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Colorado Prison Chief Killed; Obama in Israel; U.S. Eyes Red Line on Syria; Rep. Bachmann Dodges Questions; Sanford Leads Big in South Carolina Primary; Obama's Limo Breaks Down; Colorado Prison Chief Killed; Arias' PTSD Diagnosis Questioned

Aired March 20, 2013 - 09:00   ET


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now in the NEWSROOM, breaking overnight, the president landing in Israel. New urgency this hour as evidence mounts that Syria may have used chemical weapons on its own people.


WOLF BLITZER, ANCHOR, CNN'S THE SITUATION ROOM: Do you believe chemical weapons were used by the Syrian military?

REP. MIKE ROGERS (R), CHAIRMAN OF INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: I have a high probability to believe that chemical weapons were used.

COSTELLO: We're live on the ground.

Also, Bachmann, Bash, a new meaning to avoiding the question.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You've made some accusations against the president that were either questionable or untrue. Can you just talk to me about that?

COSTELLO: Our Dana Bash trying to get answers from the congresswoman.

BASH: The other --

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R), MINNESOTA: You want to talk a dog handler and there's four Americans are killed?

BASH: But, Congresswoman, you're the one who brought it up.

COSTELLO: Also victory for Stephen Colbert's sister, winner in the South Carolina primary. Now she could be up against Mark Sanford.

MARK SANFORD (R), SOUTH CAROLINA CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: I look forward to a spirited contest between here and April 2nd.


COSTELLO: You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.


COSTELLO: Good morning. Thank you very much for joining us. I'm Carol Costello. Unbelievable news out of Colorado this morning. The executive director of the Colorado Department of Corrections, the man in charge of all Colorado prisons, has been killed.

Tom Clements was found shot at his home last night near Colorado Springs in his upscale neighborhood. Now across the state the governor has ordered all flags to be lowered in his honor as the search is now on for whoever it was who is responsible for this. But so far there are no suspects.

Jim Spellman is -- he joins us by phone, he's in Colorado.

Jim, do you have any more information for us?

JIM SPELLMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via phone): Well, here's what we know at this point, Carol. It was around 8:00 -- rather 8:30 last night local time when a knock came at the door of Tom Clements' home. It's in an area called the Black Forest north of Colorado Springs. It's a pretty rural area, heavily wooded. And the initial information that the sheriff's office has is that he was shot in the chest as he answered the door. He was then declared dead on the scene.

They immediately began a massive manhunt. It is again a heavily wooded area. They were not able to find anybody overnight in the initial parts of the investigation.

Now, KUSA, our affiliate here, is reporting that the Colorado Bureau of Investigation has been brought up. That's a significant ramping up of the investigation. They're a statewide agency that has a lot more resources that they can bring to bear on this manhunt.

They don't have a suspect at this point. That's their main focus at this point. And as you would imagine, the fact that he was director of corrections, they're going to be looking at that hard, if somebody in the prison system somehow was related to his death -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Ironically, Jim, this murder comes as Colorado's governor is set to sign three new gun bills into law. I don't know, I guess police are checking every angle. Could this be one?

SPELLMAN: You know, I don't know. Tom Clements is not a guy that has a real high profile. He's not a guy you see out doing press conferences or speaking about things like this. He's been here in Colorado since January of 2011. He worked for decades in Missouri and was appointed by Governor Hickenlooper but he's not a guy you see out talking on these kind of issues so I'm not sure that that's something that would be high on the list of investigators -- Carol.

COSTELLO: And just -- take us through what police believe happened. He got on -- just a knock on the door. He answered the door. He was shot. Was there anybody else in the house at the time?

SPELLMAN: Well, we know that family -- that a family member unspecified called 911 right away. He's married, he has two daughters. Not sure of the ages of the girls. But that was somebody in the family that called 911. This is -- this is an area where a knock on your door at 8:30 would be pretty unusual. Nobody really walked out there, like I said, it's out in a heavily wooded area.

But he apparently opened the door and was shot immediately. So there's no indication that the family member who was home saw anybody or gave any kind of description at this point. I'll have to see what their investigation finds -- Carol.

COSTELLO: And this has shaken the state of Colorado. I mean that's to be expected. The governor is going to hold a news conference a little later this morning, right?

SPELLMAN: Absolutely. I mean this just crosses a line. You know, this crosses a line. We hold these people up, we give them these great responsibility, you know, to do these things and it's just stunning that somebody would just knock on the door and shoot this man, you know. A father, a husband, in the chest and kill him.

COSTELLO: Unbelievable. Well, the governor -- we expect the governor to speak in just about an hour.

