Larry King Live Transcript
Investigating the President: Should Secret Service Agents Have to Testify?
Aired July 14, 1998 - 9:00 p.m. ET
This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, they've got the huge responsibility of protecting the president of the United States. Should they have to tell grand jury what they see, what they hear? We'll debate the possible testimony of Secret Service personnel with a great panel.
In Chicago, Tim McCarthy, the former Secret Service agent who took a bullet for Ronald Reagan on that fateful day in 1981. Mr. McCarthy's former colleague, Jerry Parr, joins us in Washington. He was the agent who shoved President Reagan into the limousine as the shots were fired. ABC White House correspondent Sam Donaldson was also there that day, and he is with us tonight. And in Monterey, California, Leon Panetta, former White House chief of staff under President Clinton. They are all next on LARRY KING LIVE.
We want to begin by wishing a very happy anniversary to Leon Panetta and his lovely wife Sylvia. How many years is it now, Leon?
LEON PANETTA, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: Thirty-six years.
KING: And they said it wouldn't last.
Of course we'll talk with Tim and Jerry more about the assassination attempt and that terrible day in 1981. But right now let's get to the news right at hand. We have confirmed, as have others, that Ken Starr has subpoenaed the head of President Clinton's security detail. Special Agent Larry Cockell. It's the first time Starr has sought testimony from any agents on the president's personal detail.
Tim, good idea or bad?
TIM MCCARTHY, FORMER SECRET SERVICE AGENT: Well, I think, Larry, you can probably add something to the debate, here, Larry. I don't have any idea what he's subpoenaed him for. I don't know that Larry was agent in charge at the time of the alleged events that have created this...
KING: How about just the general principle of the bringing a Secret Service person to a grand jury? MCCARTHY: I think that's exactly what they'll talk about and I think Larry who -- in fact, I know very well will tell them what he thinks the impact will be between the president and his protectors as well as what the impact may be between the Secret Service and four dignitaries they protect and the Secret Service and candidates for the presidency and vice presidency.
So Larry has a long experience in the Secret Service, and I think he'll bring a lot of the table to explain why this is a bad idea to bring these agents before the grand jury.
KING: If he's been subpoenaed, though, Jerry will he not be asked questions about the things he's seen in the White House directly?
JERRY PARR, FORMER SECRET SERVICE AGENT: I believe he will be asked Larry. And I think the seeds of distrust will begin right there at that moment.
KING: Distrust of whom by whom?
PARR: Well the distrust by perhaps the president and the staff. And the confidentiality and trust that the Secret Service has always maintained with that office.
KING: What, Jerry, is the role of the -- what does it say when you sign on to be a Secret Service agent, there are many facets, right? You investigate counterfeiting. You're in the treasury department. What does it say about the president?
PARR: It does not say anything, except that we will protect the president. And we're -- people of worth and honor. And that's the confidentiality issue here and it has all to do with the proximity issue. And it's all tied together in a complex way. But the reality of it is, is that agents are trained to cover and evacuate. And if you don't have proximity, you can't cover.
KING: Is anything said, Tim, when you sign on about confidentiality?
MCCARTHY: Well, there's no document that you sign, at least by the time I retired, Larry, about confidentiality. However, going on to the president, presidential detail, or vice presidential detail, it was made very clear to you in your briefings that what what you see there and what you hear there would remain there.
And not only because much of it could be confidential, much of it is classified, secret and top secret, but also for the issue that we're talking about, I believe, today, that if the protectee feels that the agents could relay information to others about what's going on, certainly, as Jerry said, the issue of proximity will change, and there will be mistrust of the agents.
And you have to remember, when an individual becomes a protectee of the Secret Service, whether it's a foreign dignity, a candidate for the presidency or anything else there's mistrust to begin with. They're worried for example if they're a candidate from the Republican Party and the president is a Democrat, that they may be passing information back to the president, for example, or to his staff. It's not true. And it doesn't happen.
But it's difficult to get over that mistrust that they have that you're an intelligence agent. And this is, as Jerry said, I couldn't have said it better -- it's going to plant the seed of mistrust between the protectors and the protectees.
KING: Where does Sam Donaldson who has been witness to this kind of thing, as we've said, stand on this?
SAM DONALDSON, ABC WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I've been listening to the two guys who are heroes, and I admire them both. But I must tell you, mistrust about what? If the president wants to talk about Boris Yeltsin, he does it inside the Oval Office. Tim and Jerry are not there. They're outside.
He wants to talk to his secretary of state in the situation room about a very difficult, complex situation, the Secret Service is not there. He wants to go in the family theater whatever he wants to do in the family theater, the Secret Service is not inside there. It's outside the door.
A president of the United States can have the kind of conversations with his wife, with his secretary of state, with his advisers if he wants to with the Secret Service not present. So what is it that the president fears? Well, in this present case, as I understand it, the subpoena is to try to testify about possible criminal matters. I'm not prejudging Mr. Clinton's case, but speaking only in general principles, if there's a possible criminal matter, should a president be shielded from that? What are we talking about when we said "mistrust?" I don't understand it.
