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Videotaped Confession; Danish Jews Fearful; Interview with Representative Lee Zeldin; Texas Judge Halts Obama's Immigration Order

Aired February 17, 2015 - 09:30   ET



CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. I'm Carol Costello. Thank you so much for joining me.

Prosecutors are expected to rest their case today in the trial of a former Marine charged with killing American sniper Chris Kyle and another man. A Texas jury heard Eddie Ray Routh confess to the murders during a nearly 90-minute long videotaped interrogation from the night of his 2013 arrest. Ed Lavandera is live outside the courthouse in Stephenville, Texas, with more.

Good morning, Ed.


Well, the reason this videotape is so crucial is that it really gets to the heart of whether or not Eddie Ray Routh knew what he did the day he killed Chris Kyle and Chad Littlefield. Did he know whether it was right or wrong? And that is the central issue in this case.


LAVANDERA (voice-over): In the videotaped confession from two years ago, Eddie Ray Routh looks far different than he does today. He's dressed in the same clothing he wore to the gun range when he shot and killed Chris Kyle and Chad Littlefield. One of the investigators says he even notices bloodstains on Routh's boots. This was recorded just after Routh surrendered to police after a car chase and a few hours after the killings.

Routh starts with a rambling and incoherent answer when he's asked what happened. He says, "I keep talking to Chris. There's a few dozen Chris' in my world and it's like every time I talk to another man named Chris or get sent to another man named Chris, it was like talking to the wolf, you know? The ones in the sky are the ones that fly, you know what I mean? The pigs." Routh then becomes obsessed with talk of his soul. "You can't just keep letting people eat your soul up for free, you know? It's not what it's about. It's about having a soul that you have in you for yourself and there are tons of people that are eating on my soul right now."

The detective asks, "who did you shoot first?" And Routh says, "the one I could clearly identify." He's talking about Chris Kyle here. "I knew if I did not take out his soul, he was coming to take mine next."

TIM MOORE, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: He was in the grip of a psychosis. A psychosis so severe at that point in time that he did not know what he was doing was wrong.

LAVANDERA: The interrogation video lasts nearly 90 minutes. Routh complains about the handcuffs being uncomfortable. He's left alone and tries to put on a pair of glasses. He asked to speak with his mother. Asked for a cigarette. And when he gets one, pops off, "doesn't anyone smoke anymore?" The investigator asked Routh, "after you killed them, what did you do next?" Routh responds, "I fled. I didn't know what else to do. My adrenalin was so high. I didn't know what was right. I didn't know what was wrong."

The investigator would come back to this nearly a half dozen times, leaving Routh alone and then coming back to ask him repeatedly if he knew that killing Kyle and Littlefield was wrong. After first answering he didn't know, each time after that Routh says he knew it was wrong. The detective then asks Routh what he would like to tell the victim's families. "I would tell them I'm sorry for what I've done." Prosecutors say the tape proves Routh knew what he was doing.

ALAN NASH, PROSECUTOR: Mental illnesses, even the ones that this defendant may or may not have, don't deprive people from the ability to be good citizens, to know right from wrong.


LAVANDERA: And, Carol, the reason you can't hear Eddie Ray Routh's voice on that tape is the judge is not allowing us to broadcast the audio of these videotapes and what's going on in the courtroom until after the trial ends. They've only allowed that for the opening statements.


COSTELLO: So you couldn't hear Eddie Ray Routh's voice in the courtroom, Ed?

LAVANDERA: Yes, we could hear it in the courtroom, we're just not allowed to broadcast the audio yet until it's all over.

COSTELLO: I just wanted to make sure before I asked you this question. Did he confess in a strong voice? What did he sound like?

LAVANDERA: You know, it was very calm throughout that - as you watched that entire video, there wasn't any time where his - his voice was raised or he seemed overly agitated. That's a - it was just kind of a calm and steady, yet at times, more often than not, rambling and incoherent and kind of just these random explanations that didn't make a whole lot of sense.

COSTELLO: I also know the jury heard several voicemails from Routh to Kyle. What were those like?