Jim Spellman, thanks so much. Reporting live for us from Colorado.

Now let's head overseas.

This hour President Obama is in Israel, and despite the pomp and ceremony of his first visit there, huge concerns loom, like Iran's pursuit of a nuclear weapon. And it's the latest test of Obama's frosty relationship with the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

CNN's John King is in Jerusalem this morning.

John, this is President Obama's first trip to Israel. How delicate, how pivotal is this visit?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Carol, it is fascinating. I've been here in the past with President Clinton, with President George W. Bush, now President Obama. In the past the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is almost always at the top of the agenda but given the events in this complicated neighborhood that that now is more complicated and confused than ever, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict actually down on the list.

The president wants to share information and get information from his Israeli counterparts about what's going on in Syria. Did the government in Syria use chemical weapons in recent days against its own people? That's a big question. Obviously the nuclear showdown with Iran. The president wants to give diplomacy a chance. The prime minister wants an assurance that if that diplomacy doesn't bear fruit over the next few months that the president of the United States is prepared to put the military option on the table.

There's uncertainty to Israel's south in Egypt because of the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood. And, yes, the president did say he wants to have peace in the holy land and he will make that a priority. No accident the president says that this is the first international trip of his second term. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is no accident. Across this region, the winds of change bring both promise and peril. So I see this visit as an opportunity to reaffirm the unbreakable bond between our nations, to restate America's unwavering commitment to Israel's security, and to speak directly to the people of Israel and to your neighbors.


KING: Now, remember, Carol, the first big trip of the president's first term was that trip to Cairo. He gave that big speech promising more outreach to the Arab and Muslim world. Some Israelis took offense, they didn't think the president spend enough time talking about their issues, they security, their histories ties to this land. So the president resetting in the second term, here to make a statement to the Israeli people but also to do some very important security business with the prime minister and other Israeli officials.

Again, the crisis in Syria, the confrontation with Iran at the top of the list but a lot of issues in a very complicated neighborhood. The president has got a packed agenda here.

COSTELLO: All right, John King reporting live from Jerusalem.

Now let's turn to the international concerns over Syria. The seriously endangered regime has unleashed chemical weapons on its own people.

CNN's Ivan Watson is in Amman, Jordan, he's following this potential tipping point in Syria's civil war.


IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Did someone use chemical weapons on the bloody Syrian battlefield? The Syrian government accuses rebels of firing some kind of chemical weapon at the town of Khan al-Asal. Damascus says it killed at least 25 people on Tuesday. Government TV aired interviews with survivors.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (Through Translator): It was the Free Syrian Army. They shelled the neighborhood with a missile, and when people smelled the stench, they fell down and couldn't breathe.

WATSON: Syrian rebels quickly denied the accusations, instead accusing the Syrian government of carrying out a chemical weapons attack.

(On camera): Some chemical weapons experts say so far they've seen little evidence to prove nerve toxins were used in Tuesday's deadly attack but that hasn't stopped at least one senior U.S. lawmaker from pointing the finger at the Syrian regime.

ROGERS: I have a high probability to believe that chemical weapons were used. We need that final verification. WATSON (voice-over): The White House is repeating its warning to Damascus that chemical weapons use would cross an American red line.

DENIS MCDONOUGH, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: We are going to be very clear to the Syrian regime, as we have been throughout, and to all the Syrian supporters throughout the world and then obviously to our partners in the region, that if this is substantiated, obviously it does suggest, as the president just said, that this is a game-changer and we'll act accordingly.

WATSON: It's hard to imagine that poorly armed Syrian rebels with their homemade weaponry could have had the ability to fire a projectile with a poison payload. The Syrian military, meanwhile, has scud surface-to-surface missiles. Damascus is believed to have fired dozens of these huge weapons at Syrian cities and towns with devastating, deadly results.


WATSON: And, Carol, it's important to put this in context. Whether or not chemical weapons were used yesterday, the important thing is more than 70,000 Syrians have been killed in a conflict that has gone on for more than two years and shows no sign of ending for many Syrians. It doesn't matter whether an American red line was crossed. What matters is more than 100 people are getting killed a day, whether it's chemical weapons or bullets or bombs. These people are dying -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Ivan Watson reporting live from Jordan this morning.

Congresswoman Michele Bachmann nearly ran through the halls of Congress to avoid some tough questions.

CNN's Dana Bash asked Bachmann about comments she made at the conservative conference CPAC. Bachmann accused President Obama of frivolous spending on a lavish White House lifestyle. Listen.