KING: Well stated. Leon Panetta former White House chief of staff, is a Secret Service agent above the law?
PANETTA: No. Certainly, a Secret Service agent is not above the law, and neither is the president. But the issue here relates to the role and the responsibility of the Secret Service. Look, the biggest responsibility that I had as chief of staff was to ensure that you did not put the president in a situation that jeopardized his life.
And you have to rely on the Secret Service, and their advice and their guidance and their protection. That's their whole responsibility. And as these two gentlemen, who are Secret Service agents, have said, proximity is the whole issue. If they aren't near the president, then you begin to jeopardize their ability to protect the president.
So for that reason, I think we have got to be very, very careful about doing anything that creates suspicion here between the president and the Secret Service agent who is supposed to protect him.
KING: But as Sam pointed out, what's the problem of -- when they -- the president can control proximity with regard to conversations? PANETTA: Well, that's not exactly true. You know, and Sam has been around a while and knows a lot of where the president can go. But the reality is that the president jumps into his vehicle. He's got a staff person who jumps into the car with him. There are Secret Service agents in the car. The president has to have phone conversations from the vehicle.
The president goes to an event. If he pulls a staff member aside or a staff member has something to say to the president at that point, there's going to be a Secret Service agent who is near the president, but they may well have to exchange important information. So you can't always isolate the president from the kind of conversations he has to have. You have got to assume...
KING: And what if the conver...
PANETTA: ... that a Secret Service agent is going to protect that confidentiality.
KING: And Leon, a key point that Sam made -- what if a conversation is in the Secret Service agent's opinion of a criminal nature?
PANETTA: I think...
KING: Let's take it bizarre -- what does he do with that?
PANETTA: Well, look, the Secret Service itself has said in seeking a privilege here that there is an exception where the Secret Service agent is witness to a crime. As a matter of fact, there's responsibility on the Secret Service agent not only to report it, but to prevent it.
So the real question is not so much whether or not he sees a crime and where the law, I think, is pretty clear. The real question is, do you allow a special consul; a fishing expedition with regards to Secret Service agents and the conversations that go around the president?
DONALDSON: But Larry.
PANETTA: That's the fundamental issue.
KING: Sam, we'll have you pick up on that, and we'll get everybody involved. We'll be taking your calls. This is LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, JUNE 2, 1998)
DAN QUAYLE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: First and foremost, the Secret Service are not in the Oval Office when you're conducting business. They're there when the press comes in or when you have a whole large group of people. But you're -- they're not there when you meet with your chief of staff, your national security adviser, the vice president or your Cabinet members. The Secret Service is not around. The Secret Service is not trained to eavesdrop on presidential conversations. The Secret Service is trained to protect the president. I have -- I do not believe that this is going to compromise the Secret Service from doing their job. They're great men and women. And when it comes to criminal matters, when it comes to criminal matters, if they can prove or disprove a crime, they ought to be allowed to testify.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Dan Quayle -- and you know -- if you do not know, I believe, that both Presidents Carter and Ford, Gerald Ford will be with us next week, by the way, agree with Vice President Quayle that the Secret Service can be summoned. In a couple of minutes we'll give you George Bush's statement as to why they should not, but Sam you wanted to respond to Leon.
DONALDSON: Well, Leon is quite right, and I defer to his expertise over mine, as to conversations Secret Services may hear presidents say. But no one's asking him to say, "Did the misses throw a lamp at him? Did he tell a ribald joke? Did he say to Leon," with all due respect, "here's what we do about the Republicans on the Hill next week?" Information that would be very harmful to you if the Republicans heard it.
But no one's asking the Secret Service. And I would personally be dead-set against anyone having the ability to ask the Secret Service to testify about those matters. You know, I would think if I were the president and they said, "Well, you had this relationship with this woman, the Secret Service" -- I would want every agent to run down there and testify under oath and say, "Tell them the truth, boys," and "It's not true!" What is it we're hiding here?
KING: Let's give Tim McCarthy a hypothetic. Tim, you're in the seat in the car with the president of the United States. You're protecting him; you're driving along; he gets a phone call. He says on the phone "There's no -- there's a terrorist lose. We can't prove he's going to do something. Get rid of him." He orders the getting- rid of a man who had not done anything because of the suspicion that he might. It's obviously a order of a criminal act. What does the agent do?
MCCARTHY: Well, I think first, Larry, to say get rid of him -- I know what you're getting at. If he said, "He must be assassinated, must be assassinated immediately..."
KING: Yeah, all right, let's say he says that. What does he do?
MCCARTHY: It appears to be a criminal act and the Secret Service has stated that they will report any criminal act that they see or that they think is happening in an attempt to prevent it. And that would be the time to take it directly to the special agent in charge and the director of the Secret Service to forward that to the United States attorney. The Secret Service has never said, and never should say, that they will not report a criminal act that they see, or that they hear. Felony or misdemeanor.
