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Live Blog: Obama Says, 'The People of Egypt Have Spoken' Live Blog: Obama Says, 'The People of Egypt Have Spoken'

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National Security / EGYPT

Live Blog: Obama Says, 'The People of Egypt Have Spoken'

Follow this blog for the latest involving Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Vice President Omar Suleiman, and more.

Egyptian anti-government protesters celebrated in Cairo's Tahrir Square and elsewhere in the country after President Hosni Mubarak stepped down.(MOHAMMED ABED/AFP/Getty Images)

photo of Sara Sorcher
February 11, 2011

4:05 p.m.  Were the events in Egypt a bigger surprise yesterday or today for the White House?

"I think everyone was surprised a bit at yesterday," Gibbs said. "I was on the cautious side [yesterday], because I think it was clear that things were happening ... very quickly. It is remarkable to stand here, or to sit there or anywhere in our country, and watch what's happened over the span of that 18 days. It is a remarkable arc in human history."

4:04 p.m.  Democratic and Republican lawmakers overwhelmingly agree that the spread of democracy in the Middle East will benefit U.S. interests in the region, according to the results of this week's National Journal Congressional Insiders Poll.

 

3:58 p.m.  Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on State Department and Foreign Operations, stressed that the United States has "vital interests" in the region.

"The challenges now facing the Egyptian people are formidable," he said in a statement. "The army will be decisive.  If it defends the popular will, it will earn its rightful place in history.  If the army violates the public’s trust, it would also be a blow to our relations with Egypt and would put at risk our long-standing assistance."

3:57 p.m. Since Mubarak's announcement today, Obama has not made any  calls to leaders or heads of state in the region, Gibbs said.

The government of Iran is now "scared" of the "will of its people," despite its "empty talk about Egypt," Gibbs said (see post 7:39). "We saw about a week or so ago, they made some provocative statements about what these marches meant. We now know how they're responding to the images that we see in Tahrir Square. They are arresting people, they are blocking Internet access.... For all the empty talk about Egypt, I think the Iranian government should allow the Iranian people to exercise the very same right of peaceful assembly and ability to demonstrate ... their desires," he said.

3:48 p.m.  It's press secretary Robert Gibbs's last day on the job - and it has been an eventful one. Here are some of his comments about the situation in Egypt:

Was Obama surprised by the news this morning? "Throughout the morning and into last night we'd gotten indications that the last speeches might not have been given ... particularly this morning, with everybody reporting that there would be a statement from the office of the president.  The president was in a regularly scheduled meeting ... when a note was taken to him to let him know what had been announced. Prior to giving the statement, he spent about an hour ... in the situation room," Gibbs said.

"I think it is safe to say that the very same contacts that we have in Egypt are some of the very same contacts that many of you [journalists] all have, that seemed to tell everyone that a different speech might be what we would hear," he said, noting that the statement from Obama last night stressed the "missed opportunity" for Egypt's government to take the "necessary steps" toward that orderly transition.

"That's been building throughout the week," he said, "as the government failed to take the necessary steps to broaden to coalition, to make some fundamental reforms that would signal to those in the opposition that they were serious, the crowds grew larger and larger."

3:38 p.m.  Amr Moussa, widely speculated to run as a possible candidiate for the Egyptian presidency, has announced he will step down from his position as secretary-general of the Arab League "within weeks," Egyptian state television reports. He has held the post for more than 10 years. See his comments about Mubarak's resignation at post 11:41.

3:15 p.m.  President Obama speaks on Egypt:

"There are very few moments in our lives where we have the privilege to witness history taking place. The people of Egypt have spoken. Their voices have been heard. And Egypt will never be the same. By stepping down, President Mubarak responded to the Egyptian people's hunger for change. but this is not the end of Egypt's transition. It's a beginning. I'm sure there will be difficult days ahead and many questions remain unanswered. But I am confident that the people of Egypt can find the answers, and do so peacefully, constructively, and in the spirit of unity that has defined these last few weeks, for Egyptians have made it clear that nothing less than genuine democracy will carry the day.

"The military has served patriotically and responsibly as a caretaker to the state and will now have to ensure a transition that is credible in the eyes of the Egyptian people.  That means protecting the rights of Egypt's citizens, lifting the emergency law, revising the constitution and other laws to make this change irreversible, and laying out a clear path to elections that are fair and free. Above all this transition must bring all of Egypt's voices to the table for the spirit of peaceful protest and perseverance that the Egyptian people have shown can serve as a powerful wind at the back of this change. The United States will continue to be a friend and partner to Egypt. We stand ready to provide whatever assistance is necessary and asked for to pursue a credible transition to a democracy.

"I'm also confident that the same ingenuity and entrepreneurial spirit that the young people of Egypt have shown in recent days can be harnessed to create new opportunity, jobs and businesses that allow the extraordinary potential of this generation to take flight. I know that a democratic Egypt can advance its role of responsible leadership not only in the region but around the world.

"Egypt has played a pivotal role in human history for over 6,000 years. But over the last few weeks the wheel of history turned at a blinding pace as the Egyptian people demanded their universal rights. We saw mothers and fathers carrying their children on their shoulders to show them what true freedom might look like. We saw young Egyptians say, for the first time in my life I really count. My voice is heard. Even though I'm only one person, this is the way real democracy works. We saw protesters chant ... 'We are peaceful,' again and again.

"We saw a military that would not fire bullets at the people they were sworn to protect. And we saw doctors and nurses rushing into the streets to care for the wound. Volunteers checking protesters to ensure that they were unarmed. We saw people of faith praying together and chanting Muslims, Christians, we are one. And though we know the strains of faith divide too many in this world and no single event will close that chasm immediately, these scenes show us that we need not be defined by our differences. We can be defined by the common humanity that we share.

"And, above all, we saw a new generation emerge, a generation that uses their own creativity and talent and technology to call for a government that represented their hopes and not their fears. A government that is responsive to their boundless aspirations. One Egyptian put it simply—most people have discovered in the last few days that they are worth something, and this cannot be taken away from them anymore. Ever.

"This is the power of human dignity, and it can never be denied. Egyptians have inspired us, and they've done so by putting the eye to the idea that justice is best gained through violence. For in Egypt it was the moral force of nonviolence, not terrorism, not mindless killing, but nonviolence, moral force that bent the arc of history toward justice once more. And while the sights and sounds that we heard were entirely Egyptian, we can't help but hear the echoes of history, echoes from Germans tearing down a wall, Indonesian students taking to the streets, Gandhi leading his people down the path justice. As Martin Luther King said in celebrating the birth of a new nation in Ghana while trying to perfect his own, there's something in the soul that cries out for freedom.

