Return to Transcripts main page


"Survivor Guilt" After Tornado; Britain On Alert For More Terror; Obama Defends Secret Drone Strikes; A Walk Through a Warzone; IRS Official Placed on Leave

Aired May 23, 2013 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Jake, thanks very much.

Happening now, the enormous task of recovery here in Oklahoma, we're watching what's going on. This recovery made tougher today by torrential rain and flooding. We'll hear from people determined to move ahead including one man feeling survivor's guilt as he calls it. His home is still standing while those around it were leveled.

London on the alert right now for more terror after a British soldier is brutally hacked to death by two men armed with meat cleavers. A friend of one of the suspected killers talks to CNN.

And President Obama says America must define the fight against terrorism or else it will define us. Those are his words. But he defends drone strikes and defends himself against a protester as well.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in the SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER (on-camera): We begin this hour with a bitter sweet and touching reunion here in Moore, Oklahoma. This is the last day of school before summer vacation starts, but because of Monday's tornado, some teachers and students have no schools to go back to, but as CNNs Ed Lavandera reports they did get together anyhow. Ed is joining us now live -- Ed.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, their classrooms have been blown to pieces and they have no school to go to, but the students at Briarwood Elementary School and also Plaza Towers Elementary School were invited to go to other schools nearby where they could get together for one last time before the start of summer vacation.

And for many of these students, and parents and teachers, it was really the first time that they'd had a chance to get together and talk about what they've been going through the last few days. The last time they had seen each other when everyone was going their separate ways in the chaos and the frantic moments after the tornado struck made direct hits on those schools. And we found a little girl by the name of Holly Herberlt.

We watched her come out of the meeting today with her teachers clutching a little stuffed lion bear that she had been given after this meeting with her teachers at that school. And it was poignant because, Wolf, she told us that -- we asked her the name of the lion. She said she had given it five names. The names of five friends that were killed in this tornado.


LAVANDERA: Were you happy to be with your friends here today?


LAVANDERA: What did you guys talk about?

HERBELT: We just didn't really talk about nothing. We just gave hugs.


HERBELT: Mm-hmm.

LAVANDERA: Been a real bad week huh?


LAVANDERA: What do you guys tell each other?

BROOKLYN HAYWOOD, TORNADO SURVIVOR: Well, we saw a lot of friends today, too, that were in our classes, were in different classes, though, and we saw our friends from classes and some of her friends in her class died.

LAVANDERA: In whose class?


LAVANDERA: In your class?

HERBELT: Yes. Seven.

LAVANDERA: You knew all of them?

HERBELT: I only knew five.






UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We don't know the other names.

HERBELT: The other two names. LAVANDERA: It's really hard to deal with, I bet. You miss them?


LAVANDERA: What do you want to tell your teacher? Have you had a chance to talk to her?

HERBELT: Yes. We went to go see her yesterday in the hospital.



LAVANDERA: Was she happy to see you?

HERBELT: Yes. She was crying.

LAVANDERA: She was crying?


LAVANDERA: Because you guys came to see her, really?

HERBELT: Mm-hmm.

LAVANDERA: And what did she tell you?

HERBELT: She just told us that she's glad that we're still alive and OK.

LAVANDERA: Are you coming to see your teacher?


LAVANDERA: Why do you want to see your teacher?

HAYWOOD: Because I love her very much and she's my favorite teacher.

LAVANDERA: Did you tell me she had to go to the hospital?

HAYWOOD: Yes. She is at the hospital.

LAVANDERA: Is she going to be OK?

HAYWOOD: Yes. She's OK. She's just hurt.

LAVANDERA: She's just hurt?


LAVANDERA: She'll be OK?


LAVANDERA: And what grade are you in? You seem like a seventh grader.

HAYWOOD: I'm in first.

LAVANDERA: You're in first grade? You're a pretty smart first grader. So, were you at the school when everything happened?

HAYWOOD: No. I was at my nana and grandpa's shelter.

LAVANDERA: Well, they came to get you?


LAVANDERA: How scary was all of this for you?

