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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Interview With Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel; Red Flags Missed; Interview With Pennsylvania Congressman Tim Murphy; Interview with Congressman Tim Murphy of Pennsylvania; Interview with Madeleine Albright
Aired May 26, 2014 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: With so many red flags, how was it that nobody was able to stop the Santa Barbara killer? I'm Jake Tapper. This is THE LEAD.
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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He looked directly at me, he talked to me. And then he just shot at me multiple times.
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TAPPER: The national lead, rampage, the killer making no secret his pathetic motive was some form of sexual frustration.
But, in this case, certain warning flags were caught and the bloodshed happened anyway.
Also in national news:
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CHUCK HAGEL, U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: It makes me sick to my stomach.
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TAPPER: Veterans dying in this country while waiting for medical help. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel discussed it in our exclusive sit-down. But does he still back his colleague, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki?
And the world lead, Pope Francis defying expectations yet again on a trip through the Holy Land. Can he succeed where so many others have failed in brokering peace in the Middle East?
Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. I hope you're having a meaningful Memorial Day.
We will begin with the national lead today in Santa Barbara, where the Memorial Day holiday has taken on another tragic meaning, a tragic -- six people killed in a horrific series of attacks near the University of California, Santa Barbara, a pair of sorority sisters, roommates and their visiting their buddy, a college student out on an simple errand, all of them slain by a mentally disturbed 22-year-old angry at the world because apparently he couldn't get a date.
After an incident like this -- and there have been far too many in this country -- so often, the discussion turns to the motive, trying to understand what could possibly drive someone to do this to other people, but this time we already know. The killer, fueled by misogyny, jealousy, pent-up sexual frustration, he gave voice to the malignancy inside him in a series of supremely disturbing videos, in a 141-page rant, and on the types of message boards that you hope that you never find on your son's, husband's, or boyfriend's Internet cache.
Not that this young man knew anything about being anyone's boyfriend, but he was somebody's son. By all accounts, he was denied nothing, really, in his privileged life. His parents apparently got him mental help since childhood, engaging a small platoon of therapists to try and get through to him.
Police were even at the killer's doorstep less than a month ago for a wellness check. But in the end, or rather when he brought about this end, none of it was enough.
Our justice correspondent, Pamela Brown, is standing by live for us in Los Angeles.
Pamela, what's the latest?
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, we're still trying to figure out, did something fall through the cracks here?
We know investigators have been going through the items they took from a search of Elliot Rodger's mother's house looking for any other clue that might indicate what made him finally snap. And we know from talking with a close family friend that Elliot had been struggling with mental health issues since he was a child, as you pointed out. But it was not until Friday night that, according to this friend, there was any indication he was going to hurt someone.
BROWN (voice-over): CNN has learned Elliot Rodger's father was racing from L.A. to Santa Barbara in a frantic search for his son when the car radio blurted an announcement.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: According to a witness, there is a dark- colored BMW, white occupant, a male wearing a white shirt.
BROWN: Someone driving a black BMW, just like his son's, was on a deadly shooting rampage in Santa Barbara.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Shots fired, shots fired.
BROWN: Peter Rodger's worst fears realized.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) gunshots (INAUDIBLE)
BROWN: A 22-year-old Santa Barbara college student exacting the revenge he'd been planning, police for at least a year.
ELLIOT RODGER, ALLEGED SHOOTER: You do deserve it, just for the crime of living a better life than me.
BROWN: Rodger taped this chilling YouTube video titled "Retribution" before killing six people and injuring 13 on Friday.
RODGER: I have wanted a girlfriend. I have wanted sex. I have wanted love, affection, adoration. You think I'm unworthy of it. That's a crime that can never be forgiven.
BROWN: Rodger also outlined his deadly plans in a manifesto obtained by CNN affiliate KEYT. Lucky Radley was mentioned in it. He grew up just a few doors down from Rodger.
LUCKY RADLEY, FRIEND OF ALLEGED SHOOTER: The Elliot Rodger I knew, he was just a -- really a quiet -- a quiet guy. He never said any words. He was just -- he was just really there. He didn't say much. I don't remember him saying anything. It was -- he only spoke when he was spoken to.
BROWN: A family friend, Simon Astaire, says Rodger sent his diatribe to a couple dozen people, including his mother and father and therapist, just moments before terrorizing the U.C. Santa Barbara campus.