"Those were the cries that came from Tahrir square and the entire world has taken note. Today belongs to the people of Egypt, and the American people are moved by these scenes in Cairo and across Egypt because of who we are as a people and the kind of world that we want our children to grow up in. The word ‘Tahrir’ means liberation. It's a word that speaks to that something in our souls that cries out for freedom. And forever more it will remind us of the Egyptian people, of what they did, of the things that they stood for, and how they changed their country and in doing so changed the world. Thank you."

3:00 p.m.  President Obama will deliver remarks. Watch it live here.

2:49 p.m. Egypt’s powerful armed forces have assumed full—if temporary—control of the country, making Defense Minister Mohamed Tantawi the most powerful man in the new Egypt, sitting at the helm of a provisional government made up almost entirely of senior Egyptian generals. But who is he?

National Journal's Yochi Dreazen writes that Tantawi is little-known in the West but has spent decades in uniform, rising to the rank of field marshal, the highest position in the Egyptian military. A veteran of Egypt’s three wars with Israel, he has served as the country’s defense minister since 1991. Tantawi had been so publicly and privately deferential to the president over the years that a classified cable sent by the U.S. Embassy in Cairo in 2008—and recently made public by WikiLeaks—said that younger Egyptian officers derided the defense minister as “Mubarak’s poodle.” Still, Tantawi has shown a deft political touch over the years and is likely to emerge as a formidable figure both inside and outside of Egypt, Dreazen writes.

Meanwhile, there have been unconfirmed reports that Tantawi planned to bring the head of Egypt’s supreme constitutional court into his ruling council, which is expected to fire the remainder of Mubarak’s cabinet and suspend both houses of Egypt’s Parliament.

2:44 p.m. An Obama administration official explains that Obama's remarks were delayed "because he is currently in the White House Situation Room meeting with his national-security team. The president dropped by a previously scheduled Principals Committee meeting convened by National Security Adviser Tom Donilon to discuss current developments in Egypt."

1:48 p.m.  United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that the voice of the Egyptian people, particularly the youth, has been heard.

"And it is for them to determine the future of their country," he said. "I commend the people of Egypt for the peaceful, courageous, and orderly manner in which they have exercised their legitimate rights. I call on all parties to continue in the same spirit."

1:36 p.m. White House: Obama will speak at 3 this afternoon. Gibbs will speak at 3:30 p.m.

1:27 p.m. Egypt’s supreme military council issues a statement on state television, affirming this “historic and decisive moment” in the history of Egypt and Mubarak’s decision to step down. The military's higher council has accepted its task to run the affairs of the nation now.

According to the BBC translation, Lt. Gen. Sami Anan, chief of staff of the Egyptian military, said:

"Hosni Mubarak has decided to step down as president of the republic and to entrust the Higher Council of the Armed Forces to administer the affairs of the state. We are all aware of the magnitude of this issue and the seriousness of the demand of our great people to implement radical changes. The higher council is studying this issue with god's help in an effort to achieve the hopes of our great people.

"The higher council will later issue another statement which will define the steps that will be followed. It stresses at the same time that there is no other way forward other than the legitimate one aspired to by the people.

"The higher council salutes President Hosni Mubarak for what he has given during his time, in war and peace, and his decision to put the interests of the country first. The higher council also salutes the martyrs who have sacrificed their lives to protect the freedom of their country."

1:26 p.m. Ayman Nour, Egypt's best-known dissident (though largely invisible during the protests), tells Al-Jazeera that this is “the greatest day in the history of Egypt.”

“This nation has been born again. These people have been born again, and this is a new Egypt.… We look forward to the transition period, which is a period that will take us to a civilian state that will meet our legitimate demands of having a civilian free country. I believe the army is aware of its mission in preserving the situation until we move to the civilian period. This is not a coup d'etat. This is an attempt to meet the people's demands, which is a civilian state,” he said.

1:22 p.m. More than 1,000 Moroccans demonstrated against their government today for failing to meet a February 10 deadline to create new jobs and bring 4,500 recent graduates in to work for the government.

Morocco Communication Minister Khalid Naciri told reporters that the country sees an average of 21 protests every day ,and he considers this to be a “normal average.”

Check our interactive map to see where else unrest is spreading in the region.

1:17 p.m.  National Journal's Yochi Dreazen writes that virtually no Arab leader has ever left office voluntarily, with most instead remaining in power until they were killed, driven into exile, or forcibly deposed.

"Now that Mubarak has left the stage, the key question will become who else follows him out the door. During Mubarak’s 30 years as Egypt’s paramount ruler, he built an extensive power structure that included civilian allies such as Suleiman and Fathi Sorour, the speaker of the country’s parliament; the uniformed leadership of the country’s powerful armed forces; and the top officials of Egypt’s intelligence services and feared internal-security apparatuses. It wasn't immediately clear if Suleiman would follow Mubarak's lead and formally resign, but the military's move to assume power renders him largely irrelevant to the country's immediate future.

Joshua Stacher, an Egypt expert at Kent State University who lived in the country for nine years, said in the article, "This gives us a bit more insight into what happened yesterday: there was some kind of power struggle going on, and (Egyptian Defense Minister Mohamed) Tantawi won. Omar Suleiman isn’t in control anymore. This is now a military government."

1:02 p.m. White House: Obama will now speak at a time “to be determined.” 

Press secretary Robert Gibbs will hold the daily press briefing after the statement.

1:00 p.m. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu tweets: “Congratulations to the Egyptian people. And we hope that a system meeting the expectations of the Egyptian people will emerge.”

12:58 p.m.  Roll over National Journal's interactive map to learn more about the stability of the surrounding nations and the leaders who may be next to fall.

12:56 p.m.  In a statement, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., applauds Mubarak’s decision to step down and says, “The United States stands fully ready to assist the Egyptian people and government as they begin the hard work of democratic reform."

"In advance of elections later this year, Egyptians must be free to exercise their universal rights peacefully—to speak and express themselves without interference, including over the Internet; to organize independent political parties; to register candidates of their choosing for office; and to participate in elections that are free and fair by international standards," McCain said.

McCain, who had been calling publicly for Mubarak's immediate resignation, said the Egyptian military will continue to have a critical role in maintaining order and stability while still allowing Egyptians to exercise "their universal rights in peace."

