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Interview With Utah Congressman Jason Chaffetz; President Obama Defends Intelligence Agencies; Closing Guantanamo; Gunned Down Officer's Family Speaks; Mark Sanford's Affair Comes Up in Debate

Aired April 30, 2013 - 16:00   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Does the president really think the system was working fine before the Boston terrorist attacks?

I'm Jake Tapper and this is THE LEAD.

The national lead. The FBI turned up nothing on Tamerlan Tsarnaev in 2011, despite talking to him directly. President Obama today defended the feds and suggested critics have political motives.

His life was the last claimed in a rampage of terror in Boston, but now the family of slain MIT police officer Sean Collier is sitting down with THE LEAD for an exclusive talk about the depth of their loss.

And the buried lead, a promise unkept, President Obama returning to one of his earliest failures in office and vowing today a new push to close the prison in Guantanamo Bay.

Once again, we're coming to you live from Boston, a city still recovering from the terrorist attacks two weeks and one day ago. In our national lead, it's the kind of hard evidence that could drive this investigation to a new level.

Within the last hour CNN has learned investigators found at least one fingerprint on bomb fragments according to a law enforcement official with knowledge of the investigation. We're told no matches have yet been made.

Meanwhile, President Obama today defending the FBI's handling of the investigation before and after the attacks. We're going to get deeper into that with Republican Congressman Jason Collins, a frequent administration critic, in just a moment.

The president is also backing a review ordered by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper to see whether any agencies dropped the ball before the attacks.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Is there, in fact, additional protocols and procedures that could be put in place that would further improve and enhance our ability to detect a potential attack?

And we won't know that until that review is completed.


TAPPER: So I want to begin with CNN national security analyst Juliette Kayyem. She's a former official with the Department of Homeland Security and a "Boston Globe" columnist.

Juliette, the president pretty strongly defended the FBI against criticisms not just from partisans that there were some mistakes. Do you think he is going to have to dial that back in the coming weeks?

JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: He might have to and I should say he should not be speaking about this case anymore. It is an ongoing investigation.

That's why I think it is so important the DNI is now leading a review. We don't know yet either whether the FBI should have reviewed it more or whether their protocols are too weak given the kind of threat we have now. It is very likely the FBI followed protocols but those protocols aren't going to catch the kind of threat we now face.

The president probably shouldn't be talking about this anymore. It was right to send it over to the DNI. Let them do a review. James Clapper, long-term intelligence guy, support from both sides of the Hill -- let's not make this political because as you have seen it's becoming political now. There are questions for the FBI. Some people may know the answers. But we have seen this investigation that is going in all sorts of directions and I think we all look forward to the final review to see sort of how did those pieces put together and as importantly what changes should be made to the protocols or omissions done by the FBI?

TAPPER: Ambassador Thomas McNamara, who used to be in charge of the information sharing job, the guy in charge of making sure all the agencies were working together, he was on the show yesterday. He said the FBI is still not sharing enough information. He expressed concerns about the fact that the FBI and the CIA were both contacted by the successor organization of the KGB, the FSB, and no red flags went off.

You must share some of those concerns.

KAYYEM: Yes. I think one of the concerns is why didn't the state and locals know? Part of the JTTF, the joint terrorism task force structure is the assumption because we live here, Bostonians live here we ought to know even if the information isn't enough to make the FBI or the CIA worry. Right?

The second issue or question that has to be answered is, why aren't these pings whether it's from the CIA or DHS, requiring a new review? It may very well be that there are so many of them or that the Russians were not giving us more information, which I think is a key point right now.

So that's why you want a review taken out of the White House and taken out of sort of White House spokespeople and putting it in with someone who is not known as a partisan, Clapper, who is just overseeing the intelligence agencies. I think that is going to be important.

TAPPER: And the president's remarks about the Russians were pointed, talking about a Cold War mentality and talking about praising them for their cooperation after, not their cooperation before. Juliette Kayyem, thank you so much.

As we mentioned, in today's press conference, President Obama defended, even applauded the work of his agencies in the Boston terrorist investigation.


OBAMA: Based on what I've seen so far, the FBI performed its duties. The Department of Homeland Security did what it was supposed to be doing.

But this is hard stuff.


TAPPER: Hard stuff indeed. Was Boston an example of a working system of national security?

Joining me right now is Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz of Utah. He's a member of the House Homeland Security Committee.

Congressman, thanks for joining me.

Let me get your reaction to what the president said today. Did the FBI and Department of Homeland Security, did they perform their duties? Did the system work?

REP. JASON CHAFFETZ (R), UTAH: Don't know yet.

