Washington (CNN) - Former President Jimmy Carter is traveling to North Korea to free detained American Aijalon Mahli Gomes, a senior administration official and another source familiar with the trip said Monday.
Both sources described the trip as a "private humanitarian mission" to free Gomes, a 31 year-old Boston resident who was sentenced in April to eight years at a hard labor camp for illegally crossing North Korea's border with China and for an unspecified "hostile act."
While President Carter contacted the Obama administration about the trip, no officials will be traveling with him and he "will not be carrying any message on behalf of the United States government," the senior official said.
North Korean state media KCNA reported Gomes attempted suicide because he felt the US had not done enough to free him.
(CNN) – Former President Jimmy Carter – whose comments about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have drawn criticism from many Jewish leaders over the years - has written an open letter asking the Jewish community for forgiveness
"We must recognize Israel’s achievements under difficult circumstances, even as we strive in a positive way to help Israel continue to improve its relations with its Arab populations, but we must not permit criticisms for improvement to stigmatize Israel," Carter wrote in a letter provided to Jewish news service JTA. "As I would have noted at Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, but which is appropriate at any time of the year, I offer an Al Het for any words or deeds of mine that may have done so."
In Hebrew, "Al Het" is a plea for forgiveness. Traditionally, the term referred to the prayer offered on Yom Kippur asking God to forgive any sins committed against Him.
ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) - The United States and other nations should take a diplomatic approach toward Iran in negotiations over that nation's nuclear program, former President Jimmy Carter said Thursday.
Iran's nuclear chief and representatives from the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, as well as Germany, are scheduled to start talks Thursday in Switzerland over a recently revealed nuclear facility in Iran.
Tehran says it is developing its nuclear program for energy purposes, but many nations believe Iran wants to make nuclear weapons and will be able to do so in the near future.
A deliberate approach will work best, Carter said.
"I hope and pray that Iran will be induced to permit international inspectors to come in and observe their entire nuclear program, because what they're doing so far is completely illegal under the nonproliferation treaty," the former president said in an interview with CNN's Candy Crowley.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele on Wednesday sharply criticized a statement made by prominent Democrats - including Former President Jimmy Carter - that members of his party hold negative views of President Obama solely because he is black.
Steele accused Carter of being "dead wrong" and said he thinks the former Democratic president "was out of line."
"I think that he takes this to a point - to a level that is not reflective of what's been transpiring" in the current health care debate, Steele said. "When you go down this road and you start to just willy-nilly - as I believe President Carter has - throwing race out there, you diminish real instances of racism that needs to be addressed."
Carter on Tuesday said that he believes an inclination toward racism still exists in parts of the country and that it has "bubbled up to surface because of the belief by many white people not just in the south but around the country that African Americans are not qualified to lead this great country."
Carter made similar comments Wednesday night at a Town Hall in Atlanta, where he said that carrying signs equating Obama with Adolf Hitler and or urging that the president be buried with the late Sen. Ted Kennedy “are beyond the bounds” of how presidents have been treated in the past.
“And I think people who are guilty of that kind of personal attack against Obama have been influenced to a major degree by a belief that he should not be president because he happens to be African American,” Carter said. “ ... And my hope is, and my expectation is, that in the future both Democratic leaders and Republican leaders will take the initiative in condemning that kind of uprecendented attack on the president of the United States.”
(CNN) - The Republican National Committee is hitting back at former President Jimmy Carter's recent comments stating racial politics has played a role in some of the opposition the president has faced since taking office and in South Carolina Rep. Joe Wilson's outburst during Obama's speech to Congress last week.
"President Carter is flat out wrong. This isn't about race. It is about policy," RNC Chairman Michael Steele said in a statement Wednesday. "This is a pathetic distraction by Democrats to shift attention away from the president's wildly unpopular government-run health care plan that the American people simply oppose."
"Injecting race into the debate over critical issues facing American families doesn't create jobs, reform our health care system or reduce the growing deficit. It only divides Americans rather than uniting us to find solutions to challenges facing our nation," Steele, the RNC's first African-American chairman, also said.
Carter's comments came in an interview with NBC News Tuesday, during which he stated, "I think an overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man, that he's African-American."
