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Virginia State Senator Stabbed; Interview with Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa; Interview with Israeli Government Spokesman Mark Regev

Aired November 19, 2013 - 16:00   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: A son is dead. And his politician father who once made a bid to run the Commonwealth of Virginia, he is recovering from multiple stab wounds this hour.

I'm Jake Tapper. This is THE LEAD.

The national lead. Not so long ago, State Senator Creigh Deeds was the Democratic nominee running for governor in Virginia. Now, as of today, he's being treated in a hospital and his son is dead after something terrible happened inside Deeds' home.

Also, in national news, are Republicans preserving the balance on the second most powerful court in the land or are they obstructing the president's power to appoint judges, or maybe both? Our guest, GOP Senator Chuck Grassley, is firing back at the president's claim that Congress is not doing its constitutionally mandated job.

And the money lead. If you look at the top names in technology, you know, your Mark Zuckerbergs, your Tim Cooks, you might conclude that Silicon Valley is estrogen-deficient, but a new report says it's not all hoodies these days.

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

We will begin with the national lead. Police are now officially treating it as an attempted murder/suicide. The call came in this morning bringing police to the Bath County, Virginia, home of Creigh Deeds, state senator and former Democratic nominee for governor.

Inside, they found Deeds stabbed several times in the head and torso, but still alive. Also inside, his 24-year-old son, Austin Gus Deeds, suffering from a gunshot wound. Gus Deeds would not leave the scene alive. "The Richmond Times-Dispatch" is reporting that Gus Deeds was sent for a mental health evaluation under an emergency custody order some time in the past, but the paper cites a source saying he was released yesterday because no bed was available.

His father, a man who once hoped to lead the Commonwealth of Virginia, was airlifted to a hospital, where he is currently listed in fair condition.

I want to get right now to our own Chris Lawrence, who is at the police barracks in Charlottesville, Virginia, where police just gave another press conference in this case.

Chris, police held the news conference a short time ago. What's the news?

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Jake, basically some of the new details that are just emerging now are that Creigh Deeds and his son Gus were the only two people in that home when all of this happened and they are now working under the assumption that Gus Deeds stabbed his father multiple times and then shot himself once, a wound that would literally kill him within the hour.


LAWRENCE (voice-over): Police found a chilling scene after an early morning 911 call.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Deputies arrived to find Senator Deeds stabbed multiple times about the head and upper torso. He was flown from the scene to the University of Virginia Hospital in Charlottesville.

LAWRENCE: Police say Creigh Deeds was able to speak with them, but is now in critical condition. Inside the rural Virginia home, deputies found the senator's 24-year-old son, Gus, suffering from a gunshot wound. He died at the scene.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're not seeking any suspect at the time.

LAWRENCE: Creigh Deeds is well known in Virginia politics. In his unsuccessful bid to be governor in 2009, he garnered a presidential endorsement.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When I look at the way he conducts himself and his campaign, speaking truth to power, but always doing it in a way that reminds us that we have to bring people together instead of driving them apart.

LAWRENCE: Deeds was elected to the Virginia Statehouse in 1991, and in 2001, was elected to fill the state Senate seat of TV personality Katie Couric's late sister.

He wrote and helped pass Megan's Law in Virginia, which requires law enforcement officials to notify communities of registered sex offenders, and he sponsored the Amber Alert program in the state.


LAWRENCE: Now, the home where all of this happened is in an extremely rural area. The house is set well back off the street, and we're now learning that Creigh Deeds, after being stabbed multiple times, was able to walk about 75 yards down the hill from the house to get to that road where he was picked up by his cousin.

And just in the last hour or two, we have also learned that his condition has been upgraded to fair -- Jake.

TAPPER: Chris Lawrence, thank you so much. I want to bring in Michael Martz. He's a reporter for "The Richmond Times-Dispatch" and has been covering this tragic story all day. He joins us by phone.

Michael, thanks so much for being with us. Let's talk about the son, Gus. Can you give us any more details on this mental health evaluation he underwent and why he was released?

MICHAEL MARTZ, "THE RICHMOND TIMES-DISPATCH": Our understanding is that Gus was taken under an emergency custody order, which would require a magistrate to issue the order.

It allows for an evaluation for about four hours. You can get an extension for an additional two hours. We're trying to determine whether or not the time -- the evaluation was extended or they requested an extension.

