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Sen. Lindsey Graham Responds to Obama; Amanda Knox Shares Her Side of the Story; Marathon Victims' Medical Bills Mount; Police Search for Girl's Killer; Home Prices Up

Aired April 30, 2013 - 12:30   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: I guess the argument that some administration officials have made is that the FBI, after they got that initial tip from Russian intelligence back in 2011 -- and the president specifically said the Russian intelligence agency alerted the U.S. to the older brother and mother, the president said today, and mother as well, as potentially being sympathizers -- the president then said they did, the FBI, they went out and interviewed the older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, and the mother.

And after their investigation they came up with nothing. So they closed that file.

So what are you saying? That was a blunder there, is that what you're saying, they didn't do a good job in the interview?

GRAHAM: No, I'm saying they did a reasonable job in the interview. They took a warning letter from the Russian intelligence service, they interviewed the suspect, the older brother. They opened up a case file, and in November, the CIA gets the same warning letter and they enter this guy into the Tide system (ph) a terrorist data bank.

And once he goes back to Russia, DHS picks up the fact that the system pings and the FBI and the CIA are never informed about his trip to Russia. So that goes back to 9/11, a pre-9/11 mentality of not sharing information. Wouldn't it have been great to know he went back to Russia and we could have followed him up?

I'm disappointed in the Russians. But that's no excuse for us not being able to track a guy in our system, who goes back to one of the most radical parts of the world, and when he comes back and starts embracing radical Islam for the whole world to see, how did we miss that?

Obviously we've got a lot of things to do in terms of postmortem to fix our system so people like this, when they come back to America from Russia and start embracing radical Islamic ideology, that we visit them once again and say, in 2011, you said you loved this country, you wanted to be an Olympic boxer for this country.

What are you doing now on these websites?

And oh, by the way, what did you do in Russia? You got asylum from Dagestan. Why did you go back? BLITZER: You know, the president did say, at the news conference, that based on what I've seen so far -- and I'm paraphrasing what the president said -- he believes the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security did what they were supposed to do.

He did acknowledge that the director of national intelligence, the DNI, Director Clapper, has begun a full review of what happened to make sure important lessons are learned so, if there were mistakes, they are not repeated down the road.

And I assume, Senator, you support that kind of investigation.

Do you support the DNI Director Clapper conducting this investigation?

Or do you think there should be an independent commission of inquiry along the lines of the 9/11 Commission to take a look and study what happened?

GRAHAM: I think it's a joint select committee that Congress should re-look at Benghazi because there are people now alleging they want to come forward. but are afraid to do so. When it comes to Boston, we need a joint select committee to look at FBI, the CIA and Homeland Security.

The system did not work as designed. When he left to go back to Russia, the system pinged at DHS and they were supposed to share the information with the FBI and the CIA The Fusion Center (ph) in Boston was supposed to have been made aware, hey, you've got a guy that we've looked at in the Boston area.

Again, we -- I'm glad that Clapper's going to do an investigation.

But Congress, quite frankly has been less than strong when it comes to investigating Benghazi and Boston. And I hope we will do our own independent investigation.

It's not so much about blaming people as to get it right. We've lost eight Americans in seven months, four overseas, four at home. Bin Laden's dead, radical Islamism in March (ph). We need to up our game. Clearly, to me, the systems did not work the way they're supposed to. I'm shocked that this happened after 9/11, where people no longer talk to each other. I thought we had gotten over that.

BLITZER: Senator Graham, thanks very much for joining us.

GRAHAM: Thank you.

BLITZER: Senator Lindsay Graham, the Republican senator from South Carolina, key member of the Armed Services Committee, obviously unhappy and very displeased with what the president had to say about him specifically earlier in the day at that news conference.

We'll take a quick break. Much more of our coverage of the Boston terror investigation, all the day's other news, when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Let's get to the side of the Amanda Knox story we haven't heard before. That would be her side.

