WASHINGTON (CNN) - A.B. Culvahouse, the attorney tasked with leading the vetting process for Republican presidential nominee John McCain's running mate, said Friday that he thoroughly scrutinized Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and said that he "came away impressed."
McCain's vetting process came under scrutiny after numerous surprises about Palin popped up in the weeks after she was tapped as his vice presidential pick. Culvahouse said he and his team of 30 lawyers knew everything, including the fact that her teenage daughter was pregnant. He suggested that the campaign staff that talked to the media may not have been fully informed, which "led to the impression that those issues had been withheld."
"Gov. Palin told us everything. Everything except the pregnancy of her daughter was on a response to the written questionnaire," Culvahouse said Friday at a Republican National Lawyers Association National Policy Conference. "She told me there was one issue she wanted to talk about when we went in for the interview. We knew everything going in."
Culvahouse said they started with 26 candidates who didn't know they were under consideration. Once the list was narrowed down to six, each person was given a survey with 74 questions, which he said included specific questions, like "have you ever been unfaithful," but not "what the meaning of is, is."
"Me and two of my most cynical partners interviewed her and we came away impressed," Culvahouse said of his interview with Palin. "I think she would've made a great vice president."
He said he gave her three "leading" questions, asking if she was prepared to use nuclear weapons, why she wanted to be vice president, and if the CIA located Osama bin Laden, but shooting him would result in civilian casualties, what would she do. Culvahouse said she "knocked those three questions out of the park."
Culvahouse said McCain was the "decider," but that he was not allowed to pick anyone that had not been vetted. But when McCain asked him for the "bottom line" on Palin, Culvahouse said the Republican nominee liked the "risk" involved.
"I said, John, high risk, high reward," Culvahouse said. "His response, you shouldn't have told me that. I've been a risk-taker all my life."
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Eight years and three months after then-Attorney General Janet Reno hugged her Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder goodbye, now Attorney General Holder warmly embraced his former boss at ceremonies honoring Reno's career achievements.
With dozens of former Clinton administration officials and a sprinkling of career Justice Department veterans looking on, Holder heaped high praise on Reno for her famous tenacity and tireless work schedule during an often controversial eight-year tenure.
"Janet is both tough and tender," Holder told an audience at which the American Judicature Society presented Reno its annual "Justice Award."
"I don't know how many times she said to me, "What's the right thing to do'," Holder said. "It was never what's the easy thing, what's the political thing, or the expedient thing to do," he said
Holder drew knowing laughter as he recalled her alternate roles as demanding taskmaster to senior officials, while displaying great kindness to children and patience with lower-level employees and their families.
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad and Tobago (CNN) - In remarks to be delivered Friday to representatives of 34 countries at the Summit of the Americas here, President Obama says he is seeking "a new beginning" in U.S. relations with Cuba.
"Every one of our nations has a right to follow its own path," a transcript of his prepared remarks reads. "But we all have a responsibility to see that the people of the Americas have the ability to pursue their own dreams in democratic societies.
"Toward that end, the United States seeks a new beginning with Cuba."
Obama arrived in Trinidad and Tobago on Friday evening for the Summit of the Americas, a key meeting of hemispheric powers. Although it was not represented at the talks, the subject of Cuba dominated the president's speech.
In the prepared remarks, Obama adds that "decades of mistrust" must be overcome, but notes that he has already loosened restrictions that limited Americans from traveling to visit relatives in Cuba and from sending money to them.
Obama lifted all restrictions Monday on the ability of individuals to visit relatives in Cuba, as well as to send them remittances.
(CNN) - The United States and Cuba are exchanging what may be the warmest of words between the two nations in over 50 years.
According to an advance copy of President Obama's opening remarks at the Summit of the Americas released Friday by the White House, the president will announce the first steps toward a "new day" in U.S.-Cuban relations.
"The United States seeks a new beginning with Cuba. I know there is a longer journey that must be traveled in overcoming decades of mistrust, but there are critical steps we can take toward a new day," the president is expected to say. "I have already changed a Cuba policy that has failed to advance liberty or opportunity for the Cuban people. We will now allow Cuban Americans to visit the island whenever they choose and to provide resources to their families – the same way that so many people in my country send money back to their families in your countries to help them pay for their everyday needs."
"Let me be clear: I am not interested in talking for the sake of talking. But I do believe that we can move U.S.-Cuban relations in a new direction."
Cuban President Raul Castro said Thursday he had sent the U.S. government word he was willing to talk about "human rights, freedom of the press, political prisoners - everything, everything, everything they want to discuss."
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton responded to Castro's remarks at a press conference Friday. In appearance alongside Dominican Republic President Leonel Antonio Fernandez, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said US policy toward Cuba has failed and that the United States was "taking a very serious look" at how to respond to Cuban President Raul Castro's 'overture.'
