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CNN NEWSROOM

Targeting the Tea Party; Michelle Knight Not With Family; Probe of Texas Plant Explosion

Aired May 11, 2013 - 19:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Incredible video released today shows a shootout from Florida from last July and the heroics of a police officer literally in the line of fire. We do need to warn you, though, the video is quite graphic.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON (voice-over): Standing only feet away, Detective John Cervadra (ph) was shot three times as he traded gunfire with the owner of a marijuana growing house. Two bullets hit him in the stomach while another hit his leg. Another officer killed the shooter and, Sobedra (ph) the detective was one of the officers honored today by President Obama at the Top Cops Awards.

I'm Don Lemon, you're in THE NEWSROOM. It is the top of the hour.

And we're going to begin this hour with new information about the Internal Revenue Service and its treatment of conservative political groups. The IRS has admitted it made mistakes. And tonight, we're learning officials at the agency knew the Tea Party was being targeted for years.

Our chief congressional correspondent Dana Bash is on the phone for us.

So, Dana, this information is very disturbing, treating one group differently than another in America. What can you tell us?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): That's right. I mean, that's disturbing just to start with. What's more disturbing tonight as far as congressional investigators are concerned is the fact that they feel that they were, frankly, lied to by senior members of the IRS, senior officials at the IRS, because -- "The Associated Press" has supported this and we have now confirmed, according to a congressional source -- that the interim report that the IRS inspector general is going to put out next week says that senior officials at the IRS knew in June of 2011 that their employees were targeting members or groups that had any suggestion of being Tea Party groups. June of 2011.

Now that is significant because the commissioner testified before Congress in March of 2012 and adamantly denied it. So, there's a question of whether or not he knew. If he did, you know, then lying to Congress in a hearing like that that is a big no-no and is a crime. If he didn't know, why didn't he know? Why did the commissioner -- was he allowed to come go before Congress and say something they knew was false? That's number one.

And then number two, CNN just obtained letters that Lois Lerner, who is the IRS in charge of the tax exempt groups, that she -- several letters that she wrote to Congress answering their questions as late as last month and a couple of months ago she did not disclose that she -- she who knew, according to this interim report, that her employees were targeting these groups. So, there are a lot of open questions right now and a lot of people in Congress who are not happy at all.

LEMON: OK, a lot of open questions, and I'm going to ask again, Dana, the main question, I don't know if that's been answered is -- why? Why?

BASH: You know, according to this woman Lois Lerner, who did a conference call with reporters on Friday, she insists that it was not political. That it was a short cut, that by plugging in names like Tea Party or patriots, that it was a way to quickly flag these groups.

But as you can imagine the Republicans, Tea Party groups and even the ACLU which generally does not -- it's a left-leaning group, they don't buy it at all.

I mean, just take a step back, Don. You know this. You've been at Tea Party rallies. So have I. The whole reason Tea Party groups exist is because they believe, at least one of the main reasons, that the IRS is, you know, too heavy handed.

LEMON: Smaller government.

BASH: That the tax code is bad that the IRS is too heavy handed. The fact that they were targeted -- you can't make this up, basically. It's just mind blowing.

LEMON: Yes. OK. And more to come on this story. It's developing now.

Dana Bash, thank you very much. I appreciate it.

Being called the house of horrors. And as it's boarded up today to protect the crime scene inside, we're now learning more about what went on inside this home in Cleveland, Ohio and what these three victims endured during their decade of captivity. So hard to say that, a decade of captivity, wow.

Ariel Castro locked away now on suicide prevention watch. As a law enforcement source close to the investigation says he is confessing to some of the horrific crimes. Prosecutors says he's looking to seek the death penalty for the aggravated murder for the alleged termination of Michelle's Knight's five pregnancies -- pregnancies she lost after she was starved and beaten by Castro.

As for Michelle, she has been just released from the hospital but unlike the other two women, Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus, well, she is not with her family. Police are keeping her location under wraps but says she's in a safe place.

CNN's Susan Candiotti joins us now live from Cleveland.

So, Susan, her father, you know, reached out, they want to see her. I mean, what do you know about the relationship between Michelle and her family? It seems to be a tense one.