Last month, the Italian supreme court ruled that Amanda Knox should stand trial again for the murder of roommate Meredith Kercher. She already served four years after being convicted in one of most-watched trials ever. But when that conviction was reversed by an appeals court in Italy, she headed home to Seattle and hasn't looked back.

Now, she's got a new book that's just coming out telling her side of the story, and she's talking about how she felt being tabloid fodder, day after day, during her trial.

Here what she told ABC's Diane Sawyer.


AMANDA KNOX, AUTHOR, "WAITING TO BE HEARD": I was in the courtroom when they were calling me a devil.

I mean, it's one thing to be called certain things in the media and it's another thing to be sitting in a courtroom fighting for your life while people are calling you a devil.

For all intents and purposes, I was a murder, whether I was or not.


BLITZER: Joined now by Barbie Nadeau, she's the Rome bureau chief for "Newsweek" and "The Daily Beast." She's also the author of "Angel Face," a book about the Amanda Knox case.

Barbie, thanks very much for coming in. You've read this new book by Amanda Knox. What did you think?

BARBIE NADEAU, ROME BUREAU CHIEF, "NEWSWEEK" AND "THE DAILY BEAST": You know, I thought it was a good read.

It was important, I think, in a case that everybody thinks they know, to hear from one of the main protagonists and she really gave a voice to herself finally.

We find out a little bit about her. She was very candid, very open. It was well-written. It was certainly well edited, a quick read.

She answered a lot of questions, I think, that people had, but there's not a lot of news breaking, I would say, in this book, by any means.

BLITZER: Are there any details in there that could hurt her, either personally or legally, as another trial gets off the ground in Italy?

NADEAU: Well, I think definitely there's some information, some accusations against the police, prison guard who she said, you know, sexually harassed her and treated her badly, some information, I think, accusations, loosely, I'd say, loosely credited accusations how the prosecutor handled the case and things like that. I think, all of those given the context that she has another trial to face, she has to retry the appellate process again.

Right now she stands convicted of the murder of Meredith Kercher. It is the appellate process that was overturned in the last court hearing a month ago.

You know, she does face a little bit of scrutiny, I'm sure, when the court comes around. They're going to look at some of the things she said in this particular case.

Personally, as well, I think, you know she's very candid about her ...

BLITZER: Yeah, go ahead. Finish your thought.

NADEAU: ... very candid about her sex life. Yeah, she wrote a lot about the men that she had relationships with in her first days in Perugia.

She wrote, you know, she sort of confirmed a lot of rumors that had been floating around in the tabloids, which I'm not sure would necessarily be good for her reputation, if she was trying to clean that up a little bit.

She certainly admitted to being, you know, like a lot of college students are, I guess, fairly promiscuous in her first days at University of Perugia.


BLITZER: Even if you're promiscuous, that doesn't mean you're a murder, though. That's the obviously point I suspect she's trying to make.

But the worst-case scenario, there's another trial to take place. Do you think it's realistic she would actually go back to Italy to stand trial?

NADEAU: Well, in Italy, the suspects, defendants do not have to attend trial. So there's no legal point of law, anything that she has to do to be here.

If she's reconvicted of the murder of Meredith Kercher, if that conviction is upheld, let's say, and if the high court passes that off and agrees with it, then it's very possible that she could be extradited.

But I'm sure she and her lawyers in the United States would fight any kind of extradition. But there is an agreement, a valid agreement, between Italy and the United States, in terms of extradition and serving prison time.

And, so, realistically, yes, if she is convicted and that conviction is upheld, she could serve time in an Italian prison once again. Whether that ever happens or not, we don't know. That remains to be seen. I'm sure there'll be a lengthy legal battle. BLITZER: I'm sure there would be.

All right, Barbie, thanks very much. Barbie Nadeau joining us with some perspective on this new book by Amanda Knox.

Here's more of what we're working on. The high cost of medical care, we're talking about $50,000 and that's just the initial cost that some of the victims of the Boston bombings will face. It doesn't even include rehab, lost wages, or prosthetics.


BLITZER: Welcome back. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.