But our understanding -- my colleague Bill McKelway talked to the head of the community services board in Lexington, and he said that they simply did not have a bed available. They had to release him. Under the law, they didn't have enough information to detain him further under what's called a temporary detention order, a TDO, which you can hold up to 48 hours, and then you have to have an involuntary commitment hearing.

That's the process. And so this has been a problem before. Mental health advocates will tell you that a couple years ago, there was an inspector general's report showing hundreds of people who were basically released because there wasn't a bed available for them to be held legally under the law.

TAPPER: Amazing. This TDO presumably would come if Gus was a threat to himself or believed to be a threat to himself or others. Do we have any idea, do you have any reporting on why Gus recently withdrew from the college of William and Mary?

MARTZ: No, we don't have any additional information. Our reporter who covers higher education is working -- has confirmed that, but I don't have any further information about what the reasons were.

I know one senator -- delegate, David Toscano, who is the minority leader from Charlottesville, is close to Senator Deeds. He sent us a statement earlier today saying the senator was quite close to his son and he had exerted what Mr. Toscano called Herculean efforts over the last several years to help him. So my guess is that this is has been a long struggle and we just don't know the details.

TAPPER: Creigh Deeds, tell us more about Creigh Deeds. He obviously ran for governor against Bob McDonnell four years ago. He is now a state senator, was then as well.

How big a figure is he in this community?

MARTZ: Well, I think he's a very big figure in Western Virginia. He was the commonwealth's attorney there. He served in the House of Delegates. He served in the Senate, ran for governor, and I think he's very well liked. I don't know anybody from either party who doesn't like Creigh Deeds. He's just a nice guy, a very genuine person.


TAPPER: Michael Martz of "The Richmond Times-Dispatch," thank you so much. And your newspaper is doing exemplary work. Thank you so much.

Turning now to the aftermath of those deadly storms in the Midwest, as the survivors picked up the smashed pieces of their lives, we now know most of the names of those who lost their lives. In Washington County, which was struck by an EF-4 tornado, an elderly brother and sister, Joseph and Frances Hoy, they were both killed. Frances Hoy's family found her alive under a pile of rubble, but she could not hold on.

Joseph Hoy's body was found about 100 yards from the debris of the home they shared. Three people lost their lives in Massac County, Illinois, Kathy George, Robert Harmon, and Scholitta Burrus. They were all killed.

In Tazewell County, Illinois, Steve Neubauer was found dead after the storms. And two fatalities to report in Michigan. Most of the fatalities were in Illinois, two in Michigan. Phillip Smith was killed in the town of Perry and a 21-year-old man whose name has not yet been released was killed in Jackson County, Michigan.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims and their families as well, as to the survivors, who have a very long road ahead of them.

When we come back, do your job, that's what the president is wanting and telling Congress, as a new battle brews between Republicans and the White House.

Plus, as a kid, he told me his biggest concern was sneaking off to New York with Ben Affleck, but years later, one teenager put things in perspective for Matt Damon. He will tell that story in our interview ahead.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

In national news, President Obama's judicial nominees, please take your seats on the bench. And when I say bench, I mean you're not getting into the game. If we were to compare the Obama White House to an NFL team, I think even many Democrats would have to agree it's been on a Jacksonville Jaguars-type losing streak recently.

The administration wants its draft picks to play, and by draft picks, I mean its nominees for the D.C. District Appeals Court. But Senate Republicans for the third time in as many weeks have blocked an Obama nominee to that court, which is considered the second most powerful in the country.

Republicans want to keep the current balance on the court, four judges appointed by a Democrat, four judges appointed by a Republican. Unfair, cry the Democrats, whom we should note filibustered several of former President George W. Bush's nominees to circuit courts back in the first half of the aughts, largely, Democrats argued, for ideological reasons.

Republicans say they are doing it because they want to organize the judiciary. D.C. has too many judges on the bench, they say. Now some Democrats want to change the Senate rules to require only a simple majority to confirm executive branch nominees. That's a so-called nuclear option. You probably heard that before.

President Obama released a statement on the blocked bids that reads in part -- quote -- "This obstruction is completely unprecedented. When it comes to judicial nominations, I am fulfilling my constitutional responsibility, but Congress is not. Instead, Senate Republicans are standing in the way of a fully functioning judiciary that serves the American people."