HAYWOOD: It was very terrifying.

LAVANDERA: And what do you want to tell your teacher?

HAYWOOD: I'm going to tell her that I'm glad you're OK and that I'm going to give you this card.

LAVANDERA: You know what, I bet she's going to be really happy to see you.


LAVANDERA: You're anxious to see her?

HAYWOOD: Mm-hmm.

LAVANDERA: All right. You go give her a big hug.



LAVANDERA: Wolf, can't tell you how many cute kids we had a chance to speak with today. And I also had a chance to speak with many of their parents. And obviously, the thing we talked about was how they're doing in these recent days and how do they prepare their kids to tell them that a couple of their classmates, several of their classmates have been killed.

And what we heard is everyone kind of dealing with that in their own ways and trying to figure that out as we go forward. Some parents had told us that some of the kids were struggling with nightmares and having a hard time expressing themselves as you might expect. All very natural.

But this meeting, this chance today to be able to hug and say goodbye, lots of tears today, Wolf, for these teachers, students, and parents that really got a first chance today to kind of sit down together and go over everything they have been through in the last few days -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Understandably very, very emotional, Ed. Thanks for sharing those stories with our viewers.

Officials now estimate that 12,000 homes, let me repeat that number, 12,000 homes were destroyed or damaged by the tornado. Some people, of course, got hit harder than others and that has one of the luckier survivors feeling pretty bad. CNN's Brooke Baldwin is here with me in Oklahoma, I should say. You know, we walk around this subdivision here, home after home after home, Brooke.


BLITZER: Leveled.

BALDWIN: Well, it's interesting. What people can't see is where we're standing. So, in front of us, this home is here at least the brick and the mortar of the home, but on the other side, as you can see, it's totally leveled. And, we've talked to so many people whose homes are absolutely destroyed and they're talking to us about how they're rebuilding.

But I met a man, Jackie Sing, who actually lives in this neighborhood. His home is still standing. And, he had a different story to tell. This is a truly selfless story, because he told me through tears that he wishes his home was gone because there's a newborn and a young parent just across the street and their home is gone. And so, if he could trade places with them, he told me he would. Watch this.


JACKIE SING, TORNADO SURVIVOR: I almost wish I was on that side of the street and everything was gone and they were over here because of their brand new babies. I mean --

BALDWIN: You wish your home was destroyed.

SING: I kind of do -- say dad, it might be better to have those people over here and us over there because we have something and they have brand new babies and -- sorry. I don't know what to say. I just -- help me, Lord. Help me, God. I'm sorry.

BALDWIN: Don't apologize. Don't apologize.

SING: It's been a rollercoaster. The past 72 hours. Walking through our house the past couple days makes us realize what's valuable and what's replaceable. Beyond all the sorrow and grief and hurt I feel this ray of sunshine in me right now.

BALDWIN: Ray of sunshine despite --

SING: Yes.

BALDWIN: Despite the thunder.

SING: Yes.

BALDWIN: Despite the storms. SING: Just the hope of what God has for us.

BALDWIN: Thank you, Jackie, so much.

SING: You're welcome. I appreciate the time and I appreciate the outpouring of love. There's been so many people come through that have been so friendly and so giving and their hearts are wide open to help all of us that are devastated and it's a tremendous feeling.


BALDWIN: Just speaking to him, the interview, the emotion, but then bringing it back to sort of this positive notion that, look, you know, we have our lives, we have our health. He has two kids, a wife, his kids went back to school today to be able to talk to, you know, their fellow students about sort of what they've experienced, but the one thing that also really struck me, Wolf, is when he first invited us into his home because he still has, you know, running water. We were washing our hands. You know what he said to me? He said, excuse the mess.

BLITZER: You know, several people said that to me.

BALDWIN: Excuse the mess.

BLITZER: As I was walking around, you'll have to -- I mean, it's --

BALDWIN: Offering us water. They've lost their homes.

BLITZER: The people are so nice here, and they seem to like the news media. They say nice things to us.


