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Chaos on Capitol Hill

Aired October 3, 2013 - 23:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, a CNN special. Chaos on Capitol Hill. But this time it had nothing to do with the usual political pandemonium.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I mean, it was pop pop pop. Pop pop pop. In two rounds.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They ran us all up to the top of the steps and then they ran us back down. It was scary.

TAPPER: It started with a frantic car chase that began neither White House. Within minutes the driver was a stone's throw away from the U.S. capitol steps surrounded by police. After an ill-conceived attempt to escape, officers opened fire as a panic crowd of onlookers and lawmakers run for their lives.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We thought we heard shots. Saw a lot of police cars then we heard shots. Then the police told to us go back. We were simply walking back to our office.

TAPPER: Tonight, the latest on what started the chase. The woman behind the wheel. And why the investigation has now turned to a city in Connecticut.

Our CNN special "Capitol Scare" starts now.


TAPPER: Good evening, everyone. I'm Jake Tapper. Welcome to the special half hour of CNN "Capitol Scare." We are coming to you tonight live from Capitol Hill, not far from where a dramatic series of events unfolded this afternoon that left lawmakers on lockdown.

You can hear what's going on behind me where police are repairing a barrier that the Capitol Hill policemen hit during that high-speed chase right over my shoulder. Imagine how frightening it must have been for workers at the capitol this afternoon to hear this blaring over the loudspeaker.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Shelter in place. Close, lock and move away from doors and windows. If you are outside of an office building, take cover away from the area. Additional information will follow. (END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Here's what we know now. The driver who led police on the chase from the White House to the capitol and was ultimately shot while trying to make a getaway, well, she has died. But she was not alone in the car. She had her 1-year-old daughter in the backseat. The little girl is said to be OK and in protective custody this evening. We have also learned that the driver who has not been formally publicly identified is from Stamford, Connecticut. It didn't take long for investigators to swarm her home in search of clues as to why this all happened.

We can't forget, of course, about the capitol police officer who was hurt while trying to keep others safe. That officer who was working without pay because of the government shutdown was released from the hospital a short time ago.

Our chief congressional correspondent Dana Bash was in the office of Senate majority leader Harry Reid when the capitol complex went into lockdown this afternoon. Thankfully, everyone is OK for the most part. She joins us now.

Dana, tell us about your experience.

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that announcement that you just played was exactly what we heard in the office of the Senate m majority leader. It's not often that's where you're sitting at all as a reporter. But it just so happened we were waiting to go do an interview with him. So, it was myself, several members of our crew, several of our producers. And we were trying to figure out frankly if it was a test or not because there are sometimes actually often tests. But it became clear pretty soon that this was not a test, that this was not a drill, this was the real thing particularly as we started to see security move around, given where we were in the capitol, not just in Harry Reid's office but also physically Harry Reid's office is facing the west front of the capitol which if you see those pictures facing the quarter where this driver went into those barricades, where your right now, Jake.

So this is a system that was put 23 in place after 9/11. It's not used very much for the real thing. But to hear "shelter in place" and to suddenly hear that shots were fired and not know, actually if it was in the capitol, at least at the beginning of course was very frightening. And you mentioned the fact that these capitol police officers who rushed to the scene were not only heroic but they were heroic in the circumstances, and those circumstances are because of a government shutdown they're not getting paid.

TAPPER: That's right, Dana.

And when it was White House correspondent it happened periodically there would be a lockdown maybe once or twice a year some jerk would throw something over the fence or throw a firecracker. Usually, it was something that didn't turn out to be that big a deal. But they were very intense about security. You were referring to how often this happens that there are drills. How often does the capitol go into lockdown?

BASH: No, not very often at all. In fact, you remember with the tragedy at the Navy yard which was further away but, not that far away about a mile away, they didn't go into lockdown at all. It wasn't until maybe hours later that the Senate decided to go into one and it was a little bit controversy because the house didn't. So that's the long way of saying not very often at all.