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, certainly she has not talked with her mother apparently in years, even before, of course, her captivity, and also has not been in contact as of late with her other relatives as well. We don't know precisely what is involved in that family dynamic but certainly the family has been very public about talking about troubles they have had among themselves over the years.

So, for now, as far as we know, Michelle Knight still has had no personal contact with her family at least since she' been out of the hospital. And the source telling us that's the way she apparently wants it. She is somewhere safe and secure and very comfortable all this time.

What we've learned a bit new at this hour, Don, we've learned that a law firm here in Cleveland is now going to be representing Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus and is going to be representing them for free, counseling them, and also giving them legal advice. And they'll have more to say about that, they said, on Sunday morning. We'll hear more about that, Don.

LEMON: Susan, activity at the house where you're standing in front. The FBI has been there all day long, also some demonstrations as bell.

CANDIOTTI: That's right. In fact, they've wrapped up the work just a short time ago. They've been here for two days. And just to put in perspective again, it's the third house down over my shoulder. That's the crime scene.

And the FBI wanted to and the police board that up to keep it safe and secured. And they've also boarded up the two abandoned houses on this side of that house as well. Again, they don't want anyone to interfere with the location.

At the same time, people have been coming from the neighborhood and beyond the neighborhood just to see for themselves what this looked like, to feel a little bit closer to what happened here and to try to understand, including a group of people who are in particular supporters of Michelle Knight, the oldest of the three women who escaped.

One of them explained why they think that the community should get involved, especially when adults go missing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CARLA SMITH: I don't care if she was 20. I don't care if she was 30 or 50. Don't stop looking. I don't care. I don't care.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CANDIOTTI: And, by the way, Don, one of the last things they removed today was what remained of the front door of that house, the crime scene house. And, in fact, that was the same door that now boarded up from which those three young women escaped beginning with Amanda Berry -- Don.

LEMON: Thank you very much for that, Susan.

Charles Ramsey involved in that as well. He doesn't want the title of hero, he says, but a lot of people say he is. He is the man who helped break down that door that Susan was of the Cleveland house after he heard Amanda Berry's screams. He joined Rock Newman, radio host and former boxing promoter, on We Act Radio in Washington, D.C.

CNN was exclusively invited to join them in studio.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHARLES RAMSEY, RESCUED ABDUCTED WOMEN: She didn't already call 911 and say, forget it. Just take me to the police station. Remember, we have cars on the street. We didn't have to call nobody.

ROCK NEWMAN, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Right. Right.

RAMSEY: She was free. All she had to do was get in somebody's car, take this girl to the police. She stuck around for the police to get there to tell them, go in there and get the people.

NEWMAN: So, Amanda Berry is a hero also.

RAMSEY: That's the damn celebrity, not me. I just played my position.

NEWMAN: Right. Right.

(APPLAUSE)

Oh, my God, oh, my God. What a story.

RAMSEY: When Gina DeJesus came out of that house and then Michelle girl came out of the house, that -- man, listen. It was like -- heaven for a split second opened up and then God said, enough. This has gone on long enough. You weren't supposed to grab no girls. See, this was a test, fool. And you failed it with flying colors.

NEWMAN: How do you describe how you're feeling?

RAMSEY: Happy was the first one. Look there. She's alive. Look at that one. She's alive.

But then that goes out of the way. Because, see, I'm not -- what do you want to call? Timid. I'm a predator. So we switched from -- boy, that was a good thing to if I get my hands on Ariel before the police --

NEWMAN: You just had some instinct that you wanted to take care of serious business yourself.

RAMSEY: You wouldn't be interviewing me. At least not live to live where I can touch you. I would be in the penitentiary, bro. I would be the first human on earth able to take a person's head off their body and kick it down the street like a soccer ball.

NEWMAN: Wow. Man, oh, man. What a story.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: In other news, a U.S. congressman said somebody dropped the ball in sharing information between the United States and Russia. The issue is that Russian officials apparently knew that Boston bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev was more radicalized than the FBI was led to believe. U.S. officials say they would have take an harder look at Tsarnaev before the bombing had they known.