BLITZER: They're grateful that we're showing the world.

BALDWIN: Sharing their stories. The Okey hospitality as they call it.

BLITZER: Yes. They're so nice.

BALDWIN: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Thanks very much. We're going to have a lot more on what's going on in this subdivision, because I took a walk around. We're going to show our viewers. It's amazing. House after house after house.


BLITZER: It's hard to convey the extent of the destruction here in Moore, Oklahoma or the sense of loss that people are experiencing. One way to see the storm's impact is to look down at this area from space. Our Tom Foreman put together some before and after satellite images. And Tom is joining us now live. These images are pretty drastic.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, they really are, Wolf. You can really see the extent of it from here. This is a picture of Moore before the storm hit from Google Earth, and now, take look at this area right through here as we change the screen. You see all of that? You see all of that brown area through there? That is where the storm just laid waste to everything around it.

And now, look what's along that path. There's the Briarwood Elementary School. There's Plaza Towers Elementary, Moore Medical Center, and neighborhood. Let's look at some of the details on this because you can really tell a lot when we do. If you look at this house right here, that's Briarwood School right over there. This photograph was taken from right about here on the street.

And now, look at the change to this neighborhood when that storm came through. Unbelievable destruction in this full area from what you saw just a moment ago. Let's move on and look at Plaza Towers Elementary where they had the terrible, terrible loss of life. This is the street near that school before the storm hit. This is an overhead view of the neighborhood and that school.

Once again, look at the difference now in the images as we sweep forward. Look at all of those houses and the school. This is virtually unrecognizable from anything you would have seen before. Move on to the Medical Center over here. This is another one that we've had a lot of focus on. This building more than anything else that was hit out there had the robust architecture to help it fight the storm, and yet, even here look at what happened.

Overhead view of the medical center before, overhead view of the medical center now. And you can see the houses again wiped out over here. Medical center itself. And there's one last thing I want to show you, Wolf. If you look out here in this neighborhood, this is important to look at. This is an overview of just one of the typical neighborhoods out there that was hit and it shows you the capricious nature of this storm.

These houses all are about 40 feet apart, a beautiful community. Everything is in place. And look what the storm did. As it came through, completely and utterly destroyed, destroyed. And then, half the house taken, and down here virtually no damage at all. This is the capricious nature of these storms, and this is what has so many people there in shock and wondering exactly how it happened.

How does it happen that one house here is taken off its foundation and just a very, very, very short distance away truly a stone's throw another house that's virtually untouched, Wolf. It's one of the mysteries of these storms and one that a lot of people there, as you know, are grappling with -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. Powerful to see it from space in those pictures before and after. It's even more powerful on the ground to walk around in a neighborhood and see it up close. As I said, we're going to have a lot more of what I saw here today and I want to share it with our viewers. Much more from Oklahoma coming up. Also, here in the SITUATION ROOM today, you saw the suspected killer of a British soldier, a meat cleaver in his bloody hands, speaking out about the attack. Now, a friend speaks out to CNN, calling him, quote, "a very caring man."

And President Obama defends drone strikes overseas. So, why does he want more rules for the fight against terrorism? Much more on the president's important speech today and a lot more news all coming up.


BLITZER: We're going to have much more from here in Moore, Oklahoma. The devastation is oh, oh, so awful. You can walk around these neighborhoods, house after house after house. You see cars like this one simply flown, thrown through the air into a neighbor's house. We'll have much on what's going on in the recovery effort, the survival stories from Oklahoma. That's coming up.

But there's other important news we're following here in the SITUATION ROOM, including the British prime minister, David Cameron. He says his nation will never give in to terror. And London is on alert right now with more searches and more arrests being carried out after a soldier, an army drummer, was brutally hacked to death in broad daylight. With butcher's knives in his bloody hands, one of the suspects was recorded as he spoke almost casually about the attack saying it was a response to the deaths of Muslims.

We're now learning much more about that man. Our senior international correspondent, Dan Rivers, is joining us now live from London. Dan, you had a chance to speak with a friend of this suspect. What did you learn?

