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Georgia Aborted School Shooting Examined; Bradley Manning's Sexual Identity; Will San Diego Mayor Resign?

Aired August 22, 2013 - 16:00   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: She's a bookkeeper who apparently puts on her superhero outfit in the teachers lounge phone booth.

I'm Jake Tapper and this is THE LEAD.

The national lead. Her name is Tuff, but her tenderness may have prevented a mass shooting. I will ask the superintendent for his reaction to the 911 calls from inside the school between a suicidal gunman with an AK-47 and the hero who stopped him.

More national news, name, rank, serial number, two of those are different today. Private Bradley Manning plans to live the rest of his life as Chelsea from prison. I will talk to someone who helped him as he was struggling with his identity.

And how many women does it take to force a mayor out of office? Well, now we know, as San Diego's Bob Filner finally takes a deal.

Good afternoon, everyone. I'm Jake Tapper. Welcome to THE LEAD.

We will begin with the national lead and some breaking news out of California, where a dizzying rescue scene is unfolding. A tour bus carrying dozens of people flipped over on a busy stretch of highway about 20 miles outside Los Angeles. We're still trying to sort out the exact number of passengers who were hurt.

But local media is reporting that at least five people had to be flown by helicopter to trauma centers. The crash shut down three lanes of traffic on Interstate 210, turning parts of the highway into a virtual parking lot.

Let's get the very latest now from officer Saul Gomez from the California Highway Patrol. He joins now by phone.

Officer Gomez, thanks for being with us. Are there any updates on the number injured and the severity of those injuries?

SAUL GOMEZ, CALIFORNIA HIGHWAY PATROL: Thank you, Jake, and good afternoon.

We have a preliminary number of 46 people injured as a result of this traffic collision, most of which are moderate to minor injuries. We did have some trauma that were airlifted. We used a total of three airships, three air helicopters to transport these victims to local hospitals. Luckily, none are life-threatening. And the situation has stabilized for now.

TAPPER: Is there any idea yet about the cause of this crash?

GOMEZ: There's numerous witnesses that we have to interview as a result of this crash, so we're unable to determine what actually happened and what caused this bus to actually traverse four lanes and travel onto the shoulder, where it overturned.

TAPPER: This stretch is highway is popular for tour buses, right?

GOMEZ: That is correct.

This stretch is highway is popular for tour buses that are going to local casinos, out of state and within the state of California. And it appears the folks traveling in this bus were headed just to a casino here in California before this incident took place.

TAPPER: Officer Saul Gomez with the California Highway Patrol, thank you for joining us. We appreciate it. Thank you.

Her Antoinette Tuff and you can only hope every school in America employs someone as fearless and heroic as she is. Tuff is, of course, as you know by now, the school bookkeeper from Georgia who disarmed a man with an AK-47 and 500 rounds of ammunition who had slipped through the doors of the Ronald E. McNair elementary school ready to die. Tuff's only weapon was her compassion and her sympathy for a very sick young man.

We now have the 911 call that Tuff made when the first shots rank out. Let's take a listen.


911 OPERATOR: Police. What is the address of your emergency?

ANTOINETTE TUFF, WITNESS: Ooh, he just went outside and started shooting. Ooh, can I run?

911 OPERATOR: Can you get somewhere safe?

TUFF: Yes, I got to go.

He is going to see me running. And he's coming back. He said to tell them to back off. He doesn't want the kids. He wants the police. So back off.

And what else, sir? He said he don't care if he die. He don't have nothing to live for. And he said he's not mentally stable.

Well, don't feel bad, baby. My husband just left me after 33 years.

But -- yes, you do. I mean, I'm sitting here with you. We all go through something in life. No, you don't want that. You are going to be OK. I thought the same thing. You know, I tried to commit suicide last year after my husband left me, but look at me now. I'm still working and everything is OK. (END AUDIO CLIP)

TAPPER: The call lasted for almost 25 minutes and true to Tuff's words, the suspect, 20-year-old Michael Brandon Hill, was taken into custody unharmed.

Miraculously, every student and everyone at the school, including Tuff, came out similarly unscathed. The reaction of the school's interim superintendent was simple and spot on.


