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Interview With Michigan Congressman Mike Rogers; Mass Stabbing at Texas College; North Korean Crisis; Reporter Ruling Delayed

Aired April 9, 2013 - 16:00   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news this afternoon.

At least 14 people wounded, not in a mass shooting, but a mass stabbing.

I'm Jake Tapper, and this is THE LEAD.

The national lead. A Texas college on lockdown at this hour, an attacker stabbing away seemingly at random. At this fragile moment in the gun debate, could this have an impact?

The world lead. North Korea could now fire a missile without warning according to the White House. What is the U.S. prepared to do? We will ask the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

And the money lead. They will teach classes about him some day in business schools as an example of what not to do. The CEO of J.C. Penney is out after taking the department store chain from bad to worse.

The national lead at this hour, the Cy-Fair campus of Lone Star College near Houston is sealed off after police say a student went building to building stabbing people seemingly at random. At least 14 people are wounded. Four victims had to be flown to the hospital and two are said to be in critical condition.

One suspect, a student at Lone Star, is in custody at this time. But there is so much about this case that we still don't know.


ADRIAN GARCIA, HARRIS COUNTY, TEXAS, SHERIFF: We do not know exactly what type of weapon was used, other than to say that it is at this point an unknown instrument, that we don't know whether a knife or some other type of instrument.


TAPPER: You may remember Lone Star College was in the news in January when three people were shot on one of its other campuses.

I'm joined on the phone now by Robert Rasa with the Cy-Fair Volunteer Fire Department and by Maya Khalil, a 19-year-old freshman at Lone Star College.

First to you, Maya. What did you see go down on campus today?

MAYA KHALIL, STUDENT: What I saw were the victims that were laying down bleeding and the EMT and the police officers trying to help them.

TAPPER: And, Robert, we have heard various reports about the type of weapon used. Can you shed any light on that and how serious the injuries were?

ROBERT RASA, CY-FAIR VOLUNTEER FIRE DEPARTMENT: Well, I can tell you the scene was very chaotic once we were allowed in, once the scene was secured.

We were literally going from building to building, room to room looking for patients, setting up triage. All of the injuries were consistent, lacerations around the head and neck area.

TAPPER: And, Maya, you have seen violence on campuses and schools before from Virginia Tech to Newtown to the other Lone Star campus. Did you ever think this would happen on your campus?

KHALIL: No. I never thought that it would ever happen on my campus. I was very shocked and surprised it did.

TAPPER: And, Maya, how did campus police and the security forces, how did they do? Did they do a good job of ending this horrible incident?

KHALIL: Yes. They did a great job. There was a long line trying to exit the campus because the police officers were trying to look through everybody's vehicle to make sure that there isn't anything in there. And after that, we were all allowed to leave campus.

TAPPER: And, lastly, Robert, you were there so quickly, I believe because there's a fire department training facility right on campus, right?

RASA: Yes. We have a partnership with the Lone Star College System. Our training facility and one of our 12 stations is actually located on the campus. So we actually had apparatus and personnel staged before the scene was released and determined safe and then we were able to move in and treat the patients quickly.

TAPPER: All right, Robert Rasa and Maya Khalil from the campus of Lone Star in Texas, thank you so much.

The stabbing comes at a critical time in the national debate over guns.

Jon Favreau, former head speechwriter to President Obama, joins me now.

Now, Favs, as you're known, this is a Republican talking point already right now. Look at this. You don't need to have a gun to be a horrible person and wound a lot of people. There are all these snarky comments on Twitter and the Internet about knife control. There was a report that maybe he stabbed people with a pencil -- pencil control. Do you think an incident like this can have an effect on this very fragile debate going on right now in terms of people trying to get a legislative coalition to pass gun control measures?


The president's message from the very beginning is taking any steps we can to reduce violence anywhere it is from any source. And that doesn't negate the need for commonsense gun safety measures that can stop someone who shouldn't have a weapon from purchasing one and causing real violence.

TAPPER: President Obama was in Connecticut last night. I believe the last time he was there, you wrote the speech, that was a very moving speech just within days of the Newtown massacre. You didn't write this one. Let's play just a little bite from that.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Connecticut, this is not about me. This is not about politics. This is about doing the right thing for all the families who are here that have been torn apart by gun violence.