On Sunday, the ATF and county sheriff's office searched the mother's home. Astaire says Rodger's parents now feel a -- quote -- "pivotal moment" was missed last month. Six police officers conducted a well-being check on Rodger in April after his mother discovered other videos he posted online, documenting his -- quote -- "loneliness and misery."
But the officers say they found nothing alarming during their check. In his manifesto, Rodger expresses his devastating fear that police discovered his plan. "I would have been thrown in jail, denied of the chance to exact revenge on my enemies. I can't imagine a hell darker than that," he wrote.
JAMES ALAN FOX, CRIMINOLOGIST, NORTHEASTERN UNIVERSITY: We'd like to believe that we could collect all the data, all the evidence and be able to identify mass murderers before they act, but we simply cannot do it.
BROWN: And Astaire says Rodger had been visiting therapists on and off since he was 8 years old and in high school practically daily. Right before his killing spree, Rodger was seeing two therapists, we're told.
Astaire describing him as reserved to a daunting degree, but also says the 22-year-old didn't appear to have violent tendencies and never expressed any fascinations with guns -- Jake.
TAPPER: Justice correspondent Pamela Brown, thank you so much. Many are going to focus on this killer and why he did what he did. And, of course, that is just what someone would like him would probably want.
On THE LEAD, we do try to also keep focus on the victims of a massacre like this as much as possible, such as 20-year-old Cheng Hong, and 19-year-old George Chen, pictured here. They're listed as the killer's roommates. A third young man, 20-and Weihan Wang, was apparently visiting their home when the killer repeatedly stabbed all three of them to death.
Authorities have theorized that he attacked them as they slept. And then the horror moved to the Tri-Delta house, where the killer ended the lives of two sorority sisters, 22-year-old Katherine Cooper, who went by Katie for short. She was studying art history and archaeology. And 19-year-old Veronika Weiss, she was a first-year student whose father tells "The L.A. Times" that she played four sports in high school and was a math whiz.
The final victim, of course, 20-year-old Christopher Martinez. The killer shot Martinez at a deli where he was shopping. Martinez was reportedly preparing for a year of studying abroad in London when he died.
The father of Christopher Martinez in the moments after his son was taken from him laid bear his mixture of agony and anger to the entire nation, blaming not just the disturbed man who killed his son, but the National Rifle Association and politicians who represent the rights of gun owners.
Let's bring in our own Kyung Lah, standing by in Isla Vista, California.
Kyung, you have spoken to Christopher Martinez's father, Richard Martinez. What did he tell you?
KYUNG LAH, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: What's he saying is that this sort of pain is unimaginable.
This was his only child who he lost. And he says he is filled with rage. He says he wants to talk to the press, as many reporters as possible, because Washington is refusing to talk, refusing to listen. And this father says it is Congress' inaction that has led to all of this.
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RICHARD MARTINEZ, FATHER OF VICTIM: Where the hell is the leadership? Where the hell is this -- these people we elect to Congress and we spend so much money on?
These people are getting rich sitting in Congress. And what do they do? They don't take care of our kids. My kid died because nobody responded to what occurred at Sandy Hook. Those parents lost little kids. It's bad enough that I lost my 20-year-old, but I had 20 years with my son. (END VIDEO CLIP)
LAH: And this father also adds, today, who is talking about the parents of Sandy Hook, of those Sandy Hook victims? He says, today, you can simply replace the town Sandy Hook with Isla Vista. Tomorrow, it will be a new town, and this will keep going on and on, Jake, until he believes that there is a true national conversation and action about mental health and the proliferation of guns -- Jake.
TAPPER: Kyung Lah, thank you so much.
Coming up, how much blame for this tragedy lies with Washington? Next, I will ask a congressman who is working to change mental health laws to respond to that distraught father about why more has not been done.
Plus, the defense secretary opening up about his time in Vietnam in our exclusive interview and how his own brother saved his life after he was shot on the battlefield.
TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
Continuing with our national lead, that horrific rampage in Santa Barbara, California. The signs were there all along. Now a grieving father of a victim is demanding that Washington do something.
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MARTINEZ: Have we learned nothing? These things are going to continue until somebody does something. So where the hell is the leadership?
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TAPPER: It is a painful plea to hear from the father of 20-year- old Christopher Michael Martinez, one of the six people so senselessly murdered this weekend by a very sick young man.
So what kind of leadership can Washington offer to stop another massacre like this one?
Let's bring in Congressman Tim Murphy, Republican of Pennsylvania. He's the chairman of the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations for the Energy and Commerce Committee. And he is trying to push through a bill that would address mental illness in America.