KING: Jerry, you agree?
PARR: I do agree, Larry, because the Secret Service has never been a palace guard. We're over there to keep them alive physically, not necessarily politically. But we're not going around killing people.
KING: Now, Sam, what, then, is the issue? If they must come forward on an obvious crime, why aren't they part, then, of a fishing expedition as Leon points it out?
DONALDSON: The understand -- the White House should be able to speak for itself. But as I understand the argument from the treasury department, they fear that a president, if he doesn't trust or she doesn't trust in the future, the agents, they will separate themselves from the agent and therefore, be potentially liable for assassination because there are no agents around. But why would a president run away from his agents if he's not going to commit an act the telling of which would get him in trouble with the law? Would someone explain that to me? Leon, maybe you can tell me why a president, if he doesn't trust his agents, would say, "I'm going to run over here to go do -- what?"
PANETTA: Sam, I think the problem that Secret Service is concerned about is that -- is the raising of the question of doubt here, in the relationship between a Secret Service agent and the president of the United States. Right now, the president and the Secret Service have this confidentiality, whereby any conversation, any phone call, any kind of discussion...
DONALDSON: But not of a criminal act. You've heard these two agents say not of that, OK. You agree with that?
PANETTA: That's correct. I agree with that.
DONALDSON: OK, then so what is he worried about?
PANETTA: Well, because the problem is that once you say, "I'm going to subpoena a Secret Service agent to testify," the reality is, Sam, it's not just testifying about, "Did you see any crime committed?" "Yes," "No." The question is, "Where were you? What did you say? Where was the president? What did he discuss? What did he say to his wife?" You go into a number of other questions that are involved here.
KING: Do you think a judge will allow a fishing expedition?
PANETTA: Well, the problem is that a judge is not present in a grand jury when they're going through that kind of questioning, and believe me, having been there, the questioning is very broad and does not have very many limits.
KING: We're going to take a break...
PANETTA: So once you have that, that can create the problem of suspicion.
KING: When I come back, we'll quote from -- of an excerpt of George Bush's letter to Lou Merletti, the Secret Service director, and we'll get more conversation. We'll include your phone calls. This is LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GERALD FORD, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: On a criminal proceeding, I believe Secret Service agents have a responsibility to testify. Criminal proceeding. I do not think there is a comparable obligation to testify on a civil action.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: This department is appealing this decision. If six of the 11 appellate judges agree to hear it, they'll hear it, and that'll delay this a lot longer. If they don't agree, the justice department could take it right to the Supreme Court, and then, of course, whether they hear it or not will determine how far along this speeds, as Starr is already beginning to call agents. The government is seeking protective privilege, a term not in any legislation we could find.
Here's an excerpt from George Bush's letter to Secret Service director Lou Merletti, quote: "... I hope that United States Secret Service agents will be exempted from testifying before the grand jury. What's at stake here is the protection of the life of the president and his family, and the confidence and trust that a president must have in the U.S.S.S. If a president feels that Secret Service agents can be called to testify about what they might have seen or heard, then it is likely the president will be uncomfortable having the agents nearby."
Tim, that's a statement you support. Is there a way to take care of both sides? One thought was, how about talking to the Secret -- the uniformed Secret Service people, but Starr wants more than that. Is there a way to a compromise here?
MCCARTHY: Larry, I don't see one, other than the fact that the agents should testify and report any type of crime they have seen. What worries me is that we can talk about this issue for a long time, we all have our opinions and reasonable people can disagree, but the Secret Service will be left with the outcome. And the outcome may well be that there is no confidentiality. And without a doubt, there is going to be a separation between the president and the Secret Service agents. As Leon said, the president is doing business 24 hours a day. You hear an awful lot. You see an awful lot. And who knows what type of precedent this would set that agents would be called upon to testify before committees and Congress, before a grand jury, and we all know how wide-ranging a grand jury is. The grand jurors can ask questions. The agent doesn't -- or anyone who testifies before a grand jury -- does not have an attorney next to them. So there's a broad array of questions that could be asked. And the Secret Service, I believe, we can talk about this forever, but the Secret Service is going to have to bear the consequences of it. Their duty is to protect the president. It's an extremely difficult mission. And Sam knows that, too, as he said, it's a very difficult mission to undertake and to accomplish. And I would hate to think later on down the road that we would say, "Gee, we made a mistake on this issue of confidentiality and the agents backed away and rather than having the 360- degree protection around the president, they were farther and farther away from him because the president was talking to staff members and didn't want the agents around him."
KING: And Jerry, are you saying tonight that there is no doubt in your mind that if a definite crime was being committed or planned or perpetrated, the agent would act to stop it and report it as well?
PARR: That's exactly what I'm saying, Larry.
KING: Sam, then what do we need this whole debate for?