LAVANDERA: You know, kind of the same thing. There was one in particular -- there were a series of phone calls leading up to the day, February 2, 2013, when all these three men came together for the first time, and Eddie Ray Routh had reached out to Chris Kyle. Remember, it was Routh's mother who had asked Kyle to meet with her son. In one of the voice mails you hear Eddie Ray Routh say, "kind of a sad day when it rains. It's a good sad. Rain will come and rains will leave. I guess that's what they do." And as he's asking him to, you know, call him back and return to his phone call. But again, kind of, again, this kind of string of sentiments that don't make a whole lot of sense.

COSTELLO: All right, Ed Lavandera, thanks so much.

I'll be right back.


COSTELLO: In Copenhagen, a community is reeling after a gunman opened fire in two separate attacks this weekend killing two people and wounding five others. One of those attacks taking place at the city's main synagogue. Following the violence, Benjamin Netanyahu renewed his call for Europeans Jews to immigrate to Israel. But for some Jewish residents, the ties to Denmark are just as strong as those to the country Netanyahu says is, quote, "the home of every Jew." CNN's Karl Penhaul has more for you.


KARL PENHAUL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Flowers for the dead, fear among the living.

METTE BENTOW, HOSTING BAT MITZVAH: As Jews, we are always a target just for being Jews, not for our beliefs in freedom of speech or democracy, but just because we're Jewish.

PENHAUL: Mette Bentow and husband Claus were throwing a bat mitzvah party for their daughter Hannah (ph). Meters away, outside the synagogue, a Muslim gunman went on the rampage.

M. BENTOW: One of the security guards come in the room where we're dancing and shouts, stop the music. And we did. And shortly after that he comes in and says, everyone downstairs.

CLAUS BENTOW, HOSTING BAT MITZVAH: So we stayed, as she said, underneath in the basement and I got the radio and I got the briefing about somebody has been hit outside by shots.

PENHAUL: Out on the sidewalk, two police officers were wounded and Dan Uzan, a volunteer synagogue guard and basketball fanatic, lay dying. Mourners flocked to Uzan's memorial Monday. His body was still undergoing autopsy, not yet ready for burial.

M. BENTOW: It makes us feel angry in a way that that's necessary. Why is that - why was that necessary? Why did that have to happen? I feel tremendous gratitude towards them.

PENHAUL: Security services estimate more than 100 Danish Muslims are fighting with radical factions in Syria, but so far there's no evidence the Copenhagen shooter ever fought in extremist ranks, yet the head of Copenhagen's synagogue said the weekend attack was a tragedy waiting to happen.

DAN ROSENBERG ASMUSSEN, HEAD OF DANISH JEWISH COMMUNITY: Well, yes, basically we've been fearing such a thing could happen in Denmark for quite a while. We've seen within the last three years attacks on Jewish institution, Tulus (ph), Brussels, Paris recently. And there seems to be a pattern of these issues (ph).

PENHAUL: Flags flew at half-staff and Jewish schools stayed closed Monday.

GITTE MEYER, TAILOR: We have a school and I have my grandchild at school and I'm so worried.

PENHAUL: Some messages vowed Denmark's Jews would not be coward. Meanwhile, Israel's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, offered them refuge.

M. BENTOW: We love Israel and we feel that we always have a safe place to go to, and that is very nice to know. But we are Danish. We are proud to be Danish.

PENHAUL: Proud yet humbled by the Jewish volunteer guard who laid down his life to help protect Bentow's family.

M. BENTOW: We will remember that we owe our lives to him and we will try and do our very best to be deserving of that.

PENHAUL: Karl Penhaul, CNN, Copenhagen.


COSTELLO: Let's talk more about this. Joining me now, Republican Congressman Lee Zeldin of New York.

Welcome, sir.

REP. LEE ZELDIN (R), NEW YORK: Thank you for having me.

COSTELLO: Oh, that was such a touching story. And you heard the Jewish couple in that story saying they appreciate Netanyahu's offer, but they are Danish and they prefer to stay in their own country. Is Benjamin Netanyahu right to urge European Jews to come to Israel?

ZELDIN: Well, I think it's great for the prime minister to let the Jewish people know all around the globe that they are welcome with open arms if they choose to come to Israel. If they choose to stay at home because they're proud to be Danish, that's perfectly understandable as well. It's great for someone or a people victimized by a recent attack to know that they have more than one safe home.