BACHMANN: Now we find out that there are five chefs on Air Force One. There are two projectionists who operate the White House movie theater. They regularly sleep at the White House in order to be readily available in case the first family wants a really, really late show. We are also the ones who are paying for someone to walk the president's dog.


COSTELLO: OK. So now watch what happens when CNN's Dana Bash asks Bachmann about her allegations.


BASH: Congresswoman, can I ask you about your speech at CPAC? You've made some accusations against the president that were either questionable or untrue. Can you just talk to me about that? I just want to ask you some specifics.

BACHMANN: Well, the comments that I made about the president are the fact that during the Benghazi debacle the president went missing.


BASH: Right. What I want to ask you about is the fact that you said that he had -- you talked about the excesses that he's engaged in. The fact that he has a dog Walker, which is not true.

BACHMANN: The big point in my speech was about Benghazi. This was an absolute disaster.


BASH: You also made specific accusations about the president spending money that other presidents also made.

BACHMANN: The real issue is there are four Americans that are dead. The secretary of state was not in conversation with the secretary of defense or with the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

BASH: I think that's an important point.

BACHMANN: She was not there.


BASH: I think that's an important but this is another --

BACHMANN: The president of the United States didn't care about those four Americans and they were killed. That's the point. And we've got to focus.

BASH: But if you want to focus on that then what --


BACHMANN: That's it, Dana. That's what the point.

BASH: If you want to focus on that why did you bring up the other things?

BACHMANN: You want to talk about dog handlers? And there's four Americans killed?

BASH: But, Congresswoman, you're -- but you're the one who brought it up. You're the one who brought it up.


COSTELLO: All righty then. The "Washington Post" fact-check has reported those claims by Bachmann are all either misleading or unsubstantiated.

South Carolina's disgraced former governor may be the latest political comeback kid. Mark Sanford finished far ahead of the 15 other Republican candidates in the primary for an open house seat. But Sanford fell short of 50 percent, so now he's heading for a runoff. A recount is probably will be held to confirm his opponent.

The winner of that race will face Democrat Elizabeth Colbert-Busch. She's the sister of comedian Stephen Colbert and though she won her primary in a landslide, she'll have to fight hard to win on May 7th in this Republican-leaning district.

I'm joined now from Charleston, South Carolina, by CNN national political correspondent Jim Acosta.

Good morning, Jim.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Carol. That's right. You summed it up very nicely. Mark Sanford, after being left for dead in the political wilderness in South Carolina, he is very much back on the campaign trail, very much back on a comeback mission here in South Carolina. He trounce, as you said just a few moments ago, a field of 15 Republican opponents to win the Republican primary here in this race for the open seat in the First Congressional District.

And how did he do it, Carol? Well, he pretty much went around the state asking the voters -- not the state, but this district asking the voters for forgiveness. He was very upfront about the fact that he made some mistakes when he was governor of this state, when he falsely told voters that he was hiking the Appalachian Trail when instead he was traveling to Argentina to carry on an extramarital affair.

And it was that message of asking for forgiveness and atonement that connected with voters. And I asked Mark Sanford last night at his victory party whether he feels like he's the state's comeback kid. Here's what he had to say.


SANFORD: Well, you guys come up with all your own definitions on these things. And we'll not interrupt -- you know, what I learned a long time ago, the media is going to do what the media is going to do so --

ACOSTA: But this must feel -- this must feel like redemption?

SANFORD: It's incredibly humbling, as I just said. At many different levels of what you suggest so it's been a remarkable journey and I just feel blessed to be here.


ACOSTA: Now he is not exactly the Republican nominee just yet. As you said just a few moments ago, Carol, he does have to face off in a runoff against whoever is the number two opponent in this race. There was not a clear second place finisher last night. There were two candidates who were really neck in neck for that second place slot. But once that is sorted out, this may trigger an automatic recount unless one of those two candidates backs out.

That runoff will occur in less than two weeks from today and then as you said just a few moments ago, he'll have to go up against the sister of Stephen Colbert, Elizabeth Colbert Busch, in the general election come May.

But, Carol, this is a very conservative congressional district. A lot of the political insiders here in Charleston, South Carolina, feel that Mark Sanford is not only a shoo-in in this runoff but perhaps in that final general election battle in May -- Carol.

COSTELLO: We'll see. Jim Acosta reporting live from Charleston, South Carolina, this morning.

Just ahead in THE NEWSROOM, more news on that unbelievable shooting of the executive director of the Colorado Department of Corrections. He was shot as he answered his door. We'll take you live to Colorado, next.