DONALDSON: Well, you know, I was thinking, when I saw Tim McCarthy take that bullet and Jerry Parr push Ronald Reagan to the car, they were out in public with a lot of people around, unfortunately, a guy with a gun. When Larry Buendorf and others with Gerald Ford in two instances -- Ford was out in public. John Kennedy; I don't have to remind everyone where he was when that terrible assassination took place. With all due respect to the other argument, I don't know when a president is at the Family Theater -- inside the White House complex, inside the gates -- where the problem is from the standpoint of feeling he may separate himself from the agents, and the Secret Service would have to bear the consequences if something happens inside the Family Theater. I think it's most unlikely there.
KING: Leon, where is the danger inside?
PANETTA: Well, I think, Sam -- don't take the Family Theater or the Oval Office or what have you. Take the situation with President Reagan.
PANETTA: As he was emerging, if he at that point stopped, pulled a staff member aside to move away from a Secret Service agent to have a conversation, in that split second and within that distance, you might not have had a Secret Service agent who could have not only taken a bullet, but also, pushed him into the vehicle.
KING: Leon, you are right.
PANETTA: There may have been the opportunity for another bullet...
KING: You are right.
PANETTA: ... and that's the concern of proximity that relates to Secret Service protection.
DONALDSON: If President Reagan was worried that he would pull a staff member aside because he wanted to talk about a grave international situation, or a matter of party politics, or something like that, then you're absolutely right. But I said at the outset, I would be dead set against requiring these brave people to testify about matters other than a criminal case. If what you're saying is Ronald Reagan...
KING: A grand jury can go anywhere, Sam.
PANETTA: That's the problem.
DONALDSON: Well seriously. Mr. Parr...
PANETTA: I may trust your judgment and your ability to ask questions, but there are a lot of special prosecutors, a lot of grand jury members who can wander around with any question.
MCCARTHY: Well, Larry, I just...
DONALDSON: Did Jerry Parr or Tim McCarthy ever find, and I'm not asking the substance -- did you ever find that you were around Ronald Reagan or Jimmy Carter and heard anything that if you'd have testified about might have landed the guy in jail?
PARR: I did not. I did not.
MCCARTHY: Never. Maybe it might have been embarrassing, or maybe, you know, the political opposition -- but in jail?
KING: Sam, let me get a break.
KING: By the way, Nancy Reagan will be joining us. She does not have an opinion on this subject, as you can go both ways with it. But we will talk to her about, and of course, having the two agents with us, her relationship with the Secret Service and what she feels about these two fine men, and also about the current piece in "Vanity Fair." Nancy Reagan will be joining us by phone. This is LARRY KING LIVE. That'll happen in a little while. We'll include your phone calls for our four guests next.
KING: We're back. Let's go to some calls. Monterey, California, which is, by the way, where Leon Panetta is. Hello.
CALLER: Good evening, Larry.
CALLER: My question is for Mr. Parr, and I wanted to know, who is it that decides the agents' proximity to the president?
KING: Good question.
PARR: Yes. It's a very good question. Actually, the agent in charge, but the history of the whole philosophy of cover and evacuate means that you have to have a ring -- an inner ring of security around the president. And I would say it's the agent in charge that makes that decision. But it's really the organizational culture that also makes it.
KING: Is the president, Tim, the final word? Can he say, move away?
MCCARTHY: The president can say move away, Larry, and it often happens from his staff and others. However, it's a kind of a constant battle and a bit of friction that goes on all the time. And I know we referred to the White House a little while ago and how close the Secret Service has to be. And it has been -- and while the White House is a secure environment, I think it's also clear that not long ago Pennsylvania Avenue was closed because of a gentleman with an assault rifle who basically attacked the White House. So proximity is important, whether it's out on the streets of Washington, or even in the White House.
KING: But Jerry, in Dallas, as I remember, the Secret Service wanted a bubble-top car, and President Kennedy said no.
PARR: Yes, but the critical factor there was not that bubble- top, which was not armored, but the fact that he ordered two agents off the back and the left and the right side of the rear of that car, which made him very vulnerable to Lee Oswald's attack.
KING: Leon, isn't Sam correct, if the president is the final word, he can shoo him away now?
PANETTA: No. There's no question that as the Secret Service agents have said, if the president does -- says that, he can move them away. The real problem you have here is if, because of the threat of a subpoena, you've got a Secret Service agent who makes the decision, I'm going to stay a little further away from the president, because I don't want to hear this conversation for fear of being subpoenaed, or the president moves further away from the Secret Service agent for that reason, then what you've created is another reason for a danger to the proximity issue in which the Secret Service agent is then separated from the president. This is -- all about the protection of the president of the United States. And I think that that's one of our principle focuses has to be.
KING: We'll be right back with more and more of your phone calls. This is LARRY KING LIVE, don't go away.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KING: And by the way, in a few minutes, we'll show you that scene that day in 1981 that involved Tim and Jerry. Sam Donaldson was there, as well. Where were you, Leon Panetta, the day Reagan was shot? Ronald Reagan.