And joining me now from Capitol Hill is Republican Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa. He's the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Senator, thanks for being here. What's your reaction to what President Obama said?

SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEY (R), IOWA: Well, first of all, he is the first president of the United States to ever vote to filibuster a nominee for the courts, and that's what he did when he was a senator.

Secondly, he has nothing to complain about Congress doing its job, the Senate doing its job to confirm, because we have confirmed about 208 judicial nominees of his, and we have only disapproved four. And that would be about a 99 percent approval rating.

So I think he has done very well, but there is some place where he's coming up short, and the latest figures now might be a month-old, but there are 65 vacancies that he hadn't even sent names up to the Hill for us to confirm. And, under our Constitution, we can't confirm judges until he nominates them.

So he better get on the ball and nominate judges to these courts if he wants us to act faster.

TAPPER: All right, that's a fair point. But let's talk about the D.C.-based appellate court. This is the third time in three weeks that you and your Republican colleagues have blocked or used the filibuster -- however you want to describe it -- to prevent an Obama nominee to the D.C.-based appellate court from coming up for a vote.

Why not let them have an up or down vote?

GRASSLEY: I want you to know that I also did the same thing when there was a President Bush, because I eliminated the twelfth seat that was on the court and Bush wanted to fill that vacancy. And the reason I did that then and the reason we aren't filling these vacancies now is because this is the most underworked circuit of the 12 circuits we have in this country. Their caseload on average is only half what it is -- or their caseload is only half of what it is the average of the other 11 circuits in our country.

TAPPER: I thought I saw statistics somewhere that said they actually have a bigger caseload per judge than the eighth circuit which serves in Iowa.

GRASSLEY: Well, I hope you go back and read my speeches and find out how I use the cases filed and the cases determined. And when you go to the 11 circuits and go to cases filed and cases determined, you'll find out that this caseload is half of the average of the other circuits.

TAPPER: Chief Justice Roberts seems to disagree with you in terms of whether or not the appellate court here in D.C. should have these positions. Wouldn't he know best?

GRASSLEY: He doesn't know best from this standpoint, that we have letters from judges on that very court that said we don't need any more judges or there wouldn't be enough cases to go around. So I think that the judges on the D.C. circuit that say there wouldn't be enough work to go around is more evidence of not filling these seats than what the chief justice says, considering the fact that also we're saving $1 million every year for every judge that we don't confirm for a court where those judges aren't needed.

TAPPER: Just a few minutes ago, you noted that you did not want a twelfth slot on this court and you held that position up during the Bush years. But you did vote to fill the ninth, tenth and 11th slots on this court when you voted for Kavanaugh, Griffith and Rogers Brown. Those are the positions you're trying to eliminate, so it has not been completely equitable, right, because you did allow for three judge positions when bush was president.

GRASSLEY: You were right on the ninth and tenth. But the 11th seat really wasn't the 11th seat because that was -- that was a seat that another judge had already resigned from. So that was really the tenth seat at that point.

And you got to look at the fact that at that particular time, the caseload was a little higher than it is right now, but the caseload wasn't high enough to have a twelfth judge which President Bush wanted so at that point, we eliminated the twelfth seat. And now, I have a bill in to eliminate nine, ten and 11 and just eliminate one of them, but the other two, we will put in circuits where they're more needed by caseload. And then, President Obama can have the privilege of appointing judges there. So we are not denying him the right to appoint judges. It's just where he appoints them.

And, by the way, this isn't a new crusade for me, because when I was in the Senate in the 1990s, and chairman of the court subcommittee, I did a lot of studies on workloads of the various circuits and have made changes based upon those studies.

TAPPER: All right. Senator Chuck Grassley, Republican of Iowa, thank you so much for your time and for your views. Coming up next on THE LEAD: could a deal with Iran in hopes of avoiding a war actually lead to a war? Why the United States and Israel are butting heads over a possible breakthrough with the Islamic republic.

Plus, if you had a do-over on your vote last year, would you take it? A new poll says Mitt Romney could beat President Obama if the election were held today. So, what's the president doing to turn things around?


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

"The World Lead" now. Could the U.S. be close to a historic deal with Iran that would ease sanctions against the country while putting the brakes on its nuclear weapons ambitions? Well, that all depends on who you ask.


JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We believe there is the potential, anyway, to initiate the first phase of an agreement that would see Iran halting progress on its program and rolling back certain aspects of it.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: I think the problem with a partial deal is that you reduce the sanctions and in this case, you reduce the sanctions, let out a lot of pressure and Iran is practically giving away nothing. It's making a minor concession which they can reverse in weeks and you endanger the whole sanctions regime that took years to make.

So I don't think it's a good deal. I think it's a bad deal, an exceedingly bad deal.


TAPPER: To say the Obama administration and the Israeli government don't see eye-to-eye on loosening Iranian sanctions -- well, that's like calling the Titanic's voyage sort of a disappointing vacation.

Israel, particularly its prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, sees the deal as rewarding, and unproven and untrustworthy regime while the U.S. sees it as a step forward in the peace process.

Joining me from Jerusalem is Mark Regev. He's a spokesperson for the Israeli government.

Mr. Regev, thanks so much for being here.

Today, Iran's foreign minister accused the Israelis of trying to, quote, "torpedo an agreement to spread tension and mistrust". Your reaction?

MARK REGEV, ISRAELI GOVERNMENT SPOKESMAN: We're not against an agreement. We are all for an agreement. We want to see the Iranian nuclear crisis resolved peacefully. We have an interest in that. We think everyone would like to see that.

But what we want to see is a good agreement, not a bad agreement like the one we had with North Korea which everyone celebrated at the time, and then, just a year later the North Koreans exploded their first nuclear device. We want to see a good agreement that actually effectively dismantles Iran's military nuclear program.

TAPPER: As you know, last week, some members of the Senate got into a heated discussion with members of the Obama administration about what exactly this lifting of sanctions would mean and the White House basically said that the numbers being floated and given on Capitol Hill by the Israeli government are wrong. Your reaction to that?

REGEV: Look, you can have an honest difference on what the estimates are, but what our concern is, is that you've got this equation out there on the table which says the Iranians take small steps and then the international community in parallel takes small steps to sort of encourage them to move in the right direction.

The trouble with that equation, it's based on a falsehood.

The first falsehood is that the Iranians are taking steps in the right direction. They're not. All that we've seen, all the information that we have is that the Iranians are taking only cosmetic measures that in no way undermine their goal of having a nuclear weapon. They're not willing to take any serious step not to dismantle a single centrifuge. So, that's the first problem.

The second problem is that though the sanction relief is in the billions, and maybe for some people that's small, if you look at the strength of the Iranian economy, it's quite, quite large, it's quite significant. And as my boss Prime Minister Netanyahu said, it's like a small hole in your tire. That small hole will ultimately lead to a flat and we are very concerned that once you have cracks in the sanctions, the sanctions will fall apart and then there will be no pressure left on the Iranians to encourage them to take even more necessary significant steps to dismantle their program.

I mean, the Iranians are building intercontinental ballistic missiles. They're not building them for us. They've already got missiles that can reach Israel. They are building them for you, for targets in North America or in Western Europe. It's crucial we don't allow them to get nuclear weapons.

TAPPER: If the deal goes forward and, of course, it's the position of the Obama administration that this deal would prevent, not allow, nuclear weapons, but if the deal goes forward, will it damage U.S./Israeli relations?

REGEV: We and the United States agree on the big picture. We agree with a common goal and that is that Iran should not be allowed to have nuclear weapons.

Now, between friends, we can have honest differences about how to achieve that goal. Israel is directly affected by this. This is for us a core issue in our national security and, of course, my prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, wouldn't be doing his job if he wasn't concerned about this.

TAPPER: But he's concerned about it but you're not willing to say this would damage U.S./Israeli relations so I think the average viewer at home might think -- well, if it wouldn't even damage relations, then what's the big deal?

REGEV: Let me say the following. For us, it's a core issue, it's a crucial issue. I hope we come out of this with a good deal, a deal that does dismantle peacefully Iran's military nuclear program. I hope it's possible. That's ultimately the very best outcome.

TAPPER: Mark Regev, Israeli government spokesman, thank you so much.

REGEV: My pleasure, sir.

TAPPER: Coming up next on THE LEAD: she was the Obamacare success story that even the president was excited about. That is until the cost of her health care suddenly skyrocketed.

And, he's an international superstar so what was up with that weird promise from Matt Damon about not going to the bathroom? He'll explain in our interview, coming up.