY: Well, as we just mentioned, former New York Congressman Eric Massa is responding to allegations of sexual misconduct and he's also trying to clear up confusion about exactly why he's resigning. On "Larry King" last night he had a laundry list of reasons. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ERIC MASSA (D), FMR. NEW YORK CONGRESSMAN: I am leaving because I have to fight simultaneously a potentially reoccurrence of cancer, the Democratic leadership, a healthcare bill that's going to destroy this country, my opposition to it and a belief that my party has become what it campaigned against. It's a very, very clear situation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHETRY: Well, the Massa mess may just be the latest example of Democrats shooting themselves in the foot ahead of the mid-term elections. How big of a problem is it? Joining us now from Washington, Craig Crawford, a blogger for CQpolitics.com and also Chris Cillizza, a national reporter for "The Washington Post." Great to the have both of you with us this morning to talk about it.
CRAIG CRAWFORD, BLOGGER, CQPOLITICS.COM: Good morning.
CHETRY: I don't know about you, but many people --
CHRIS CILLIZZA, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Good morning, Kiran.
CHETRY: -- couldn't stop watching yesterday as the more questions were asked of the former congressman, different answers came out. What do you make of all this? Let me start with you, Craig.
CRAWFORD: Yes. You know, I've been covering this town for 25 years and I thought I'd seen it all, but if nothing else, this tickle defense to sexual groping is really new and sort of brings to mind years ago when Jim Ryde, a speaker of the House was dealing with allegations against members and we asked him about it. He said, "you know, we have about the same percentage of criminals and wrongdoers in Congress as we do in the public at large. So we're a representative body." So until yesterday, bosses who grope, tickle and wrestle their staff had representation.
CHETRY: Yes, and, Chris, do you think that this reflects poorly on the democratic leadership? Congressman Massa and his two interviews that he did yesterday?
CILLIZZA: I think, Kiran, most people say this guy, I don't want to borrow a Sarah Palin term here, but I will, has gone rogue a little bit. I think it's pretty clear that he's not listening to what the Democratic leadership or what the White House has to say. He gave a lot of answers in that clip you played with Larry King.
The simple fact of this is, he is leaving under the cloud of scandal. He is resigning amid these allegations, barring these allegations he would not be leaving Congress. The idea that he is leaving somehow because of the health care debate, the party has gone in the wrong direction, the health care debate is off track, all those things are minor things.
This is someone who would be in Congress today were it not for these groping allegations. I do think, though, the problem for Democrats is context. Eric Massa, David Paterson, Charlie Rangel all in the space of about a week. Politics doesn't happen in a vacuum. Those three things do not help them as they are fighting to fight health care. As they're fighting to trying to turn around the economy. It just tarnishes the brand broadly.
CHETRY: Right. And Craig, I want to ask you about that. Because there have been some pundits and analysts that have said, "you know what, the bottom line is it's a double standard that you know, Congressman Charlie Rangel's ethics violations or at least the investigation into some alleged ethics violations should also mean that there should be pressure on him to leave, and yet, you know, that if you take a look at what is against Massa right now in terms of what he may or may not have done and what Congressman Rangel may or may not have done, that Pelosi shouldn't be supporting Rangel either.
CRAWFORD: And they sat on those allegations against Rangel for well over a year, before pressuring him to at least resign from his chairmanship. And there's some question about how much the leadership actually, or at least Pelosi, actually wanted him to leave the chairmanship. But you know, also the timeline I think is going to be important for when did the leaders know about Massa's problems? Because the other two things in the news yesterday. One that Massa put out.
CHETRY: About Steny Hoyer know about the situation?
CRAWFORD: Yes, and text messages saying that there might be e- mails or text messages with staffers which recall old fights with the other side, with Mark Foley a few years ago and then also how soon did they really know about this? Because they go as far back as a year, which we've heard in some of the reports and the leadership knew about it. That's when they might get in trouble. But I think the best thing for them now is, this guy's coming across a bit paranoid and maybe a little off base and a lot of the public will say, well, nobody can be responsible for that. CHETRY: Yes. And one of the other things that's interesting, Chris. Political article yesterday as well as others that have said that there's sort of been an every man for himself attitude right now because we are heading into the midterm elections and people wanted -- congressmen especially and congresswomen who want to get re-elected whether or not they actually listen to what their leaders want them to do at this point is up in the air. How big of an impact is the impending 2010 election?
CILLIZZA: It is almost impossible to overstate how big an impact it is. Look, mid-term elections, elections in general always matter. But when there's a volatile political environment, when you see -- when Democrats see Scott Brown elected in Massachusetts there is a level of panic that exists. Remember, too, Barack Obama is not the Barack Obama of January 2009, 365 electoral votes, thought to be shepherding in a huge progressive majority.