CAPE CHARLES, Virginia (CNN) - It is just after first light, and Don Pierce gently eases the Bri-Steff off the pier at Cape Charles harbor.
"You're sure you want to do this?" he asks a visitor with a whimsical smile. It is the last time the word "gently" will come to mind this day.
His closest crab pot is nearly five miles out into Chesapeake Bay, and the bouncing - and rocking - starts just seconds after passing the mouth of the protected harbor.
The Bri-Steff - named after Pierce's two children - Brian and Steffanie - is the only boat braving the rough waters on this morning. On a scale of 1 to 10 - with 10 being as rough as he dare venture out in - Pierce scores this morning "about a 9½."
Pierce has been working these waters since he was a teenager. Forty-eight years now - already eight years' experience under his belt when the world marked the first Earth Day in April 1970.
Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano will give an exclusive interview to John King on CNN's "State of the Union with John King" this Sunday.
Napolitano, who has come under fire over a controversial DHS report released this month that warned about the risks of right-wing extremism, will respond to her critics. She'll also discuss President Obama's trip to Latin America, and the government's latest efforts to secure the Mexican border.
Also appearing: New York Gov. David Paterson, who introduced a bill this week that would legalize gay marriage in his state.
If you have a question for Secretary Napolitano or Governor Paterson, e-mail StateoftheUnion@CNN.com, or submit it in the comments. Tune in at 9 am ET Sunday to get your answers.
(CNN) – Vice President Joe Biden is set to deliver the commencement addresses at three universities' graduation ceremonies in the spring, the White House announced Friday
Biden will address graduates at Syracuse University, Wake Forest University, and the United States Air Force Academy in May.
(CNN) – A fellow Republican is calling on California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to resign because of a water crisis in the state's San Joaquin Valley.
"When a government can't provide the people access to a reliable supply of water, it has failed," Rep. Devin Nunes said in a statement Friday. "This government has utterly failed and Governor Schwarzenegger should resign from office," Nunes, who represents California 21st congressional district, also said.
Schwarzenegger's office shot back, saying that the governor is working with California Sen. Dianne Feinstein to try to solve the state's water problems. "Congressman Nunes' attempt to grab headlines with finger pointing will not solve this problem and will only lead to the same gridlock that has paralyzed the water debate in this state for the last 50 years," Schwarzenegger spokesperson Matt David said in a statement e-mailed to CNN. "We encourage Congressman Nunes to be part of the solution as opposed to part of the problem."
Drought conditions in California have forced the state's farmers to abandon or not plant more than 100,000 acres of agricultural land, Schwarzenegger's office said in a separate statement also issued Friday. The office also estimates that losses in agricultural revenue could reach $477 million in 2009.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee said President Obama should see the grassroots "Tea Party" movement as "genuine" in a letter to supporters of his political action committee on Friday.
"Mr. President the tea parties = real moms, dads, small business owners concerned about a government adrift that is doubling down on spending," Huckabee said in the letter posted on his web site. "If President Obama is blind to what is happening on his front porch...he doesn't need a water dog...he needs a guide dog."
Huckabee is using Huck PAC as a fundraising tool for candidates that he says are committed "to fiscal sanity, lower taxes, a strong national defense, life and traditional marriage."
(CNN) - Texas Gov. Rick Perry is dialing back his earlier remark that seemed to suggest he was open to secession, telling reporters Thursday his state is "part of a great union."
"I was kinda thinking that, maybe the same people who hadn't been reading the constitution right were reading that article and they got the wrong impression about what I said," he told reporters as in the Texas State House.
"Clearly, I stated that we have a great union. And Texas is part of a great union. I see no reason for that to change. I think that may not be the exact quote, but that is, in essence what I said," he added.
Perry's original comments on the matter came Wednesday at a "Tea Party" even in Austin, when he railed against the federal government for what he said were infringements of states' rights and repeated violations of the 10th amendment of the Constitution - the provision that establishes Federalism. (Video below: Perry fires up 'Tea Party' crowd)
"There's a lot of different scenarios," Perry said Wednesday as crowd members shouted calls for secession. "We've got a great union. There's absolutely no reason to dissolve it. But if Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people, you know, who knows what might come out of that."
In clarifying his remarks Thursday, Perry also said he has "never been prouder of Texans" for standing up to Washington, DC.
"I think you will see more and more this type of response to a government that is rather unresponsive to the people of this country and Texas was right at the forefront of that yesterday," he said.
Meanwhile, Texas Democrats have sharply criticized Perry's original comment, calling it an "attack on our country."
"It is the ultimate anti-American statement," State Rep. Jim Dunnam of Waco told reporters Thursday.