DAN RIVERS, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right. A fascinating insight, Wolf, into Michael Adebolajo's (ph) life. He's clearly been known to the intelligence services here, MI- 5, a source telling me, were aware of him and his accomplice for some time. He's now clearly known in extremist circles here as you'll discover in my report. And of course, now, he's known around the world after his blood-soaked image made front page news.


RIVERS (voice-over): His bloodied image is already seared into our brains. Brandishing the meat cleaver and knife he used to kill a British soldier. But who is Michael Adebolajo (ph)? Friend, Abu Baraa shows much of his extremist ideology and says he's known him for more than seven years.

ABU BARAA, FRIEND OF LONDON HACKING SUSPECT: He's always been very vocal and very concerned about the affairs of Muslims and people being oppressed and he could never tolerate anybody to really be oppressed without saying anything and I'm sure was very frustrated and helpless when he couldn't.

As a person, he was always very caring, very concerned. He's always had a heart for other people. He just wanted to help everybody.

RIVERS: Michael Adebolajo (ph) was a fixture at Islamist rallies like this one in London in 2007. He's understood to have converted to Islam from Christianity four years earlier. British of Nigerian descent, he studied at this school in Essex. He married in 2006, a marriage which Abu Baraa was unable to attend because he was in prison for encouraging Muslims to kill British soldiers in Iraq.

Would you condemn what he did?

BARAA: I would condemn the cause of this which is the British foreign policy. Britain has taken these people, the public to war and taken its soldiers to war knowing full well that war is a violent practice and people get killed in war. Soldiers are, you know, in full knowledge that they could get killed. So, Britain is the one who's responsible. The government.

And I believe all of us, as the public, we are responsible. We should condemn ourselves. Why would we not do enough to stop these wars going on in Iraq and Afghanistan?

RIVERS: But you wouldn't condemn his actions?

BARAA: I would only condemn the one who's the cause of this, the aggressor, the occupier, which is the British government, the British troops.

RIVERS: But it is this young soldier, drummer, Lee Rigby (ph), who has paid the price for such extremism. CNN understands spies at the British security service MI-5 based here in Central London were aware of Adebolajo and his accomplice while investigating other terrorist plots, but there was nothing to indicate either man were about to strike in such an appalling way.


RIVERS (on-camera): Wolf, there've been more arrests in this fast moving police investigation. A man and a woman, both 29 years old, have been arrested in South London. Meanwhile, police in London and further north of the capital in Lincolnshire have been searching properties as they try and work out whether these two men were acting alone or whether there is any wider terrorist network involved.

BLITZER: Is there a sense on the streets there, a fear? What's the mood as far as you can tell, Dan?

RIVERS: Look, I think we have grown used sadly in London to the threat of terrorism here perpetually. I think the savagery with which this attack was carried out and the way that the two men hung about afterwards, boasting about what they'd done, almost wanting to be filmed waiting for the police has really shocked a lot of people. And I think there is a concern that this is impossible for the intelligence services and the police to prevent.

They can't ban people from buying knives. They can't stop this kind of attack. All they can do is try and get, for example, armed forces personnel to be extra vigilant as they leave their bases.

BLITZER: I'm sure they will be. Dan Rivers in London for us, thank you very much. More on this story coming up later.

Also coming up, how President Obama handled a surprising interruption today at an important national security speech he was delivering. You're going to want to hear what he told this woman.

Also, Brad Pitt reveals he may be getting tested for a very unusual disorder. Stay with us. You're in the SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: There's a deadly spill over from the civil war in Syria. Mary Snow is monitoring that and some of the other top stories here in the SITUATION ROOM. What's going on, Mary?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, for days now, we've been seeing clashes between supporters and opponents of Syrian leader, Bashar al Assad, not in Syria, but in Lebanon. Sixteen people have been killed and at least 156 wounded. Analysts warn the violence could destabilize all of Lebanon. The city that's seen the worst violence is quiet today, but only because people are afraid of going outside due to snipers.

