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New Info on Virginia Senator Stabbing; George W. Bush: From President to Painter

Aired November 20, 2013 - 18:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, a member of the United States Congress says he's hit bottom after pleading guilty to a cocaine charge. Now the pressure is building for him to resign.

Plus, new details on the bloody stabbing of a state lawmaker, apparently by his own son. Was enough done to try to get the young man help?

And 50 years after JFK's death, we're tracking down the widow of his assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald. Is she keeping secrets about that horrific day?

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

A sitting member of the United States Congress now stands convicted of a drug crime. It's believed to be the first time that's happened in three decades. But Florida Republican Trey Radel is promising to get treatment after pleating guilty to cocaine possession.

We're taking a closer look at the plea deal, his political future.

Our crime and justice correspondent, Joe Johns, has been digging into the story.

Joe, what's going on?

JOE JOHNS, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this is an up- and-coming congressman in the House majority. Trey Radel's guilty plea to cocaine possession got him a year of probation, though if he completes it, he won't even have a conviction on his record.

Now Radel says he's headed for rehab, all as a result of an encounter he had with an acquaintance and undercover officer who set him up with just 3.5 grams of cocaine a few miles away from the Capitol on October 29. A law enforcement source said they met at Circa Restaurant on Dupont Circle in the heart of Washington, D.C.

Court papers say Radel told them he had cocaine back in his apartment and invited them over. They declined, but the undercover officer did say he had cocaine for sale. They agreed on a price, went outside the restaurant. After the drugs changed hands, federal agents approached the congressman. The Republican House leadership was careful on this, saying Radel needs to focus on his family and get better, but he's sure to get hid from the other side. Melanie Sloan of the left-leaning Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington said the so-called hip-hop conservative needs to go. Multiple sources said Attorney General Eric Holder and other senior justice officials were kept in the loop on the case.

As is standard procedure, though, the decision to set up the sting was made by investigators. A senior law enforcement source said the decision to target Radel was a judgment call and not just based on his office. Investigators wanted to know more about his relationships and his connections.

BLITZER: What a story that is. We will see how long he lasts if in fact he lasts. We will see what happens with him. Joe, thank you.

We also have new information from police about the stabbing of a Virginia lawmaker, apparently by his own son. We're told it wasn't the first time authorities had been called to Creigh Deeds home.

CNN's Chris Lawrence is joining us from Charlottesville, Virginia, right now.

What are you learning about the attack and the attempts, desperate attempts, I'm told, to get some helps for Deeds' son?

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, some new details tonight, including the fact that Creigh Deeds has now been upgraded into good condition.

We're also learning some new details about where exactly the stabbing happened, but we're also hearing that this is raising even bigger questions about the mental health care that his son did not get.


LAWRENCE (voice-over): Sources close to the investigation tell CNN Gus Deeds stabbed his father more than 10 times just outside Creigh Deeds' home. As the state senator stumbled down the driveway bleeding, his son went back into the house and shot himself. The incident happened a day after the son was brought to a local hospital under an emergency custody order.

Police confirmed Gus was brought by the sheriff, and mental health professionals evaluated him there. A state mental health official told "The Washington Post" they called multiple hospitals in an effort to find an available bed to give him more extensive care, but failing to find an open spot within the mandatory four hours, they had to let him go.

But three hospitals, including this one, all tell CNN they did have beds available, and no one called. All are within an hour or two of the Deeds, a further sign of a system many say is failing the mentally ill. Virginia has struggled to expand mental health care since a disturbed student killed 32 people at Virginia Tech in 2007. MICHAEL FITZGERALD, NATIONAL ALLIANCE ON MENTAL ILLNESS: The legislature funded in the next year $42 million of new services. By 2010, all that money was gone, had been eliminated in the recession.

LAWRENCE: Others say bed shortages are only an issue in rural areas like Bath County.

RICHARD BONNIE, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA LAW SCHOOL: And 87 percent of the cases, you have to make more calls than two.

LAWRENCE: Law professor Richard Bonnie helped reform the state's mental health system.