TAPPER: All right, Dana Bash, thanks. We will come back to you later in the program to hear some of that interview with Senate majority leader Harry Reid about the government shutdown. For more on the shooting, however, we will go right now to Deborah Feyerick. She is in New York. She traveled to the suspect's family home earlier tonight in Brooklyn.

Deb, what have you learned?

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: New information for you, Jake. According to a law enforcement source, the woman's boyfriend actually contacted police in December about ten months ago saying that he fear for his infant daughter's safety. The boyfriend said the woman was acting delusional, claiming that President Obama had placed her city of Stamford, Connecticut under lockdown and that he had also placed her house under electronic surveillance.

Now, the woman was questioned by police. She was taken in for a mental health evaluation. And the boyfriend told police that she seemed to be suffering from some sort of postpartum depression, and that she was having difficulty sleeping. She had been on some kind of medication. The boyfriend now has been questioned by federal law enforcement and is cooperating fully.

The source tells CNN that the woman also left a letter addressed to this boyfriend at her Connecticut apartment. Authorities initially deemed the letter suspicious because it appeared to have some sort of a white powder. So hazmat teams came. They removed the letter. It's being taken for testing. A robot was also brought into the apartment, this is in Stamford, Connecticut, the apartment building was evacuated. All the neighbors were taken out just as a precautionary measure. They wanted to make sure it wasn't bobby trapped. Law enforcement, we are told, federal agents and local police are now in the apartment. They are executing the search warrant.

Again, that woman in the car with her child, nobody had any idea that the baby was there, as a matter of fact. What she was doing, why she was trying to contact police. All of that right now under investigation.

We also know, Jake, that family members who live in New York, live in Brooklyn, are being questioned. And some of them at least are speaking to law enforcement -- Jake.

TAPPER: Deborah Feyerick, thank you so much.

Let's bring in right now CNN law enforcement analyst Tom Fuentes. He is a form FBI assistant director. Tom, thanks for joining us. A lot of people at home are probably asking themselves tonight, was there any other way that this could have ended? She did not have a weapon, although clearly she was using her vehicle as a weapon. Explain the threat assessment, the decision to use deadly force in a situation like this.

THOMAS FUENTES, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think, Jake, in this situation she's the first person to attempt to use deadly force. She rammed her car into a police car, injured a police officer, then goes on a high-speed, reckless chase through the mall area of Washington, D.C. heading for the capitol building. So, it's clear that she's already decided to use that car as a weapon.

And you know, the police in this situation do not know what's inside that car. They don't know how many people. They don't know if there's explosives, if this is going to be a car bomb situation that could kill hundreds of people. So from their standpoint it is stop this person as soon as possible at all costs to reduce the threat to the public at large.

TAPPER: And my understanding of what happened, Tom, is that she first came in contact with law enforcement when she was at 15th and E right near the White House. She drove up to a checkpoint. The secret service approached her. She tried to get away. And that is when doing -- while doing a three-point turn she hit some of the barriers, hit a secret service officer causing him to be seriously bruised. I'm told he's OK. Then she sped away. A couple of blocks away is when the secret service caught up with her.

So, even before she got to the capitol she was somebody whose behavior had drawn the attention of law enforcement. She had already backed into a secret service officer. So before she even backed into one here as we saw in the video that we play, she already was known to law enforcement as using her car as a weapon.

And when that happens, Tom, does it automatically just, if somebody is using their car and hitting law enforcement officers, is the decision made that person is using their car as a weapon? You have the authority to use force to stop him or her?

FUENTES: Yes. You would have the authority because that person is using deadly force with their car and there may be no other way in your mind to stop that car before she maybe drives up on a sidewalk and starts running over tourists that are there or lawmakers that are outside by the capitol. So the fact that she's chosen to use her vehicle as a weapon really didn't leave them much choice as far as trying to stop her.

And especially given the fact that it's downtown Washington, D.C. So close proximity to the White House and then later to the capitol. That, you know, in this modern era you don't know if that car is full of explosives and could potentially kill hundreds of people. So they made a decision to stop that car at all costs.

