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THE SITUATION ROOM
Alleged Ohio School Shooter in Court; Prosecutor: Lane Confessed to Attack; Political Mischief in Michigan?; Newt Gingrich Interview; The "X-Factors" In Michigan; 59 GOP Delegates Up For Grabs; School Shooting News Conference
Aired February 28, 2012 - 16:12 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, HOST, CNN'S THE SITUATION ROOM: All right, well, there he is, the judge, Timothy Grendell, wrapping up this preliminary hearing.
The suspect in this shooting case, the Ohio school shooting case, T.J. Lane, will remain in custody for the time being. You heard the judge go through the various motions.
Sunny Hostin, our CNN legal analyst, is joining us.
Sunny, it seemed sort of routine, although the judge said the 17- year-old suspect, no photographs of him, no photographs of the family. The news media certainly probably will appeal that decision tomorrow at this hearing.
Walk us through what we just saw.
SUNNY HOSTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, in Ohio, Wolf, certainly cameras are allowed in the courtroom. The judge is basically required to have the cameras in the courtroom.
There's a victim and a witness opt-out. So if you're in trial and a victim doesn't want to be photographed or taped and a witness doesn't want to be photographed or taped, that is usually what happens.
But the judge in his discretion -- and judges are given discretion -- didn't want the media to photograph this juvenile, as he is considered a juvenile right now. But -- and the judge made it clear that he hasn't been charged with anything. But we know, Wolf, that three young people are dead, and that he is the only suspect. He is in custody. I suspect he will be charged with felonies, with murder, and so I suspect also that he will also be transferred to a criminal court, an adult proceeding.
And in that sense, once that happens, certainly he will be allowed to be photographed in the courtroom.
BLITZER: A 17-year-old in Ohio, Sunny, is considered a juvenile or an adult or it depends on the circumstances?
HOSTIN: It depends on the circumstance, but certainly a child over the age of 14 can be transferred, can be tried as an adult. And there are certain rules in Ohio that allow a judge to transfer a juvenile to adult court if a juvenile is over the age of 14 or 16 or 17. So we're dealing with a 17-year-old juvenile, but there's no question in my mind that the law allows this young man to be treated as an adult. And I suspect, Wolf, that he will be.
BLITZER: You heard the judge say he wasn't going to let him go back to his home for his own safety considerations. He would be better protected by law enforcement authorities at a facility, at a detention facility outside of Cleveland, where all of this is unfolding right now.
Sunny, hold on for a second, because Ted Rowlands is outside the courtroom. He was listening and watching what is going on.
First of all, Ted, walk us through what occurred today. Two more victims, unfortunately, passed away.
TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, which brings the total victims to a heartbreaking three.
This community obviously is even more affected today than the folks here were even yesterday.
There was a vigil last night, another one planned for tonight, and I suspect another large turnout here. The big thing on this hearing that really was in terms of news, if you will, in terms of crime, was the fact he admitted the shooting to the police, and that he told the police that the targets in this case were not targets at all.
He claimed that he didn't even know the victims and he chose them -- quote -- "randomly," that coming out of the court proceedings today. And that's contrary to what we have been led to believe from witness statements that he seemed to zero in on this group of kids that was sitting in the cafeteria, all around the table, that he appeared to be absolutely targeting those kids first.
But what we found out today is that he admitted what he did to the police immediately, said he fired 10 shots, and then also said that he did not know any of his victims, and did not choose them. In fact, they were random.
BALDWIN: And we assume in the conversations he had with the police, with the local law enforcement, Ted, he had earlier been given his Miranda rights. He had been told he doesn't need to say anything, but presumably after those Miranda rights were read to him, he went ahead and discussed the detail of what's going through his mind.
ROWLANDS: Well, absolutely. One would assume that for a number of reasons. Not just that the police department would be professional, but also assuming that they absolutely knew the high profile nature of this, the fact that the federal government was involved very early in this, I think, it is fair to assume that this young man was given all of his rights before he delivered information that would be used obviously against him.
