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Interview With Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin; Alleged Maryland Mall Shooter's Journal Found; President Obama Prepares for State of the Union Address; What Drove Mall Shooter to Kill?; Interview with Congressman Tim Murphy of Pennsylvania

Aired January 27, 2014 - 16:00   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Tomorrow night, it is all but guaranteed President Obama will say the State of the Union is strong. But the state of things in D.C., right now, pretty damn dysfunctional.

I'm Jake Tapper. This is THE LEAD.

In politics lead. Every year, he sets his goals, and every year he watches many of them die at the hands of a gridlocked Congress, but this time when President Obama gives his State of the Union speech, Congress will be put on notice, we're told.

The national lead. We know his name. How he got his gun. But we don't know what possessed him to take it into a mall and murder two people. Could his journal hold the key?

And the world lead. Hey, Russia, you wouldn't happen to know anything, would you, about the billions of dollars allegedly siphoned away from the Olympic budget? Geez, is it possible that the government of Vladimir Putin can't be trusted?

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

We will begin of course here on Capitol Hill with the politics lead, the reason we're here on the hill goes all the way back to Article 2, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution, which says the president -- quote -- "shall from time to time give to the Congress information of the state of the Union and recommend to their considerations such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient."

The place is here, the time a little bit more than 24 hours from now when President Obama will give his six address to a joint session of Congress, laying out his agenda for the next year. As always, lawmakers on both sides will show their approval or disdain with applause or silence, the same way the crowd at a basketball game picks a song to dance to between quarters.

So what can we expect? The White House put a little teaser from the president on its Vine account.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Tomorrow night, it's time to restore opportunity for all. (END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: From that, I guess we can discern that the president's Vine videos are just as shaky as everyone else's and that's pretty much it.

Last year, the president used his speech to encourage Congress to act on policy ideas.


OBAMA: The time has come to pass comprehensive immigration reform. Raise the federal minimum wage to $9 an hour. Tough new laws to prevent anyone from buying guns for resale to criminals.


TAPPER: Immigration reform, minimum wage increase, new restriction on guns, none of that happened. This year, the early word from advisers is that we can expect a sterner President Obama, one who will warn Congress that he will find ways around them if they will not cooperate with his agenda.


DAN PFEIFFER, SENIOR ADVISER TO PRESIDENT OBAMA: And these will be some legislative proposals, but also a number of actions that he can take on his own. The president will say to the country, he's not going to wait. He has a pen and he has a phone. And he's going to use those to move the ball forward to create opportunity.


TAPPER: Tomorrow night could also be the president's best chance to turn the page on 2013, perhaps his worst, most tumultuous year in office. The polls say it all.

In the "Washington Post"/ABC News poll, the president's approval rating is at 46 percent with 50 percent disapproving. This is the first time on the eve of a State of the Union address that President Obama's approval has been more negative than positive.

And these are some of the most troubling numbers for the president. When asked how much confidence they have in President Obama to make the right decisions for the country, only 37 percent said they had a great deal or good amount of confidence; 67 percent said that they had some or none.

While we have a pretty good sense of what the president will say tomorrow night, what we do not know, not yet, is how many of these promises will get accomplished in 2014.

Joining me on Capitol Hill to talk about the message is Democratic Senator Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin.

You're a freshman, or freshwoman, although you were in the House for 14 years. SEN. TAMMY BALDWIN (D), WISCONSIN: I am.

TAPPER: So, we just heard some of the highlights of last year's address, minimum wage increase, further restrictions on gun ownership, immigration reform, things that I'm sure you have applauded for at previous State of the Union addresses, immigration reform under President Bush, I imagine.

What makes this year any different? Last year, none of that was accomplished.

BALDWIN: Well, from the perspective of a senator, the Senate did pass a bill that has been described as comprehensive immigration reform. It went to a House of Representatives that didn't embrace it at that moment.

But a lot of folks speculate that they are gearing up to consider a debate on immigration reform. You have heard more and more from Leader Boehner, Speaker Boehner that he's considering that. And so I don't think it's dead as an issue. I think there's a chance that a full, full-throated support of comprehensive immigration reform from the president will make a difference.


BALDWIN: Minimum wage, quickly, the Senate is poised to take up an increase in the minimum wage up to $10.10, indexed to inflation. I think that would be very positive.

But I also understand that the president is going to be focused squarely on the opportunity for upward mobility, growing our middle class.

TAPPER: Income inequality.

BALDWIN: Income inequality.

TAPPER: And I want to ask you about that in one second.


TAPPER: But, before I do, one thing that it seems so strange to a lot of people outside Washington, D.C., you're a very progressive senator in a Senate controlled by Democrats, the House of Representatives run by conservative Republicans.