Boston's One Fund has now raised about $30 million for the victims of the terror attack in Boston. But our Carol Costello reports that may not be enough to cover the medical care many of the 260 wounded victims will need once their insurance maxes out, especially those who have lost limbs.


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As inspirational as the Boston Marathon victims are, they'll need every ounce of courage in the months to come. Adrianne Haslet-Davis is ready though. A ballroom dance instructor who lost her foot, she is determined to dance again.

ADRIANNE HASLET-DAVIS, INJURED DANCE INSTRUCTOR: Dancing is the one thing that I do. And I said - I've said this many times, but dancing is the one thing I do that when I do it, I don't feel like I should be doing anything else, ever.

COSTELLO: Technology is expensive, though. Upwards of $100,000 for the best prosthetic foot money can buy. Adrianne's friends have already started raising money. And ABC's "Dancing with the Stars" is stepping up, too.

TOM BERGERON, HOST, ABC'S "DANCING WITH THE STARS": She vows to dance again. We plan to be there throughout her recovery.

COSTELLO: But not every victim is as fortunate. J.P. and Paul Norton both lost their right legs, both are construction workers. Their uncle, Peter Brown, told "The Wall Street Journal," "when this thing is in the history books, are these guys going to be in good shape and able to fend for themselves? That's what I worry about."

Consider the cost. Insurance analysts say medical costs will total at least $50,000. That does not include rehabilitation or lost income or prosthetic legs, which cost between $10,000 and $100,000 and have to be replaced every three to five years.

MAYOR THOMAS MENINO, BOSTON: It is so important that we keep those affected by this tragedy our number one priority.

COSTELLO: Boston's mayor and the Massachusetts governor have established The One Fund to help victims and donations have flooded in. In just under two weeks, they've collected $27 million from 75,000 donors. Average gift, $65. The challenge now, deciding how much money each victim gets to get on with their lives.


COSTELLO: Actually, Wolf, The One Fund is now up to $30 million. I just talked with the administrator of that fund, Ken Feinberg. He'll hold two public hearings here in Boston next week to decide how to distribute that money. But one of his major initiative will be to lower expectations.

Back to you, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Carol, thanks very much. Carol Costello in Boston.

Emotions run high in a small California town after an eight-year-old girl is stabbed to death. We're going to have the latest on the hunt for a killer.


BLITZER: George Zimmerman, the man who admits to killing Trayvon Martin, was back in court just a short time ago. He waived his right to a stand your ground hearing, which might have led to a dismissal of the charges. That's because Florida's stand your ground law allows for immunity if a defendant can prove he acted in self-defense. You may remember Zimmerman told police he shot the unarmed 17-year-old in self-defense during a struggle over Zimmerman's gun. Today's decision does not prevent his attorneys from arguing for immunity before the trial, which is set to start on June 10th.

In Los Angeles, the first witnesses in the Michael Jackson wrongful death trial are about to take the stand. The family is suing Jackson's concert promoter, AEG Live, for negligence in his 2009 death. They want billions of dollars for money Jackson might have earned on his future tours, but lawyers for the promoter have prepared an aggressive defense. They warned jurors in opening statements that it's going to get ugly.

The search for a little girl's killer is intensifying today as her family tries to deal with their unimaginable loss. Police vow they won't stop until they find whoever killed eight-year-old Leila Fowler. Stephanie Elam has the latest.


STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's a community trying to make sense of the senseless. An 8-year-old girl brutally killed in her home, the assailant still on the loose.

MIKE RANGE, NEIGHBOR: It's rough. I mean it happened right around the corner from my house. And I've lived here my whole life.

ELAM: Leila Fowler was mortally stabbed Saturday afternoon while home with her 12-year-old brother in Valley Springs, a quiet northern California community, far removed from city life.

MARK CAMPBELL, SUPT. CALAVERAS UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT: It shatters that illusion, you know, that we're immune to the (INAUDIBLE) of society, if you will.

ELAM: Her brother reported seeing a male intruder in their home before discovering his severely wounded sister. One friend says the children in the family are traumatizes, especially the boy who found Leila.