COSTELLO: Isn't it allowing the terrorists to win though by Benjamin Netanyahu reaching out to Jews across Europe and saying, you know, come to Israel because the battle's lost there? Isn't that letting the terrorists win?

ZELDIN: No. I think it's key when you have a situation of good versus evil that we are standing with our allies all around the globe, that we all ban together. There are beacons of freedom and democracy and liberty all over the world, so when leaders from all of these countries rise up and unite, it becomes a very powerful force and quite honestly may be the only force that's capable of defeating evil is when we all ban together.

COSTELLO: Absolutely. And that leads me to another pressing question for all-Americans. There's a new CNN-ORC poll out. 78 percent of Americans want Congress to give President Obama the authority to use force against ISIS. In light of ISIS executing 22 Christians, attacking Jews, killing American journalists and aid workers, and launching attacks on American Marines in Iraq, why isn't Congress in session voting to give President Obama war power?

ZELDIN: Well, I think it's great that the president came to Congress requesting the authorization for the use of force. I'm on the House Foreign Affairs Committee here -- House Foreign Affairs Committee, where we had a hearing this past Thursday. There are some questions. There are going to be some hearings in the House and the Senate. We want to know how many troops are going to be used, what their mission is, who's in charge, are they going to be given the flexibility and resources necessary to accomplish their mission whenever we are deploying our assets, whether it is service members and equipment. When we risk --

COSTELLO: I absolutely understand the need for debate. I absolutely understand it, but, look, ISIS is now in Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan and Pakistan. I mean, what is Congress waiting for? Like debate it and get it done.

ZELDIN: I -- I -- I agree. I think that there is a very healthy dialogue that started in the last few days. The key is that the strategy has to be to win. We can't ever deploy our assets and risk life and limb if our strategy is to come up short so the president, you know, he has indicated back in September when he announced his strategy he'd be relying on Syrian rebels to finish the job. Iraqi military and law enforcement.

In Syria the Syrian rebels aren't fighting ISIS, they're fighting the Syrian government. The Syrian government is fighting the Syrian rebels and in Iraq we have military law enforcement where it's a victory just to get them to show up at work so expecting them to travel to defeat an element that one of my colleagues refers to as making al Qaeda look like boy scouts, it's important that the strategy is to win.


ZELDIN: It's not just to degrade ISIS.

COSTELLO: What would that strategy --

ZELDIN: It needs to be destroyed. COSTELLO: What would that strategy to win look like in your mind?

ZELDIN: Well, the good thing at this point is that we have senior leaders in our military who have multiple tours leading troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. We need to identify exactly who is in charge, what their vision is to destroy ISIS. We also need to be sure that they are being given, as I mentioned, the flexibility and resources necessary to actually accomplish that.

So we have special operations troops. Army Rangers, Green Berets, Navy SEALs, Delta Force, Marines, capable of operating at night.

COSTELLO: And you know what they're going to say, Congressman. I know what they're going to say. They're going to say there needs to be boots on the ground, whether it be U.S. boots on the ground or Arab boots on the ground, but somebody needs to fight ISIS face to face. They're also going to say in these countries with unstable governments there's really no way to defeat ISIS because that's the problem, those unstable governments, and we're not really helping those governments become stable, are we?

ZELDIN: Well, I don't think that we should have any type of occupation whatsoever. There should be no enduring ground presence. When we debate whether or not there should be troops on the ground in one respect you can say we already have troops on the ground. We have -- I had one gentleman show me a picture of their grandson from Baghdad. He's in the air force. He was carrying a rifle. He was wearing boots and they were on the ground. We have special operations forces capable of operating at night and turning nighttime into daylight.

They can come in at night. They can take out a high value target. They can capture intelligence. And they can get out before sunrise. So there's a difference between the conventional fight that we're used to in conflicts past and the unconventional capabilities that we have to fight an unconventional force in ISIS. So I think that if we had a senior leader and their vision to destroy ISIS included the use of our special operations forces without an occupation, without an enduring ground presence, utilizing our intelligence resources to take out their command and control, take out their logistics, try to cut out their financial mechanisms wherever possible because they must have become a very wealthy element.

COSTELLO: But I think that --

ZELDIN: The wealthiest terrorist element ever.

COSTELLO: I mean, we're already doing that. Maybe it needs to be on a larger scale or something. But we're already -- let me ask you this question. So Congress will come back from break and they'll debate whether to give President Obama war powers. How long will it take, do you think?