Here in the U.S., unsettling news for east coast residents. The government's predicting an above normal hurricane season in the Atlantic, including three to six major storms with 100-mile-an-hour sustained winds. In all, forecasters say the Atlantic could see 13 to 20 named storms this year. On the other hand, they say the pacific will have a below normal hurricane season.

Now, you probably recognize this guy. But while actor Brad Pitt may have one of the most recognizable faces in the world, he tells "Esquire" magazine's Tom Junod he has such a hard time remembering the faces of people he meets. He may actually get tested for a disorder called prosopagnosia or face blindness.

His fiance, Angelina Jolie, recently revealed she had a double mastectomy because her DNA put her at a greatly elevated risk of breast cancer -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Mary Snow reporting for us. Mary, thanks very much.

Up next, President Obama defends drone strikes against terror suspects and defends himself against the heckler.

And a popular horse farm and petting zoo that was destroyed by the tornado, and now, people who feel close ties to the place they loved to visit, they are volunteering to rebuild it.


BLITZER: Happening now, you're going to hear how President Obama tried to answer a heckler who kept interrupting an important national security speech. Here in Oklahoma incredible devastation at a beloved farm and what people are doing to help.

And in our next hour a new mom reunites with the nurses who stayed by her side while she gave birth during the tornado.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

A day after his administration disclosed that four Americans have been killed over the years in drone strikes overseas, President Obama today defended that secret campaign. But the president also called for tighter rules in the fight against terrorism saying, and I'm quoting, "We must define the nature and scope of the struggle or else it will define us."

After major successes against al Qaeda and its allies President Obama says America now stands at a crossroads. Listen to this.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have to make decisions based not on fear but on hard-earned wisdom. That begins with understanding the current threat that we face. Today the core of al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan is on the path to defeat. Their remaining operatives spend more time thinking about their own safety than plotting against us.

They did not direct the attacks in Benghazi or Boston. They've not carried out a successful attack on our homeland since 9/11. Instead, what we've seen is the emergence of various al Qaeda affiliates. Any U.S. military action in foreign lands risks creating more enemies. And impacts public opinion overseas. Moreover, our laws constrain the power of the president. Even during war time.

And I have taken an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States. The very precision of drone strikes and the necessary secrecy often involved in such actions can end up shielding our government from the public scrutiny that a troop deployment invites. It can also lead a president and his team to view drone strikes as a cure all for terrorism. And for this reason I have insisted on strong oversight of all lethal action.

Over the last four years my administration has worked vigorously to establish a framework that governs our use of force against terrorists. Insisting upon clear guidelines, oversight, and accountability that is now codified in presidential policy guidance that I signed yesterday.


BLITZER: All right. Let's take a closer look at what the president had to say. Joining us now our chief political analyst Gloria Borger, our chief political correspondent Candy Crowley, anchor of CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION" along with Tom Junod of "Esquire" magazine. Candy, what do you make of the timing of the president's speech today? Why did he decide that today was an important day to deliver this speech?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I think in general, Wolf, the administration determined it had reached the point of diminishing returns with the drone program, at least at the height of the drone program. What they see is the left increasing its criticism. They see that it is beginning to backfire if you will. That it might be producing more enemies than it's taking out overseas so it's facing international problems. And they need them less.

And we can see that by the number of drone strikes has diminished a lot since their hay day a couple of years ago. So what we have is a war that's about to end and a president that wants to keep the drone program in a different formation and in order to do that he needs another legal basis. So I think legally and politically the drone program had come to a point of diminishing returns and it needed to recalculate to get back the strength.

Having said that, I think there was a lot less here than meets the ear. This seemed to be far more a defense of past drone use than it was of great big changes in future drone use. He sort of set the table for the future rather than actually outlining it.

BLITZER: Tom, you wrote an important article in "Esquire" the lethal presidency of President Obama. That was the title. You know a lot about the use of drones. What the president is up to. Like Candy I listened to the speech closely. It sounded more like a justification of current U.S. policy than any change in U.S. policy but I'm anxious to get your assessment.