AMANDA PEKAREK, FAMILY FRIEND: When we saw him, it was pure shock. I don't know how many times I just wrapped my arms around him and I wanted to take it away.

ELAM: The Calaveras' county sheriff's department says it gathered some clues from the home.

CAPT. JIM MACEDO, CALAVERAS COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT: We did collect some fingerprints during that search. And we also collected what we believe to be DNA. Those prints and that DNA will hopefully be processed within the next week.

ELAM: Authorities also say they have nearly completed searching and contacting all sex offenders in the area.

CHIEF GARY KUNTZ, CALAVERAS COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT: We'll not rest until we capture the responsible person. We will continue to beef up our patrols in this area until we figure they're no longer needed.

ELAM: In a statement to CNN via FaceBook, Leila's mother asked their community for help.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): We are devastated. If someone is helping hide him, turn him in. Look at our baby girl. She didn't deserve this. She was so full of life. We want everyone to remember the good in her and not how she was taken from us.

ELAM: Some neighbors are doing their best to honor the family's wishes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It hit home a lot with me having kids and this town just shows support for one another. It doesn't matter what it is, they just all come together. It's always been like that ever since I've lived here.


BLITZER: Stephanie Elam is joining us now.

Stephanie, police say they don't really have what they call a prime suspect in this case, at least not yet. Tell us what more you're learning about the investigation.

ELAM: Well, Wolf, police are saying that they do have some leads and that they have gotten descriptions about what the killer may have looked like. The problem is that they don't exactly match up and that's the reason why they haven't put out a composite. But what they are doing is beefing up security around schools, at bus stops all around the city so that people feel the security. And hopefully as they go through all these tips, because they do have leads, they're hoping to narrow down who may have done this.

BLITZER: I know the people in the community, they must be scared, nervous, there's a killer on the loose right now. Give us a little sense of the reaction there.

ELAM: This is a kind of town, Wolf, where people are far removed from where they think are the normal ills. Many people saying that this kind of thing just doesn't happen here in Valley Springs. People leave their cars unlocks, many leave their doors to their houses unlocked as well. So with this news, and because the killer has not been caught, a lot of people are on edge and many people, everybody here, holding their children much closer to their side because they want to make sure that they can keep them safe while they don't know who perpetrated this murder.

BLITZER: We just saw a billboard saying there's going to be a vigil for Leila tonight, 7:00 p.m. local time. What's go on?

ELAM: Yes, they are putting this together. They've been planning it for a couple of days. And one resident we just spoke to actually just a few minutes ago telling us that they expect that there could be more than 600 people here coming from even the surrounding communities as well. It's going to be held at Leila's elementary school where she attended third grade. And they're asking everyone to wear purple and pink. For the boys, they're asking them to wear purple, for the girls wear pink, because those were Leila's favorite colors. So a lot of people expected to come out tonight to this candlelight vigil to honor the family, honor the memory of Leila, who many people have said that she's just -- was a girl full of life and her parents are expected to attend this vigil tonight as well, Wolf.

BLITZER: All of us hope they find the killer - find that killer quickly. Stephanie, thanks very much for that report. Stephanie Elam reporting for us in California.

Home prices, they are rising at the fastest rate in more than six years. We'll take a closer look at this bright spot in the U.S. economy.


BLITZER: President Obama may need to reserve some time on his calendar to have a drink with Senator Mitch McConnell after all. The senator was the punch line in one of the president's jokes during the White House Correspondents' Dinner Saturday night. Here what the president said then.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Some folks still don't think I spend enough time with Congress. Why don't you get a drink with Mitch McConnell, they ask? Really? Why don't you get a drink with Mitch McConnell? (END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Funny line. Now, the McConnell camp responded by tweeting out this photo, which shows him sitting at a bar with two drinks and an empty seat. The tweet reads "greetings from coal country, Hazard, Kentucky." The photo also a nod, apparently, to Clint Eastwood's empty chair routine at the Republican Convention. Senator McConnell with a sense of humor as well.

The CNN NEWSROOM continues right now.