12:44 p.m. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb., who has lived near Tahrir Square and returned since as a congressman, said he was “stunned” yesterday by Mubarak’s speech, as were the Egyptian people. “Today, I think he made the right decision for the future of Egypt, and fortunately, there was no major escalation in violence.  I am hopeful that the Egyptian military, now in power, will follow through on recent promises to amend Egypt’s constitution, implement democratic changes, investigate the acts of violence that ensued in recent weeks, and advance an orderly and peaceful transition,” he said in a statement.

12:43 p.m. This just in from National Journal's Billy House:

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., says now that the demands of the Egyptian people have been met, “steps must taken for the prompt commencement of a calm and orderly transition process toward freedom and democracy in Egypt.”

“This transition must include constitutional and administrative reforms, starting with the repeal of the emergency laws,” she said in a statement. “These are necessary for legitimate, democratic, internationally-recognized elections to take place with peaceful, responsible actors who will not only advance the aspirations of the Egyptian people but will continue to enforce Egypt’s international obligations.

“The U.S. and our allies must focus our efforts on helping to create the necessary conditions for such a transition to take place. We must also urge the unequivocal rejection of any involvement by the Muslim Brotherhood and other extremists who may seek to exploit and hijack these events to gain power, oppress the Egyptian people, and do great harm to Egypt’s relationship with the United States, Israel, and other free nations,” she said.

12:39 p.m.  British Prime Minister David Cameron said:

"Today has been a remarkable day, particularly for those in Tahrir Square and elsewhere, who have spoken out so bravely and so peacefully for change in their country. Egypt now has a really precious moment of opportunity to have a government that can bring the people together. We stand ready to help in any way that we can. We believe it must be a government that starts to put in place the building blocks of a truly open, free, and democratic society."

Bahrain's foreign minister, Khalid al Khalifa, tells Al-Jazeera: “Egypt takes the Arab world into a new era.... Let's make it a better one.”

12:38 p.m.  Fireworks over Tahrir Square.

12:35 p.m.  Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., who sits on the Foreign Relations Committee, said that Mubarak's resignation is a "positive step toward a meaningful transition that meets the expectations of those who have sought to express their freedoms in Cairo and across Egypt during the past few weeks."

"I also call on the current Egyptian government and any future government to continue to respect international treaties and security commitments made with the United States and other countries.  Despite our historical differences in respecting human rights and the rule of law, Egypt has long been a partner in working to ensure stability and combat terrorism in the Middle East. It is my hope that the new Egyptian government will continue to play an active role in these critical areas while continuing to uphold its country’s international obligations," Cardin said in a statement.

12:31 p.m.  More from NJ's Megan Scully about remarks from New York Rep. Gary Ackerman, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Middle East and South Asia Subcommittee.

"The whole world stands in awe of their [the Egyptian people's] achievement," he said. In recent weeks, Ackerman has been vocal in demanding that the United States cut off aid to Egypt until it is clear that a transition to democracy is under way. But after Mubarak's resignation today, he backed off those calls while still demanding oversight of the aid that is provided.

The United States, Ackerman said, "must continue to closely scrutinize our assistance program to ensure that we are providing the maximum assistance to the transition process while also maintaining the maximum leverage on the Egyptian military to ensure a genuine democratic transition."

The Egyptian people, he added, "should know that they will have no better friend and ally than the United States.”

12:28 p.m.  This just in from NJ's Megan Scully:

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry, D-Mass., who was one of the first lawmakers to publicly call for Mubarak's immediate resignation, called today's announcement an "extraordinary moment for Egypt" and a "chance at a new beginning."

"Now the hard work intensifies to prepare for free and fair elections that will allow the people to choose a broadly representative and responsive government," Kerry said, calling on Egypt's army and transition leaders to lift the emergency law and to clarify the the path forward to credible elections.

The United States, he added, must help Egyptians "turn this democratic moment into a process that builds a government responsive to economic needs as well as demands for freedom." Looking beyond Egypt's borders, Kerry said that what happens during the transition will have repercussions around the region.

"We know from recent experience in Gaza that this requires not just elections but hard work to build a government that is transparent, accountable, and broadly representative," he said.

12:23 p.m.  Vice President Joe Biden speaks about the “set of core principles” learned from the situation in Egypt while at the McConnell Center at the University of Louisville, with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on stage.

“The first is that violence and intimidation against peaceful demonstrators is totally and thoroughly unacceptable. Secondly, that the universal rights of the Egyptian people must be respected and their aspirations must be met. And thirdly, that the transition that is taking place must be an irreversible change and a negotiated path to democracy," he said.

"Even in this contentious political climate in which we work, on this issue the United States has largely spoken with one voice, Democrats and Republicans alike speaking with the same voice. This unity has been important, and it will be even more important in these delicate and fateful days ahead.”

What is at stake in Egypt, Biden said, “will not just touch Egypt alone. You may remember that all this began when a fruit vendor in Tunisia, fed up with the indignity of a corrupt government and a stagnant economy, literally set himself on fire. And in doing so, ignited the passions of millions and millions of people throughout that region."

12:17 p.m.  Check out NJ's feed of tweets about Egypt.

12:12 p.m.  Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., a member of the Senate Armed Services and Intelligence committees, said that as "Egyptians celebrate their freedom tonight, we celebrate this moment with them."

"Mubarak has finally heard the voices of the Egyptian people and relinquished his 30-year hold on power, after 18 days of peaceful protests," Udall said in a statement. "It’s important that the military continue to act as a stabilizing force throughout this transition.... I believe we need to do everything we can to continue to support Egypt’s peaceful move toward democracy.” 

12:00 p.m. Wael Ghonim, the Google executive who was arrested by Egypt's police, now tells CNN:

"I just want to say from the bottom of my heart congratulations to all Egyptians. I want to say, welcome back, Egypt ... today is the day for celebrations. I can't even think.... We haven't been sleeping. I need to rest and sleep," he said. "I just want to say to Hosni Mubarak and Omar Suleiman and all those who thought that being in power means you can oppress people ... you guys paid the price. It's enough for you guys that in history books they're going to use one word to describe you, 'dictators.' "

11:54 a.m.  Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said in a statement today that he is "pleased" that Mubarak has listened to the Egyptian people. Reid also emphasized the need for an orderly transition that leads to "true democracy" for Egypt, including free, fair, and open elections.

"We caution all sides against violence during this transition, and we will be watching the situation closely," Reid said. "We wish the Egyptian people the best in their next steps toward determining their own future under a democratic process."

11:50 a.m. Missed Suleiman's speech? Al-Jazeera captured the 30 seconds that ended Mubarak's 30-year rule here.