BLITZER: The attorney who was with him, Ted, in court -- I want Sunny to weigh on this as well -- was this attorney present during the course of these conversations with law enforcement? Do we know?
ROWLANDS: We don't know if he was present during the initial conversation. But we do know that he surfaced very early in terms surfacing yesterday with a statement to the media. So, he was obviously called by the family fairly early on, and last evening actually came out with a statement from the family.
So, whether or not he was there during the questioning, nobody knows -- well, people know that were there. That we don't know for sure one way or the other, but maybe Sunny has more insight into whether they could have either gone with the questioning, with just his permission, the 17-year-old juvenile.
BLITZER: Yes, because, Sunny, it's an important point in terms of admissibility if, in fact, T.J. Lane, the suspect did confess and go into detail after having heard his Miranda rights, that he doesn't need to say anything that could incriminate him. He has a right to attorney.
If he did give all of these details without an attorney present, did that raise any questions about the admissibility of that evidence?
HOSTIN: It certainly will. I mean, right now we know he was advised of his rights. And so, that tells me he was given those Miranda rights rather. He had the right to remain silent, anything he said would and could be held against him in the court of law. He had the right to an attorney.
And so, you can answer questions certainly after waiving your Miranda right. But as a juvenile, many people will argue and I suspect they may argue here, that he can't waive his rights without his parents there. But we don't know, Wolf, that this happens very often in many cases. But we don't know if he had his attorney present when he answered those questions. I haven't found that out yet.
BLITZER: But, presumably, Sunny, it would all be moot given the fact there were so many eyewitnesses who will testify they saw T.J. Lane take out this handgun and start shooting people.
HOSTIN: And I think that's right. I mean, from the very beginning we know that he was identified by so many witnesses and was apprehended very close in time to when this tragedy occurred. And so, I don't think the identity of the shooter has really ever been in question.
BLITZER: Sunny Hostin, reporting for us -- thanks, Sunny, very much.
Ted Rowlands, stand by, we're going to be getting back to you. We're going to have much more on this story.
One quick note, the authorities in Chardon, Ohio, was scheduled to hold a news conference any minute now. You're looking at live pictures for microphones over there.
We're going to bring you that news conference live as soon as it starts. That should be within the next few minutes. Stand by for this story.
Plus, all the day's other important news, including a huge day in politics today.
Also, dramatic developments unfolding in Syria.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: News coming up. We're standing by for a news conference. You can see the microphones there. Authorities getting ready to explain what's next in this process, this horrible school shooting yesterday. We just saw T.J. Lane, the suspect being held in detention, at least for the time being.
We're bringing you the news conference live as soon it unfolds. Stand by for that.
But there are some other important news we're following here in THE SITUATION ROOM, including in the world in politics. A huge day today, 59 Republican delegates are up for grabs today. Voting is under way right now in two crucial primaries. It's winner-take-all in Arizona where Mitt Romney seems to hold a clear edge.
But it's anybody's game in Michigan, the state where Romney was raised. And that's where the charge of cheap shots and dirty tricks are flying all over the place right now.
Let's go straight to our national correspondent Jim Acosta, joining us from Grand Rapids right now.
Jim, set the scene for us. Tell us what's going on.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Mitt Romney is accusing Rick Santorum of trying to kidnap the Michigan primary. Santorum is saying Mitt Romney is whining. The way these two candidates are going after each other, you would think the entire race is riding on happens here in Michigan, and it might.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you all very much, folks.
ACOSTA (voice-over): Cruising diners for last-minute voters, Rick Santorum was serving up some political mischief, defending a robo-call that reaches out to Democrats, to cross over in Michigan's open primary and support him.
(on camera): Senator, what was the rationale behind that robo- call? Can you tell us about that? Why you decided to do it?
SANTORUM: We're proving the point that we can attract the voters we need to win states like Michigan.
SANTORUM MICHIGAN ROBO-CALL: Join Democrats who are going to send a lout message to Massachusetts Mitt Romney.