MICHAEL THURMOND, INTERIM SUPERINTENDENT: It's a blessed day. All of our children are safe.


TAPPER: Michael Thurmond, interim superintendent of DeKalb County Schools, joins me now.

Michael, thank you for being with us.

Tell me about the moments you spent with Antoinette Tuff after she made this call. What we didn't play just then was after the young man was apprehended, her relief, her terror comes through on the call. She was putting on a very brave face, but she was terrified.

THURMOND: Absolutely.

I first engaged Ms. Tuff sitting there on the sidewalk on a curb after the alleged shooter had been apprehended. Tears were streaming down her face. But, at that point, you knew that you were in the presence of a hero. She's such a compassionate and loving person. And she had literally placed her life on the line to save the lives of hundreds of children and employees.

TAPPER: She's a bookkeeper. Did you know her before this happened? Does she have a reputation for just being a very compassionate person? If she's a bookkeeper, she probably doesn't deal with the children all that much.

THURMOND: Principal Bolden and all of her colleagues stated one thing, that this is who this lady is. She's loving and she's caring and she believes. She has a tremendously strong faith in her God.

And I think that is what carried her through during this very difficult time. This could have turned out in a much, much more horrific situation. She talked the gunman down, bought time for law enforcement to arrive and saved countless lives.

TAPPER: That must have been a huge relief for you as the interim superintendent. What was your reaction when you got on the scene with memories of Columbine and Newtown in your head? What was going through your mind?

THURMOND: We were listening to events as they unfolded. It was actually on the video. And we were listening to the radio. We were blue-lighting to the scene. And all of these thoughts, as you said, Columbine, Sandy Hook, were all going through my mind.

But my one goal and mission was to get there, get to the scene, work with law enforcement and save our kids. But I'm so proud of principal Bolden. I'm so proud of the staff and I'm especially proud of Ms. Tuff. They leaned on their training. They did exactly what they were supposed to do. The kids responded well. And thank God no one was injured and there was no loss of life.

TAPPER: No, God bless. It's a great thing that nothing happened.

Let me just ask you one thing. There's obviously a big debate going on right now about whether or not there should be police officers in schools, security officers in schools, whether or not teachers should be armed. We can't rely on there being an Antoinette Tuff at every school. What's your take on that?

THURMOND: Well, first of all, we need to look at really what's going on in this country. When our children can't be safe in school, we need to look at the entire spectrum, whether it's gun control, whether it's -- particularly as it relates to people who might be mentally disturbed or have psychological issues getting access to high-powered weapons.

We're going to look at everything we do within the DeKalb School District, lesson learned, look at our strengths, our weaknesses, learn from it, and do everything we can to ensure that nothing like this ever happens again.

TAPPER: But my understanding, sir, is that there is a buzzer system and there is some security at that school, and this young man just followed a parent who had been buzzed in into the school. Is there any additional security that you think you should be considering in the DeKalb County schools?

THURMOND: Well, Jake, it's not generally understood, but the front office is a part of the security system. If an unauthorized person enters the school building, particularly like McNair, the people in the front office now is a redundancy.

And that's why one of the reasons Ms. Tuff was in the position she was to engage anyone in the building that should not be there. Obviously, we're going to look at how he got into the building. But we're proud that the redundancy worked. A human being engaged the intruder, and she was just smart enough, brave enough, compassionate enough to bring him and to stop him and to redirect what could have been a murderous intent.

TAPPER: And lastly, sir, and without question most importantly, how are the kids?

THURMOND: The kids are fine.

The little kids, some, they just wanted to get home to mom and dad. And they are so resilient. And I just want to thank the parents as well. We have not said a lot about them, but in this crisis situation, they were there, they were anxious. Some were frustrated, but at the same time they supported the plan that was in place.

They worked with law enforcement. And when we delivered those little babies over to the reunification location, it was just a sight to see to see them putting their arms around their kids. We had 1,000-plus parents, 600 kids, and every kid went home. And we're just so blessed and proud that that occurred.

TAPPER: I feel -- we were looking -- we were showing some pictures of the kids being put back in their parents' arms, and it's just moving watching that, thinking about what might have happened and thank God and thank Antoinette Tuff that it did not.