11:41 a.m.  Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa tells CNN:

"We have achieved what the people wanted, and now it is our duty to build up the new Egypt based on the unity of the Egyptian people," Moussa said. "I am optimistic that we will choose the right path."

Moussa has said in previous days that he would be willing to run for presidential office after Mubarak. Suleiman's statement was "very short but really monumental," he said. "For now, the president has stepped down, the military council is in charge, and we will see what kind of procedures and other steps that will be taken. According to the short statement read by the vice president, the military [is in charge] of the country."

11:31 a.m. Reuters reports: "The [European Union's] foreign-policy chief, Catherine Ashton, says she 'respects' Mubarak's decision to step down, and it's important to accelerate dialogue for a broad-based government."

11:29 a.m.  Mohamed ElBaradei, who called for a transitional government earlier today (see post 6:47) tells the Associated Press, "This is the greatest day of my life."

"The country has been liberated after decades of repression," he said, adding that he expects a "beautiful" transition of power.

ElBaradei told Reuters that he looks forward to working with the military and "sees a period of military people cosharing power, and that running for president is not on his mind," Reuters reports.

11:25 a.m. White House says Obama will make an on-camera statement at 1:30 p.m. EST.

11:22 a.m.  An Obama administration official says:

"The president was informed of President Mubarak’s decision to step down during a meeting in the Oval Office. He then watched TV coverage of the scene in Cairo for several minutes in the outer Oval."

11:20 a.m.  National Journal's Yochi Dreazen wrote yesterday that, "Whenever Mubarak leaves the stage, the key question will become who else follows him out the door." Will the next regime be more of the same?

11:05 a.m. Mubarak has "decided to step down as president of Egypt and has assigned the higher council of the armed forces to run the affairs of the country. May Allah be our guide," Suleiman said to crowds erupting in cheers, according to the MSNBC translation.

Egyptian protesters, after chanting "leave, leave," for 18 days, are now shouting, "Egypt is free!"

A fuller translation of Suleiman's remarks from BBC is below:

"In the name of God the merciful, the compassionate, citizens, during these very difficult circumstances Egypt is going through, President Hosni Mubarak has decided to step down from the office of president of the republic and has charged the high council of the armed forces to administer the affairs of the country. May God help everybody."

10:43 a.m. Anchors on Egyptian state television telephoned protesters and aired the dialogue, CNN reports. State TV anchors told protesters, "We are one, we are part of you, we are also media.... We fell into a trap in the first few days of the crisis; it had to do with the misinformation we got," CNN reports.

Up until now, Egyptian state television had primarily broadcast the regime's perspective.

10:25 a.m.  A protester in the massive crowd outside Mubarak's palace in Cairo tells The Guardian:

"There are 3,000 or 4,000 people outside the palace, and there's a lot on the other side. The army's allowing us to have a sit-in outside the palace, but the main road leading up to the palace is blocked off with barbed wire. We don't think Mubarak's inside the palace, but it's just a way of putting more pressure on the regime after yesterday's speech, which was incredibly disappointing.... We are holding the president under siege. It's another symbol of our protests," Karim Ennarah said.

10:15 a.m. Hossam Badrawi, the newly appointed secretary-general of Mubarak's National Democratic Party, now tells the BBC in an interview in Arabic: "I will announce my resignation in the coming hours."

BBC's Lyse Doucet tweets that Badrawi is resigning because he is "unhappy with president's speech."

Badrawi said yesterday that Mubarak would step down in his nighttime address. See the post at 7:56 a.m. today for Badrawi's follow-up comments that although Mubarak's delivery was "bad," the message that he stepped down in last night's address was "clear and black and white."

10:02 a.m.  Al-Jazeera reports that military helicopters arrive at Cairo's presidential palace ahead of the expected statement.

9:40 a.m. "Egypt state TV says an important, urgent statement is expected from the presidency shortly," Reuters reports.

9:23 a.m. A U.S. government source confirms to NJ that Mubarak has left Cairo (see post 8:29 for the speculation earlier).

A local government official tells the Associated Press that Mubarak is in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, 250 miles from Cairo.

From AP: "The official, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the issue, said Friday that Mubarak arrived at the airport in Sharm and was greeted by the local governor.... Mubarak spends a good deal of time in Sharm, where he has a palace."

9:22 a.m. "Tens if not hundreds of thousands of people have marched on the Ras el-Tin palace, another of the president's official residences, in Alexandria, Egypt's second-biggest city," Al-Jazeera reports.

9:20 a.m.  Al-Jazeera reports that the Iraqi government is giving money and free flights to Iraqi citizens in Egypt who want to leave the country. More than 1,700 Iraqis have taken the government's offer, the network reports, "with Iraq making use of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's personal plane and one provided by transport ministry, while families who opt to stay in Egypt are also to receive financial support."

9:09 a.m.  The Associated Press reports that Danish Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen has become the first European Union leader to call publicly and definitively for President Mubarak to step down. "Mubarak is history. Mubarak must step down," he said. "Mubarak made a huge blunder yesterday."

9:05 a.m.  Check out NJ's Tumblr site for a great picture of the packed Tahrir Square. Today's protests are expected to be the largest we've seen yet.

8:29 a.m. Where in the world is Hosni Mubarak?

The New York Times issues a breaking news alert: "Mubarak Has Left Cairo, a Western Official Says."

Al Arabiya television is reporting he went to the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, where he has a villa, for a "break," BBC reports. Israel's Channel 10 is reporting the same thing.

ABC's Christiane Amanpour tweets: "Senior egyptian official tells me Mubarak has left Cairo. Remains in Egypt as figurehead Prez. He left last night after speech to nation."

Meanwhile, Al-Jazeera tweets in Arabic: "Multiple sources are discussing the departure of President Hosni Mubarak from Egypt to the United Arab Emirates."

8:10 a.m.  The Muslim Brotherhood issued a statement dismissing Mubarak's speech as a trick, Reuters reports:

"Mubarak appeared before us with a stinging speech that proves that he is still in charge. He still says he will do this and do that but will delegate authority to his deputy. But it's just more deceptive words to stop the people's demands," the statement said.

"The two statements issued by Mubarak and his deputy are rejected by the people," it continued, then addressed the people. "It is your fate to face an arrogant, corrupt regime that is betting on your patience and ability running out, so prove how patient and determined and insistent you are and take back your rights."

8:06 a.m.  BBC is reporting that several thousand people have gathered outside Egypt's state television building since the end of Friday prayers. People there have been "extremely vocal and they are shouting their hostility at the Mubarak regime directly at its main mouthpiece," BBC reports.