ACOSTA (voice-over): The automated phone message sent to countless Michigan voters hits Mitt Romney's opposition to the auto bailout. Something Santorum also stood against.
SANTORUM MICHIGAN ROBO-CALL: That was a slap in the face to every Michigan worker.
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think Republicans have to recognize there's a real effort to kidnap our primary process.
ACOSTA: After weeks of struggling to win his home state, Romney labeled the robo-call a dirty trick and suggested a Santorum victory in Michigan could be tainted.
ROMNEY: I think the hardest thing about predicting what's going to happen today is whether Senator Santorum's effort to call Democrat households and tell them to come out and vote against Mitt Romney is going to be successful or not.
ACOSTA: Santorum noted Romney has got a robo-call of his own in Michigan. It uses a clip of this Santorum interview from four years ago, when he endorsed Romney for president.
SANTORUM: If you're a Republican in the broadest sense, there is only one place to go right now, and that's Mitt Romney.
I'm a big guy. I can take it. If someone wants to go out and take cheap shots, I'm going to fight. But to whine and complain --
ACOSTA (on camera): That's a cheap shot?
SANTORUM: To use someone's voice from four years ago saying that I endorsed him, you tell me what that is.
ACOSTA (voice-over): And Romney has done some crossing over of his own, voting as an independent for Democrat Paul Tsongas in 1992 Massachusetts primary. At the time he told ABC news he voted for the person who he thought would be the weakest opponent for the Republican. But that's not how he explained it to reporters on this day.
ROMNEY: I was certainly voting against the Democrat who I thought was the person I thought would be the worst leader of our nation.
ANN ROMNEY, MITT ROMNEY'S WIFE: That's what we need to have --
ACOSTA: Romney acknowledged he has damaged himself with some of his recent gaffes, like he's talking to wife's Cadillacs. But the real damage could come after Michigan, if Romney loses.
REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: And I think you will then start seeing more activity among the Republican establishment, whatever that is, talking to people like Chris Christie, Jeb Bush, Paul Ryan, Mitch Daniels.
ACOSTA: And Rick Santorum just last month was talking about the dangers of crossover voters, saying to a telephone town hall in Minnesota -- and I'm reading here -- if Republicans want to vote in the Republican Party, they should go ahead and become a Republican. As for how far Mitt Romney would go in order to win this GOP nomination, he told reporters earlier today that he's not willing to set his hair on fire. But listening to some of the talk coming out of Washington, it might be the GOP setting its hair on fire if Romney losses tonight, Wolf.
BLITZER: And tonight at some point, I assume where you are right now, Jim, at some point, the -- Mitt Romney will be making a speech, either a concession speech or a victory speech, whatever the case may be.
ACOSTA: That's right. I'm in the room where Rick Santorum will be here later tonight. This is his election watch party in Grand Rapids. And you can see over my shoulder they have already hung the banner "Made in America." It's reference to his economic policy trying to lower taxes for manufacturers. That is an economic message that has gotten lost for Rick Santorum in the last several days, because he's been focused so much on the social issues and also talking about this robo-call over the last couple of days, Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, we'll hear from all four candidates as the evening unfolds. Thanks very much for that, Jim Acosta.
So, is the Republican Party getting battle-tested or badly wounded in these primary fights?
Our chief political correspondent Candy Crowley is also in Michigan right now.
Candy, some of the pundits out there actually suggested that this drawn out battle for the nomination will eventually proved to be good for the GOP. You've been talking to a lot of important Republicans in Michigan, what are they saying to you?
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, in Michigan and elsewhere, as short ha time ago as two weeks, I remember talking to Reince Priebus, the head of the Republican National Committee. And he had the party line, it's going to make the candidate stronger, whoever the candidate turns out to be, he'll be a much stronger candidate because of this prolong race and how tough it is.
I don't hear that much anymore. I talk to a half dozen or so Republicans. Some of them in elected office, some of them strategists who say, look, we are at this point where it is no longer helping us. You can look at the polling numbers as the president's rise, the Republican candidates go down in the head to head.