(on camera): And you think there should be alternatives to forced hospitalization?

BONNIE: You certainly don't need to wait until people meet the commitment criteria. You have something to offer that they will accept and that family members, you know, will feel satisfies their needs, that you can prevent crises from getting worse, and things unraveling.


LAWRENCE: Yes, in other words, well-funded voluntary programs. Would that have helped in this case? We can't know. We can't be sure without hearing from the family themselves.

But what's clear is that he did not get help that may -- may -- have prevented this tragedy, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, what a tragic story. All right, Chris, thank you.

Let's dig a little bit deeper right now. Joining us, a leading psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Dr. Gail Saltz.

Gail, thanks very much for joining us.

This is heartbreaking. The day before he allegedly stabs his dad and then kills himself with a gun, he was in a hospital. Obviously, they wanted some treatment, apparently no beds in the hospital. Is this an extraordinary situation or is this common, what's going on across the country?


In fact, it's not unheard of even in the state of Virginia. There have been other cases where somebody was brought in, in this emergency custody order, really met criteria, and should have been brought into the hospital, but there were no beds available.

And, really, what the community board does at that point is try to create another safe plan, meaning something set up with family that the person is being watched, that there are safeguards in place, and, of course, the police can be called again if something goes downhill and again the person can be brought in on an emergency custody order.

We don't know what happened in this case, but I will say this. Funds have been drastically cut, particularly since 2008. In fact, Virginia is not the only state, really across the United States, over $1.8 billion of funds cut to mental health programs. That includes funds that would go to inpatient services like hospitals and hospital beds, but also community outpatient services where, as the person in the taped spot said, someone could get help long before they get to this point.

BLITZER: Because, you know, in Virginia, Virginia Tech, 2007, all those kids at Virginia Tech killed by someone who had a major mental health problem. You would think of all the states, Virginia would have adequate treatment, funding, beds for these kinds of patients out there.

SALTZ: You would, and I think that they have tried to move in that direction, but again, there still have been -- there still were cuts. And so they still do not have enough funding, as is true really across the United States.

And let me also say that the Virginia Tech situation really highlighted the issue of stigma, because it's not clear if that person, that individual or many people get the care that they need early enough, because stigma really keeps them from seeking the care.

It's a very complicated problem that contains both the issue of the shame of admitting a family member or yourself, has a mental issue, needs to go in early and get treatment, needs to get serious treatment, and that combined with the fact that they're often -- particularly in some rural areas, there aren't enough psychiatrists, there are not enough hospital beds, there are not enough community services, and there are not enough frankly dollars even for medications.

BLITZER: What's the single-most important thing as a nation, as a country that we need to do right now?

SALTZ: I think we need to recognize that mental health care cannot be the stepchild of health care.

You know, one of the biggest payouts for disability is depression. You know, this is a serious health issue that affects over 50 percent of Americans, and we need to look at it like we look at other medical problems and therefore fund it like we fund other medical problems, which means there would be more dollars for research, in terms of having better treatment, and there would be more dollars for clinical care, so that it would be more treatment available to more people.

If this can happen to a senator's son, you can only imagine somebody who really doesn't have the wherewithal what becomes of them. So we really need to look at mental health care in a very different light than the way that we have been seeing it in the past. We also need to educate people and decrease the stigma so that people know the earlier warning signs to bring someone in for care. And that includes first-responders, who are often -- the police are often the ones that are called by the family, and if they recognize the signs that they need to bring someone in for emergency treatment, that would also be very important.

BLITZER: Gail Saltz, good advice. Thanks very much for joining us.

SALTZ: Thank you.

BLITZER: Still ahead: Bill Clinton honors one of his personal heroes. He met John F. Kennedy as a teenager. Now he's marking 50 years since JFK's death with help from President Obama.

And George W. Bush shows his artistic side on late-night TV. We're taking a closer look at his evolution from president to artist.


BLITZER: The Obamas and the Clintons together at the grave of President John F. Kennedy almost 50 years to the day after his assassination.