And this is the place where Tsarnaev is buried, a Muslim cemetery near Richmond, Virginia. Officials in tiny Dowell say they were taken off guard when they learned he was secretly buried there.

He was on the job trying to save lives after a huge fertilizer plant exploded. But now police accuse him of having materials to make a bomb. We're live with a new twist in the story, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: The lawyer for a Texas emergency worker says his client has no connection to a deadly explosion at a fertilizer plant there. Bryce Reed is a paramedic who treated victims on the scene last month. Now, police have charged him with having what it takes to build a pipe bomb.

Our David Mattingly had a chance to talk with Reed's attorney and he joins us now with an update on that.

So, what is he saying, David?

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, his attorney says that reed vigorously denies the allegations against him. Reed was arrested and was in federal court on Friday accused of having bomb-making materials, materials to make a pipe bomb. They found a pipe. They found a powder that could be mixed to an explosive. They found a fuse -- everything you would need to make a pipe bomb.

But his attorney is saying that not only does he deny it but, they're going to plead not guilty when they go back into court on Wednesday. Naturally, it was instant. You started seeing a lot of questions about possible links. Could there be a link between this man and the explosion at the fertilizer plant in West. Authorities from the federal level say they're absolutely not going to speculate about that.

Here in Texas, law enforcement officials are saying there's absolutely no information that would link him to that explosion. And the attorney also putting out in black and white today this prepared statement saying Mr. Reed had no involvement whatsoever in the explosion at the West, Texas, fertilizer plant. It goes on to talk about how Reed was one of the first responders and actually lost people close to him and he's urging people close to him now to not rush to judgment -- Don.

LEMON: So, how were police tipped off to him, David?

MATTINGLY: According to the court documents, a resident of the area said that they inadvertently received these materials from reed. The circumstances behind that were not spelled out. That's how the authorities were tipped off. They also say in the affidavit that Reed himself admitted to possessing these materials.

But again, he's saying he's going to vigorously deny and defend himself against the allegations. We'll see what happens in federal court on Wednesday when they plan to enter the not guilty plea.

LEMON: All right. David Mattingly -- David, thank you. Appreciate your reporting.

After a scandalous trip to the U.S. last year, Prince Harry is back and cleaning up his image. Details next.

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LEMON: Prince Harry's visit to the U.S. this week is very different from last year's. That was when naked pictures of the prince in Las Vegas embarrassed Britain's royal family. This time, Harry has showed his serious side, meeting with wounded vets first at a hospital outside Washington and again today in Colorado.

CNN's royal correspondent Max Foster was at the warrior games with the price today.

MAX FOSTER, CNN ROYAL CORRESPONDENT: Don, Prince Harry started the day off having a go at setting volleyball. He wasn't particularly good at it, rolling around. But he had a go and it was to the pleasure really of the people he was playing with.

These are wounded servicemen and women from the U.K. here in the U.S. to compete in the warrior games, which is the Paralympics for the wounded servicemen and women war heroes, and people he deeply respects. This is the most important part of the tour for Prince Harry. He had a chance to speak as well to American wounded service men and women, and he talked about his deep privilege of being able to serve alongside them in operations in Afghanistan. He returned from there earlier in the year.

And many of the people here would have been wounded at a time he was there. He lit the flame, starting these warrior games and that's what he's goings to be throwing himself into on Sunday, getting involved in the cycling, and possibly some American football as well, see if he has to at that. We do know that he'll be having a go at baseball when he arrives in New York on Tuesday. That will be the next leg of the trip -- Don.

LEMON: All right. Max Foster, thank you very much.

NASA called it an emergency space walk.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think we saw enough good indications that FGDCs (ph) are disconnected.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: The International Space Station started leaking ammonia on Thursday. That's the stuff that cools the solar panels on the ISS, which in turn provides the power that runs the orbiter. Astronauts spent five hours replacing a pump. Problem fixed. NASA says none of the crew was every in any immediate danger.

It's as big as a person and could swim for months at a time in the ocean, gathering military secrets. It kind of scared me right there. An underwater spy swims into this "Techovation".

