Bush rolled up his sleeve for photographers Wednesday.
(CNN) – To truly dismiss false reports of a stolen presidential timepiece, a picture is worth a thousand words.
President Bush officially put to rest days of Internet rumors and international reports that his watch had been stolen as he greeted a crowd in Albania over the weekend when, on Wednesday afternoon, he rolled up his sleeves for a photographer, revealing the timepiece in question.
The White House said, indeed, it is the same leather wristwatch he was wearing in Albania.
The picture happened as reporters were leaving an Oval Office event with new White House counselor Ed Gillespie.
According to CNN’s Ed Henry, a Time magazine photographer asked Mr. Bush on the way out, “Do you have the time?”
The president played along and let the photographer snap a shot of the watch.
“I have never seen such a ludicrous story. Unbelievable," the president said.
– Political Desk Managing Editor Steve Brusk
Huckabee said Wednesday he will participate in the Iowa straw poll.
(CNN) - Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee said Wednesday, he plans to partake in the Iowa GOP Straw Poll, for now, but he thinks that fellow presidential rivals Arizona Sen. John McCain and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani have thrown a real “monkey wrench” into the process by dropping out.
"We've always planned to be in the straw poll. That's been part of our strategy and we have no reason, right now, to think otherwise," Huckabee said to a small crowd at the opening of his Iowa campaign headquarters in Des Moines. "We know that things have changed since last week, and we were all, I think, stunned by the decision of the Giuliani and McCain campaigns to pull out and not participate."
The straw poll, sponsored by the state Republican party and set to be held in Ames, Iowa, on August 11, has traditionally been seen as a barometer of a candidate’s organizational strength in the early-voting state. While Giuliani and McCain will pass, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback, and former Wisconsin. Gov. Tommy Thompson are all in. Possible GOP presidential contender and former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson is reportedly weighing whether to jump in as well.
Huckabee questioned the fairness of the Iowa Straw Poll Wednesday.
"You have two candidates that the national media says are the leaders and they won't even play,” he said. Then, turning his attention to Mitt Romney, Huckabee added, “and then you've got the other candidate the national media says is a leader - he's already spiked the ball in the end zone and has declared victory for the straw poll when it hasn't even happened yet," Huckabee said. "One of the things that the rest of us have to do is to evaluate is: Are we going to a game that's already been decided? Is it going to be an honest and legitimate and fair test of support?"
– CNN's Political Assignment Editor Marissa Muller
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson will participate in the Iowa Straw Poll in August, he told reporters in a conference call Wednesday.
Thompson acknowledged that he knew many reporters dialed into the call to find out if he was dropping out of the presidential race, after his campaign sent out a media advisory earlier in the day saying he would make a "major announcement about the future of [his] presidential campaign."
"I've done this, and not all of you have picked up on it," he said. "But I know most of you have signed in this afternoon to find out whether or not I was dropping out of the race."
Thompson criticized former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Arizona Sen. John McCain for planning to skip the straw poll, calling it a "tradition" in American politics. He said even though it is "an expensive exercise, even for campaigns with big war chests," it is important for candidates to compete in the event.
"I believe it is a mistake to skip the straw poll, and I would hope that Mayor Giuliani and Sen. McCain would reconsider their positions," Thompson said.
– CNN Associate Producer Lauren Kornreich
WASHINGTON (CNN) — Arizona Sen. John McCain said Wednesday he believes there is still a chance for the immigration bill, currently stalled in the Senate, to come forward for a vote.
“I am guardedly optimistic – and I emphasize guardedly – optimistic that we can get the bill to the floor of the Senate just before the fourth of July recess, and pass it through the United States Senate," McCain said while campaigning in Los Angeles.
The GOP presidential hopeful said he has been in daily consultation with his colleagues in the Senate, as well as the White House, in hopes of moving the bill forward.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid pulled the controversial bill from the Senate floor last Thursday after a motion to stop debate on the measure failed. Though several Republicans wanted to add amendments, Reid said debate had lasted too long.
On Tuesday, Reid said it's up to Republicans to collect more votes in favor of the measure to convince him that reviving debate could lead to passage.
McCain also took a shot at potential presidential rival Hillary Clinton for including earmarks, or narrowly targeted spending requests, in the Defense Authorization bill currently before Congress.
He said the New York Democrat had over one hundred million dollars in such funds attached to the bill, and added, “We can’t do this earmarking and pork barreling if we’re ever going to be careful and serious stewards of the taxpayers dollars.”
A vocal critic of earmarks, or pork barrel spending as it is also known, McCain said he would work to eliminate the practice as president.
– CNN's Jamie Crawford
The McCain campaign attacked Romney's stance on abortion rights Wednesday.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Arizona Sen. John McCain's presidential campaign issued a stinging attack on GOP presidential rival Mitt Romney's stance on abortion Wednesday, claiming a new YouTube video indicates the former Massachusetts governor supported maintaining abortion rights in his state six months after he opposed such rights.
Romney has said he started opposing abortion rights in November 2004 after a conversation with a stem-cell researcher made him feel the value of human live had been diminished.
But in a new video the McCain campaign posted to the popular video sharing site YouTube, Romney says in a May, 2005 press conference, "I am absolutely committed to my promise to maintain the status quo with regards to laws relating to abortion and choice and so far I've been able to successfully do that. And my personal philosophical views about this issue is not something that I think would do anything other than distract from what I think is a more critical agenda."
