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Oklahoma Aftermath; Interview With Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin; Killed Seeking Shelter from Storm; Reporter Labeled "Co- Conspirator" by DOJ; IRS Official Takes Fifth Amendment

Aired May 22, 2013 - 16:00   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: The families of six people still do not know what happened to their loved ones after the massive tornado here in Oklahoma.

I'm Jake Tapper and this is THE LEAD.

The national lead, the White House announced today plans for President Obama to view the destruction here with his own eyes as victims here begin their recovery. In just moments, the governor of Oklahoma, Mary Fallin, will be our guest.

And a young mom made a run for it with her infant son in her arms as the tornado bore down upon this town. Tragically, their shelter would not hold, their deaths weighing heavily on a rescue worker who found them. In a little bit, you will hear his story.

And the world lead, a shocking killing in London, a soldier butchered in the road, his attackers described as ranting lunatics talking about Allah. The video is insane, and British police are treating this as a terrorist attack. We will explain why.

Welcome back. THE LEAD is once again coming to you live from Moore, Oklahoma, where we will bring you all the latest in the aftermath of the massive tornado here in just a moment, but first this is the most twisted thing you may see all day, a barbaric attack that took place on the streets of the U.K. earlier today that police there are investigating as a possible terrorist attack.

The word shocking is overused by the media at times, but we want to warn you that some of this may be difficult to watch. The video appears to show the suspect holding a knife and a meat cleaver. He has bloody hands as he praises Allah. Here is a video clip.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I apologize that women had to witness this today, but in our land, our women have to see the same. You people will never be safe. Remove your government. They don't care about you.


TAPPER: The victim is believed to be an active British soldier. He can be seen here laying dead in the background. Atika Shubert is live in the Woolwich section of London.

Atika, this is a truly horrific story. What exactly happened?

ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, what we know from eyewitnesses is that a little after 2:00 in the afternoon the two attackers were in a car and they appeared to target this man wearing a Help for Heroes T-shirt. This is a British charity for wounded veterans.

They went up on to the sidewalk, hit him with the car. The two attackers then got out with meat cleavers and a machete it appears and began hacking him to death. According to eyewitnesses, it was like they were butchering a piece of meat. They then dragged him into the middle of the road and inexplicably encouraged people who were horrified to see what was happening to actually film the incident as they made political statements like the one you just heard.

Now, it took the police about 20 minutes to get to the scene. Police here are not armed, so it took a little bit longer to get cops to come in here that actually had weapons to shoot the two attackers down. Now, they were seriously injured. They have now been brought to the hospital and they're under police investigation.

The fact that this kind of a political statement was being made to this camera is one reason why Prime Minister David Cameron called an emergency cabinet meeting. In that cabinet meeting, they said there were strong indications this was a terrorist attack and they have added extra security to the royal artillery barracks which is right near here, which is right where the attack happened.

And they also upped the security in other barracks across London as well.

TAPPER: Atika, authorities there are already talking about ties to terror. Is there anything we know beyond the words from their mouths?

All right. Atika, we had some trouble there with the significance -- with the connection.


TAPPER: Atika, can you hear me?

The question is, beyond the words from the mouths of the attackers, the alleged attackers, authorities there are referring to terrorists -- all right. We lost again.

Apologies. Atika, thank you so much.

Now to the ongoing story here in Moore, Oklahoma, where some have begun to move forward. But some are still taking stock and, of course, others of course remain in mourning after the EF-5 tornado, the biggest they come, laid waste to this town. Crews are sifting through the debris. The effort has switched from a rescue effort to a recovery effort. Officials say six people are still missing, all of them adults; 24 people have been found and pronounced dead. We are now told that 10 of the 24 were children, including two infants.

The mayor here in Moore says the death toll is not expected to rise any further. Of course, 324 people were injured on Monday when the tornado cut a 17-mile-long path through the area.

President Obama will travel to Oklahoma on Sunday. Earlier, the federal officials leading the assistance effort on behalf of the federal government, of the Obama administration, got a first-hand look at the devastation. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, she oversees the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA.

She toured the area. She reiterated the president's vow to provide whatever help is needed.