At that point if he told House Democrats or Senate Democrat we're going to do this, it usually got done. Big exception being the health care bill. These people are now out for their own political survival and he no longer carries the sway that he once did. And that's a problem, because then you have lots of splintering messages, Kiran, as you point out.
You have a lot of members trying to say what they think is the right thing without a broad national message. And that could be problematic in a mid-term election.
CHETRY: And Craig, why is it that? Why is the Barack Obama of 2009, January, isn't the same one now? Why doesn't he hold as much sway as the president?
CRAWFORD: I think his big problem is, back in the campaign I thought, when he's governing, he'll have a great difficulty maintaining both liberals and independents. That they will be tough to meld together once he's governing, and I think that's the problem. I figured he would at least keep one of them.
Part of his problem is, he's lost both liberals and independents, and hasn't managed to at least keep one of those, until he figures out some way to put that campaign coalition back together for this congressional election, which as Chris mentioned is going to be difficult, because they're all out for themselves. I think he's going to continue to have these problems.
CHETRY: Craig Crawford and Chris Cillizza, great to get your perspective this morning. Thank you.
CILLIZZA: Thanks, Kiran.
ROBERTS: Another runaway Toyota claim. The hood of a Prius smashed in, a stone wall pulverized. A woman claiming that it took off even before she could even get out of her driveway. Did floor mats have anything to do with this one? We'll tell you, coming right up. 39 minutes now after the hour.
ROBERTS: 18 minutes now until the top of the hour. Stories new this morning to tell you about. Toyota says it will investigate the second runaway Prius claim in as many days. This one happened in Westchester County, New York. Police say a woman was coming down her driveway when the car suddenly took off, shot across the street and pulverized a stone wall. The 56-year-old driver was hospitalized but her injuries, are not believed to be life threatening.
CHETRY: And now we're hearing the 911 call from the driver inside of her runaway Toyota on a busy California freeway. That happened Monday. That car reached 94 miles an hour before a patrol officer helped slow it down and turn off the engine.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How fast are you going?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Eighty-something.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're going 80 miles an hour?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 81 now.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: 81? And it's still stuck?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHETRY: The driver, Jim Sikes, said the floor mats did nothing to cause the problem. He also told the operator that he was actually afraid to put the car in neutral. Toyota and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration sent investigators to look into that case.
ROBERTS: Well, you may still be able to sneak that Chile earthquake donation into your taxes for the year 2009, if Congress moves the deadline. A bill introduced yesterday in the House would allow to you deduct earthquake donations as long as you make them by tax day, April 15th. If you already filed experts say, you can either fill out an amendment or just wait until next year to claim the deduction.
CHETRY: And from the first closet to the Smithsonian, Michelle Obama donating her inaugural gown to the Smithsonian Institution. The one shouldered white chiffon Jason Wu creation will be on display in a new gallery at the National Museum of American History and will part of a first lady's exhibit.
ROBERTS: OK. So tabloid celebrity Lindsay Lohan now suing e- trade saying that one of its commercials that debuted during the Super Bowl is taking a shot at her. Have a look at the commercial and you decide.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And that milkaholic Lindsay wasn't over?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lindsay?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Milk-a-what?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: The tabloids have thoroughly reported Lohan's drug problems. Lohan's lawyer argues that the name Lindsay alone essentially I.D.s her client in much the same way as Oprah or Madonna pretty much tell you is being talked about.
CHETRY: Good luck with that lawsuit.
ROBERTS: I've never heard Lindsay without the Lohan on the end.
CHETRY: They call her --
ROBERTS: Maybe I missed it.
CHETRY: They call her a bunch of other nicknames but I haven't heard this. I didn't even think of Lindsay when I saw that ad.
CHETRY: I thought a lot of other things but not that.
Well, it's 45 minutes past the hour. Rob is going to be along in just a few minutes with the morning's travel forecast after the break.
ROBERTS: And in 10 minutes' -- you know, 10 minutes' time, time for an "A.M. House Call". This morning, we're talking sex. Get your attention?
How often, how good it is and how long it's going to last? Well, not for a single time, but like (INAUDIBLE), right?
CHETRY: Run while you're ahead!
ROBERTS: Forty-five minutes after the hour.
ROBERTS: Good morning to all the folks in Little Rock, Arkansas this morning, where right now it looks like it's fairly hazy, cloudy, 58 degrees. Later on today, though, it is going to be sunny, with a high of 70 degrees. Not bad.
CHETRY: Not too shabby, huh?
ROBERTS: Yes. CHETRY: All right. Well, it's 48 minutes past the hour right now. Let's get a quick check of the weather in other parts of the country. Today's our Rob Marciano in Atlanta this morning for us. Hey, Rob.
ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, Kiran. Good morning, John.
A bit of a mess, kind of a widespread convoluted mess across the eastern third of the country. But in spots right now it's quiet, in other spots it's -- it's kind of nasty. Some of this rain is trying to get to the northeast, having a hard time doing so. So I think New York will be all right today, a couple of spritz and sprinkles in D.C., but this is falling apart rapidly.
You really have go farther down to the south to get to the bulk of the moisture and where it is raining, it's raining pretty heavily across parts of Central Alabama, in through North Georgia. That includes the Atlanta metropolitan area, and this whole radar signature is beginning to fill in a little bit, so it's not really going away any time too soon and some flash flood watches have been posted.
A couple of things coming together for this rain, and then also for the potential of seeing severe weather across parts of Missouri, Little Rock, in between sunshine and -- and Louisiana. This is the area that's favored for this time of year, typically the Mississippi and Tennessee Valleys in March and April.
We had a quiet February, a quiet start for January and February because, well, the storm track's been pretty far to the south and the Gulf of Mexico pretty cool because it's been so cold this winter, and hopefully that will continue to be the case, but with the strong el Nino-like jet stream, I have a feeling our severe weather season will ramp up fairly quickly.
John and Kiran, back up to you.
CHETRY: All right, Rob. Thanks so much.
MARCIANO: See you guys.
CHETRY: Meanwhile, we're going to take a look at our top stories, just a couple of minutes away, including why did a Democratic congressman resign days before the potential final battle over health care? It's beginning to sound like even he doesn't really know why. Why his answers led to even more questions.
We're live in Washington.
ROBERTS: Twenty-five minutes after, vote the bums out or vote in more? Whether growing the size of Congress is the answer to fixing it.
CHETRY: Also, at half past the hour, the only person Conan O'Brien decided to follow on Twitter. She went from just a handful of followers to being able to pay for her wedding because of it. How being with Coco changed her life.
Those stories and much more at the top of the hour.
ROBERTS: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning. It's seven minutes to the top of the hour, and time now for your "A.M. House Call," storied about your health.
And there's a new study out this morning, so men and women, listen up. You're going to want to hear about this.
CHETRY: It's a study that shows the healthier you are now, the more fun you'll have when you turn out the lights later in life.
Our Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen has all the details. She's live from Atlanta this morning. Hey, Elizabeth.
ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Kiran.
Kiran, this study from the British Medical Journal makes two things clear -- it's good to have sex and it's good to be healthy. So let's take a look at exactly what they found.
They took at look at 55-year-old men and said, OK, how many more years of a good, happy sex life does a 55-year-old man have? It depends how healthy or unhealthy he is. If he's unhealthy, he only has about 12 more years of a good sex life in front of him. If he's healthy, he has 17.
So, there you go. You can see that if you are healthy, you will have five more years of good sex, all the more reason to exercise, eat right and do all the things you're supposed to do.
Now, similar kinds of results for women. If a woman at age 55 is unhealthy, she's only looking at about a decade of good sex in front of her. If she is -- I'm sorry, if she's unhealthy, 10 years. If she's healthy, she has 13 years ahead of her.
So, again, all the more reason to stay healthy -- Kiran and John.
ROBERTS: All right. So we have women who have an enjoyable sex life a shorter period of time than men do after the age of 55. What I thought, Elizabeth, was fascinating about the study was that researchers also found that women didn't exactly miss it if it didn't last as long.
But why do men have a longer sex life than women do?
COHEN: John, there seems to be two reasons -- Viagra and biology, and I'll -- I'll tackle the biology one first.
There's sort of an evolutionary biological theory that, look, a 70-year-old man can father a child. A 70-year-old woman cannot have a child. So it sort of makes sense, in a way, that there would be a difference in the sex drive because there's a difference in the outcome, as it were.
And also, just, you know, Viagra is here. It's been out for 12 years and -- and all the other drugs that followed it. And so men get levels of help that women don't get.
CHETRY: Interesting. What's the bottom line when it comes to an overall healthy lifestyle and its link to sex?
COHEN: You know what? There have been dozens of studies, Kiran that show that -- that people who are sexually active tend to be healthier.
Now, it's a chicken/egg thing. Is it because the sex made them healthier or because they're healthier they're having more sex? Who knows? But the bottom line is that it's good.
If you go to cnn.com/empoweredpatient, you'll see a whole column I wrote about this, and the bottom line is the people with more active sex lives tend to have lower blood pressure, tend to have less heart disease and tend to have lower rates of certain types of cancer.
ROBERTS: Another reason to hit the gym.
Thanks, Elizabeth. Good to see you this morning.
Fifty-six minutes after the hour. Your top stories are just a couple of minutes away. Stay with us.