PANETTA: I was up on Capitol Hill. I was a congressman from this area, and I was working in my office and turned on the television and couldn't believe what had happened.
KING: Let's get in another call, but let me introduce the panel: Tim McCarthy, former Secret Service who took the bullet for President Reagan. As you see, he has done very well. Jerry Parr, the former Secret Service agent who pushed the president into the car. Sam Donaldson was on the scene covering, and he is now, of course, back as the White House correspondent for ABC and the co-host for "This Week With Sam Donaldson & Cokie Roberts," Sunday's on ABC. Leon Panetta's the former White House chief of staff, former congressman, former head of the OMB.
Bartlesville, Oklahoma, hello.
CALLER: Good evening, Larry, thank you for taking my call.
CALLER: My question is: Isn't the scrutiny great enough around the White House that those who are inside don't really have to worry much about the safety of the president? It's my understanding that Mr. Starr wants to talk to two in-the-White House Secret Service agents and isn't the president safe inside the White House and isn't this rather a misnomer?
KING: Sam, you would agree with that?
DONALDSON: Well, I've already stated my view that I think he's probably much safer there than out in public, and that he can do things there that won't cause him to absent himself from the Secret Service...
KING: I'm sorry, go ahead, finish, Sam. I'm sorry.
DONALDSON: Well, I was just going ask Leon, or say to Leon: Leon, let me not restate your argument -- you're a much better judge of your argument than I am. But in its extreme it seems to say that if the president doesn't have confidence in his agent and moves away in order to do something, the telling of which might be injurious to him in a criminal sense, then we've got to let him do that. In other words, if he wants to commit a criminal act, his protection is more important than reporting the criminal act, then I don't know that that argument's going to fly.
KING: Toronto, hello.
KING: Hold on, Toronto. Leon, go ahead. Hold on Toronto. Hold on.
PANETTA: Again, I think the whole point, Sam, is that there is presently -- I mean, the president can basically move away from an agent right now, if he wants to do that. The problem that you have is when you create the ability to subpoena an agent and have -- go after every conversation that the president has, whether it relates to a crime or not, then you're going to create an even greater suspicion in the relationship between the Secret Service agent and the president. That's the issue.
KING: Toronto, and then I want to show scenes, in which -- as Sam pointed out, Tim and Jerry became heroes. Toronto, hello.
CALLER: Yes, Larry, it's Bob Drakeson (ph) from Toronto. What I want to say is to Sam Donaldson is: Sam is sitting there, saying the president doesn't need the protection in his own home, in the theater, and whatever it may be; however, the queen of England, with all her protection was broken into at the palace in her bedroom. The prime minister of Canada was broken into in all the protection he has with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Now, Mr. Donaldson, don't you think the president of the United States should be protected?
DONALDSON: Absolutely. The president needs protection everywhere. My point was that if he goes to the family theater -- just to use an example -- agents are not inside there. They're at the door outside, and what is he going to do? How is he going to (INAUDIBLE) himself to do something that you say, well, he suspects his agents and then he's not going to do it? I just don't understand the logic.
KING: Tim McCarthy, you set the scene for us here in 1981. Where were you? Where was the president? You were on the street -- going to the car?
MCCARTHY: Well, Larry, the president had just finished his speech to the Building Trade Counsels. We came up the elevator -- I believe we took the elevator up to the street level and we were walking in formation around the president. Jerry, being the agent in charge, was directly behind the president, along with the shift leader, and the shift agents, such as myself, were in specific positions to provide 360 degrees of security around the president.
And, particularly, when you're out in public, that perimeter of security gets tighter and tighter around the president based upon intelligence and the environment that you're in, and we were just several feet from the armored car and the president was walking with members of the staff -- when John Hinkley pushed himself forward and actually fired six rounds in about 1.3 or 1.4 seconds out of a revolver.
KING: Did you see Hinkley?
MCCARTHY: No, I didn't. I testified before the grand jury on that, in that matter, and I did not ever see John Hinkley. I ultimately knew where the gunshots were coming from and thought I saw some of the smoke generated by the pistol, but I really never saw where John Hinkley actually pulled the trigger.
KING: Where were you hit, Tim?
MCCARTHY: I was hit in the right chest, Larry.
KING: Did you think you were in peril of dying?
MCCARTHY: Well, I had never been shot before, I hope it doesn't happen again and I didn't know. Quite frankly, I didn't know. I was down on the ground and I was conscious, and wasn't in too much distress, initially, and I thought, at least I thought optimistically, if I got help quick enough that I would do just fine. But I was just guessing and a few prayers did pass through my mind while I was waiting for the ambulance.
KING: And it was raining, right?
MCCARTHY: I think it had ended. The rain had ended just before we got out there, or it was just a slight drizzle as we got out to the car.