Now, normally trained law enforcement officers are taught not to shoot at someone or shoot at a vehicle if you pose a risk to other innocent bystanders, the bullet may miss and go down the street and hit somebody else. They are weighing that in, that the risk to one or two or three people down the street or a block away is not as great as the potential risk to hundreds of people if there is explosives in that vehicle.

TAPPER: That's right. The big fear, of course, always here in Washington, D.C., a car bomb.

CNN law enforcement analyst Tom Fuentes, thank you so much.

We are going to take a quick break. When we come back on this special live half hour of CNN, closing in on day four of this government shutdown.

Our chief congressional correspondent Dana Bash as you know sat down with Senate majority leader Harry Reid to see if compromise is even a word being used.

And oops, they did it again. Two savvy senators caught on an open mic. Their revealing conversation still ahead.


TAPPER: Day three of the government shutdown. And congressional leaders are under enormous pressure to resolve their differences. Senate majority leader Harry Reid talked to our chief congressional correspondent Dana Bash. What he told her about finding a resolution to this mess. That's coming up next.


TAPPER: Welcome back to the special half hour of CNN. I'm Jake Tapper live from Capitol Hill where earlier today a woman set off a frenzied law enforcement response that locked down Congress when she crashed her car into a White House barricade and then there was a high-speed chase all the way here to Capitol Hill. You can see the workers behind me as they work to construct a barricade.

All this is going on, of course, while Washington is still trying to deal with a partial government shutdown that's got most of the government closed for over 70 hours now. Moments ago we learned that the president is cancelling his trip to Asia because the White House says quote "of the difficulty in moving forward with foreign travel in the face of a shutdown and his determination to continue pressing his case the Republicans should allow to vote to reopen the government," unquote.

Secretary of state John Kerry will lead delegations to both countries, Indonesia and Brunei in place of the president. Our Dana Bash spoke to one of the key players in the shutdown, senate majority Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada.

Dana, what did Senator Reid tell you?

BASH: Jake, we started out where we left off yesterday in a rather spirited exchange in the Senate briefing room. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: You have used some pretty explosive terms to talk about the so- called tea party. You call them tea party anarchists, you called them whacky, you called the weird caucus. I have even talked to some liberals who are big supporters of yours who say, you know what, that's going too far. Are you stirring the pot with language like that?

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NY), MAJORITY LEADER: OK. Anarchist? Why in the world wouldn't I use the term anarchy? That's what they are. They're anarchists. They don't believe it government in any level. That's why we have members of Congress over there today and yesterday saying, finally we're able to close the government. What else did I call them?

BASH: The weird caucus.

REID: Well, that's way a little over the hill.

BASH: So, I mean, do you think -- are you pledging to tone down the rhetoric a little bit? Maybe that is --

REID: I'm not going to give up on the anarchists. I mean, there are people writing columns about this, about -- because that's what it is. They don't believe it government. That's why they want the government closed. This is not pitter pat see how nice you can be to everybody. You have to explain what you're trying to say. And there's no better description I can make than saying they don't believe in government, they're anarchists just like they were at the beginning of the 20th century. The difference is, I made very clear about this, they're not blowing up buildings and they're not killing people, but they're throwing monkey wretches into the wheels of government.

BASH: Now, you understand legislating pretty much better than anybody around here. And you know in your heart of hearts that now John Boehner is down this road, he accepted the idea that Obamacare should be attached to any kind of spending bill, the government is shutdown. He is so far in. He needs something. He need a lifeline in order to save face, in order to agree. You're not giving him one inch.

REID: How about my lifeline? We agreed to $988 billion, $70 billion less than what my caucus voted for and agreed to. Don't talk about his lifeline, talk about mine. That was really hard to do with my caucus.

BASH: It seems as though just in my conversations with Republicans and I think you heard this from the speaker himself in that private meeting at the White House with the president that they're moving away from Obamacare, looking ahead to the debt ceiling fight, talking about at least on the debt ceiling talking about trying to revive some of the things you all had talked about.