I brought up, what about when Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama went at it as two candidates, and everyone felt they came out stronger? They said the difference here is that over time, Democrats seem to come to like both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama saying I'll take either one. But what this is doing is, they say, dividing the Republican parties and both of them are seeing their numbers falling, particularly when it comes to Santorum and when it comes to Mitt Romney.
So, they're no longer seeing this as helpful. And they say, you add into the economy showing signs of getting a little better, you have a president who as any incumbent has, has the bully pulpit. He can go out and call it policy, but it's still politics, because it's an election year. And they really feel that this is the time that the party needs to come together.
But as you know, it's never seemed farther apart than it does today.
BLITZER: Good point, Candy.
There's also, as you know, a lot of chatter out there that if Rick Santorum continues to do really, really well, a new candidate could still jump in and change maybe everything. What are you hearing about the enthusiasm for that kind of idea?
CROWLEY: You know, again, the folks I talked to set, number one, there's a couple things going on. It would be incredibly complicated. Right now, it's too late to get on all but maybe six or seven ballots in the states that are coming up in the primaries. It's not enough to collect that 1,144 delegates you need. So, it would have to happen at a convention or just prior to the convention.
And when you put it together with the question of is the Republican Party hurting itself right now in November, when you put together the idea of a brokered convention, they say there wouldn't be enough time between August when the convention is held and November to kind of bring the party back together.
They also note that, let's say, Rick Santorum goes in to the convention and he has the most delegates but not enough.
They think it would be very hard to get folks from Rick Santorum's team to say, yes, we'll give it up to somebody else and they look at the folks with the biggest names that maybe could bring the party together, and you know, what comes to mind, Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Mitch Daniels, they have all been absolutely without hesitation said no, no way, no how.
So the folks I talk to just don't see how this can happen. They're praying for someone to come up with a conclusion to this sooner rather than later.
BLITZER: Candy Crowley in Michigan for us, thanks very much. We'll check back with you, of course, as the evening continues. Let's bring in our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger right now. Gloria, you've been taking a look at what you are calling the x factors in this contest. Walk us through what that means.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: These are ways to make mischief tonight particularly as we look towards the Michigan primary, which is so very close.
Let's take a look at the first x factor, which is those crossover voters, as you know, Wolf, Michigan open primary, that means Democrats can cross over and vote.
There are some Democrats who are saying, you know what? Let's cross over and let's vote for Rick Santorum. That way we can cause some problems for Mitt Romney.
The Santorum campaign taking advantage of that, putting out robocalls telling people to do just that so now this isn't large number of voters. But if it's a really close contest and it's 1 percent or even 2 percent, it can make a difference.
BLITZER: It's not just Democrats that can cross, but independents as well. You don't necessarily just have to be a Republican.
BORGER: Absolutely, now another x factor that can cause mischief here are absentee voting. Now most estimates say in this state not as big as it was in Arizona or in Florida, but could amount to just under one fifth of the voting population.
What we're hearing is that Romney is doing well with absentee voters largely because he has an organization that has gotten those voters. That Rick Santorum is doing better with the voters who say they're going to come out today and vote.
So if there's a low turnout, for example, that could mean that Mitt Romney is going to do pretty well. So we really have to look at the absentee voting.
BLITZER: -- have already voted by mail or whatever.
BORGER: Exactly, exactly. The third thing, Wolf, we're going to pay a lot of attention to tonight is the popular vote versus the delegate count. We heard a lot about this in 2008. Remember with Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, but it is possible.
Now bear with me, it is possible that you could win in the popular vote and not win in the delegate counties, because delegates are given according to congressional district and not according to the popular vote.
So, for example, if Mitt Romney won in the populous area around Detroit, he could win in the popular vote, but maybe Rick Santorum could pick up more delegates if he won, for example, in the northwest of the state where there are a lot of Evangelicals.
So we're going to have to watch this because whoever wins one and not the other is still going to claim victory, right?