7:56 a.m.  Hossam Badrawi, the secretary general of Mubarak's National Democratic Party, had told Britain's Channel 4 News yesterday (see yesterday, 10:44 a.m.) that Mubarak was stepping down. Today, in a follow-up conversation with the network, he actually stands by his earlier remarks: "The delivery of the speech was bad, because he spoke about himself and as if he is going to follow things up, but the reality is that he is not in power. Constitutional action is being taken," Badrawi said, noting that if Mubarak stood down there would need to be an election in 60 days. 

"The solution is giving authority to the vice-president. But this does not include changing any article of the constitution or appointing the government. President Mubarak is out in all his powers apart from calling for a referendum on the constitution and also appointing the cabinet. The reality will stand. The message is clear and black and white. But the delivery did not give the right impression," Badrawi said. 

7:40 a.m.  Stock market futures were lower this morning, in part because of worries about the stand-off in Egypt between protesters and President Hosni Mubarak. The Wall Street Journal reports that renewed risk aversion pushed stocks down in South Korea and Taiwan overnight, and European stocks were mostly weaker, too.

7:39 a.m.  Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad weighs in:

"Despite all the [West's] complicated and satanic designs ... a new Middle East is emerging without the Zionist regime and U.S. interference, a place where the arrogant powers will have no place," Ahmadinejad told a crowd, according to the Associated Press.

Ahmadinejad, speaking on the anniversary of his country's 1979 Islamic Revolution that toppled the pro-U.S. shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and made Iran an Islamic republic, urged Egyptian protesters to keep protesting until Mubarak steps down. "It's your right to be free. It's your right to exercise your will and sovereignty ... and choose the type of government and the rulers," he said.

Yet ahead of a large rally planned Monday in Iran in solidarity with the Egypt and Tunisia uprisings, "Iranian authorities have blocked reformist websites and detained several opposition supporters and activists," CNN reports, citing opposition website Saham News. The reported crackdown comes just days after authorities warned that the rally will be confronted by force if it takes place.

7:02 a.m.  Mohamed ElBaradei tweets: "Entire nation is on the streets. Only way out is for regime to go. People power can't be crushed. We shall prevail. Still hope army can join."

Several news networks are reporting today's protests are expected to be the largest in the crisis so far.

7:00 a.m.  More on statement from the Egyptian army. It's calling for an end to emergency rule, but only when the current crisis passes, CNN reports. The army will work to ensure free presidential elections in September and pursue  justice in court cases and disputed parliamentary seats.

6:50 a.m.  Egypt's supreme military council has announced that it backs Mubarak's decision to remain in office but transfer powers to Omar Suleiman as part of a gradual transition, according to the Washington Post. Yet faced with throngs of people in Tahrir Square or even outside the presidential palace, the army has not removed them, stopping only at encouraging people to "return to normal life," in a military statement read on state television.

6:47 a.m.  In an opinion piece in The New York Times today, Mohammed ElBaradei, the Nobel laureate and opposition leader during the protests, dismissed Mubarak's plan to transfer powers as being "deaf" to his own people and "hanging on obsessively to power that is no longer his to keep."

ElBaradei called for the creation of a three-person presidential council and transitional government of national unity that would include a representative of the military. "The interim government during this period should be to set in motion the process that will turn Egypt into a free and democratic society," he writes.

6:45 a.m. The Atlantic's Graeme Wood writes from Cairo that last night was the closest Mubarak will ever get to a graceful exit.

"As Mubarak started his speech tonight, the crowd hushed and was ready to hear him out. They wanted celebration, not blood. They seemed ready to cheer and exult, and would surely have done so even if all Mubarak said was that he intended to resign immediately. He wouldnt even have had to agree to a fixed date for elections. A simple 'I'm going' would have sufficed. Instead the crowd murmured in disbelief as Mubarak droned on, defiantly granting no substantive concession whatsoever," Wood writes. "I filed out of Tahrir with a crowd that kicked up dust as it went, like a cattle stampede. By now it was nearly midnight, and many who had come to watch history being made went home filled with rage..."

6:40 a.m.  Now it’s Suleiman’s turn to try his hand as the country’s de facto ruler, even if Mubarak retains his title as president. Suleiman is already using an array of tactics—many modeled on ones that Mubarak employed during his decades in office—to weaken the protest movement and buy more time for the regime, NJ's Yochi Dreazen writes in the magazine.

6:30 a.m.  National Journal's Yochi Dreazen writes that Mubarak’s surprising declaration that he will retain power—at least nominally—represents a worst-case scenario for the Obama administration, which faces the prospect of either escalating a showdown with one of its most important regional allies or sitting by as the Mubarak regime takes potentially violent steps to preserve its rule.

In the hours before Mubarak’s defiant address, several U.S. officials made clear that they were privately thrilled by the prospects of Mubarak’s departure. Instead, the White House is now confronting an entrenched regime that has publicly rejected several of its key demands – most notably for the immediate lifting of Egypt’s emergency laws – and seems almost certain to take a harder line towards the pro-democracy protesters in the days ahead.

6:00 a.m. (Feb. 11) Mubarak's not gone and neither are the protesters. Keep following this blog for live updates from the 18th day of protests. 

-- February 10 live blog below --

10:00 p.m. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., President Obama's rival in the 2008 election, said called Mubarak's speech "deeply unfortunate and troubling" in a statement released tonight. "The voices of the Egyptian people are growing louder and more unified, and they are not demanding partial transfers of power or minor adjustments to the current government. They are calling for President Mubarak to step down as the beginning of a meaningful and enduring transition to democracy in Egypt."

8:36 p.m. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's refusal to step down serves as a reminder of the limits of America's influence, writes National Journal's Marc Ambinder.

8:07 p.m. In a harsh statement issued tonight, President Obama said the "Egyptian government must put forward a credible, concrete, and unequivocal path toward genuine democracy, and they have not yet seized that opportunity."

5:40 p.m. Egyptian ambassador to the U.S. Sameh Shoukry tells CNN he was calling to clarify "confusion" on their program over Mubarak's speech:

"The de jure head of state in Egypt is the president [Hosni Mubarak] who has transferred all his power to the vice president," Shoukry said. "The de facto head of state is Omar Suleiman. For undertaking all decisions and responsibilities under the constitution, [the president] is Omar Suleiman."

In his speech, Shoukry said, Mubarak "did indicate very clearly that he was transferring all his presidential authority to the vice president. He had done so after he had referred to the parliament the constitutional amendment on which the political reform would proceed. The president has transferred his authority under Article 82 of the constitution to the vice president to undertake all presidential authority that is incorporated in the constitution. Currently, all the presidential powers are bestowed in the vice president."