We know that Boehner and Harry Reid are not exactly besties. They are not on the phone talking to each other every day. Do you ever reach out to conservative Republicans on areas where you think you might be able to -- work conservative Republicans in the House? Do you ever do that bicameral outreach?

BALDWIN: Well, I do, but I would say that the focus of my work as a brand-new member of the U.S. Senate is getting to know my colleagues in the Senate, introducing legislation across the party aisle and bipartisan legislation, and looking long-term at how we do get the Senate and, frankly, the House of Representatives to be less dysfunctional, more functional in the future, more civil, understanding that legislation is only going to work if folks are willing to compromise.

Now, you have to understand the context we're in, that, in light of the Tea Party revolution, there are a small group of pretty extreme legislators in both houses of Congress that have brought things to a halt. And we will hear the president, I think, express his frustration with some of the things that haven't happened.

But there's been some breakthroughs, too. We finally have a budget. We finally have an omnibus appropriations bill. So there's some signs of hope. And I hope that the president will encourage more of that.

TAPPER: Of course, one could say, calling them extremists is probably not the best way to get something done with them.

BALDWIN: I don't think that 16 days of shutting down the U.S. government...

TAPPER: I'm not going to defend that.

BALDWIN: ... can be characterized as anything but.

TAPPER: Let's talk about income inequality, because I know that's an issue that you want to talk about.

There was almost a preemptive shot in the letter to the editor of "The Wall Street Journal" this weekend that got a lot of attention from a venture capitalist named Tom Perkins, who said, in part, his letter: "I would call attention to the parallels of fascist Nazi Germany to its war on its 1 percent, namely its Jews, to the progressive war on the American 1 percent, namely the rich."

I'm sure you saw that because there was a lot of talk about that letter to the editor and comparing the Holocaust to taxation in this country or higher taxes on the rich. What did you make of that?

BALDWIN: Well, I just find that so irresponsible and really, really shocking.

You know, there's a serious issue in the United States with such a gulf between the very rich and the very poor.

But I think what we need to do as a nation is focus on a fair economy, one in which, if you work hard and play by the rules, you can get ahead. And if we don't acknowledge that that's not happening right now, and that we must do something about it, we're doing that to our own detriment and to the detriment of the very American dream that we all cherish.

TAPPER: When President Obama talks about income inequality, progressives like you, a lot of people out there think you want to raise taxes on people who make more than $150,000, $200,000 a year and that's what you mean by that. Is it more complicated than that?

BALDWIN: Well, it's much more complicated than that.

It's a strategy that has many, many components. But let's just stick on the tax piece of this for one moment. First of all, some of the most extravagant spending in our federal budget is expenditures through the tax code that benefit the very wealthy. And we have got to acknowledge that and look at that.


TAPPER: You're talking about the 15 percent taxation rate on people who are...


BALDWIN: Well, I was just about to get to that.


BALDWIN: But I'm just talking about corporate giveaways that we ought to -- why do we incent offshoring U.S. jobs?

Those sort of things are deeply troubling and account for a huge amount of the expenditures. And yet they're not usually characterized as expenditures. And when we're having a debate within the Congress about how to balance our nation's budget, they are taken off the table.

Well, you can't get to a fair economy if you don't keep these issues on the table. But then I would say that our tax system clearly rewards wealth more than it rewards work. And if you think about people who work full-time and make a good income, that income is going to be taxed higher than somebody whose income comes completely from their invested wealth.

TAPPER: We have to take a break right now. But I want to ask you very, very quickly just a yes-or-no question, because I know you're on the Senate Homeland Security Committee.


TAPPER: Is it safe to go to Sochi?

BALDWIN: You know, it's going to go on, as far as I am aware.

I think that the facilities, the village, the Olympic Village, is secure. I think there's concern, strong concern, about the threats outside the Olympic Village. And I know that our president and our administration is working very closely and offering as much support as possible that -- to the Russians. And we hope that they will listen and accept that cooperation.

TAPPER: I don't know that I would buy a ticket, based on what you just said, but I appreciate your candor.

Senator Tammy Baldwin, Democrat of Wisconsin, thank you so much. I appreciate it. BALDWIN: Thank you.

TAPPER: And CNN is covering all angles of the president's State of the Union address. Coverage begins tomorrow at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. I will be anchoring with Wolf Blitzer and Anderson Cooper. Please watch.

Coming up, he brought a shotgun and two bombs to a local mall, where he killed two people before turning the gun on himself. Now his family tells us about the morning of the shooting and what was in his personal journal.

Plus, Republican Senator Rand Paul takes a dig at Bill Clinton for his relationship with Monica Lewinsky and even suggests the affair is fair game if Hillary decides to run for president.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper live from the Capitol, in D.C., ahead of tomorrow's State of the Union Address.