KING: Now Jerry Parr, what did you do? What happened with you and the president and the vehicle?
PARR: Well, Larry, when you hear gunfire, when an agent hears gunfire, you're are trained to -- first thing is to cover and evacuate. And what I did, I grabbed him by the shoulder and pushed him down behind Tim McCarthy, which shielded him from the third, fourth and probably the fifth bullet, and with Ray Shaddick (ph) behind me, we pushed him past Tim into the car and we got in there and I fell on top of the president to cover him while the door was open, and Ray Shaddick shut the door and I told the driver to get out of there fast. And that's what we did.
KING: At this table -- at this very table, President Reagan said, he didn't know he was shot.
PARR: No, that's true.
KING: The pain he felt was from your push.
PARR: This is true. But, what happened was and we found out later that he got hit a ricochet, and it was due to the training that I had and, actually, his own robust constitution that saved his life, because we were within three minutes of an excellent inner city hospital in the District, George Washington, and we got him in there, and once they found that he had been hit under the left armpit, then he made a quick recovery.
KING: Supposing he had said, Jerry, to you right before that minute, Back away, I want to say something to someone?
PARR: What's that again?
KING: Supposing he had said to you, Back away; I want to say something to somebody of a confidential nature? PARR: Well, at that moment, I don't know what would have happened, to tell you the truth, but it probably would have been dire.
DONALDSON: Now, Jerry Parr saved Ronald Reagan's life. They got in the car, they were going down Connecticut Avenue back towards the White House. As you said, Larry, the president didn't realize he had been hit. He thought maybe Jerry had broken one of his ribs, when he pushed him down to the floor. But Jerry saw blood come up from the president's mouth -- am I right?
DONALDSON: And instantly made the decision -- divert to the hospital. The hospital didn't even know they were coming. If he had waited another 30 seconds or another minute to figure out what to do, as you know when Ronald Reagan collapsed in that emergency room, he was that far from going into shock. At his age, shock would have done it.
KING: And the former first lady Nancy Reagan will join us by phone, right after this.
KING: She's been called the strongest first lady in the last 35 years. She and her husband the subject of a two-part article. The second part is out now in "Vanity Fair" and she joins our conversation by phone. She is Nancy Reagan, who I would imagine, looking at people like Tim McCarthy and Jerry Parr, Nancy, is very special to you?
NANCY REAGAN, FORMER FIRST LADY: Special? Jerry and Tim, I'm so glad to see you. I can't tell you.
MCCARTHY: How are you, Mrs. Reagan?
PARR: How are you doing?
REAGAN: I'm fine.
PARR: Good. It's good to hear your voice.
REAGAN: Good to hear yours, too.
KING: Tim were you taken to the same hospital as the president? Did you go to George Washington?
KING: I mean, Tim, you want to George Washington, right?
MCCARTHY: Yes. The only difference was, Larry, that the president walked into the hospital and I walked in by stretcher. If I had known that, I would have sprinted into the hospital, but we were just one or two bays apart in the hospital. KING: Nancy, what's the feeling of the -- well, you can't tell us of his -- your feeling towards the Secret Service when you're in that job eight years?
REAGAN: Well, I love the Secret Service, and these two fellows, you know, Tim, was absolutely right; if Jerry hadn't made the change from driving to the White House to the hospital, I wouldn't have a husband.
KING: Were there ever times you were annoyed by them, Nancy?
KING: When you didn't want them around?
REAGAN: No, I was always very happy to have them around. I -- I'm just so happy to see you, two.
MCCARTHY: Thank you.
KING: You visited Tim a lot when you would visit your husband, right?
REAGAN: Oh, sure, yes.
KING: This special feeling that develops, when you realize these men would take a bullet for you, too, right?
REAGAN: Well, I hope so -- I think so.
KING: Is it for the whole first family, Jerry?
PARR: Yes, it is.
KING: So, in other words, if a first lady is threatened, the Secret Service is that shield?
PARR: It's a cover and evacuate.
KING: Is it -- does it make a difference, Tim, what the Secret Service thinks of a person -- like, if you like Nancy, especially, does that make it a better job, more difficult job, or not, or is it just going to work?
MCCARTHY: Well, certainly that might have something to do with it, but, you know, you have to be a professional about this. Everything has to be put aside. Personality has to be put aside and you have to do your job. I was assigned to supervise Mrs. Reagan's protective detail for quite some time and I'm certain we told her a few things we simply did not want her to do, that she probably wasn't real happy with. Tim McCarthy, but Mrs. Reagan was real good about it, and always worked with us to give us the opportunity to give her and the president the best protection that we could give them.
REAGAN: I was never unhappy with you, Tim.
KING: Nancy, for a little history, where were you when Ronnie was shot?
REAGAN: I was at the White House. I had gone to a luncheon, and for some reason, this never happened to me before, or since, I suddenly had the feeling that I wanted to go. I wanted to go out and get back to the White House and I did, and I was up in the solarium.