TOM JUNOD, ESQUIRE MAGAZINE: Yes. I was a little bit surprised. The speech was sort of advertised as a departure point. The president himself said we're at a crossroads right now. In fact, the speech was entirely consistent with the defenses that the administration has put forth over the last year and a half. It's entirely consistent with speeches already given by Eric Holder, J. Johnson, and especially William Brennan.

The -- really the biggest difference in the speech that I saw was that it was -- he didn't have a proxy do it. It was the president himself giving the speech. And that's what made it -- that's what made it an interesting speech.

BLITZER: Made it obviously much more important speech since he is the president of the United States.

JUNOD: Right.

BLITZER: Gloria, the speech seemed to be addressed more to the president's critics on the left. Many of whom don't like the drone policy than to those critics on the right. But I'm anxious for your thoughts.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, clearly, the president was getting a lot of pushback on the left about drones as Candy was saying. What we don't know from this speech is whether in fact the use of drones is going to be more transparent. The direction of the use of drones is going to apparently shift from the Central Intelligence Agency to the Pentagon. We don't know if that will make it any more transparent.

What is new here is that the president also said, look. I do believe we need some oversight of drones, although as he gave some ideas he kind of told everyone why those ideas might not work because in real time if you have a review board, for example, it might take longer to make -- to make a decision.

He did defend drones as Tom was saying but he -- you know, he also made the point that OK, you need to know we have guidelines here and we have guidelines that say we need to have near certainty, near certainty that no civilians will be affected and, also that the people we are targeting have to present a continued and imminent threat to the United States.

He didn't go off and say he's not going to use drones anymore. As you all know most of the American public is actually in favor of drones.

BLITZER: And Tom, let me go back to you because one of the issues that heckler, that protester raised today at the president's speech was the drone strike that killed Anwar al-Awlaki's son. Anwar al-Awlaki, being an American citizen. Listen to this exchange the president had with the protester.



OBAMA: When we --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, 16 years old?

OBAMA: We went --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is that the way we treat a 16-year-old?

OBAMA: He went on to --


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you tell the Muslim people their lives are as precious as our lives? Can you take the drones out of the hands of the CIA? Can you stop the strike, killing people on the basis of suspicious activity?

OBAMA: We're addressing that, ma'am.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Apologize to the thousands of Muslims that you have killed. Will you compensate the innocent family victims? That will make us safer here at home. I love my country. I love the rule of law. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right, Tom. You've reported extensively on this. What was your take on this exchange?

JUNOD: Well, you know, the president does -- did a pretty remarkable job I thought turning some of that criticism aside and using that to his advantage. Nobody has ever accused the president of being a poor public speaker, of not being able to handle himself in front of a microphone.

But the thing that struck me about the speech is that the defenses of the drone programs are also announcements of the limitations on the drone program. The president will always say that this is a very limited program. He will always say that we're trying to cut down the amount of civilian deaths. He will always say that really there has to be an imminent threat involved.

The administration has been saying this for the last year and a half and meanwhile the drone program, until just recently, has continued a pace, has continued, you know, on a fairly expansive frame and, you know, it's not that dozens or hundreds of people have been killed by it but rather thousands. And I think that that is the thing that it's not been really addressed in most of the conversations and certainly not in today's conversation.

BLITZER: Tom Junod of "Esquire" magazine, thanks for joining us.

Gloria, thanks as usual.

Candy, of course, is going to have much more on this Sunday morning on "STATE OF THE UNION" 9:00 a.m. Eastern.

Guys, thanks very much.

Just ahead, a closer look at what I saw today when I arrived in this part of Oklahoma. This neighborhood right outside of Oklahoma City. A subdivision destroyed.

Plus the woman in the middle of the IRS firestorm takes the Fifth. But will she have to testify anyway?

But first, here is Dr. Sanjay Gupta with a preview, a preview of this weekend's "NEXT LIST."


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: This week on "THE NEXT LIST" eye of the deer. Inventor of the next generation of Legos called littleBits.