Congressman, good to see you.
What is your reaction to that grieving parent? He wants to know, why are mentally disturbed people still able to get guns? Why? Why are they?
REP. TIM MURPHY (R), PENNSYLVANIA: Well, it comes down to this point when we did our year-long investigation.
One of the mothers that I met whose child was killed at Sandy Hook said, when we're talking about guns, it's too late. And what we found was pretty awful in terms of what the federal and state governments handle in terms of mental illness.
We have found that families are shut out from treatment. We have found there's a critical bed shortage and critical treatment options, not enough site beds, not enough providers. We have found that it's difficult to get effective treatment.
It's difficult. We need police to be trained in these things. And we found a lot of federal resources are simply not targeted towards those with serious mental illness. We do a lot for the softer sides of things and some prevention things and OK.
But, time and time again, just in the year that we have been doing this investigation, we also had the Navy Yard shootings, the Fort Hood shooting, and, you know, about 40,000 suicides
And this again, this is heartbreaking. And it is one that has continued to encourage my colleagues to work on. We introduced a bill, the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act.
And for goodness sakes, let's listen to fathers like this. Stop the politics. Get things like this done. We can do some effective work in Washington on this, and, quite frankly, we've got to just get it done.
TAPPER: But, you know, Congressman, this warped young man, he had been getting mental health help. He was from a family of means. Apparently, his mother had called the police because she was worried about him in YouTube videos he had posted. The police went and checked on him.
Listen to what Sheriff Bill Brown told CNN about that meeting that the killer had with his deputies.
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SHERIFF BILL BROWN, SANTA BARBARA COUNTY, CALIFORNIA: They found him to be rather shy and timid, polite, well-spoken. He explained to the deputies that it was a misunderstanding. He was able to convince them that he was not a danger to himself or anyone else.
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TAPPER: He explained that to the police. But then, Congressman, listen to what the killer wrote about that visit from police in his sick rant.
He wrote, quote, "The police would have searched my room, found all of my guns and weapons along with my writings about what I planned to do with them. I would have been thrown in jail, denied of the chance to exact revenge on my enemies. I can't imagine a hell darker than that. Thankfully, that wasn't the case, but it was so close." So I guess the question is, should the police have gone into the room? Are police not instructed to not just take the word for it from these guys?
MURPHY: You've got two great points there. One of the concerns that we hear time and time again from parents is they were shut out from treatment. Now, they shouldn't be. The HIPAA law should be there to protect confidentiality. But quite frankly, people have got to believe parents when they say I believe my son is dangerous.
We have the same kind of case, when a shooter went to Western Psychiatric Hospital in Pittsburgh. Had the team looked in another room in his house, they would have seen the blueprints of the hospital there and understood the plan. It is important that we provide more police training.
I don't know all of the questions or what they did. But by gosh, these parents were saying, this is a serious concern. Believe us. And that's going to require more than a cursory interview, especially when you understand a killer who has plotted this out will look calm.
A person who is seriously mentally ill won't always look that way. They can keep it together and one of the problems that oftentimes occur is they are taken to a hospital, perhaps by police, and they are able to convince them, "I'm fine, leave me alone."
And we have groups out there of lawyers whose job it is to try and get people out of care. Why can't we just focus on the resources here, listen to parents, get police training, look a little bit deeper in these things and get the treatment that's needed.
Yes, he had a lot of treatment in his life. I don't know what level that was but certainly there was a huge disconnect in believing the parents and moving forward with other protections.
TAPPER: Congressman, it seems like when it comes to purchasing guns and when it comes to warning society of individuals, we have two categories. It's either this person is OK or this person has been adjudicated as dangerous. Should there not be some sort of third category we know that there were all of these warnings signs of the Newtown killer, of the Aurora killer, of the Virginia Tech killer? Should there not be some sort of middle ground where these people are not able to have such easy, quick access to weapons, whether it's knives or guns?
MURPHY: Well, one of the things that is supposed to happen in a situation like this, the records are supposed to get into the national background check list and very often, they don't get there. A second thing is, with regard to the person's access to weapons, any therapist should still be asking the parents, does your son or daughter have access to weapons? Even if it's not to that level yet.
There's an important part of responsibility. Police are doing more in terms of asking and querying those issues as well. But above all, let's get back to this point -- if we're not getting the treatment to people, if we continue to have federal barriers that just Medicaid says we're not paying for two doctors in the same day, Medicaid says we're not paying for more hospital beds, the law says we're not going to talk to parents -- these things should be happening.