COSTELLO: As we told you at the top of the show, President Obama is now in Israel. He's meeting with leaders there, including the Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Lots of pomp and circumstance as the president arrived at the airport. "The Star-Spangled Banner" played, there was a big red carpet laid out for him to walk on -- I mean, it was incredible. But one thing went terribly wrong. Let's head to Jerusalem now and check in with Sara Sidner.

This is kind of embarrassing.

SARA SIDNER, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's embarrassing. We've got to give this guy a break, right?

What happens is the limo that was here in Jerusalem, the president came in in a helicopter and landed in Jerusalem and then was going to be taken to his hotel by limo. Apparently, this morning, before the president got here, to be fair enough, the person driving the limo accidentally put gas into a car that needed diesel. You know what happens, right? The limo didn't start.

So the limo had to be towed. Very embarrassing. Luckily we don't know who was driving, we don't know a name. But I have to tell you, Carol, I've done it myself before. Sometimes, you know, when you're nervous and there's this big person coming in from the United States, the president of the U.S., these things happen sometimes.

But no security issues.

COSTELLO: I feel for him, though, Sara.

SIDNER: The president made it to his hotel.

COSTELLO: Oh, that's good. I feel for him because it was such a beautiful welcoming ceremony. It really was. The entire "Star- Spangled Banner" played and then I guess what was the Israeli national anthem played. It was like gorgeous.

And then this happened.

SIDNER: Yes. You know, the good thing is that everything has gone smoothly. And to be fair, this happened long before the president got to Jerusalem.

You know, there's a lot of serious issues that are going to be discussed today. First, the president is going to be talking with the president of Israel, Shimon Peres, and then he'll speak with the prime minister. Lots of very important things on the menu -- Syria, Iran, the Palestinian peace process. So those things will certainly be talked about.

The president may not even know about this, because this happened around 10:00 a.m. our time and he didn't arrive here until 12:30, but certainly the person making the limo, this is starting to make news, it's all over Twitter, probably feels a little bad, but he'll get over it, I'm pretty sure.

COSTELLO: I'm sure he will.

Sara Sidner, thanks. We needed a little giggle this morning. We appreciate it.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

COSTELLO: And we are continuing to follow that breaking news out of Colorado. Police search all night long for whoever is responsible for the murder of the executive director of the Colorado Department of Corrections. Tom Clements was found murdered at his home near Colorado Springs. Police called to his home last night following reports of a shooting.

Right now, no suspects in custody. The governor of Colorado has ordered all flags in Colorado to be lowered in Clements' honor.

Shaul Turner from affiliate KDVR joins us now.

And, Shaul, what are police saying this morning?

SHAUL TURNER, REPORTER, KDVR: Well, at this point what they're focusing on is just finding the gunman in this case. Police believe them to be here in the state of Colorado. Fifty-eight-year-old Tom Clements confirmed dead, the executive director of the Colorado Department of Corrections. Let me give you a look at the scene here.

As you see, police have the area roped off. The Clements' home is right around that bend we're showing you. And what happened just after 8:30 Mountain Standard Time last night, there was a knock at the door of the home. Mr. Clements opened that door and was shot in the chest. His family called 911, he was rushed to the hospital and pronounced dead. The governor reaching out to employees this morning issuing a statement, saying that he's never worked with a better person, that he is saddened. As you mentioned, flags at half staff and plenty of reaction coming in from state government this morning.

Now, police are saying there's no immediate danger in this area, which would indicate that the gunman is fleeing at this point in this area, perhaps toward to the state line, to the south of Colorado Springs, perhaps in a different direction, but we are following this investigation right now. No suspects in custody.

Clements leaves behind, by the way, a wife and two daughters.

Shaul Turner, reporting live, back to you, Carol.

COSTELLO: Shaul, I'm just looking at the neighborhood there. It would be difficult for police to find somebody. It seems to be a heavily wooded neighborhood.

How do they know that the suspect has fled from that neighborhood?

TURNER: Well, they have pretty much canvassed the area and given the all clear, that it is safe here for everyone else. There's no immediate threat. But what you can't see from here is we are just about five minutes away from I-25, major interstate that runs to take you right on out of Colorado down into New Mexico. That would be very easy for any suspect to jump right on I-25 and flee from this area and flee from the state.

So they are, of course, pulling out all the stops. They are looking everywhere. But this immediate area declared safe. That suspect not assumed to be right here.

COSTELLO: All right, Shaul Turner from affiliate KDVR, thank you so much.

And as we told you before, the governor will hold a new conference next hour regarding Clements' death. We'll bring that to you live.