TAPPER: Very different tone, more like a rally. Obviously he's trying to rally people to pass something. You and I have talked about this offline. There have been massacres on President Obama's watch before. What is it about Newtown that actually got him involved in the issue?

FAVREAU: I think coming right after Aurora and the fact that, you know, so many children were involved affected him very deeply as a father. I know the day that it happened, I saw him and it was one of the hardest days of his presidency. I had never seen him like that.

So I think he -- after Newtown really, he wanted to build the coalition necessary to prevent violence wherever he can.

TAPPER: I heard that anecdotally, that he was almost inconsolable, the president, on that day, that he wept. He certainly wasn't alone, but that he wept, if that is what you're talking about?

FAVREAU: I did not see him weep.

But I did -- when he was making edits to the speech he gave in the Briefing Room that day, he could barely look up from the desk. It affected him that deeply.

TAPPER: But why not address the issue of gun violence before Newtown? Obviously, I understand why Newtown would prompt him to try to do something, but there had been massacres before.

FAVREAU: There had. Yes, what we're seeing right now is with so many horrible massacres that have happened over the last couple months, some of the worst in American history, we're seeing that even with, it is still so difficult to build political support for taking any kind of even commonsense measures on gun safety.

TAPPER: Among Democrats, too.

FAVREAU: Among Democrats as well. You know, some of the red state folks have been -- yes, it's a really tough issue. And so before these massacres, sadly, there just wasn't a lot of -- it was much harder to build political support. There weren't a ton of questions in the White House Briefing Room about it. There weren't a lot of news stories about it.

It's horrible that it takes -- that it took this to get people, you know, to really want to act. But, hopefully, we can get something done.

TAPPER: On a lighter note, let's talk about you for a second, because hopefully we will have you back under less horrific experiences, context.

But you were director of speechwriting and you wrote for the president for years and years. And now you left. You're going to be doing consulting and you're working on a screenplay?

FAVREAU: Yes, some time in the future.

TAPPER: Tell me about the screenplay. What is this? Tell me. I want to know more about the screenplay.

FAVREAU: Tommy Vietor and I, who both worked in the White House and now we're starting this firm, we have talked for quite a while about doing maybe a television series that's loosely based on our -- the many different experiences we had over the course of the campaign.

TAPPER: In the White House or on the campaign?

FAVREAU: Mostly the campaign.

TAPPER: Mostly the campaign.

FAVREAU: There are so many stories, great stories from a lot of our friends that worked on the campaign.

TAPPER: Drama or comedy.

FAVREAU: A little bit of both.

TAPPER: A little bit of both. Hour or half-hour?

FAVREAU: Yes. Maybe an hour.

TAPPER: Maybe an hour.

FAVREAU: We will see. It's in the early stages.


TAPPER: We are going to have you back. Thank you so much, Jon.


FAVREAU: Thank you for having me, Jake.

TAPPER: I appreciate it.

Our world lead. Should we take North Korea's threats seriously? A congressman with inside knowledge says, yes. My interview with Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers is next.

And coming up in our money lead, free gourmet meals, haircuts, yoga all at the office. Sound good? Not to Uncle Sam. Why the federal government wants you to pay for your perks.


TAPPER: The world lead.

North Korea could have a missile in the sky at any moment without warning, that from CNN's Barbara Starr, who reports that the Obama administration believes the North Korean government has completed the launch preparations to test mobile ballistic missiles. The communist country is urging foreign workers and tourists in South Korea to evacuate or find shelter because the situation is -- quote -- "inching close to a thermonuclear war."

It is? North Korea is still years from having a nuclear warhead according to most analysts. If a launch happens, it will probably be a test, a show of force. But just in case, officials in the U.S. territory of Guam will interrupt TV and radio broadcasts this week with the eerie screeches and beeps of an emergency alert system test.

Meanwhile, CNN's own Elise Labott has confirmed a report that a State Department official met with a North Korean government representative last month shortly before the latest round of provocations from North Korea, although no progress came out of it. And today the top U.S. military commander in the Pacific, Admiral Samuel Locklear, testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee. He says Kim Jong-un is pushing the world farther than his father ever dared.