We were in the midst of, you know, all of the stuff we were doing there and that's where George Oxford (ph) came up and found me and said, there has been an accident, a shooting, but it's all right. The president is all right. Well, by that time, I was halfway down the hall to the elevator to go to the hospital. And I did.
KING: When you got there, how quickly did you know that it was real serious?
REAGAN: Oh, I knew right away.
KING: Did they tell you in the car, pretty much?
REAGAN: No, they -- no, but they were still telling me that he wasn't hurt; that he wasn't hit. And I think it was Mike Deaver who met me at the door of the hospital and said he was hit.
KING: And Sam, where were you at this point?
DONALDSON: Well, I watched this. I was five feet from Hinkley on the rope line there, where our cameras were lined, and when he began shooting, I felt the concussions off right to my right, and I knew that after I heard shots, because I knew what shots were, it had to be the president of the United States.
And I watched Jerry and Ray (ph) push Ronald Reagan into the car, because while I was aware that Tim had fallen to the ground, and Brady, the press secretary, and Dale Handy (ph), the cop --the job of reporter in that instance, is to watch the president, with all due respect.
And I didn't think he was hit either, because suddenly a very quizzical look appeared on President Reagan's face, but it looked like a man, who, "I hear shots. This is terrible," rather than a man who had, again, felt some impact in the body. And I didn't think he had been hit.
KING: Leon, what were the first thoughts of a member of Congress?
PANETTA: Well, it was for somebody who was, as many of us saw the Kennedy assassination, saw Bobby Kennedy, saw Martin Luther King, and then to see another president shot at, it was just the sense, oh, no, I don't want the country to have to go through this again, and it was -- I can't tell you the shock. Initially, Sam's right, and Mrs. Reagan is correct, the report was that the president was not shot, and it was only later that they reported, indeed, that he was shot, and I think that just made it that much more of a shock when that news came across.
KING: Nancy, the first time you visited Tim when he was in his hospital bed, what do you say beyond thanks?
REAGAN: Well, that's about all you can say, really. How much he -- well, Tim knows how much he meant to me.
REAGAN: You know, I'm going to be lucky if I get through this program.
KING: Well we're going to help. We're going to take a break now, come back. Maybe we won't help you. We're going to show some pictures from "Vanity Fair" with Nancy Reagan. Our panel will stay with us and we'll have closing comments from everybody in a little while. Don't go away.
KING: Welcome back.
We've been discussing the possible testimony of Secret Service personnel with our distinguished panel. And former first lady Nancy Reagan has joining us by phone. The Reagans are the subject of a special report in the new "Vanity Fair" by Bob Colecolo (ph).
Part one of the report is in this month's edition. The report features some compelling pictures of the Reagans taken by Harry Benson. Part two of the report is in the august edition of "Vanity Fair" now out in newsstands. That latest edition features this picture of the Reagans kissing. These pictures were taken on April 16th at the Reagans home in Bel Air. It was the first official photo shoot since the Reagans announced that the former president suffers from Alzheimer's disease.
KING: Why did you finally talk about it, Nancy?
REAGAN: I didn't talk about it. I didn't give an interview. I -- they persuaded me that a picture would be good for people to see Ronnie, and that it would just be a good thing for everybody for everybody to see him. So I finally said yes. I was awfully nervous, though.
KING: You have to admit he looks terrific?
REAGAN: He looks wonderful. I was a nervous wreck, but he looks wonderful. KING: Let's look at a couple of other pictures in the new issue of "Vanity Fair" and get your thoughts. This one, the Oval Office, he looks like he's telling you -- what is the story of this picture?
REAGAN: I know. I never saw that picture before. I think it's a wonderful picture. I don't know what he's telling me. Something, obviously, funny.
KING: You had never seen this picture?
REAGAN: Never, never. I don't know where it came from. I don't know. But I think it's a great picture.
KING: Let's still get another picture from the new "Vanity Fair." What was this?
REAGAN: I don't know -- oh. This is Christmas Eve, when we were all at Charlie Wiks' (ph) house, and for years, we had gone there for Christmas Eve and they have come to us for Christmas, and we all took turns playing Santa Claus. That's Ronnie as Santa Claus. I was Santa Claus one year and there is me sitting on his lap telling him my wish.
KING: And let's -- ah, this great picture. Where is this?
REAGAN: Oh, that's at the Anaberg's (ph) on New Year's Eve. Very relaxed here.
KING: You're on the patio here, you're wearing some big white hat?
REAGAN: Well, you know, keep the sun off of you, Larry.
KING: How is Ronnie doing?
REAGAN: He's fine. If I could just get back to the shooting, because I want to finish something that I didn't.
REAGAN: When I got to the hospital, and Mike told me that -- well, they were wrong and that Ronnie had been shot, and I went into a little tiny, tiny little room and I kept saying, I want to see him. And they kept saying, well, no, you can't, now, but he's all right and if he's all right. But if he's all right, why can't I see him? And they kept stalling me and stalling me, and finally, I went in to see him.