In a statement titled "Mitt vs. Fact," McCain spokesman Matt David said Romney's "biggest challenge in this election will be convincing Republicans he has principled positions on important issues, especially now that it's known that he remained committed to pro-choice policies after his 'epiphany' on abortion in 2004."
Romney's campaign quickly fired back, calling the attack "borne of desperation" and said "selective editing" had taken Massachusetts Republican's comments out of context.
"Governor Romney is firmly pro-life and can rely on his record of having protected the sanctity of life when faced with those issues as governor," Romney spokesman Kevin Madden said. "Governor Romney consistently maintained, in an effort to protect the sanctity of life, that he would fight attempts to weaken the state’s existing abortion laws."
"Maintaining existing laws in a state like Massachusetts was an important fight in and of itself," Madden added.
The Romney campaign also noted the remarks in question are from a press conference explaining his veto of a stem cell bill that he said supported "embryo farming, cloning for experimentation, and a redefinition of when life begins."
The campaigns' war of words come one day after a new CNN/WMUR poll indicates Romney has opened up an eight point lead in New Hampshire over both McCain and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
– CNN Ticker Producer Alexander Mooney
Thompson will make a "major announcement" about his presidential campaign Wednesday.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson is set to make a “major announcement” about the future of his campaign on a conference call Wednesday, according to his presidential campaign.
Rennick Remley, a Thompson spokesman, says presidential candidate and former Bush cabinet member will discuss whether he will participate in the Iowa Straw Poll in August. Thompson has concentrated most of his campaigning in Iowa.
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Arizona Sen. John McCain have already said they will not participate in the straw poll.
– CNN Associate Producer Lauren Kornreich
Gillespie will replace Dan Bartlett as White House counselor.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Ed Gillespie, a former chairman of the Republican National Committee, will replace Dan Bartlett as counselor to the president, a senior administration official told CNN Wednesday.
According to the Associated Press, Gillespie will start at the White House on June 27.
Gillespie chaired the RNC from 2003 to 2005 and was instrumental in the recent Supreme Court nominations of Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justice Samuel Alito. He was elected chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia in December 2006.
“Dan is one of the President’s most trusted advisors, and his counsel has been invaluable. His departure leaves a critical void in the White House,” said Gillespie in an e-mail Wednesday to a Virginia state party mailing list. “Like most, I was surprised when I learned this news. I was even more surprised to learn that President Bush felt that I was the person best suited to fill Dan Bartlett’s position. I was also very flattered by the President’s confidence in me, and when he invited me to the Residence yesterday to offer me the position, I was honored to accept it. The White House will make this public later today, but I wanted to let you know before that happened.”
Bartlett, who announced June 1 that he would leave the White House, is one of President Bush's most trusted advisers. He has worked for Bush since his days as Texas governor.
Bartlett's last day at the White House will be around July 4, according to the AP.
– CNN.com Senior Political Producer Scott Anderson
Could Rove face a subpoena in the future?
WASHINGTON (CNN) – As congressional subpoenas flew Wednesday morning over last year's controversial firings of eight U.S. attorneys, two Democratic congressional sources explained to CNN why House and Senate Judiciary Committees elected not to subpoena White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove.
Both sources told CNN the committees are building their investigation and – like any investigation – they want to build their case by talking to and gathering information from lower level witnesses and officials before they possibly move to the more senior witnesses.
“We want to build up and get documents to have basis to ask questions of Rove,” one Democratic congressional source explained. “It’s the way you do it in any investigation.”
But the source conceded it is likely the investigation will lead to a constitutional showdown with the executive branch and the likelihood is Congress will never get a chance to talk to any of these White House witnesses.
The committees have tried, with no success, to persuade Rove to testify at the hearings on the investigation. In May, the Senate Judiciary Committee subpoenaed several e-mails from Rove to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales regarding the controversial firings.
As part of the congressional probe into last year’s firings, both Judiciary Committees issued subpoenas Wednesday for two other former White House employees. The Senate panel, chaired by Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, issued a subpoena to Sara Taylor, former White House political director and a key deputy to Karl Rove, the top political adviser to President Bush. She resigned a few weeks ago. The House Judiciary Committee, chaired by Rep. John Conyers Jr., D-Michigan, subpoenaed former White House Counsel Harriet Miers. (Read full story)
– CNN Congressional Correspondent Dana Bash
Spielberg, with his wife Kate, at this year's Oscars.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Sen. Hillary Clinton has won the backing of movie director Steven Spielberg, her presidential campaign announced Wednesday.
Spielberg is a longtime supporter of the New York senator and her husband, former president Bill Clinton, but he and his wife, actress Kate Capshaw, have made campaign contributions this year to all three Democratic frontrunners: Clinton, Sen. Barack Obama, and former Sen. John Edwards. The Academy Award-winning director and producer has also hosted or co-hosted high-profile fundraising events for both Clinton and Obama.
"I’ve taken the time to familiarize myself with the impressive field of Democratic candidates and am convinced that Hillary Clinton is the most qualified candidate to lead us from her first day in the White House," Spielberg said in a statement. “Hillary is a strong leader and is respected the world over. As president, she will bring America back together, rebuild our prestige abroad and ensure our protection here at home.”
David Geffen and Jeffrey Katzenberg, who co-founded the DreamWorks movie studio with Spielberg, have endorsed Obama.
– CNN Ticker Producer Alexander Mooney