AYAH BDEIR, FOUNDER AND CEO, LITTLEBITS: Each littleBit is a preassembled, pre-engineered electronic module that has one specific function.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: One thing that I noticed is that the colors are very gender neutral. Right? They're not all pink. They're not all blue.

BDEIR: There is a hidden agenda that I really believe that we have to work harder to get girls interested in science and technology but I don't believe in producing products for girls or for boys. I think that the intention here was that littleBits were not going to be designed for boys. That was a deliberate decision and automatically they became gender neutral.

My name is Ayah Bdeir. I am an engineer and I'm the founder of littleBits.

GUPTA: Watch how Ayah is revolutionizing how kids learn about technology this Saturday 2:30 p.m. Eastern on "THE NEXT LIST."



BLITZER: Almost every major city in the United States has beautiful subdivisions in the suburbs. Block after block, beautifully laid out home after home. My dad was a home builder in Buffalo, New York. So I am very familiar.

And as I walked around this neighborhood here today in Moore, Oklahoma, my heart began to sink.


BLITZER: We'll take a little walk on Stone Ridge Drive and this is what's left of these homes. Nothing. And I'm just -- it is so heart breaking to see all these people who are just going through the rubble looking for photo albums, looking for something, trying to clean up. It's just -- if you take a look over here at this house, completely, completely destroyed. This house over here the same.

All of these homes were once homes with families. Now there's nothing. Nothing left. It's just one huge subdivision destroyed.

When I say it looks like a warzone, and I've been to warzones, I've got to tell you, parts of this look a lot worse than some of the warzones that I've covered over the years. Totally, totally heartbreaking to see what has happened. People just going from house to house. And a lot of volunteers coming in trying to help out as well. We're going to have more on this coming up in our next hour.

The stage is also set for a dramatic confrontation back in Washington, D.C. coming up why some Republicans now say an IRS official gave up her right to take the Fifth Amendment.

Plus, a future president as we've never seen him before. All dressed up for his high school prom.


BLITZER: All right. This just coming into THE SITUATION ROOM. A new fallout from one of the week's most dramatic moments back in Washington.

Let's go right to our chief congressional correspondent Dana Bash up on Capitol Hill. She has details of an IRS official's fate.

What are we learning, Dana?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we've learned. Wolf, that Lois Lerner, who is head of the division that did the targeting of Tea Party groups, has been put on administrative leave. And she's actually already been replaced.

But, Wolf, being bounced from her job may be the least of her worries because Congress wanted her to come back and answer the questions she refused to yesterday about the issue that really has really sparked bipartisan outrage.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you solemnly swear --

BASH (voice-over): It was no surprise that Lois Lerner, a central figure in the IRS scandal, invoked her Fifth Amendment rights.

LOIS LERNER, IRS EXEMPT ORGANIZATION DIRECTOR: And not testify or answer any of the questions today.

BASH: What did surprise committee Republicans is before saying she would not talk, she did just that. Making a lengthy statement and then professing her innocence.

LERNER: I have not done anything wrong. I have not broken any laws. I have not violated any IRS rules or regulations.

BASH: Republicans pounced, saying Lerner waived her Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination.

REP. TREY GOWDY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: You don't get to tell your side of the story and not be subjected to cross-examination.

REP. DARRELL ISSA (R), CHAIRMAN, OVERSIGHT AND GOVERNMENT REFORM COMMITTEE: Will you please seek counsel for further guidance on this matter while we wait?

LERNER: I will not answer any questions or testify about the subject matter of this committee's meetings.

BASH: GOP chairman Darrell Issa eventually dismissed Lerner. Now a day later Issa concluded Lerner did waive her right to not answer questions and he's calling her back. But many experts do not think Issa is on firm, legal footing.

Attorney Stan Brand was a top lawyer in Congress, since has represented many clients called to Capitol Hill.

(On camera): Do you think Chairman Issa is right that Lois Lerner waived her Fifth Amendment rights? STAN BRAND, FORMER GENERAL COUNSEL TO HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: No, I don't because I think that a brief prefatory statement of innocence that doesn't evolve into a factual representation is not a waiver. And it's been done before.