Michael Thurmond, interim superintendent of DeKalb County Schools, thank you so much for your time.

THURMOND: Thank you, Jake.

TAPPER: Coming up on THE LEAD: His secret life was exposed as he fought to save himself from prison. Now Bradley Manning says he wants to be known as Chelsea Manning and he wants hormone therapy. Will you pay for it?

Plus, he's the highest paid actor on television who also happens to support Democrats. So, why are big-name Republicans like Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin suddenly big fans of Ashton Kutcher?


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

In more national news, Private Bradley Manning had secrets that were not smuggled out on a thumb drive. They were personal secrets, ones that came out during the course of his court-martial for the single biggest military intelligence leak in U.S. history.

And today Manning made it clear with these words in a letter read on "The Today Show" this morning: "I am Chelsea Manning." That's right. Private Bradley Manning plans to live the rest of his life as a woman. His struggle with identity issues is something that did come up during the sentencing phase of his military trial, with the defense team showing this photograph of Manning dressed as a woman.

While the Army does not provide hormone therapy or gender reassignment surgery, there are different standard for inmates in federal prison. Manning is heading to the infamous federal lockup at Leavenworth, which conjures up old images of chain gangs, not exactly gender reassignment surgery. But his lawyer says he will fight for the prison to provide hormone therapy.

And that means, well, that you could end up paying for it. We should note that CNN will continue to refer to him as Bradley Manning since he has not yet legally changed his name.

But I want to discuss all of this with a friend of Bradley Manning's, Lauren McNamara. She communicated for six months with Manning online in 2009 under the name Zinnia Jones before McNamara identified herself as a transgender and changed her name. She was a defense witness in Manning's trial.

She joins me now.

Lauren, thank you so much for being here.

Can you talk about your relationship with Manning through these chats in 2009? What sorts of struggles did you guys talk to each other about?

LAUREN MCNAMARA, FRIEND OF BRADLEY MANNING: Well, at the time, she never talked to me about any questions of gender or anything of the sort. She identified as a gay man at the time. We mostly talked about her difficulties growing up, her struggles with her family and her struggles in school and her difficulties prior to joining the military.

And she did speak extensively about her role in the military as an intelligence analyst, and she did speak about some difficulties she had adjusting to the culture and with other soldiers who had harassed her. But overall, she still expressed a belief in the military as a force for good, made of diverse people.

TAPPER: And you at the time were a gay man as was Bradley, but you independently came to these similar statuses, is that right?

MCNAMARA: Yes. I started transitioning last year. There's evidence that she was considering transitioning as early as 2010, if not earlier.

TAPPER: And when you refer to Bradley Manning, because at the time, certainly, he was Bradley, when you refer to him as saying that people were harassing him, were they harassing him for being a gay man? For -- for what?

MCNAMARA: Well, he didn't seem -- she didn't seem to fit in very well with the military's culture sometimes. People seemed to see her as vulnerable, she was short statured and she did seem to have difficulty relating to other people there. As it came out in the trial, her co- workers testified that she often cared about her doing her job much more than others seemed to. She often made it a goal to go above and beyond.

And she might have been bullied for being effeminate, and still at the time, under doesn't ask/don't tell, being openly gay, let alone being openly trans, would have meant being separated from the Army.

TAPPER: Do you think this has anything to do with what happened with WikiLeaks, or is it just completely separate and apart from the situation?

MCNAMARA: I think it directly related to her state of mind at the time and the decisions she made. It came out in the sentencing phase of the trial when various people she had talked to in the military, psychologists and counselors, spoke about how she had had many previous incidents where it became obvious that she was in need of imminent treatment and yet this was often pushed to the side because the unit was underpowered and they could not afford to lose any analysts.

She did not receive the care she needed, particularly because receiving care for gender dysphoria would have meant separation from the Army. And this is unnecessary, because although the Army does exclude trans people currently, there's no reason for this to be the case. Our allies, such as Israel, Britain, Canada, Australia, all of them allow trans people to serve openly.

So, this was really a very unnecessary situation, as the psychologists and counselors testified at the time, this created extreme stress for her and it could have affected her decision-making abilities.