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

REPORTER: This jelly fish may not sting you but it could one day be used in military sting operations. Meet Cyro, the 5-foot-7, 170-pound robotic jelly fish.

ALEX VILLANUEVA, PH.D. STUDENT, VIRGINIA TECH: It's a big guy. But once it's in water, it's almost naturally buoyant. So, it doesn't float, it doesn't sink. It's kind of stays there.

REPORTER: The life-like autonomous robot was created by a team of research and engineering students at Virginia Tech. It's part of a $500 million project funded by the U.S. Navy.

VILLANUEVA: The idea is to this jellyfish-inspired vehicles for underwater surveillance of ocean waters.

REPORTER: It's got eight arms and a flexible silicone covering to mimic the way a jelly fish swims.

VILLANUEVA: So, this is actually the mind of our robotic jellyfish. And we house all our sensory components in here and the battery housing as well.

REPORTER: This jellyfish prototype can swim for about four hours using a battery, but they're looking for other energy sources to make it last longer.

VILLANUEVA: In the future, we're trying to be able to leave this robot in the ocean for weeks and months at a time.

REPORTER: These robots could be used for military surveillance and to clean up after oil spills or monitor schools of fish.

VILLANUEVA: They might not be the faster swimmers, but they're definitely known to be very efficient swimmers, using multiples of them, you can cover even more group and perhaps achieve missions that are even more complicated.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: It started with a 911 call to Cleveland police, a woman frantic with fear. What followed would shock the world.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

911 OPERATOR: Cleveland 911, do you need --

AMANDA BERRY, KIDNAP VICTIM: Hello police. Help me. I'm Amanda Berry. I've been kidnapped and I've been missing for 10 years and I'm here, I'm free now.

RAMSEY: See, the girl Amanda told the police, I ain't just the only one. There's some more girls up in the house.

DISPATCHER: I have a (INAUDIBLE) on the phone with a female says her name is Amanda Berry, and said she had been kidnapped 10 years ago.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) Seymour. Georgina DeJesus might be in this house also. We also have a Michelle Knight in the house.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Very emotional day, especially for Amanda Berry's family.

TASHEENA MITCHELL & DESTINY SNEED, AMANDA'S COUSIN: I thought about her every day and I knew she would come. I knew she would come home.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What an incredible night in Cleveland, a night where you can truly believe that miracles really do happen.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Prosecutors announced they're charging Ariel Castro with four counts of kidnapping, three counts of rape.

TIMOTHY MCGINTY, CUYAHOGA COUNTY PROSECUTOR: The law of Ohio calls for the death penalty for those most depraved criminals who commit aggravated murder during the course of a kidnapping.

RAMSEY: We've seen this dude every day, I mean every day.

REPORTER: How long have you lived here.

RAMSEY: I've been here a year. Do you see where I come from? I barbecued with this dude.

ERIC POINDEXTER, SAYS HIE CALLED IN TIP TO POLICE: It seemed like they look at us like we were looking for attention or something like that.

REPORTER: The police?

POINDEXTER: Yes. They didn't seem to give any true desire to the case. DEPUTY CHIEF ED TOMBA, CLEVELAND POLICE DEPARTMENT: I'm very confident in the ability of those investigators and those law enforcement officers that they checked every single lead, they followed it up very, very aggressively.

ANGIE GREGG, ARIEL CASTRO'S DAUGHTER: My husband and I are in complete disbelief that the friendly, caring, doting man I knew as my daddy was in fact the most evil, vile, demonic criminal that I have met or heard of.

BETH SERRANO, AMANDA BERRY'S SISTER: I just want to say we are so happy to have Amanda and her daughter home. I want to thank the public and the media for their support.

REPORTER: Here she comes on the other side.

(CHEERS)

NANCY RUIZ, GINA DEJESUS' MOTHER: My first reaction as I saw my daughter, the only thing I did was grab her and hug her. I didn't want to let go. And to this moment, for me, I still feel as if it is a dream.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON: I'm Don Lemon, a CNN special report on the Cleveland kidnappings, "Escape From Captivity" begins in two and a half minutes.