ADM. SAMUEL LOCKLEAR, COMMANDER, U.S. PACIFIC COMMAND: He's unpredictable, more unpredictable. He -- his father and grandfather as far as I could see always figured into their provocation cycle an off-ramp of how to get out of it.

And it's not clear to me that he has thought through how to get out of it.


TAPPER: Admiral Locklear also says the U.S. is prepared to shoot down anything the North fires, but he wouldn't recommend it unless the target was the U.S. or an ally.

Joining me now is the House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers.

Congressman, thanks for joining us.

REP. MIKE ROGERS (R), MICHIGAN: Hey, Jake. It's great to be here. And congratulations on the new show.


TAPPER: Thank you, sir. Thank you.

So, North Korea today warned foreigners in South Korea to take shelter or consider evacuating. They say -- quote -- "They do not want to see foreigners in South Korea fall victim to the war."

Do you expect that we are going to see some type of military action on the peninsula?

ROGERS: Well, clearly, a lot of this is for domestic consumption for un. So, he is 28 years old. He's very young leader, very untested.

When he first started, he had some political folks around him that could have mediated some of this. It's been replaced, his inner circle, with real hard liners. So what I think you see happening, Jake, is he -- he is making a fuss for his own solidification of his military environment, and Korea is one of those countries that is an army with a country, and he is trying to solidify his power base.

Now, that being said, as aggressive as he has been, it's a little bit out of the box of where his father was. His father used to do this, but you could tell when he was getting ready to back down. We just don't know that point yet. And our concern is he may even be looking for some small, and I want to emphasize small, skirmish to embolden his credentials with the military.

TAPPER: What type of small skirmish are you talking about? Obviously, in 2010, the North Koreans attacked a South Korean ship, killing 46 South Korean sailors.

They attacked, they shelled an island, killing four South Koreans. Do you think it will be something that will include loss of life?

ROGERS: Well, it could. I mean, any time there is that military exchange, there is certainly that possibility.

And I believe those were clearly attempts, you know, to rattle ROGERS: Well, it could. I mean, any time there is that military exchange there is certainly that possibility and I believe those were clearly attempts, you know, to rattle the saber and, unfortunately, there was no response to either one of those events. So, in their mind -- you have to think about what they're thinking -- they're thinking, well, we can continue and up to these small types of skirmishes to prove our point before we have to back down.

The trouble is, his rhetoric is well overheated than normal and that's what concerns me, certainly.

TAPPER: President Obama has been taking a page out of Teddy Roosevelt's book "speaking softly carrying a big stick." Do you think the White House is striking the right tone or should the U.S. be more aggressive and assertive when it comes to the threats from North Korea?

ROGERS: I think they've done a good job on the Korean response. So the initial move of interceptors, things that could shoot down missiles out West, I mean, it was about a year too late but I'm glad they did it. The fact that they were showing that we have military capabilities that we could have to engage in a conflict like this and we're using it I thought that was absolutely appropriate.

And then the next step here is we have got to engage China. If China -- China wants, they can stop all of that fuel in the black -- the black market fuel purchases going across the Chinese and North Korean border. They haven't really stepped up to do that.

So we can show that we have the strength and resolve that we will not tolerate threats of nuclear exchange or military attack to the United States. Thought that was handled well. Let's step up our diplomatic efforts with China and others to pressure them to stop those transactions on the northern border. That will hurt North Korea more than anything. You'd be surprised.

TAPPER: I want to move to a different hot spot in the world.


TAPPER: "Reuters" is reporting that al Qaeda in Iraq says that it considers a group in Syria to be an extension of their organization, part of the opposition in Syria. How concerned are you about the opposition in Syria and about their ties to terrorist groups?

ROGERS: Very. This is something we talked about for sometime. So, their announcement isn't anything new. Just the fact that they're bragging about it in such a big way tells you where they think they are in Syria -- meaning, they think their position is strong enough.