JANET NAPOLITANO, U.S. HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: We will be here to stay. At some point, the cameras will leave. The national ones will leave first, then the local ones. But on behalf of President Obama and on behalf of FEMA, we will be here to stay until this recovery is complete.


TAPPER: Napolitano urged victims to register with FEMA and apply for help. In Washington, D.C., today, the first lady gave a speech today and began with thoughts and prayers for the victims here.


MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY: The spirit of unit and resolve and resilience that has defined that situation as we watch the people in Oklahoma recover and work together, that that's the kind of resilience that has defined this country since its inception.


TAPPER: About 10,000 customers here are still without power; 4,000 insurance claims have been filed here so far. The bill when it's all tallied could top $2 billion, experts say.

But on one positive note -- and, of course, we search for them here amidst the rubble -- high school graduations will move forward as planned here on Saturday.

The governor of Oklahoma, Mary Fallin, joins me now.

Governor, thanks so much for being here. We appreciate it and all the hard work you're doing.

The level of destruction here is enormous. What will recovery look like? How long do you think it will take?

GOV. MARY FALLIN (R), OKLAHOMA: Well, it's going to take a while to get through all this. And we certainly are making a plan to move by stages.

As you mentioned, we are, we hope, in the recovery stage now. As I drove in early this morning, you could see that they were starting to move debris off the roadways onto the side of the curbs. And we are seeing that in some of the public areas where the neighborhoods not, going on the property where the homes are, because we are allowing the people to come in now and look for their personal property, and hopefully they will be able to find a couple things.

But, in the meantime, we have got to start getting the debris out. One of the things I have noticed today in going to one of the school sites is it's beginning to smell out there. And that is one reason why you have to get the debris up.

TAPPER: Now you can maybe clear this up for me. I have heard that there is something historically in this area of a controversy in terms of 1999, individuals were given responsibility for clearing the debris up on their own timetable, their own responsibility. That took longer than people wanted them to. In 2003, after a big tornado hit, not as big as this one, but a previous one, the government, local and federal, took charge of it. There was some controversy about that.

What is the plan for 2013?

FALLIN: Well, from what I understand from the Office of Emergency Management, there is a partnership to where the people will be able to go and do it if they want to, take charge of their own property. But if they need help, we are going to be here to help them.


There is another thing that's in the news today, and that is the mayor is talking about requiring new schools to have shelters. We're in Tornado Alley here. Should there be a requirement for all schools to have shelters?

FALLIN: That's going to be up to the local school districts and the bonding capacity of the school districts themselves.

But I think it is certainly wise to put in some type of storm shelter, whether it's a room that has been fortified and is being used for dual purposes, as a classroom or band room or whatever it might be, and to put those in the schools. And we actually have begun doing that over the years when we have had tornadoes that have struck schools.

We had a school down in Tushka, Oklahoma, that was struck a couple years ago and they actually had a band room that was a safe room and the school was demolished, but the room was still standing. The thing to remember about this tornado, it was an EF-5, and so...

TAPPER: Right.

FALLIN: That is the biggest you can have. And it's remarkable that we had as few deaths as we did have. Any death is terrible, but I'm pleased that it wasn't more than what we have seen.

TAPPER: Could the state, should the state help fund? It is obviously very -- the reason there -- if people don't know this already, the reason that all these homes don't have shelters and all the schools and businesses don't have shelters is that the geology of Oklahoma dirt, it is very expensive and very difficult to build these shelters.

Should the state help out? Can the state help out?

FALLIN: Well, actually, I was talking to our emergency management director, and we started in 1999 after the May 3 tornado giving incentives and we actually started the first ever state rebate program to where we would put in matching money and give some grant money to homeowners, to businesses, and schools, if they put in storm shelters.

And so we started that a long time ago. And FEMA has told us that we have received around $57 million over the years for storm shelters. And we have added numerous. I can't remember the exact number, but I think it's well over 20,000 storm shelters throughout the state. So, we have been doing that and I think it is certainly something worth discussing.

TAPPER: About doing more?

FALLIN: Doing more storm shelters.

TAPPER: All right, Governor Fallin, thanks so much. And our thoughts and prayers are with you and the citizens of Oklahoma. Thanks for being here.