JFK was clearly an inspiration to both Democratic presidents. Members of the Kennedy family joined them at Arlington National Cemetery, including Robert Kennedy's widow, Ethel, JFK's grandson, Jack Schlossberg. Be sure, by the way, to watch a CNN special, "The Assassination of JFK." It airs Thursday night, 9:00 p.m. Eastern, only here on CNN.

A half-century after JFK's death, there's renewed focus on his assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, and persistent theories about a conspiracy. One person who might know some of Oswald's secrets has managed to dodge public scrutiny for decades. We're talking about the widow, Marina.

Brian Todd has been working to try to track her down, to find out more about what is going on.

What are you discovering?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, not easy to find Marina Oswald Porter, as she is now called.

We have learned that over the decades, her opinion of her husband's involvement in the Kennedy assassination has changed drastically, but getting her to talk about it is difficult. This is a woman who's now trying to be invisible, or at the very least unnoticed.


TODD (voice-over): A 72-year-old retiree outside a Wal-Mart in Texas. Walking past her, many of us wouldn't recognize that the grandmother with the worried look is one of the last people still alive with a deeply personal family connection to that weekend in Dallas 50 years ago. This is Marina Oswald Porter, the Russian-born widow of John F. Kennedy's assassin, a woman who now simply wants to be left alone. KEYA MORGAN, FRIEND OF MARINA OSWALD PORTER: After 50 years of being harassed like that, and after having reporters show up at your home, and anywhere you go, and everyone is trying to only speak about one subject and one subject only.

TODD: Filmmaker Keya Morgan, a friend of Marina Oswald Porter's, says in recent years she's become reclusive. She lives in a house behind these trees outside Dallas, signs clearly indicating visitors aren't welcome.

She married Kenneth Porter two years after Kennedy's assassination and raised the son she had with him, along with her two daughters with Lee Harvey Oswald.

PAUL GREGORY, FORMER FRIEND OF MARINA OSWALD PORTER: I understand they have grown up to be quite outstanding citizens, are holding good jobs. So I commend her and her children and her husband for what they have done.

TODD: A friend says in recent years, she turned down a network offer of $3 million for an interview, but decades ago, she did speak out, revealing a change of heart about her husband to TV station KRLD just two months after the assassination.

QUESTION: Do you believe that your husband killed President Kennedy?

MARINA OSWALD PORTER, WIDOW OF LEE HARVEY OSWALD: Well, I don't want to believe, but I have too much facts, and facts tell me that Lee shot Kennedy.

TODD: But later, she came to believe Oswald was set up, as she told NBC News in 1993.

PORTER: Well, he definitely did not fire the shots, according to all the evidence that I have right now.

TODD: Why the about-face? Former "Dallas Morning News" reporter Hugh Aynesworth has known Marina for decades.

HUGH AYNESWORTH, "DALLAS MORNING NEWS": I guess manipulation might be a crude way of putting it, but she certainly changed her mind because of some of the conspiracy theories that have been given to her.


TODD: We tried several times to reach Marina Oswald Porter for an interview. After going to her home and calling repeatedly, we finally got an answer on the phone and realized what others meant when they said that her husband, Kenneth, is polite, but fiercely protective.

He told me -- quote -- "We're not talking to the media right now, but thank you," and then he hung up -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And of course her children have suffered some of the burdens of this family as well.

TODD: That's right. And they really don't speak to the media either.

But years ago, her daughter Rachel said in an interview that her father -- that she didn't know who her father was until she was about 7 years old. She said her mother sat her and her sister down and told them who their real father was, that he wasn't -- that her stepfather wasn't the real father.

And she said that explained why news teams had always followed them around, why their mailbox had been shot at, and why she had been teased at school. These children have borne an incredible burden with her. They're now adults, but according to people who know them, are leading amazingly normal lives and have done well.

BLITZER: Yes, well, good for them.

TODD: Yes.

BLITZER: All right, thanks very much, Brian. Appreciate that report.