The only three things Suleiman cannot do, even though he is responsible for the presidential powers, are: making amendments to the constitution, dissolving parliament, or firing the cabinet, Shoukry said.

Those decisions can still only be made by the president, he added. But because Mubarak has transferred his powers, Mubarak does not even hold those powers anymore.

"The constitution retains those powers and they are not any longer bestowed with anyone," Shoukry said. This means that no one can dissolve the parliament. Command of the military has also been transferred to Suleiman, he added.

"Does this mean Mubarak has no power?" CNN's Wolf Blitzer asked. "That is an interpretation that you can make," Shoukry responded.

Can Mubarak get his powers back? "That's a very technical issue," Shoukry said, adding that he cannot speak to it without referring to the constitution.

Will Mubarak stay in Egypt? "I have no information regarding that issue," Shoukry said, but added that currently Mubarak is still in Egypt.

5:31 p.m. "I hope with all my heart for Egypt's nascent democracy that they take time to create the structures and principles that will help them find the path to democracy and not another form of dictatorship, religious dictatorship, like what happened in Iran," France's President Nicolas Sarkozy said, according to BBC.

5:18 p.m. CNN's Arabic language specialists have "scrubbed" the part of the speech where Mubarak talks about a transfer of powers to find the best translation, Wolf Blitzer said.

"Maybe he wanted to leave it a little bit vague but he [Mubarak] said he was 'delegating power,'" Blitzer said. "He didn't say he was delegating 'some power,' at the same time he didn't say he was delegating 'all power,' he didn't say he was delegating 'the power,' he said he was 'delegating power to the vice president.'"

"But even though he's delegating power to the vice president, he's still president of Egypt, and that's not what the protesters wanted to hear," he continued.

5:14 p.m. BBC reports that British Foreign Secretary William Hague said it is still unclear what powers have been transferred by Mubarak, adding that "the solution has to be owned by the Egyptian people themselves."

5:09 p.m. Looks like the protests may continue for yet another day. "I wanted to hear that he [Mubarak] understands his people... that he respects his people. All we want to hear is that he will go in peace, no bloodshed," one protester told CNN. When asked what he plans to do now, the protester said he's "ready to die" and will be back the following day to call for Mubarak's immediate resignation.

Another protester said, "We won't give up, we won't give in, until we see our people win."

5:00 p.m. Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., said that the amount of aid the U.S. gives to Egypt means "we have leverage."

"We need to make it very clear to those who have the ability of facilitating the next governing authority…that we fully expect that that government respect our alliance and the alliance of our cherished ally, Israel," Pence said on MSNBC.

4:53 p.m. President Obama watched Mubarak's speech while on Air Force One, according to the White House pool report. Gibbs says that Obama will meet his national security team at the White House later today.

4:42 p.m. Suleiman speaks after Mubarak:

"The January 25 movement has succeeded in making a change in the party of democracy, history has begun," Suleiman said, according to the BBC translation.

"Constitutional decisions have been taken, commissions were formed to implement what the president decided in terms of directives in his February 1 speech. What the president announced today stresses once again his national feeling and his siding with the legitimate demands of the people and his commitment to the many pledges he made in the past. It also proves his awareness of the seriousness of the situation that Egypt is going through. The president had put the supreme interests of the people above everything else," he said.

"After Mr. President has delegated me to carry on the responsibility of the national work to keep stability and security in Egypt and to safeguard the gains and achievements of its people and to put away the dangers and to resume stability and to resume normal life. We have opened the door for the dialogue and the roadmap has been placed," he said, according to the NBC translation. "Demands will be accomplished based on the timetable and the door is still open for more dialogue. I am committed to carry on whatever is necessary to assure transfer of power according to the constitution."

"I call upon the young people, the heroes of Egypt: go back to your houses, go back to work. …let’s be creative together," he said, according to the CNN translation. "Do not listen to the satellite stations that have no objective but to have sedition among people…just listen to your consciences and to your awareness of the dangers that are around you."

4:21 p.m. The crowds in Tahrir Square are still chanting "leave, leave," as Mubarak announces after a long address from the presidential palace that he will transfer his powers to Suleiman and enact political reform—but will not leave the country, the Associated Press reports. He said he would lift emergency law when conditions permitted, AP reports.

The protesters are marching to the presidential palace, NBC reports.

In an address directed to the young people of Egypt, Mubarak said he was pained about the deaths that have occurred since protests began 17 days ago, saying that the blood of the victims will not go in vain. "I will not be easy in punishing the people who have caused these injuries and I will hold accountable all the people who committed crimes against you," he said, according to the CNN translation. His priority now, he said, is to "restore the confidence" of Egyptians themselves and make sure changes will not be reversed.

"Egypt is going through difficult times right now and we cannot do anything that will cause damage to our economy and losses to our economy day after day," Mubarak said, according to the CNN translation. "This will cause Egypt a lot of damage... All Egyptians are in the same bunker right now and we really need to keep up with the dialogue we started recently... We have to keep away from disputes so that we can get out of this current crisis and restore confidence in our economy and have safety for all the people in the streets so that they can get on with their normal lives again."

Each day, Egypt will work towards peaceful transition by elections in September, Mubarak said, according to the CNN translation.

3:21 p.m. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, has spent time with Suleiman in his former capacity as Egypt’s intelligence chief. “He’s very capable, very smart and very tough,” Casey said on MSNBC, adding that Suleiman is unlikely to be accepted as a long-term leader for the country.

Both Republicans and Democrats support democracy in Egypt, said Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., a member of the Armed Services Committee. “Our politics ought to end on the water’s edge on this,” Udall said on MSNBC. It’s an issue important to the world’s economy, U.S. national security, and energy supplies, he said.

“It’s also important about driving our values throughout the world,” Udall said.

“There’s been a lot of bipartisanship on this, thank goodness,” Casey added. “So far there’s been for the most part unanimity and there should be…. We’ve got to be a constructive force.”

2:48 p.m.  Michael Singh, former senior director for Middle East affairs at the National Security Council, responds to the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper’s comments earlier today (see post 11:39) describing the Muslim Brotherhood as a “largely secular” group in Egypt:

“It’s not quite right to call them a secular organization,” Singh said. “It’s true that they are laymen, they’re not clergy, but that doesn’t make them secular… they do believe in a big role for religion in the state, they don’t believe in the separation of mosque and state,” he added.

“It’s hard to know what kind of policies or ideologies [the Muslim Brotherhood] would have without the suppression of the Egyptian authorities preventing them from perhaps saying what they really feel," he said.