They let me in to see him. And he was so white and blood above his lips and that's when he lifted the thing on his face and said, "honey, I forgot to duck."
From that time on, all the press, really, concentrated on were the funny things that he said, like when he went into the operating room, I hope you guys are all Republicans, but I knew they finally told me -- I knew that that bullet was only an inch from his heart. And, you know, it was very close.
KING: How many days was it before you knew he was out of danger, Nancy?
REAGAN: Well, doctors daughter.
KING: That's right.
REAGAN: You know, any operation takes six weeks for you to recover, and -- but Ronnie was blessed with a very strong constitution. And he had never smoked and the doctors told me later that because he had never smoked, when they went in to his lungs, they were fresh and pink and clean. They had to go through all the nicotine and so on in a smoker's lungs, it would have made it much more difficult.
KING: We'll get some final thoughts from each of our guests, including Mrs. Reagan after this.
KING: Nancy, before we get the final comments of the guest about the issue at hand and we know that you can swing both ways on this issue, it was very kind of you to join us in difficult circumstances. I thank you for being with us and I know Tim and Jerry especially happy to hear from you.
REAGAN: Well, are we on, now?
REAGAN: Well, Jerry and Tim, without you, I would have no husband. I'm eternally grateful to you and you know that, and we've got to stop meeting like this.
MCCARTHY: Thank you, ma'am.
KING: Thank you, Nancy.
REAGAN: Thank you, Larry.
KING: That was the former first lady, great lady, Nancy Reagan.
All right, Tim, what do you think is going to happen? Do you think the court -- higher court is going to hear it, or are you going to have future Secret Service agents hauled in?
MCCARTHY: Hopefully the high court here's this case Larry, and fortunately reasonable people would disagree and I respect Sam's position. But when it comes to the president of the United States, there is so little room for error, that I hope that the Supreme Court, if it goes there, rules on behalf of the Secret Service to give them that benefit of the doubt under those circumstances work, because it's a difficult job.
KING: Jerry, does an agent know a lot of confidential things about a president's life, forgetting crime or anything? Does he know a lot.
PARR: He knows quite a bit, but it comes out one ear and out the other most of the time.
KING: He doesn't go and write a book when he finished
PARR: Usually he doesn't.
KING: Is he banned from it? It there some sort of thing they sign or not?
PARR: No, but it may have to come to that, but there have been agents that wrote books.
KING: Sam, how do you think it's going to come out?
DONALDSON: I think the Supreme Court will affirm the judgment of the lower courts. I think agents who are subpoenaed under lawful powers, the independent counsel will to testify. In the entire history of the Secret Service, this issue has never come up before and you say, that's because no one has been ever subpoenaed before. Well why is that, and why is it happening now? I think we're going to have to have the answers to those questions, whatever they may be.
KING: Do you fear, Sam, anything on the other side of your issue, that unleashing this could cause witch-hunts and prosecutors gone wild?
DONALDSON: Well, I don't think so, because I think the courts would hold prosecutors to the narrow question of whether criminal matters, properly needing to be investigated, are the things that are being inquired about. I don't think so.
KING: And Leon, how do you think it's going to come out?
PANETTA: Well, I don't know. I know that the court will look at the issue and they should look at the issue. All I can tell you is you've heard a lot of heroic stories about what Secret Service agents have done. I don't think it's a good time to second-guess the Secret Service on this issue.
KING: But you -- guessing the court is hard to do. Do you think -- Sam thinks the court will revert right back and affirm. Do you think they'll hear it? Do you think this will eventually be a Supreme Court case?
PANETTA: I don't think there is any question that it's likely to go to the Supreme Court. What they do, I don't know, and I don't think anybody does, but I think the Secret Service has to fight it all the way, because of their concern about the issue of security for the president.
KING: And you support the justice department in that fight?
PANETTA: Oh, I don't think there is any question that the justice department -- they're not representing the White House here. I think that has to be clear -- they are not representing the White House. They are representing the Secret Service, and they are the ones who have the greatest concern about the security of the president.
KING: Thank you all very much. Thanks to Mrs. Reagan, Tim McCarthy, Jerry Parr, Sam Donaldson, and Leon Panetta.
Coming up next on CNN, Jim Moret and Joie Chen with "THE WORLD TODAY." Stay right there.
Wednesday night on LARRY KING LIVE, the Clinton investigation seems headed for another boiling point. Ken Starr continues to press his legal battle to compel testimony from Secret Service personnel. And Linda Tripp is giving extensive testimony to the grand jury. Meanwhile, no new progress has been reported in negotiations over a possible immunity deal for Monica Lewinsky. We've got a great panel to go over the latest developments, including Dee Dee Myers and Bay Buchanan, Wednesday night 9:00 Eastern on CNN.
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