And our national lead now, his journal talks about typical teenage stuff, like acne problems, getting rejected by girls, according to a friend of the family.

But police characterize it differently. They say the journal reflects his, quote, "general unhappiness with life." Investigators have been pouring over the writings of Darion Aguilar to any clue as to what motive drove him to bring a shotgun into a mall near Baltimore, and opened fire inside.

Police say he fired as many as nine shots into a skate board shop, killing 21-year-old Brianna Benlolo and 25-year-old Tyler Johnson, and then he turned the gun on himself. It happened Saturday. The mall remained close for business until this afternoon.

Our senior Washington correspondent Joe Johns is following the story in Columbia, Maryland.

Joe, we've got new information about the shooter's gun and ammunition?

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Right, Jake. It was a Mossberg 500 12-gauge shotgun. He apparently purchased it on December 10th from United Gun Shop in Rockville, Maryland. Apparently went back just before Christmas, bought some more ammunition. He was accompanied by the same friend on both occasions and said he needed the gun for home defense.

The store says there was no indication of any red flags at the time. Of course, now, we all know what happened. Authorities do have the journal of the shooter and they say, as you mentioned, Jake, that there's no clear indication of motive, though he did express some dissatisfaction with his life.

Listen to what the police chief told me earlier today. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHIEF BILL MCMAHON, HOWARD COUNTY, MARYLAND POLICE: We retrieved a number of items of evidence and included in that was a journal. In the journal there are writings that it's clear that he's unhappy with his life and where he is right now.

JOHNS: OK. But no clear indication as to a plan or to a motive or anything like that?

MCMAHON: No. Again, I have not seen the journal. Investigators are still working through that but nothing to point us towards motive.


JOHNS: So, it's still motive unknown here. The mall has reopened and there were a lot of people here at lunchtime, including a number of public officials and some public safety officials of course as well, Jake.

TAPPER: Joe, I don't mean to be flippant about this, but a teenager with a diary in which he complains about not being happy doesn't really sound all that unusual. Is there any indication that the shooter suffered from any sort of more serious mental illness?

JOHNS: Not so far because, as you know, in order to get a gun, they have to check and determine whether you've ever been adjudicated as mentally deficient and authorities say there has been no indication, at least so far, that they've been able to find of that. So, there's also no police record at all that we know of. Clearly, a mystery that the authorities are trying to work their way through right now, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Joe Johns, thank you so much.

While police try to piece together what set off Aguilar, what we know for certain is that far too often, in cases like this, the attackers have shown signs of mental instability or extreme aggression long before they carry out their acts of violence. But even in instances where family members and friends attempt to get help for their loved ones, their efforts are not always enough. Such was the case with Virginia State Senator Creigh Deeds, who was attacked last year by his own son. He opened up about the horrifying incident for the first time last night on CBS's "60 Minutes."


CREIGH DEEDS, VIRGINIA STATE SENATOR: He got me twice. He stabbed me twice.


DEEDS: State police told me they found a knife. And turned around and said, Bud, what's going on? I said -- and he just kept coming at me.

(END VIDEO CLIP) TAPPER: After stabbing his father, Austin Gus Deeds took his own life after he undergone a mental health evaluation and was under an emergency custody order, but he was released because apparently there were not enough beds to keep in that specific psych unit.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You are concerned that your son is suicidal. The clock has run out on the emergency room, and he comes in and says, sorry, you've got to leave?

DEEDS: Well, he said that Gus was not suicidal. I guess he made --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Based on his evaluation?

DEEDS: His evaluation that Gus was not suicidal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What did you say to him in leaving the emergency room?

DEEDS: I said, the system failed my son tonight.


TAPPER: The system failed my son tonight, indeed. What happened to State Senator Deeds is a disturbing reality for many families and the consequences are often equally devastating. Just last month, a man confessed to the brutal murder of his mother, Bob Rankin had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and according to "The Daily Mail", his mom spent four years before the attack, trying to get him help. Friends say she struggled finding a hospital that would keep him and force him to take his meds, just weeks before police say Rankin killed his mom.

So what can be done to fill the gaps in our mental health system and keep people like Rankin from falling through the cracks?

Joining me now is Republican Congressman Tim Murphy of Pennsylvania. He's behind new legislation pushing for changes in the mental health system on both the federal and state level.

Congressman Murphy, thanks for being.

You're not just a lawmaker but you're a psychologist. Where are the biggest gaps? What do we need to do?

REP. TIM MURPHY (R), PENNSYLVANIA: Well, let's keep in mind that over a year, they have been studying this in the committee, what we found is the biggest barriers for people getting mental health treatment is the federal and state government. We do not have enough hospital beds. Creigh Deeds realized that. There's not enough psychiatrists and psychologists, he found that too. Money goes to programs that are ineffective and not enough money goes to programs that are affected. There's not enough treatment options.