Look, we're all cheering them on that they're doing their job now. But there were two things that bothered me. As soon as the bombing happened we had officials locally and from the feds saying this is an isolated case, this is just one person involved. We didn't know that.

In fact, I think the starting point should be, it might be part of a bigger, broader plot. And I do think we have to go back and review what happened. We need to look at the immigration status. We need to look at the fact of how the Russians shared this information. We have got to look at all of this. I think you have to have a starting point. When you have three people dead, over 200 people injured, people have lost limbs that we have one of the biggest terrorist attacks on the homeland, your starting point is, hey, everybody did their job and did great. That's not your starting point. Your starting point is this is unacceptable. We will not stand for it. We will get to the bottom of it, and we will not rest until we figure it out.

That's your starting point.

TAPPER: Of course, it could be that's his starting point behind closed doors and in front of the national stage, the international stage, he want a different message. But I take your point.

You serve on the House Homeland Security Committee. What is the latest that you're hearing on whether these two acted alone? We have female DNA found on one of the pressure cookers. We're cautioned that that doesn't necessarily mean anything. But authorities are looking into possible connections with a Canadian boxer, somebody who became a militant. He was killed by Russian forces last year.

What are you hearing in your briefings?

CHAFFETZ: Well, look, it stretches the imagination to think that these two kids simply went online, watched a couple videos and then put together some very sophisticated bombs to the degree that they did, the way they executed it. Again, I think that leads us to believe there were others involved, that somehow these two kids went awry, and they got trained. They got information. They were radicalized.

And that's what the officials are diving deep into now. I recognize we're just over two weeks out. We have to let them do their job. It is going to take weeks, perhaps months to get through that. We're cheering them on. But, Mr. President, the starting point should be an intolerance that this thing happened.

TAPPER: Congressman, you argue that the Boston terrorist attacks are an example of how we need a better immigration system, but weren't the gaps here more intelligence issues, especially what Russia told the FBI and the CIA and whether or not the FBI -- and not whether the FBI should have kept tabs on Tamerlan? How does this have to do with immigration?

CHAFFETZ: I think it really has to go back to homeland security. One of the things we are going to have to look closely at with the immigration debate and everything that is going on is asylum. You have some people who come here. They claim asylum because they worry that they're going to be prosecuted.

They're taking welfare and other types of public assistance because they can't afford anything. Yet they're able to get airline tickets to go back to that region. While they may not have gone back to the very specific place, I think we need a timeline and some details as to the family members, how they came over here, how they were able to stay over here,Well, how did they afford to go over there into an area they said they were going to be killed or persecuted if they went back to? That doesn't quite add up.

When the Russians then add some intelligence, you have a domestic dispute. All of these things should have been shared at the local effort and that is the last point I guess I would make, Jake. Did the feds -- did they share that information with the counterterrorism folks there in Boston who are very competent? But if they don't get the information, then they're not able to act and that is one of the big worries in this specific case.

TAPPER: Finally, Congressman, I know you have been very involved in the Benghazi investigation. There are reports that some in the State Department are being prevented from testifying on Benghazi. The president today said he was not aware of the reports and would look into it.

I want to play what a spokesman for the State Department said on the matter yesterday.


PATRICK VENTRELL, STATE DEPARTMENT DEPUTY SPOKESMAN: We think that we have done an independent investigation, that it's been transparent, thorough, credible, and detailed, and that we have shared those findings with the U.S. Congress.

QUESTION: That should be enough?

VENTRELL: And that should be enough.


TAPPER: I know you don't think it's enough, but do you concretely know of whistle-blowers that are not being allowed to speak to the House investigators?

CHAFFETZ: What they need is to have good attorneys and good representation. The problem, the challenge we're having at the State Department at the moment is these whistle-blowers are unable to necessarily get the legal representation they need because these people need a certain degree of security clearance.

What is absolutely clear through this is the administration has not been transparent. We have four dead Americans. We have injured people. There's nobody that's been brought to justice. The State Department, the White House, they have not shared this information for Congress. Chairman Darrell Issa said we're going to have hearings, and those are going to happen sooner, rather than later. And it is going to expose a whole lot of this that -- the administration says this is done.

It is not done, Jake. There is a lot more to it.

TAPPER: But just yes or no. Do you concretely know of specific whistle-blowers? Do you know of them?


TAPPER: You do? OK.

Thank you, Congressman Chaffetz. Appreciate your time.

CHAFFETZ: Thank you.