And in the beginning, the estimates were hundreds. I can tell you, the estimates now are thousands of people who are mainly through something called the al Nusra front, which is a front organization for al Qaeda in Iraq. And it's so concerning, Jake, because we have chemical weapons there and we have a huge stockpile of very sophisticated conventional weapons. So it is obviously concerning. So, think of this. You have al Qaeda in a destabilized country who wants to get their hands on those weapons. You have Hezbollah in the North who wants to get their hands on the weapons. We even have reports now of Hamas elements there looking and snooping around for the possibility to get their hands on those weapons.

This is a disaster waiting to happen.

TAPPER: On the domestic front, Congressman, you told "Bloomberg" yesterday that you're in favor of background checks for the purchases of guns. I'm wondering if you could provide a little bit more detail.

Do you support universal background checks or are there exceptions you favor? Do you support the legislation being discussed in the Senate? Where are you exactly on the issue?

ROGERS: Yes, I think there's room for background checks and -- for firearm purchases and some expansion of it. Not for registering firearms and all the other things people want to attach to it.

But the other thing I said in that interview that didn't make the press was that we're going to spend a lot of time pitting blue states against red states, cities against rural areas, about, with this conversation about a beauty contest for firearms. And I was a former FBI agent, so I understand these very well.

If you really want to get at this issue the one thing that no one wants to talk about is this mental health issue. In each of these cases, from the Gabby Gifford case to the Newtown case to the Colorado case, the players have both interaction with law enforcement and the mental health community to a point it raised alarms. But there was no mechanism to intercede in that person's life to stop them short of a violent act.

If we don't have that conversation, there isn't one proposal, not one, that would have stopped these events from happening. And so, that's been my concern is let's do the things we can agree on. Let's get a simple registration that I think 85 percent of us will agree to that doesn't overstep the bounds and let's have this national debate about what we need to do about those very difficult, very hard core, violent tendency mental health issues that we were really going to have to step up and do something about.

TAPPER: Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, thanks for joining us today.

ROGERS: Thanks, Jake.

TAPPER: Facing hard time for doing her job. A new twist in the story we brought you yesterday about the reporter covering the Aurora shooter who is refusing to give up her sources. Our "Buried Lead" is next.


TAPPER: Now for the "Buried Lead": This is where we bring you stories that we don't think are getting enough attention.

A reporter who refused to name her sources will not have to go to jail, at least for now. Yesterday, we told you about FOX reporter Jana Winter. She faces six months in jail for refusing to name who tipped her off about a notebook Aurora movie theater shooting suspect James Holmes sent his psychiatrist before the shooting. Sources said the notebook detailed how Holmes planned to, quote, "kill people before the theater attack."

A Colorado judge delayed a ruling on whether to order Winter to testify yesterday. He first wants to know if the notebook will even be used in Holmes' trial.

Remember the good old days when you could press your textbook not to tattle on you? The "New York Times" reports that Texas A&M is testing out a software called CourseSmart. It lets teachers measure how much their students are reading on digital books, even whether they took notes or opened the book at all. Critics say the software cannot measure whether students took notes on paper. Plus, of course, a savvy student could always leave the book open for a few hours while they're busy doing something else.

You've watched him travel bite by bite and shot by shot around the globe and Anthony Bourdain will be among our guests tomorrow on THE LEAD before he goes to, quote, "PARTS UNKNOWN". "PARTS UNKNOWN", that's his new show that starts this Sunday night at 9:00 Eastern on CNN.

We've wiretapped our green room to listen in on our political panel. Why? Because Senator Mitch McConnell says someone did the same thing to his campaign office. Now, the FBI is looking into it. So who's the mole? That's our "Politics Lead". That's right next.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

"The Money Lead": Jealous of all the amazing perks that Silicon Valley doles out? Well, there may not be any such thing as a free lunch at Google anymore. At least if the IRS has anything to say about it.

"The Politics Lead": The Senate will vote Thursday on whether to open debate on new gun control legislation. Will the new stars of the Republican Party filibuster as promised over the objections of some of the GOP's old guard?

And "The Pop Culture Lead": Brad Paisley and LL Cool J set out to unite the races and they succeed in one respect: both black people and white people cannot stand their new song collaboration.