BLITZER: Let me read quickly from your column at cnn.com today, Santorum's attacks on Romney just exposed the huge chasm within the GOP between the old elite and the new insurgents. And no matter who becomes the nominee, one faction will be disappointed and disaffected.
BORGER: Right, you know, very quickly what we're seeing in the Republican Party is its own version of class warfare. Republicans have been saying Barack Obama is waging class warfare.
But in this party right now, you've seen Rick Santorum positioning himself as the populist, the blue collar person who can win a state like Michigan, who can win in the Midwest.
And Mitt Romney, he's positioning him as the establishment candidate of the Republican elite. That is a fight going on in the Republican Party as well as between Republicans and Democrats.
BLITZER: It's critical next Tuesday, Ohio, too. All the polls in Ohio show Santorum ahead. Thanks very much.
Speaking of Ohio, authorities there are scheduled to update us on the school shooting investigation. You'll also want to hear my one on one interview with Newt Gingrich. He's looking beyond today's primaries. More about today's court appearance by the suspect in this case. Stay with us. We'll have live coverage.
You'll also want to hear my one on one with Newt Gingrich. He's looking beyond today's primaries, but who does he think will win tonight? My interview with Newt Gingrich coming up live right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
(BEGIN LIVE SPEECH)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- services provided on behalf of the local individuals, families and others impacted by this horrific tragedy. The fund will be overseen by an advisory committee that would include the school administrator, business professional, community member, Chardon high school student, a parent representative, United Way, the local foundation, and a mental health expert.
United Way will do what it can to track each gift to the fund and also sending out tax donation letters, et cetera, as appropriate. United Way certainly will follow with the large donors in community at large on the general use of those funds.
An important feature about this fund that 100 percent of the funds received will be used to help those that have been impacted. Deposits can be made to any PNC Banking officer or by mailing your donation to the United Way Services of Geauga County, 209 Center Street, Unit H, Chardon, Ohio, 44024. We'll provide you this information when we're finished.
According to the United Way, $150,000 has already been donated to that fund, $100,000 from our own Fairmount Minerals here in our county. Thank you, $25,000 from the Cleveland Foundation, again thank you. And we have our first $25,000 from an anonymous donor, as well as a number of smaller contributions that would encourage everybody who does not have the wherewithal of such a large donation, to certainly consider.
Thank you for that aspect. I want to stress against the importance of taking advantage of the counselors, we'll have available for students, faculties, staff and our important Arab community. Counselors are available at the middle school today until 7:00 this evening, which is right to my left.
Counselors will also be available from 4:00 until 9:00 this evening across the street at St. Mary's parish, our friend here to the west. I announced this morning that as part of our healing process for our students, our parents, faculty and staff, Chardon Schools will gradually reopen over the next several days.
There are some changes in that schedule. Tomorrow, Wednesday February 29th, all high school faculty and staff are asked to gather at the high school at 9:00 in the morning. Counselors will be on hand.
Also tomorrow we're asking that our kindergarten through Grade 5 faculty and staff to gather at the Munson Elementary site at 9:00. Counseling staff will be on hand as well.
Also tomorrow, and this is part of the change, we're asking that all of our middle school faculty and start report to the Chardon Methodist Church report at 9:00, and again, counselors will be there as well.
We need to work and work hard to make sure our staff are ready for the questions, concerns and the issues that our children will bringing with them when they come back to school officially on Friday.
On Thursday, March 1st, we ask that all faculty and staff in all school buildings report in their regular times. Just so you know, I would encourage people to take advantage of this. We will reopen on Thursday our high school for parents and students, again at the high school for parents and students to come together to kind of reintegrate back into our program, from 10:00 until 3:00.
The middle school will have the same option for parents and students, to gather from 8:00 in the morning until 11:00. Elementary school will be open for parents and students together from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m.
Again, this is an important step that I would encourage everyone to take advantage of. We need to get kids back in our schools safely, that their comfortable and their parents are comfortable putting them back in our care.