TAPPER: As we have been doing every day, we want to take a moment to remember those who died in the terrorist attacks here in Boston, 8- year-old Martin Richard, the boy whose sweet smile is now frozen in time, 29-year-old Krystle Campbell. She was cheering on a friend at the marathon; 23-year-old Lingzi Lu, a Boston University graduate student from China. And 27-year-old Sean Collier, the MIT police officer allegedly gunned down by the suspects in the desperate hours after they were identified.

We're also remembering today the wounded; 20 victims of the terrorist attacks in Boston are still in the hospital out of the 264 who were initially injured.

One of them is Jarrod Clowery. He and his friends heard the first blast in Boston and were trying to jump the barricade into the street to get to safety when the second explosion went off right at their feet.


JARROD CLOWERY, BOMBING SURVIVOR: I stopped for just a split-second to tell the young lady here, Jackie, who is my friend's girlfriend, Jackie, get your butt in the street -- and, boom, and I just remember feeling engulfed like -- and I got thrown out into the street and just like the movies all of the sound got taken away.

And, you something inside me said, get up, Jarrod, get up. You're OK. Get up. So I stood up and I was pretty lucid. And I remember trying to count my fingers and feel my feet. And I'm standing and thinking about these kind of things that I have learned about over the years. And I look at my hand. And it was too much to look at, so I tuck it in and I feel my legs. I look down and I -- I didn't want to look at those anymore.


TAPPER: Clowery suffered severe burns and shrapnel wounds. He says three of his friends lost limbs in the attack, but are lucky to be alive.

Still ahead, he died in the line of duty. Now the family of Officer Sean Collier is speaking out about the son and the brother they lost.


ANDREW COLLIER, BROTHER OF SEAN COLLIER: Of course, my first reaction was, I don't want my brother to be a hero. I want my brother here.


TAPPER: And, later, she's got a new book out and a powerful public relations campaign pushing her innocence. But not everyone is convinced that Amanda Knox is telling the whole truth about how her roommate died.

That and more after this break.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD, live from Boston.

He was the final victim of the Boston terrorist attack, MIT officer Sean Collier. He had just turned 27. He responded to a call and he was killed in cold blood in his car during the manhunt for the Tsarnaev brothers. Sean Collier died serving and protecting others when the city of Boston needed people like him the most.

His family saw the qualities that made him a hero a long time ago. I was honored to be welcomed into their home earlier today to hear their stories about him.


TAPPER (voice-over): "He loved us, and we loved him", a truism printed atop MIT's obituary of campus police officer Sean Collier and one that America would come to know in the days following his murder, 12 days ago.

JENNIFER LEMMERMAN, SISTER: There's two Seans that we're -- that we're mourning. There's this symbol of what happened that people feel so connected to and they've been so great to us as his family reaching out and wanting to provide support and wanting to honor him, and that has been wonderful. Then at the same time you realize, this is my little brother that we're talking about. And it's a whole other feeling.

ANDREW COLLIER, BROTHER: When they first started saying Sean was a hero, you know, of course, my first reaction was, I don't want my brother to be a hero. I want my brother here.

TAPPER: Collier's brothers and sisters sat down with us at their parents' home in Wilmington, Massachusetts, earlier today to remember their brother.

LEMMERMAN: When we talk about how much he always wanted to be a police officer, I mean, that's all he ever wanted to do. And when he was younger and his brother Andrew and he used to, you know, get in each other's hair, Andy would run for it and Sean would run right after him literally making siren noises with his voice. And he'd be yelling, "You're breaking the law. You're breaking the law." You know, or we'd pass someone pulled over on the side of the road and he'd sing the theme to "Cops."

TAPPER (on camera): Why was it important to him to become a police officer? What was it about?

NICOLE LYNCH, SISTER: Ever since I can remember, being the oldest, I was six years older than him, it was ingrained in him right and wrong. There was no in between, either you did the right thing or you did the wrong thing, and if you did the wrong thing, you needed to be punished.

LEMMERMAN: My mom actually told the story at a funeral where he had taken a handful of pennies from Rob's room. I mean, he was maybe 6 years old and he was convinced they were coming to get him.

TAPPER (voice-over): Sean Collier loved the brotherhood of law enforcement -- which was on full display at his memorial service last week. TRAVIS DIXSON, FRIEND AND ROOMMATE: Sean would have loved that if he could have seen it. Helicopter fly over, tens of thousands of police officers from literally all over the world. I mean, Ireland, Canada, all over the United States. It was a shame Sean couldn't have seen it because it was everything he loved.

TAPPER: Officer Travis Dixson was Sean Collier's roommate. He and Collier graduated from the Police Academy together. Their friend and fellow graduate transit officer Dick Donohue, seen here with Collier, was also wounded the night of the shootout with the Tsarnaev brothers.