REID: Dana, they are making that up. That didn't happen in the White House. They're making that up.

BASH: So they're not talking about --

REID: No. I saw the headline in the paper. Grand bargain discussed. There wasn't a grand bargain discussed. I was there all the time. There's no staff around. Just the five of us.

BASH: Let me get back it John Boehner because this really has become personal. Earlier today you said that he doesn't have courage. That's really tough stuff. That's really personal and talking about John Boehner the man.

REID: Well, Dana, a question that I responded to was, don't you think that you should go along with some of the stuff that he wants? Well, we know that they don't know what they want. We've had one congressman from Indiana that says, they're not showing us respect. And we have got to get something out of this. But then he went on to say, but I don't know what we want. And that's John Boehner. We don't know what he wants.

We met last night at the White House. I talked to him yesterday after we wrote the letter. I gave him an offer. How could he refuse it? They have been asking us to negotiate. We agreed to negotiate. Remember we already agreed to $70 billion cut. So I said yesterday, what do you want to talk about in my letter? You want to talk about farm bill? Discretionary spending? You want to talk about health care? No limitations. Let's do it. And he said no. Only thing I'll talk about is Obamacare. So John Boehner, for this -- his job is not as important as our country.


BASH: And Jake, he might be saying that he wants to talk about Obama care, but we know actually outside of a meeting that Boehner had with some of his key lieutenants and he was talking about a whole lot of other stuff, at least with them. Moving ahead to the next fight on the debt ceiling about entitlement reform, things like that.

TAPPER: Dana Bash, thank you so much.

Coming up, there are few things as refreshing as a politician caught on a hot mic. Want to know how senator Rand Paul really feels about the shutdown? Stay with us.


TAPPER: It's TV news 101 for politicians. When someone says hey I'm all wired up here, that means the microphone is on. And it's probably a bad time for an impromptu candid political strategy session. Two Kentucky senators, one hot mic. That's coming up next.


TAPPER: Welcome back to our CNN special coverage of the government shutdown. And of course, earlier, we were talking about the shooting here on Capitol Hill. I'm Jake Tapper.

After a chaotic afternoon the parties are back to their talking points on the shutdown. But there's one unscripted moment that caught our attention today. Listen to this exchange between Republican senators Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul who were caught talking strategy on a hot mike in the middle of a bunch of TV interviews.


SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: Do you have a second?

REID: I'm all wired up here.

PAUL: On CNN I just go over and over again. We are willing to compromise. I don't think they polled us if we won't negotiate. I think that's awful for them to say that over and over again.

REID: I do, too. I just came back from a two-hour meeting with them. And that was basically the same view privately.

PAUL: I think if we keep saying we wanted to defund it. We fought for that. Now we are willing to compromise on this. We're going to win. I know we don't want to be here but we're going to win this, I think.


TAPPER: Great. Got it. They're going to win this? Win this? Is this perhaps a reference to the Charlie sheen definition of winning and that no one actually wins and it all ends up incredibly sad?

Dana Bash, want to bring you back. What's your take on this moment between the two senators?

BASH: It's a lesson for all of us, Jake. When we have microphones on they are always on. Someone's always listening.

No. But in terms of -- obviously like a fly on the wall. You actually get to listen to the private conversation. So that was very interesting. Unfortunately, we didn't hear much that we didn't know, them talking about the fact that Democrats are wrong about the fact that the negotiation, that they are not going to negotiate but just to watch that was pretty awesome, wasn't it?

TAPPER: It was interesting also. I mean, again, you say nothing surprising but nice to hear them talking candidly. And also, they think that they have a winning message. And that obviously indicates why they're doing what they're doing.

Dana Bash, thanks so much.

Thanks for joining me tonight. I'm Jake Tapper. I will be back here tomorrow on Capitol Hill tomorrow at 4:00 p.m. eastern and 1:00 p.m. pacific for "the LEAD."

"CROSSFIRE" is up next. Have a safe night.