WASHINGTON (CNN) - Retiring Sen. Trent Lott said Wednesday his sudden departure from Capitol Hill after 35 years has nothing to do with the bribery indictment of his brother-in-law, famed trial lawyer Richard "Dickie" Scruggs, which was handed down two days after Lott said he would leave the Senate.
"I had no idea it was coming," said Lott.
In an interview just off the Senate floor, Lott, who was just re-elected to a fourth term but who will leave it five years early, said rumors are swirling about why he's leaving.
"Those are the same people who said Trent Lott must have health problem. No, he's got a sex problem. No, he's got a financial problem. Oh no, it's connected to his brother-in-law," Lott said. "None of the above."
In fact, Lott says he called Scruggs after the indictment and ribbed him for stealing the limelight just after Lott made his highly publicized announcement that he was moving to the private sector.
Thompson said Wednesday he regrets not going hunting in a while.
COLUMBIA, South Carolina (CNN) - Fred Thompson has made a point of visiting gun shops and gun shows while hitting the campaign trail in New Hampshire and South Carolina, usually with camera crews in tow.
But Thompson said Wednesday he does not have a hunting license, nor has be been hunting recently.
"It's been too long, it's been too long," Thompson told CNN Wednesday.
Asked if he has a hunting license, Thompson said he currently does not.
"At the present time I do not, but I have been hunting plenty of times. I usually hunt birds and used to have my own skeet shoot, and I got a chance to shoot and practice a lot back then."
Thompson, an ardent defender of Second Amendment rights, was appearing in Columbia to pick up the endorsement of South Carolina Citizens for Life.
Just yesterday, Thompson appeared at Blue Ridge Shooting Sports in Greer, South Carolina where he handled a gun and said he is "pretty much a shotgun man these days."
Thompson also visited the Land and Sky Gun Show in Ladsen, South Carolina in late November, proclaiming it "a beautiful day in paradise."
At the CNN/YouTube debate on November 28, Thompson was asked if he owns a gun.
"I own a couple of guns, but I'm not going to tell you what they are or where they are," he said.
Thompson said Wednesday he wished he had more time to go hunting.
"It seems like other things seem to be getting in its way," he said.
- CNN South Carolina Producer Peter Hamby
Clinton went to Wall Street Wednesday.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) - Senator Hillary Clinton spelled out the details of her subprime bailout plan Wednesday, calling for a 90-day moratorium on foreclosures and a five-year freeze on the interest rates of adjustable rate mortgages (ARMs).
In August, the democratic presidential hopeful asked legislators to ban prepayment penalties on mortgages, but her new plan goes much further, and bears similarities to other proposals, including one expected to be offered by the Bush administration soon.
Clinton had already outlined her proposal in a letter to Paulson on Monday – the letter was posted onto her Web site – but on Wednesday she formally unveiled the comprehensive plan.
- CNNMoney's Les Christie
UPDATE: Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards unveiled a plan Wednesday that goes further than Clinton's. He is including a mandatory interest rate freeze to last seven years and a moratorium on foreclosures would that would be in place at his discretion.
Oprah's appearance could help raise Obama's profile in South Carolina.
COLUMBIA, South Carolina (CNN) - Relax, University of South Carolina football fans. Your season may be over, but Williams-Brice Stadium won't be empty for long.
Sen. Barack Obama's presidential campaign announced Wednesday afternoon that because of overwhelming demand, their rally on Sunday with Oprah Winfrey will be moved to the 80,000 seat college football stadium in Columbia (although, the campaign said they don't expect to fill the stadium - that's coach Steve Spurrier's job).
The campaign had been scheduled to hold the rally at the Colonial Center in downtown Columbia, which seats 18,000 people, but on Tuesday Obama's state director Stacey Brayboy announced that "overwhelming excitement" had caused a run on free tickets.
"This event far exceeded our expectations," said Obama spokesman Kevin Griffis, who said they had to negotiate with the University of South Carolina to get the stadium for Sunday's rally.
There had been a waiting list for tickets, but the move to the football stadium will allow the campaign to accommodate everyone who wants to go.
So, will all those Oprah and/or Obama fans be actual registered voters? That remains to be seen, but the media attention will certainly help raise Obama's profile in the crucial early-voting state.
- CNN South Carolina Producer Peter Hamby
Fred Thompson visited a gun shop in South Carolina on Tuesday.
COLUMBIA, South Carolina (CNN) - Fred Thompson stood in the middle of a gun shop in Greer, South Carolina on Tuesday, trying to sum up the Republican race for the White House.
"It's a very fluid situation," the former senator said. "As far as I'm concerned its up to the Good Lord and the American people, and that's just fine with me."
But probably not even the Lord himself could have predicted the Republican race here would be this wide open this late in election season.
South Carolina, a crucial test of a candidate's conservative mettle, has voted for the eventual GOP nominee in each election since the state's primary began in 1980.
Like the national contest, the Republican race in the Palmetto State is essentially a free-for-all, with no candidate able to solidly break free from the rest of the pack .
An AP/Pew poll of likely Republican voters released this week shows a three-way dead heat for first place in South Carolina, with Thompson coming in at 18 percent, just one point behind former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, who are tied at 19 percent.