ZELDIN: Well, I don't think it would take very long at all quite honestly. We could have a very healthy conversation today, have our questions answered by this afternoon. I mean, when Congress comes back at the beginning of next week, everyone could be reassured that the strategy is to beat actually destroy ISIS.

As I mentioned at the House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing last Thursday, we need to have -- be instilling fear on the part of ISIS. They should be sleeping with one eye open because they fear that Army Ranger coming in the middle of the night to put a round of lead between their eyes.

If our effort is to destroy them with the full use of our capabilities in an intelligent way with someone in charge is given the flexibility to be able to accomplish their mission, I think that Congress, whether you're liberal or conservative, Republican or Democrat, representing the American people who are our constituents, there would be a large overwhelming amount of support coming from Congress and all across this country to destroy ISIS.

We just need to make sure that the effort isn't to come up short. If we are going to put a service member in a position where they can lose their life and miss another birthday or a holiday or an anniversary, we have to be sending them to win.

COSTELLO: All right.

Congressman Lee Zeldin of New York, thank you so much for being with me. I appreciate it.

ZELDIN: Thank you.

COSTELLO: I'll be right back.


COSTELLO: President Obama's plan to take executive action on immigration is running into a road block in Texas where a U.S. district judge has temporarily halted the order. The plan announced in November would defer deportation for nearly five million undocumented immigrants and protect those brought to the United States illegally as children. Some 26 states have sued saying the president's actions violate the Constitution.

And the battle has spread to Capitol Hill where a bill backed by House Republicans would provide critical funding for the Department of Homeland Security but only if the executive action is reversed. The House Speaker John Boehner says the real fight is about checking the president's power.


REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: The House has to do its work and the Senate has to do theirs. The House has acted to fund the department and to stop the president's overreach when it comes to immigration and his executive orders.

Remember, Chris, the president said 22 times that he did not have the authority to do what he eventually did. And the Congress just can't sit by and let the president defy the Constitution and defy his own oath of office. (END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: Here to talk about this is Cristina Jimenez, co-founder and managing director for United We Dream.

Thanks for being with me.

Thanks for having me.

COSTELLO: OK. So this Texas district court might have done the job for Speaker Boehner, right? Because it essentially stopped the president's immigration plan from taking place tomorrow. So what does that mean for the immigrants in this country?

CRISTINA JIMENEZ, CO-FOUNDER, UNITED WE DREAM: This is a temporary halt. It doesn't mean that it has an impact on young people that have already applied for the deferred action program that was issued in 2012. We have over 600,000 young people that have applied for this program. It does put a hold on the administrative changes that the president announced last November, which is a DAC expansion and a program for parents that could potentially apply for the program in May.

From our perspective, this is a bump in the road. It doesn't mean that our community or immigrants who believe are eligible for these programs should stop preparing. We actually are encouraging the community to prepare and we know that this is part of the legal battle. It's not a final decision. And as hard as we fought for this, we will continue to fight so the program goes into implementation.

COSTELLO: Well, you heard John Boehner. He says this really has nothing to do with immigration, but everything to do with an abuse of constitutional power. Does he have a point?

JIMENEZ: We remain confident that the president's decision stands on solid grounds, that he acted within his legal authority. In fact, there was another lawsuit that was actually thrown out by the Washington, D.C. court that was standing on the same grounds. So we understand that this is part of a broader Republican strategy, both congressional and legal as we're seeing with this court fight to really attack the president's decision.

From our perspective, you know, this is an attack on immigrants who cannot wait to sign up for this program. People like my parents.

COSTELLO: Well, talk about that. So what about your parents? They would have been able to do something tomorrow had it not been for this Texas court?

JIMENEZ: Not in this particular case because the process for tomorrow was for young people. But for my parents it will be in May. Now, this injunction it's both for the program for young people as well as for the parents that will be able to benefit and apply in May. My parents have been here more than 16 years, and they are really excited that they will be able to sign up for this program, to not live in fear of deportation and be able to sign up so that they can get this protection.

COSTELLO: All right. Cristina Jimenez, thank you so much for -- for coming in and explaining. I appreciate it.

The next hour of CNN NEWSROOM after a break.