The group had announced yesterday that they did not intend to offer a presidential candidate to run in elections after Mubarak steps down – whenever that might be. "The Muslim Brotherhood are not seeking power," the group's media spokesman, Mohammed Morsi, told reporters. "We want to participate, not to dominate. We will not have a presidential candidate. We want to participate and help. We are not seeking power."

1:40 p.m.  President Obama delivered remarks about Egypt during a planned speech about a national wireless initiative in Marquette, Mich.

"I just want to say that we are following today's events in Egypt very closely. And we'll have more to say as this plays out. But what is absolutely clear is that we are witnessing history unfold," Obama said. "It's a moment of transformation that's taking place because the people of Egypt are calling for change. They've turned out in extraordinary numbers representing all ages and all walks of life. But it's young people who've been at the forefront. A new generation. Your generation, who want their voices to be heard."

"Going forward we want those young people and we want all Egyptians to know America will continue to do everything that we can to support an orderly and genuine transition to democracy in Egypt," he continued. "Now as we watch what's taking place, we're also reminded that we live in an inter-connected world. What happens across the globe has an impact on each and every one of us."

1:22 p.m. Egypt's information minister Anas el-Fiqqi denies on Egyptian state television that Mubarak will step down, according to the Associated Press. "But the minister's comment raises the possibility that Mubarak could announce a half-measure, such as keeping his title while relinquishing his executive powers," AP reports.

1:16 p.m. According to NBC, President Obama is expected to make brief remarks about the situation in Egypt during a planned speech about a national wireless initiative in Marquette, Mich. The speech is due to start at 1:30. Watch it live here.

12:59 p.m. National Journal's James Kitfield writes that indications that Mubarak will step down potentially moves the Egyptian drama a major step forward. "The next few days and weeks will determine whether the direction is towards a more orderly democratic transition, or a dangerous descent into further paralysis and chaos on the streets," he writes.

"The critical question now is whether Vice President Omar Suleiman and his tight circle of advisers and senior officials, most of them former military officers themselves, can command any more credibility in the eyes of the opposition movement," Kitfield writes. "Certainly there is little in the resume of the former intelligence chief and right-hand man to Mubarak to suggest that Suleiman will emerge as the hero of a democratic revolution. Many regime faithful with a huge stake in the status quo may still hope that Mubarak’s resignation takes all of the air out of the protest movement."

"The key to watch now is whether Suleiman, senior military leaders, and major elements of the opposition can coalesce behind a series of reforms credible enough to quell street protests," he adds.

12:55 p.m. The State Department launched a Twitter account in Arabic yesterday to transmit messages to the Arab world (@USAbilAraby). Its first day on the social media site weighed in on the Egyptian protests so far – but there have been no tweets yet from today.

Meanwhile, the State Department daily press briefing has been moved to a time still “to be determined.”

12:48 p.m.  A White House pool report in from Tribune reporter Mike Memoli has more details about what Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said to reporters during his in-flight gaggle. Here's his report:

Tell us what you know:  “I am watching much of what you’re watching. We’re watching I think a very fluid situation. What we’re looking for and what the president spoke about many days ago remains our priority: an orderly transition to a free and fair election. What we’re looking for remains unchanged.”

Gibbs would not comment on Leon Panetta’s comments on whether Mubarak is stepping down. “I don’t know what question elicited what testimony so I want to, without having seen that I think that would be tough for me to come at,” he said.

More on what the president was briefed on, beyond his conversation with Donilon in the Oval: “The president – we’re watching the same thing you are. I don’t want to prejudge what might happen later today. I think we’ve been clear in the many preceding days that what we have wanted to see and most importantly what the people of Egypt wanted to see was irreversible change, and we’ll monitor throughout the day what is happening today.”

Later Gibbs said that, “We are in contact with our embassy obviously in Cairo. We are watching the reports that you are. I don’t know what the outcome of what is happening today will be.”Asked if Vice President Suleiman would indeed take control, Gibbs said he was “not going to get in over the tips of my skis on this one.”“I will endeavor to get us the best information throughout the day. But I don’t want to get into a series of hypotheticals,” he said.

Asked if power could indeed transfer to Suleiman according to the Egyptian Constitution, Gibbs said: “I have an inkling of that, but let me get better clarification from those that have a better reading of the Egyptian Constitutions.”

Asked if Obama would call Mubarak, Gibbs repeated: “We’re going to monitor what happens and react as the situation warrants.”

Gibbs would not say when Obama learned that Mubarak's resignation was a possibility - if it was during a briefing he had with NSA Tom Donilon in the Oval Office before leaving or during the flight to Michigan. "We continue to be in contact with the White House and as this situation and events warrant we will keep you apprised."

[Deputy White House Chief of Staff] Alyssa Mastramonaco and [former Deputy Chief of Staff] Mona Sutphen were on board to brief POTUS, and [Gibbs said] "We obviously travel with a compliment of folks from the NSC can than keep the president apprised of any developments."

12:46 p.m. More from NJ's Megan Scully at the House Foreign Relations Committee hearing:

Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., called Mubarak's expected resignation an "immiment and historic change ... in that part of the world."

Pence asked Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg whether he expects Mubarak to resign, but the clock ran out on his questioning before the State Department's No. 2 official could fully respond to Pence's lengthy question. In the brief time he had to reply, Steinberg said the United States has made clear what it expects in the next government in Egypt, and has laid out a set of principles the next government should embody (i.e., a democratic, inclusive government that respects open society).

12:35 p.m. The Guardian's Martin Chulov tweets that Egypt state television is broadcasting a segment called 'Egypt is Changing'. "Total about face and best pointer yet to the end of Mubarak," he tweets.

12:28 p.m. Former Sen. Arlen Specter, D-Pa., tells MSNBC: "We have to recognize that President Mubarak is a very proud man…he has to be eased out." Specter is a former chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

12:27 p.m. President Obama made a surprise stop at a small lunch spot in Marquette, Mich. When asked to comment about the situation with Mubarak in Egypt, Obama said: "We're going to have to wait and see what's going on."

12:17 p.m. Stay tuned. Sky News is reporting that Mubarak will give an address from the presidential palace at 1:30 p.m. EST.

12:14 p.m. Egyptian state television announced that Mubarak is now meeting with Suleiman at the presidential palace, according to NBC's Richard Engel, who noted that the broadcast stressed that Mubarak is still president.

12:04 p.m.  Director of National Intelligence James Clapper adds (see post at 11:39) that what's happening across the Middle East represents a "truly a tectonic event."