Let's get focused on serious mental illness, and get these people treated. While a person is ten times more likely, with serious mental illness, ten times more likely to be in jail than in a hospital. That's the way we go. We wait until a crime appears, we wait until the person is homeless, we wait for a suicide and then scratch our heads and say why.
TAPPER: Congressman Tim Murphy, as always, thank you. And I wish we were talking into better circumstances, good to see you, sir.
Coming up --
MURPHY: We'll be doing a briefing.
TAPPER: We'll talk, sir (ph).
Coming up, residents warned to stay inside as deadly clashes break out on the streets of eastern Ukraine. Next, I'll talk to the former secretary of state Madeleine Albright who is in Ukraine and talking about what she saw on the ground there.
And later, the White House able to keep a super secret presidential trip to Afghanistan under wraps but somehow blows the cover of the top spy chief in the country in the process. That story, ahead.
TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
In our world lead, Ukraine will soon have a new president, one who isn't hiding out somewhere in Russia. Early results from yesterday's elections show that billionaire Petro Poroshenko, a chocolate tycoon, known as the Willy Wonka of Ukraine, will likely win the run-off and the presidency. Poroshenko has promised to both reconnect with Europe and work on relations with Russia.
International observers are calling the election a success but once again, violence in eastern Ukraine is calling progress into question. Helicopters flew over Donetsk airport as people ducked for cover from gunfire. Residents have been warned to stay indoors and avoid the airport and train station. Should the elections have calmed the violence?
And joining me now is former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, chair of the Albright Stonebridge Group, who is in Kiev, leading an international mission observing the elections.
Madam Secretary, thanks so much for joining us. There's a lot of violence right now, especially in the Donetsk airport between militants and the military. Are you concerned at all that this violence could undo all the good that happened with the elections yesterday?
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: I am very sorry about the violence and the people that are the victims of it, but I think a very big story here is a very successful election that took place yesterday where there was orderly voting, people knew what they wanted. The vote has spoken for Ukraine. They want to have a sovereign, independent democratic country, and I think that we need to understand that.
And that, unfortunately, thanks to the action of the separatists, a small percentage of the nation was disenfranchised while the rest of the Ukrainian people were able to express their wish for a democratic, sovereign and independent Ukraine.
TAPPER: What do you say to people who question if this is a credible election because so many polling stations were closed with so many people intimidated in eastern Ukraine?
ALBRIGHT: The population of Ukraine is over 45 million people. The numbers of people that were able to vote are somewhere between 60 percent and 65 percent.
We had observers -- I'm chairman of the board of the National Democratic Institute. We had observers all over the country, who were reporting about a free and fair election. And I think the important part here is to recognize the legitimacy of the wishes of the Ukrainian people and really feel sorry for those who prevented from voting by those who had other intentions in terms of destabilizing Ukraine and the Ukrainian people don't want to be destabilized. They want to be a normal European country.
TAPPER: Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov reiterated that Russia will respect the results of the election and said they were open to dialogue with a new Ukrainian leadership. Does seem like a softening by Putin and Russia? Is this real?
ALBRIGHT: The thing that I had objected to previously was that I didn't think decisions should be made over the head of the Ukrainians. They needed to be at the table, whether it was in Geneva or other venues and part of the things that the Russians had been saying earlier is that they wouldn't sit at the table with Ukrainians.
I do think that -- and it makes sense to me -- that there would in fact be two things going on. How they can be a part of Europe, have a western o orientation and at the same time have a relationship with the Russians.
So I hope that that part goes forward kind of do both things simultaneously.
TAPPER: Do you think Russia meddled in the run-up to this election?
ALBRIGHT: I think that the Russians clearly had a role in kind of provoking some of the separatists. But whatever they tried to do, they did not succeed in the majority part of Ukraine. What was to me so moving was I went to the Maidan and a lot of people that I met said, we got our dignity in the Maidan, and they went to the elections with their heads held high and voted to have a normal, democratic government. And they now deserve that and I think that the international community with the U.S. active participant needs to help them in what is going to be a fairly long story.
TAPPER: Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, thanks so much for your time.
ALBRIGHT: Thank you.
TAPPER: When we come back, sick to his stomach. That's what the defense secretary says he feels over allegations that veterans died while waiting for care at V.A. hospitals. My exclusive interview with Chuck Hagel coming up next.
Plus, Pope Francis finishing up his Middle East tour. Why some Israelis were angered over one stop on his trip? That's coming up.