FALLIN: Well, thank you for telling our story. We appreciate your prayers.

TAPPER: Thanks, Governor.

FALLIN: Thank you.

TAPPER: Coming up on THE LEAD: It is not the loss of a house or business that made this storm particularly difficult for everyone in this community, of course. It is the loss of so many children.

And next, we will tell you about two of the victims, a mother and the infant son she was trying to protect.


TAPPER: You're looking at some live shots from around the area of Moore, Oklahoma, from our affiliate KFOR as the people in this part of the country try to rebuild their lives. Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper live again in Moore, Oklahoma; 24 people lost their lives to the tornado that just tore through this town about 48 hours ago, among the dead, a young mother, Megan Futrell, and her baby boy, Case.

They were crushed beneath the rubble. Earlier today, I spoke to the man who found them.


TAPPER (voice-over): As soon as he saw the horror on the horizon, Dustin Ellison knew it would be hell.

DUSTIN ELLISON, FOUND VICTIMS: I knew that it was bad when I saw it. The debris was unbelievable. It took a mile-wide tornado and made it look two-and-a-half-miles wide.

TAPPER: But without hesitation, he ran into the tornado's wake and all that lay buried there.

ELLISON: Pulled over, right over there in front of the medical center, and people were screaming for us to get over here to remove the debris from the 7-Eleven, that there were people trapped in the freezer.

So when I got over here, we started pulling debris off. It was myself and probably 30 or 40 Oklahomans that had stopped to help.

TAPPER: The 7-Eleven, I mean, there is nothing there now.

ELLISON: Nothing.

TAPPER: What did it look -- is this what it looked like when you got here?

ELLISON: Yes. The debris was high. All of those freezer doors were on top. We were trying to get those off.

TAPPER (voice-over): The 7-Eleven was completely gone. Even its fortress like freezer failed to with stand the winds.

(on camera): The freezer had collapsed?

ELLISON: Yes. The freezer had collapsed. Everything had piled up on it. It was one big pile of rubble. We knew people had went in the freezer and we knew there was no way they had come out. So with that, there were --

TAPPER: So you were just tearing off rubble.

ELLISON: Police officers, myself, there's probably 40 of us on top of that rubble trying to get to the bottom of it. We just didn't get there fast enough.

TAPPER (voice-over): One of the victims they found was 29-year- old mother of two Megan Billingsley Futrell seen her on Pinterest page, where her love of children remains apparent. The other victim was her 3-month-old son. ELLISON: Just terrible. Absolutely terrible what was there.

TAPPER: She had run into the convenience store with him and took shelter in the only place she thought they might survive.

ELLISON: She was protecting him.

TAPPER (on camera): You're a dad --


TAPPER: -- as am I. It's something -- with young kids, it's -- to hear something like that is especially tough. I can't imagine what it was like to see it.

ELLISON: You go home and you hold them close for sure. It was a terrible deal. I feel absolutely terrible for the families, the father that showed up here. It was heartbreaking.

TAPPER (voice-over): For Ellison, the horror in Oklahoma this week will be forever shocking. But the actions of him and his fellow heroes, that's something he's always known.

(on camera): What are you thinking as you run to the places where people were just killed? What --

ELLISON: It's an instinct. I mean, it's a not even second guess what you're doing here. It's not a -- it's not a point where anybody was telling you to get away. It was everybody, please come help us. Your instinct when you see that is, for me, I ran toward it. There's probably a lot of people that didn't, or that wouldn't. But not around here.


TAPPER: Strange coincidence, Dustin told me his dad used to own that 7-Eleven and 14 years ago when that other tornado hit, after it hit, he, his dad, and his sister handed out all the food and drink that was at that 7-Eleven to the survivors. Helping people seems to run in the family.

Our thanks to Dustin Ellison.

Safe rooms are the heart of defense in tornado alley. So why can they only be found in a fraction of homes here in Moore?

And, unsettling new information about the lengths our government went to find the source of a State Department leak. New claims the Obama administration didn't just target a journalist but the journalist's parents. That's coming up next.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper, live once again from Moore, Oklahoma. We'll give you more on the tornado recovery efforts here in a moment. But first, we want to bring you some of today's other top stories.