Carter made similar remarks at an event at his presidential center in Atlanta, Georgia, pointing to some protesters who have compared Obama to a Nazi. "Those kind of things are not just casual outcomes of a sincere debate on whether we should have a national program on health care," the former president said at the Carter Center, according to AP. "It's deeper than that."
Steele said such comments are indicative of Democratic efforts to "disparage all who disagree with them."
"Playing the race card shows that Democrats are willing to deal from the bottom of the deck. Our political system has no place for this type of rhetoric," said Steele.
(Steele will visit The Situation Room Wednesday afternoon at 5 pm ET)
Follow Alex Mooney on Twitter @awmooneycnn
(CNN) - Former White House press secretary Jody Powell has died, a spokesman for the Carter Center said Monday.
Powell, 65, died Monday of an apparent heart attack, Carter Center spokesman Tony Clark told CNN.
"I was deeply saddened to hear about the passing of Jody Powell," said Robert Gibbs, press secretary to President Barak Obama, in a written statement. "As press secretary to President Carter, Jody served his country during a difficult time, and he always did the job with grace and good humor.
(CNN) - Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter said Tuesday on a visit to Gaza that he had to "hold back tears" when he saw the destruction caused by the deadly campaign Israel waged against Gaza militants in January.
Carter was wrapping up a visit to the region during which he met representatives of all sides of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Among the sites he visited was the American school that was destroyed by the bombings Israel initiated in response to rocket attacks launched from Gaza into southern Israel.
"It is very distressing to me. I have to hold back tears when I see the deliberate destruction that has been raked against your people. I come to the American school which was educating your children, by my own country.
"I see it's been deliberately destroyed by bombs from F16s made in my country and delivered to the Israelis. I feel partially responsible for this - as (do) most all Americans and Israelis," Carter said at a news conference.
In an interview set to air Monday night, Carter told CNN's Campbell Brown some of President Obama's supporters are disappointed in him. "Most of his supporters were hoping that he would be much more open in the revelation of what we've done in the past," said the former president, although he added that he still respects Obama's judgment on the issue: "I don't agree with him, but I certainly don't criticize him for making that decision."
Earlier this month, Obama asked government lawyers to stop the release of photos showing prisoner abuse in Iraq and Afghanistan, a reversal of an earlier White House position. Hundreds of photos were set for release after a Freedom of Information Act request was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union.
Carter also seemed to disagree with Obama on what should happen to Bush Justice Department officials who signed off on waterboarding and other harsh interrogation tactics. Carter stopped short of calling for immediate prosecutions, but did suggest they might be appropriate in the future.
"What I would like to see is a complete examination of what did happen, the identification of any perpetrators of crimes against our own laws or against international law," he told Brown. "And then after all that's done, decide whether or not there should be any prosecutions."
The new administration has not definitely ruled out any prosecutions, but President Obama said on several occasions that "we need to focus on the future."
Campbell Brown's full interview with Former President Carter will air Monday night on CNN at 8 pm ET.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - You don't see this every day. A former President of the United States will testify on Capitol Hill.
The man in the spotlight this afternoon will be former President Jimmy Carter, who is scheduled to appear before a congressional panel looking into energy security.
Carter, in office from 1977 to 1981, is no stranger when it comes to energy concerns. The long lines for gasoline during an Arab oil embargo are lasting memories of his presidency for many people.
But Carter created the Department of Energy, and, in one of his most famous speeches, he talked about the need for energy efficiency and a reduction in oil imports.
Carter pursued policies involving conservation, price controls, and the use of technology, and now, the Senate Foreign Relations committee is asking for his advice on the country's current problems. Committee Chairman
John Kerry is asking Carter to offer a "historical review" of U.S. energy security policy at a hearing looking at the security implications of U.S. dependence on foreign oil.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Former President Jimmy Carter met Wednesday with National Security Adviser Jim Jones, White House officials said.
Carter spokeswoman Deanna Congileo said the private briefing was planned in advance. "This is a general briefing as he has had with past administrations," she said in an e-mail.
During the meeting, President Barack Obama "dropped by" to greet Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, National Security Council spokesman Mike Hammer said.