DIXSON: Dick Donohue, who graduated the Police Academy with me and Sean, called my phone and was like, there was a shooting at MIT. It was Sean. It's really bad. You need to go to the Mass General Hospital. I knew right then that it wasn't good.

And I went to the hospital, saw Sean, and he had passed away. And then about an hour later, there was other officers there and we hear officer down over the radio and we get a phone call and they say it's Dick Donohue and he's been shot. And actually, at the time, Dick was hit in the femoral artery and blood out in about three minutes and he was dead about 40 to 45 minutes.

So I thought I just lost two of my best friends, two academy friends. And then Dick, they brought him back to life. He's talking and it looks like Dick is going to make a full recovery.

TAPPER: For Collier's family, the future is about making a living memorial to their brother's legacy, including his low profile community service work,

COLLIER: Sean was very humble and he didn't feel that was something he needed to talk about. He'd say he was working when he was really going to volunteer.

JENN ROGERS, SISTER: As a family trying to incorporate ourselves into Sean's life in different ways so that we can keep the things that he found important going. He may not be here but he is not going anywhere. That's been really nice.

TAPPER (on camera): He was going to start this year at the Somerville Police Department?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He told us Easter he was going for his final interview and then that week he got the job and was going to start.

TAPPER: And did he want to do that? That's what he was going to do?

LEMMERMAN: That was his dream.

TAPPER: His dream to be a Somerville police officer and, finally, there was an opening.


COLLIER: We all followed our dreams here and we all know that feeling when we finally get the job offer we've been waiting on. So, it is a comfort to know he was going and he knew he was going.


TAPPER: And Sean Collier was so close to fulfilling his dream of becoming a police officer for the city of Somerville, Massachusetts.

His family says he was supposed to be sworn in on June 3rd. Now we know that even though he's gone, the dream continues and lives on. The city of Somerville will posthumously award Collier his badge.

Up next, you knew he was in trouble when the Republican Southern congressman compared himself to Bill Clinton. The House race in South Carolina heats up as former Governor Mark Sanford draws fresh fire for his hike down the Appalachian Trail.

And there are all sorts of ways to support a candidate for office. Picking up a $15,000 catering tab is generally not considered to be one of them. That's the allegation against the top donor to the governor of Virginia.

Stay with us for more.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper live in Boston, at Boston's Copley Square.

On "The Politics Lead", she went there. That's what a moderator mumbled when South Carolina congressional candidate Elizabeth Colbert- Busch called out her opponent, former Governor Mark Sanford, for his infamous trip to Argentina to visit his then-mistress while in office. It happened during a feisty debate last night which included Sanford comparing himself to none other than Bill Clinton.


ELIZABETH COLBERT BUSCH (D), SOUTH CAROLINA CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: When we talk about fiscal spending and we talk about protecting the taxpayers, it doesn't mean you take that money we saved and leave the country for a personal purpose.

FORMER GOV. MARK SANFORD (R), SOUTH CAROLINA CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: Do you think that President Clinton should be condemned for the rest of his life based on a mistake that he made in his life? You don't go through the experience I had back in 2009 without a greater level of humility.


TAPPER: Sanford did not just get hammered about his debate -- about his affair at the debate. It's also the subject of a new campaign ad released by a Democratic super PAC.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I used to be for Mark Sanford, but not anymore. He skipped town to be with his mistress on Father's Day. Sanford even asked his wife for permission to have the affair and wasted our taxpayer dollars on himself.


TAPPER: Sanford has been hammering his opponent for having liberal values that are out of touch with the South Carolina district.

There's another race going on here in Massachusetts, although you would not necessarily know it because so much focus has been on the Boston terrorist attacks. Today, a primary election is being held to pick Democratic and Republican candidates to run against each other for John Kerry's former Senate seat. Kerry stepped down earlier this year when he took the job as secretary of state.

Virginia's governor is getting heat over a wedding gift to his daughter. "The Washington Post" reports that the FBI is probing ties between Republican Bob McDonnell a possible 2016 presidential contender, and one of his top donors who picked up the $15,000 catering tab at McDonnell's daughter's wedding. The donor is the CEO of a nutritional supplement company.

The feds reportedly want to know whether McDonnell or his office helped out the company in return. The governor's former chef who is facing felony embezzlement charges is allegedly the whistleblower in the investigation. McDonnell is denying this affected any government decisions whatsoever.

Up next, their job is to defend an accused terrorist. We'll meet Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's legal team. And we'll look at the case they'll have to make to keep their client from getting the death penalty. It could all rest on what he's willing to tell investigators.