A dramatic day of testimony in the trial of accused killer Jodi Arias. Dr. Richard Samuels, the psychologist who diagnosed Arias with PTSD, facing sharp scrutiny from prosecutors after admitting Arias lied to him repeatedly during his evaluation.

Ted Rowlands has more for you.


JUAN MARTINEZ, PROSECUTOR: Do you have a problem with remembering what I said?

DR. RICHARD SAMUELS, PSYCHOLOGIST: No, I don't have any more problem than you do, sir.

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The courtroom battle between a defense witness, psychologist Richard Samuel, and prosecutor Juan Martinez escalated during Samuel's third day on the witness stand.

SAMUELS: I do not assume that it was a lie.

MARTINEZ: Generally speaking, if an individual lies to you about something that you consider irrelevant, then it's no harm, no foul, right?

SAMUELS: It depends upon what the issue was related to. She had to attributed it -- attributed, rather, to this made-up story.

MARTINEZ: You don't know that, do you?

SAMUELS: No, I don't. I'm speculating.

MARTINEZ: Right. Made it up right now. Speculating.

SAMUELS: No, clinical judgment.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's not made up.

SAMUELS: Oh, really?

ROWLANDS: Samuels was hired to explain how Jodi Arias, who's facing a possible death sentence, could have forgotten stabbing her boyfriend, Travis Alexander, almost 30 times, leaving behind this incredibly bloody crime scene.

Samuels testified that he thinks Arias suffers from PTSD.

SAMUELS: That's correct. She remembers the beginning of the attack and the end of the attack.

ROWLANDS: But the rest of it, arias claims she can't member.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you have any memories of slashing Mr. Alexander's throat?


ROWLANDS: Prosecutor Martinez went to great lengths trying to discredit Samuels, peppering him about his inconsistencies in his report on Arias and openly questioning the quality of his work.

MARTINEZ: How much are you getting paid per hour?

SAMUELS: I get paid per hour, $250.

MARTINEZ: And for $250 an hour, you're saying that this is not -- you weren't paying enough attention to put whatever else was needed?

SAMUELS: I reviewed the report numerous times and I must admit I missed it.


ROWLANDS: And, Carol, no relief for Dr. Samuels today. He'll be back on the stand. He won't be facing Juan Martinez, though. Today, he'll face juror questions when court resumes later today in Phoenix -- Carol.

COSTELLO: All right. Ted Rowlands, reporting live for us this morning, thanks so much.

Still ahead in THE NEWSROOM, talkback question for you today: will Newtown death photos force lawmakers to enact new gun laws? or tweet me @carolCNN.


COSTELLO: In Missouri, charges expected to be filed today against a man who interrupted Kansas City Mayor Sly James during a speech on Tuesday.


MAYOR SLY JAMES, KANSAS CITY: Million dollars in investment --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This man has just got through talking about exactly (EXPLETIVE DELETED.


COSTELLO: Yes, that's not OK. Affiliate KCTV reports the mayor's body guards wrestled the man backstage. Mayor James, a former marine, he was not hurt. He called the incident unfortunate.

To Michigan now where police got quite a shock during a patrol stop. It happened yesterday in Kalamazoo. Affiliate WWMT reports officers stopped to talk to a man sitting in a parked car. He said he just hit a deer and then picked it up to take it home for food. But when he popped the trunk, the deer hopped out. I guess they'll be calling for takeout now.

Now is your chance to talk back on one of the big stories of the day. The question for you this morning, will the Newtown death photos force lawmakers to enact new gun laws?

Gun control Democrats are a frustrated bunch. Despite polls showing a majority of Americans supporting an assault weapons ban, Democratic lawmakers can't get it done. The Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid now says such a ban has zero chance of passing.

Here's Michael Moore on "PIERS MORGAN LIVE."


MICHAEL MOORE, FILMMAKER: This attitude of, well, we're not going to be able to -- we're not going to get -- you know, this is why our side -- we have these we weenies on our side. There's -- well, we can't votes.

You know, this is what I actually admire about Republicans. They have got the courage of their convictions. (END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: The NRA's message does seem to be resonating, while a majority of Americans are in favor of an assault weapons ban, polls also show support for gun control measures is fading.

Moore also cites our fading memories of Newtown for the deep gun control passion. We know dozens of children were murdered there, but Moore suggests the horror of that day has now faded.

He has an idea, though. If they wish, Moore wants parents to release pictures of their children after they had been slaughtered by the gunman.


MOORE: In my blog I talked about a young man by the name of Emmitt Till, in 1955, a young black kid that was murdered down South simply because he was black.