TAPPER: Lauren, as you know, because Bradley Manning is in custody and the Army says it does not provide hormone therapy or gender reassignment surgery, Manning's lawyer would have to sue to change that. What's your reaction? Do you think the attorney needs to do that?

MCNAMARA: I think it's very necessary. I think it's very necessary that she receives the treatment she needs while incarcerated.

This is a medical necessity. It's been established as such by major medical authorities, American Psychological Association, psychiatric association, medical association, all major professional medical bodies recognize that the most effective and recommended standard of care for gender dysphoria is transitioning. It's highly effective. And without it, gender dysphoria can be comorbid with depression, anxiety, self harm, even suicide. And 41 percent of trans people in the United States have attempted suicide at least once in their lives. This is legitimately a life-threatening condition.

TAPPER: All right.

MCNAMARA: To deny someone treatment for this just because they're in prison is similar to denying them treatment for depression, or for diabetes, or if they needed an organ transplant. There is really no excuse for this because it is established a medically necessary.

TAPPER: All right. Lauren McNamara, thank you so much. We appreciate your time.

Coming up on THE LEAD: he once said he'd be vindicated by the facts and he kept smiling as woman after woman after woman after woman after woman came forward with horror stories of sexual harassment, even assault. So, what finally convince Mayor Filner to reportedly call it quits?

And for hours today, stocks like Apple, Google and Facebook were completely shut down by Wall Street. We'll tell you why, ahead.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

In political news, after weeks of ignoring calls to step down over sexual harassment claims, there are now reports that San Diego Mayor Bob Filner is finally ready to resign and the timing, frankly, couldn't be better seeing as how we at THE LEAD were running out of ways to describe the creepy accusations against them.

There frankly aren't that many pop culture references about men who make unwanted advances beyond Lenny and Squiggy, Quagmire from "The Family Guy", a wolf in the Tex Avery cartoon, and, of course, Pepe Le Pew.

San Diego TV stations are now reporting that Filner will resign tomorrow pending a mediation deal with the San Diego City Council. The news comes a day after the 18th woman came forward accusing the mayor of sexual harassment. Yes, I said 18th. Each of these women have made separate yet skeevy claims against the mayor. The latest, businesswoman Diane York, says Filner put his hands on her buttocks during a photo-op about three months ago and she said his advisers saw it happened.

Casey Wian is live from San Diego with the latest.

Casey, you have some new developments.


We reported yesterday, as a lot of other folks did, that there was announced proposed settlement and we learned today that that settlement included a provision that Mayor Bob Filner would step down pending approval of that deal by the city council tomorrow. There's going to be a closed session of the city council where they'll take up this proposed session that was reached in mediation.

Well, just within the last few minutes, there's been a development that could complicate the entire thing. Gloria Allred, the attorney for the first woman to accuse Mayor Filner of inappropriate behavior and the woman who was his former press secretary, she filed a lawsuit against Mayor Filner.

Gloria Allred was involved in these mediation discussions on Monday, was not there over the last two days. She has now called a news conference saying that she and her client have not agreed to any deal and they are not aware of the contents of any deal. Furthermore, they are saying that she is adamant that she does not want any San Diego taxpayer money to go toward Bob Filner to pay off any legal claims that may arise out of this lawsuit.

Now, what implication that has for the city council's decision on whether to approve this deal tomorrow and pave the way for Mayor Filner step down, we just don't know. But it's obviously a complicating factor that the woman who began this whole thing and who we assumed was part of this settlement that was announced by the city attorney last night, her attorney is now saying she has not signed off on any deal, Jake.

TAPPER: A stunning turn of events.

Casey Wian, thank you so much.

Let's check in with our political panel in the green room.

Hey, guys, Senator Tom Coburn told a crowd of Oklahomans last night that President Obama is getting, quote, "perilously close to the constitutional standard for impeachment"? And Coburn is supposed to be one of Obama's big buddies in the Senate.

Olivier, you and I are pretty good friends. Is there anything I'm getting perilously close to that you want to warn me about?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, but as the Chinese strategist Sun Tzu once said, keep your enemies close -- your friends close and your enemies perilously closer. So, I think this is what we're seeing here.

TAPPER: Very nice. We'll have more from our political panel. Stick around for the politics lead, coming up.