BASH: For example, former Enron CEO Ken Lay during the height of scandal. But he was more subtle than Lerner about arguing he did nothing wrong.

KEN LAY, FORMER ENRON CEO: One of the Fifth Amendment's basic functions is to protect innocent men.

BASH: Issa aides argue witnesses who invoke the Fifth Amendment tend not to say much more like when Issa called GSA employee Jeff Neely about lavish GSA conferences and excess government spending.

JEFF NEELY, FORMER GSA EXECUTIVE: I respectfully decline to answer based upon my Fifth Amendment constitutional privilege.

BASH: The committee's top Democrat argues calling Lerner back is a waste of time.

REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), OVERNIGHT AND GOVERNMENT REFORM COMMITTEE: There's a 99.999 chance that when she comes back in, she's going to say the same thing. It undermines the credibility of our committee, and it undermines the credibility of our investigation.


BASH: Now, Wolf, it's unclear when Chairman Issa is going to call her back. But if she comes and refuses to answer questions, what the committee could do is hold her in contempt. They could both dare to do that, they could send this to the full House of Representatives. They could have the same vote and that would be referred to the Justice Department who could actually prosecute her.

But the reality is, that could take years and the Justice Department is already involved in its own criminal investigation of this very broad issue, of course, of IRS wrongdoing -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. We'll watch it with you, together, Dana. Thanks very much.

Right at the top of the hour, a mother about to give birth, unable to move, and the nurses who risked their lives during the tornado to keep her safe.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Once I felt the floor start shaking, it feels like an earthquake and I knew we were getting hit directly.



BLITZER: It's not just people pitching in to help comfort victims of the tornado disaster here in Oklahoma.

CNN national correspondent Gary Tuchman explains.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Six golden retrievers and their handlers. On a mission to help, in a way only dogs can.

(On camera): This is the Children's Hospital at the Oklahoma University Medical Center. And these are the comfort dogs. They've come here to comfort.

This, Becca, and this is Ruthie, and this is Barnabus, the oldest of the dogs here, 3 years old, a veteran. Kai. This is Zeke. Their name tags are here. I can't always see them. And this is Lylea. And Lylea is the youngest of the group. She's only 9 months old. She's in training.

(Voice-over): These dogs are trained and sponsored by Lutheran Church Charities. Only the most obedient and docile dogs qualify. They show up at national disasters like the Oklahoma tornado to help comfort victims. Eight-year-old Courtney Brown, a second-grade student at the Plaza Towers Elementary School fractured her skull in the tornado.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, Courtney. This is Ruthie.


TUCHMAN: Courtney went to the same school where seven other children were killed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you have peanut butter today? She's sniffing peanut butter.


TUCHMAN: Courtney's dad sits beside his daughter, so grateful she's alive. And able to talk to Ruthie and Ruthie's handler.

BROWN: I'm just worried about how my school was destroyed by the tornado.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you want to tell him. Sure.

BROWN: Yes. OK. I was on the ground. And I was on my knees and doing this. And I hit my head on the back and here.


TUCHMAN: But it's not only children and not only victims that comfort dogs visit. Many of the doctors and nurses want to see them, too. Courtney, who broke her arm before the tornado, says she got to visit with two comfort dogs. Ruthie and Lylea. (On camera): You know, Lylea's only 9 months old. She's a puppy. She's the same size as Ruthie.

BROWN: I know.

TUCHMAN: Isn't that amazing?

BROWN: I think she's a little smaller.

TUCHMAN: A little small. But she's still bigger than you.

BROWN: True. If she was on two legs.

TUCHMAN: Yes. Maybe next she can come stand on her two legs and walk through the door.

(Voice-over): But comfort dogs have indeed greatly comforted Courtney and plenty of other victims in this hospital.

BROWN: I love doggies.

TUCHMAN: A canine mission accomplished.

Gary Tuchman, CNN, Oklahoma City.


BLITZER: So many stories like that.