In "The Politics Lead", a FOX News reporter is caught in the middle of what's being sarcastically called a conspiracy to commit journalism. Not only did the Justice Department label James Rosen a conspirator for soliciting information from a State Department contractor for a story, but FOX News is now reporting that the Department of Justice even seized the phone records of Rosen's parents and of at least five other phone lines associated with FOX News.

Earlier this week, "The Washington Post" reported that the FBI sought and received a warrant to search Rosen's e-mail back in 2010 to find the source of a leak. Keep in mind, there's no allegation that James Rosen bribed, threatened, coerced anyone to get the information, which is what journalists do. We try to get information, especially information that the government doesn't want us to share with you.

Here's what White House Press Secretary Jay Carney had to say when asked about the incident earlier this week.


JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I cannot comment on a specific, ongoing investigation. I certainly share, and I think most Americans do, the president's belief that we need to have, you know, a press that is able to pursue investigative journalism and that we have to defend the first amendment. I also think it's very important, as I think members of both parties have said, that we need to make sure that leaks are not tolerated, because leaks that can endanger the lives of our men and women and endanger our national security need to be taken very seriously.


TAPPER: In an opinion piece, "The New York Times", which is, of course, very supportive of President Obama, the editorial page accused the Obama administration of going overboard to find and muzzle insiders in the government, saying, quote, "Obama administration officials often talk about the balance between protecting secrets and protecting the constitutional rights of a free press. Accusing a reporter of being a conspirator, on top of other zealots and secretive investigations, shows a heavy tilt toward secrecy and insufficient concern about a free press," unquote.

Now, I'm a journalist. Obviously I have a bias here. But even if you side with this president over those of us in the media who challenge him in his administration, it is important to remember the precedent these actions set going forward, perhaps when it's not your guy in the White House.

In world news, for an attack the White House has characterized as a long time ago, we've heard precious little about the eight-month terror manhunt in Benghazi, Libya, until now. The government has identified, quote, "a certain number of people," unquote, believed to be involved in the attack according to a senior Republican lawmaker. Investigators now have names to go with the faces seen in surveillance video of the terrorist attack this lawmaker tells CNN.

Several weeks ago, the FBI released pictures of three men seen on the video. At the time, it did not identify them as suspects and it is unclear whether these are the men who have been identified. The FBI will only say the investigation is, quote, "ongoing".

Last week, CNN reported that the U.S. military has updated plans to capture or kill those allegedly behind the attack, which took the life of -- lives of four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens.

And in national news, the Fifth Amendment we so rarely get to see action, but earlier today, Lois Lerner the IRS official in charge of approving tax-exempt status, invoked her right against self- incrimination. Lerner has admitted her department at the IRS wrongly targeted conservative groups, such as Tea Partiers, and she apologized for it, but she clammed up when she was subpoenaed to testify about it at today's hearing before the House Oversight Committee. Lerner only invoked the Fifth after giving a statement declaring that her hands are clean.


LOIS LERNER, DIRECTOR, IRS EXEMPT ORGANIZATIONS: I have not done anything wrong. And while I would very much like to answer the committee's questions today, I've been advised by my counsel to assert my constitutional right not to testify or answer questions related to the subject matter of this hearing.


TAPPER: After that, Chairman Darrell Issa, congressman from California, did a pretty good job of concealing how irritated he was by that. He tried to dismiss her from the hearing, but hold on just a minute, fellow Republican Trey Gowdy, was not done with her.


REP. TREY GOWDY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: You don't get to tell your side of the story and then not be subjected to cross examination. That's not the way it works. She waived her right to Fifth Amendment privilege by issuing an opening statement. She ought to stand here and answer our questions.



TAPPER: Congressman Gowdy did not get his way. Chairman Issa dismissed Lerner again and this time she booked it out of the hearing. If only the IRS could move that fast when you're waiting on your refund.

Issa is reserving the right to call her again as a witness. This city, Moore, Oklahoma, already held the record for the highest wind speed recorded near the surface of the earth. So why didn't so many homes and schools have safe rooms when history repeated itself Monday?

I'll ask the mayor of Moore, Oklahoma, coming up next.