You know, what happened here when they are looking for this -- the mall shooter, they are being looking to see if he was ever put in without his consent into a hospital. Well, the standard is, one, if the person is in imminent danger, they're going to kill somebody or themselves. My concern is when you're talking about the tens of millions of families affected by this across America, they are concerned about the safety of their child or their loved one and you're talking about 11 million seriously mentally ill people, people who are delusional, psychotic, hallucinating, people who don't even know who they are, not even where they have an illness.

And yet what happens is, so often, they are allowed to say, I'm not suicidal, let me go home. And in cases, they are someone who may end up harming themselves or someone else, and that's not a good standard.

TAPPER: There was a time in this country when the civil rights and civil liberties of people with emotional and mental problems -- and we obviously don't want to stigmatized these people. However, much even talking about that might do that.

But when those civil liberties became very, very important and they had more rights, they were bestowed with more rights, did we go too far as a society? Did we not take into account society's needs beyond the individual's needs?

MURPHY: I think we swap the hospital bed for a hospital bed, quite frankly. Somewhere between 40 percent to 50 percent of people in our county jails or state prisons or federal prisons are mentally ill. That is the ultimate removing of their rights. We segregate them there, we end up not treating them there and the same thing goes where we triple the homeless rate.

This is not the way we should be doing it. I mean, we're acting like a third world country, quite frankly. It is embarrassing, it is immoral, it is unethical what we have done.

And so, you have -- as one person so eloquently said, what they end up dying with their rights on because we say, you know, you have to consent to treatment. But how do you get someone to consent to treatment if they don't even understand reality. They can't sign a contract, they can't do anything else.

And so, what we need are other options, not just the option of you have to be adjudicated, so you must stay in a hospital, but also an outpatient treatment option like you just subscribed in other case, where the guy stabbed his mom, he could have been taking medication, he could have been doing much better, and many of these are a result of what has taken place in Aurora, Colorado, or Arizona, et cetera, the person realizes, if I was in treatment I wouldn't have done this because I wouldn't have heard those voices commanding me.

TAPPER: Now, I know that you are saying there are some inefficiencies. But, to be frank, this is going to take more money what you're talking about, more hospital beds. I know that there's waste and inefficient programs, but this is going to cost more money.

MURPHY: It will take some more money, but it's also going to involve the barriers coming down. For example, Medicaid has a rule that you can't see two doctors in the same day. Medicaid has a rule that says you can only have 16 hospital beds, we need more. We only have 40,000 hospital beds nationwide, we have 600,000 hospital beds in the 1950s. There will be more money.

But it's also going to need a situation where we help pediatricians and physicians have access to psychiatrist. There's just enough psychiatrists and psychologists out there who can treat seriously mentally ill. We're going to need more of those.

TAPPER: Have you found cooperation from Democrats in the House or the Senate who want to work with this? And have you found willingness among your Republicans who have not shown a tremendous inclination to spend more money on programs like this to rethink the opposition when it comes to mental health?

MURPHY: I think we all realize, Democrats and Republicans, this is probably our most pressing public health issue. Last year, 750,000 suicide attempts, 38,000 suicides and 1,000 murders, et cetera, and countless assaults on people who are mentally ill. That's just wrong and it's immoral and we're going to act on this. We have to act on that.

I think there's unity (ph) of opinion, but it's also important, so many parents across America who are calling my office and crying out and saying, "Please do something. I cannot get help. Please do something."

TAPPER: All right. And what about people with these illnesses, their ability to get guns as long as they have not been adjudicated? Do you think that's something we should rethink?

MURPHY: Well, the issue is, if we had treatment for them, we could avoid all of that. But we also take -- you know, Creigh Deeds was stabbed. He wasn't shot.


MURPHY: So, it really is a manner of giving him a core of this issue, the mental illness. When we go off in our issues there -- video games, guns, et cetera, we're distracting ourself from the core issue, getting people treatment. We don't talk about that with cancer. We don't talk about that with diabetes.

This is an illness. It's treated like an illness. Treat these people like human beings and get the help that they need.

TAPPER: Congressman Tim Murphy, to be continued. We'll have you back. We've been talking about this issue since the show begun, and we will continue to have back and good luck with your legislation.

MURPHY: Thank you.

TAPPER: Thank you so much.

When we come back, a relaxing trip turns into a miserable vacation for over 600 aboard one cruise ship. What one passenger is saying about her experience, next.

And later, astronomical cost and missing money. Now, accusations that Russian President Vladimir Putin lying to the pockets of his friends with Olympic contracts.