11:56 a.m.  White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said that President Obama was briefed in the Oval Office this morning by National Security Adviser Tom Donilon, but would not give further details about what the president knew of the situation, according to the White House pool report.

Gibbs also said: “We’re watching a very fluid situation” -- a phrase he has used many times since the beginning of the Egypt crisis.

11:54 a.m.  More on CIA Director Leon Panetta from NJ's Chris Strohm:

Panetta said he assumes that Mubarak would turn over more power to Suleiman if he steps down today. "I would assume that he would turn over more of his powers to Suleiman to be able to direct the country and direct the reforms that hopefully will take place," Panetta said.

But he cautioned that U.S. intelligence has not confirmed that Mubarak will step down. "I received reports that possibly Mubarak might do that," Panetta said. "We are continuing to monitor the situation. We have not gotten specific word that he will in fact do that."

He added that what happens in Egypt can affect what happens in other countries, saying the "ingredients" in Egypt such as social strife and unemployment are present in other countries. “I think the triggers, the factors that kicked off in Egypt could very well” affect other countries, Panetta said.

Panetta said there is "tremendous opportunity" for positive reforms in Egypt. “There’s no question that what we are seeing happen in Egypt will have tremendous impact," he added. "If it’s done right it will help us a great deal in trying to promote security in that part of the world.”

11:50 a.m.  CBS Radio’s Mark Knoller tweets that White House press secretary Robert Gibbs would not confirm or deny whether Mubarak will step aside tonight.

Gibbs also said, according to Knoller, “What we are looking for remains unchanged.”

In previous briefings, Gibbs has said the White House is looking to see specific constitutional changes, the lifting of the country’s emergency law, the release of political prisoners, an end to the arrest and harassment of protestors and journalists, an end to beatings and detentions, and a discussion about the future of Egypt that includes representatives from all parts of society.

11:44 a.m. A high-level army council met today -- without Mubarak, as was originally planned. Here's the full text of that army council meeting from BBC:

"In the name of God, Statement No. 1, issued by the Higher Council of the Armed Forces, stemming from the armed forces' responsibility and committing to the protection of the people, safeguarding their interest and security, and keen on the safety of the homeland, the citizens and the achievements of the great Egyptian people, and asserting the legitimate rights of the people, the Higher Council of the Armed Forces convened today... to deliberate on the latest developments of the situation and decided to remain in continuous session to discuss what measures and arrangements could be taken to safeguard the homeland and its achievements, and the aspirations of the great Egyptian people."

11:39 a.m.  Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told House lawmakers that the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt is "largely secular" and has rejected violence and decried al-Qaida as a perversion of Islam, NJ's Chris Strohm reports.

11:29 a.m. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs declined to say whether the president had been briefed this morning about the rumors that Mubarak would resign tonight, but did say the president was watching the events unfold on television aboard Air Force One, NBC's Chuck Todd said via Twitter.

“We’re watching the same thing you are,” Gibbs said, according to Todd.

11:24 a.m. No one has gone anywhere yet, says Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq, who told state television: "No decisions have been passed on from the president. Everything is normal. Everything is still in the hands of the president."

11:23 a.m.  National Journal's Megan Scully reports that Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg did not directly address the unfolding situation in Egypt today during a hearing this morning before the House Foreign Affairs Committee. But he said the United States needs to be prepared to deal with "events as they emerge."

Steinberg also stressed that change must be orderly, while also being driven by the Egyptian people and inclusive of "legitimate voices" in Egyptian society.

11:18 a.m.  Reports that Mubarak will step down reflect "a great move for the Egyptian people and all those young protesters," former ambassador to Morocco Marc Ginsberg said on MSNBC.

"Tomorrow's purported demonstration on Friday was not only going to be significant but it could have probably marked a massive turning point int he demonstrations, because the demonstrators were planning on marching on the presidential palace in front of the military," Ginsberg said. "It could have been another potential bloody confrontation. I think President Mubarak realized... [after] the strikes had spread to public officials, public servants, workers unions, that the hope for dissipation of the enthusiasm of the protesters... has evaporated."

11:17 a.m.  National Journal's Chris Strohm reports that CIA Director Leon Panetta told House lawmakers today:

“As you can see, I got the same information you did, that there is a strong likelihood that Mubarak may step down this evening, which would be significant in terms of where the hopefully orderly transition in Egypt takes place," Panetta said.

Panetta, along with other senior Obama administration officials including the nation’s top spy, defended U.S. intelligence assessments of the turmoil rocking Egypt and other countries in the Middle East and North Africa in recent days while testifying before the House Intelligence Committee.

11:09 a.m.   Al-Jazeera is reporting, however, that many protesters in Tahrir Square are demanding that Mubarak's resignation will not be enough -- they want the entire administration to resign. "They want a one-year transitional period before full parliamentary elections -- during which a three-person presidential council should run the country while a panel of experts write a new, permanent constitution -- taking advice from opposition groups and senior, high-profile Egyptians, including the Muslim Brotherhood," Al-Jazeera reports.

10:57 a.m. NBC’s live feed of the protests in Tahrir Square indicates that the tens of thousands of people there may not have received this same news, reports Ron Allen from NBC News.

“I think word has not reached the Square that this is what’s going to happen tonight. The scene is festive, there are a lot of people here... but right now... kids, for example, are getting on top of the tank and taking pictures with soldiers."

"It’s a far cry from what you think is happening... in terms of the president about to step down here after so many decades in power. Such a contrast," he continued. "But the crowd I'm sure is going to be very, very excited and relieved, and there will be a huge applause and a huge recognition of this...  but I think that some here are just going to see this as another step, they want the whole regime dismantled."

10:44 a.m.  The newly appointed secretary-general of Mubarak’s National Democratic Party, Hossam Badrawi, said that Mubarak is currently discussing the possibility of transferring power to his vice president, Omar Suleiman.

“I believe he will make a move probably tonight,” he told Britain’s Channel 4 news. “I’m expecting him to pass his decision for the constitutional amendments and for him to go to the constitution and transmit his authorities as president to the vice president,” he said.

Mubarak “sees himself as the hero of the war,” and having taken care of the country during difficult economic times, Badrawi said. “He sees himself as someone who served this country,” Badrawi said of Mubarak. “He made mistakes but he sees himself as someone that does not deserve getting out of power of his service that way. But at the same time he realizes that that’s the time to change. That’s my impression in the last two days since I became part of the situation.”

See the Badrawi video here.

10:39 a.m.  Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is expected to step down tonight, NBC is reporting, caving to the demands of pro-democracy protesters demanding this for 17 days.

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