(CNN) – Hollywood star Brad Pitt, who bought a home in New Orleans earlier this year to demonstrate his solidarity with the hurricane-ravaged city, has thrown himself into a major rebuilding project in one of its hardest-hit neighborhoods.
In an interview with CNN’s “Larry King Live,” the actor and architectural enthusiast discusses “Make It Right,” an adopt-a-house project that allows people to donate money to help build 150 environmentally friendly homes in New Orleans’s Lower Ninth Ward, a neighborhood still reeling from the effects of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
In this clip, Pitt calls on the 2008 presidential candidates to help the Lower Ninth Ward and other parts of New Orleans damaged by the historic storm.
“I hope this becomes, and is, one of the major issues in this campaign,” Pitt tells King. “I hope it’s used not so much as a whipping stick for the past administration but really used for a proving ground, an opportunity to address these issues of health care and education reform,”
New Orleans’s bid to host a 2008 presidential debate was recently rejected by the Commission on Presidential Debates – a move that was sharply criticized by White House contender John Edwards, who has made the sluggish pace of rebuilding in that city a centerpiece of his presidential bid.
Other Democratic candidates have also criticized the Bush administration for the city’s slow recovery pace.
Watch more of the interview Wednesday on "Larry King Live."
- CNN Associate Producer Martina Stewart
WASHINGTON (CNN) - The administration is close to an agreement to freeze rates for homeowners facing possibly sharp increase in mortgage interest rates, according to administration sources.
The officials say they are close to a deal on a plan to freeze rates for subprime mortgages for qualified borrowers for five years. The rates would be frozen if borrowers meet certain criteria, including being current on payments and prove they cannot afford a higher rates.
Officials caution that the mortgage industry has yet to agree to this but they are cautiously optimistic they will sign off on it as well.
- CNN's Ed Henry and Jessica Yellin
Thompson expressed reservations with the NIE report on Iran.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Republican Fred Thompson downplayed the intelligence report released earlier in the week that said Iran’s nuclear program seemed to have ended in 2003, calling the assessment “awfully convenient” for current political leaders.
“[T]he administration gets to say its policies worked; the Democrats get to claim we should have eased up on Iran a long time ago: and Russia and China can claim sanctions on Iran are not necessary,” the presidential candidate said in a statement released Wednesday. “Who benefits from all this? Iran.”
Even if the report were accurate, he added, it was merely a snapshot of Iran’s intentions four years ago – not its agenda today.
The former Tennessee senator echoed the skepticism of GOP presidential rival John McCain, who warned reporters Tuesday that the Iranians were "still sponsoring terrorist organizations," and "sending dangerous and lethal explosive devices into Iraq."
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has also said the report did little to shift his perspective on Iran, and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani said his tough policy prescription, which includes sanctions and “other pressures," remained unchanged.
Like McCain, Thompson listed past U.S. intelligence failures as the reason for his dubious reaction to the assessment, pointing to the nation’s continued inability to create “human intelligence” networks on the ground overseas.
The newly-released National Intelligence Estimate is causing a few headaches on the campaign trail. Most of the major Republican candidates have advocated taking a tough stance with Tehran, citing its nuclear ambitions – a view that seems to be challenged by the report’s findings.
Meanwhile, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee grabbed headlines Wednesday after he revealed to reporters that he was unfamiliar with the contents of the report.
- CNN’s Rebecca Sinderbrand
Newly published letters are raising questions about how much then-Gov. Huckabee knew about a rapist's history.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - As he surges in polls, Mike Huckabee is facing renewed scrutiny over his role in the parole of a convicted rapist who raped and killed a woman after his release.
The murdered woman's mother, Lois Davidson, said she will "absolutely campaign against" Huckabee, and said she decided to come forward when he started doing well in the polls.
"It's because he is a serious contender," Davidson said. "I didn't think he had a chance, but now he's right up there in Iowa."
- CNN’s Dana Bash and Alexander Mooney contributed to this report
GRINNELL, Iowa (CNN) - It would have been just another Q and A session. That is, if Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama hadn't been on the campus of Grinnell College, home of freshman Muriel Gallo-Chasanoff, also known as 'the Clinton plant.'
Just weeks ago, Gallo-Chasanoff was approached by a staffer on rival Hillary Clinton's campaign and given a question to ask the New York senator at an event in nearby Newton, Iowa.
But Tuesday night Obama joked, as he and other candidates often have since her story got out, that the questions he would receive had "not been pre-arranged."
The crowd erupted in cheers. Some pointed to Gallo-Chasanoff standing near the front of the audience.
"Is this the young lady right here?" Obama asked smiling. "Oh my goodness. I didn't know she was going to be here. I'm not going to call on her."
And he kept his word. But he did give her some one on one time while shaking hands afterward.
"Can I ask you one question?" Gallo-Chasanoff said.
Obama said 'yes' but teased her for "causing all this trouble."
She asked him if it were possible to reach such a high level in national politics without compromising one's morals.
"You don’t have to compromise who you are," Obama said. "You have to make compromises, but not your core values."
Gallo-Chasanoff declined to say whether or not she is supporting anyone at this point.
-CNN Iowa Producer Chris Welch