Just ahead: President Obama gives Oprah Winfrey an award first established by JFK. We're going to have a who's-who of other big names honored at the White House today.

Plus, George W. Bush shows off a new talent while visiting Jay Leno with his wife, Laura, and getting some laughs as President Obama's expense.


JAY LENO, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO": When the president had that heart scare, how scary was that?

LAURA BUSH, FORMER FIRST LADY: It was scary. It was very scary. But...



LENO: Was it -- you had Obamacare?





BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm grateful, Bill, as well for the advice and counsel that you have offered me on and off the golf course and, most importantly, for your lifesaving work around the world, which represents what is the very best in America.

So, thank you so much, President Clinton. (APPLAUSE)


BLITZER: President Obama presenting the Medal of Freedom to Bill Clinton at the White House today.

President Clinton was one of 16 people to receive the award, the nation's highest civilian honor. Others include the famed talk show host Oprah Winfrey, the country music star Loretta Lynn, astronaut Sally Ride, who passed away, women rights activist Gloria Steinem, baseball Hall of Famer Ernie Banks, who played 19 seasons for the Chicago Cubs, and the former men's head basketball coach at the university of North Carolina Dean Smith, who was unable to attend for health reasons.

Former President George W. Bush also is getting some new recognition for the hobby he took up after he leaving the White House.

Here's CNN's John Berman.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Da Vinci, Rembrandt, Picasso, Bush.

G. BUSH: I do take painting seriously. It's changed my life.

BERMAN: The 43rd president of the United States presenting his latest canvas to Jay Leno.

LENO: Did you paint that? Look at that. I can't make fun of him now.


BERMAN: A marked difference from early period W., which trended towards bathroom self-portraits, which the world learned about through hacked e-mails to the president's sister Dorothy. The critics raved that the paintings:

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Border on the visionary, the absurd, the perverse, the frat boy.

BERMAN: OK, maybe rave wasn't exactly the right word, but everyone's a critic, including a fellow former occupant of the White House.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I seriously considered calling him and asking you to do a portrait of me, until I saw the results of your sister's hacked e-mails.


CLINTON: Those bathroom sketches are wonderful, but at my age, I think I should keep my suit. BERMAN: Let it never be said that this man doesn't have a sense of humor. We weren't the only ones surprised to find about the former president's predilection for painting happy little trees.

So was his brother, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, when our Jake Tapper asked him about it in March.

JEB BUSH (R), FORMER FLORIDA GOVERNOR: He's actually being a pretty good painter.


J. BUSH: Yes. But I will just admit this was a surprise to me when I found this out about a year ago, and he's doing it with a vengeance.

BERMAN: But why painting? Why this late in life get in touch with his artistic side? He discussed it with our own John King in April.

G. BUSH: It's a rough interview.


G. BUSH: Well, a lot of things, John. I get -- I relax. I see colors differently. I am, I guess, tapping a part of the brain that, you know, I certainly never used when I was a teenager.

And I get the satisfaction out of completing a project. And I paint people's pets.

BERMAN: Former first daughter Barbara Bush can attest to that. Her swanky New York townhouse, as seen in a recent "Vogue" spread, doubles as something of a gallery for her dad's cat period, not to be confused with his dog period.

LENO: Look at that. Wow. Look at that.

BERMAN: So, OK, you may or may not be eager to hang an original W. over your mantle. But if you're not a fan, perhaps you're just too shortsighted to see the genius in his oeuvre right now.

G. BUSH: It's going to take a while for history to judge whether the decisions I made are consequential or not, and therefore I'm not too worried about it.

LENO: Right.

G. BUSH: In other words, I have read some biographies of Washington. And my attitude is if they're still writing biographies of the first guy, the 43rd guy doesn't need to worry about it.


BERMAN: John Berman, CNN, New York.


BLITZER: The paintings are pretty good, I must say.

Please be sure to join us tomorrow here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

And, remember, you can always follow what's going on, on Twitter. Tweet me @WolfBlitzer. Tweet the show @CNNSitRoom.

Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.