We have a great program, great staff as you've seen over the last day, and certainly a great community that's working hard to get our kids back in our classrooms. Friday March 2nd, Chardon schools will reopen at the usual times. We'll have a full day on Friday.
Hopefully we can have some other time for family Saturday and Sunday. Again, I would encourage you, as I've said before and mean it from my heart, spend some family time. You never know what the next day will bring.
I want to thank the media representatives for their willingness to communicate this reopening schedule to our community. Thank each of you who are away from your families, and again I remind you to take care of yourself and your own families.
I appreciate the coverage from a positive perspective you've given us, because we know things we have seen around the country and the tragedies that have happened. And I truly am appreciative of that. This is Chardon.
We will mourn, we will seek counseling for the pain and the scars that we have, we'll move forward, I promise, thank you. I'd like to introduce Tim McKenna. Thank you.
TIM MCKENNA, CHARDON POLICE DEPARTMENT: My name is Chief Tim McKeena, Chardon Police Department. I have three bulletins for you. The first one being at 1:00 this afternoon as we've done along with these other briefings with the news media, we want to be accurate.
I did receive a call from the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner's Office. Demetrius Hewlin was pronounced this afternoon. The coroner's office was notified. Two, you have asked for the copy of the 911 tapes. We went back with our IT people.
Chardon PD received four 911 calls. That's all we got. The rest of the phone calls went to the sheriff's office. I have 57 hard copies with me today. I think the FBI has one in their possession. Chardon releasing those, write this down for me.
Our ITP will also put it on the web site, Chardon's web site and that is www.chardon.cc.911. Those four calls can be (inaudible) through the computer, through the internet that way.
The last bulletin that I have for you, we were notified at 12:00 noon today that our female student was released from Hillcrest Hospital and is home with her family. That's the good news.
For the other families, I am deeply saddened, my condolences, and we'll be seeing you and talking to you. I thank you, the news media, as well. Thank you.
At this time, we're going to have Geauga County Prosecutor Dave Joyce come up and tell you where we stand on the legal issues.
DAVE JOYCE, GEAUGA COUNTY PROSECUTOR: Thank you. First, I want to reach out to those families that have been affected very deeply by what's happened here.
As a kid who grew up in this county, I want you to know you have my deepest condolences, one, and I guarantee this is an aberration. This does not represent our community.
What we have is a diligent group of schools and school officials and public officials in law enforcement that have worked together hoping this day would never come.
It happened yesterday. They had a plan. The plan worked. Unfortunately, at the end of the day, someone -- now three people have passed and some others were injured, but this was the effect of one lone gunman.
As was stated earlier in court today, he chose his victims at random. This is not about bullying. This is not about drugs. This is someone who's not well, and I'm sure in our court case, we'll prove that to all of your desires and we'll make sure justice is done here in this county.
But in the meantime, this community needs to heal. The school did what they were supposed to do. Law enforcement did what they were supposed to do. They need to get back to school and realize that justice is going to be done.
I appreciate your time and concern, as some of you were in court today, you understand we're under a gag order and we can't talk about this going forward, but I do want to say on behalf of myself, on behalf of people of Geauga County, thank you for the opportunity that you've given is to get the word out.
Thank you to the people who have been so gracious in helping us heal, and thank God we have such wonderful school officials, also students here in Chardon from all walks of life, made a terrible, horrific situation as good as it possibly could be. We'll get the rest of it done from here. I thank you very much for your time.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, we're going to have you ask us some questions. I want to do this as orderly as we can. So if you could state your name, who you represent, who you wish the address the question and your question. Yes, sir.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Joyce, will you contemplate trying the young defendant as an adult?
JOYCE: Absolutely. It's a matter of law in the state of Ohio.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a matter of law?
JOYCE: At 17 years old committing an act like this, which most likely would be three counts of aggravated murder as well as other counts we anticipate going forward, provided the juvenile court judge funds there is probable cause. He will be bound over to adult.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's my understanding that TJ Lane had already confessed and said he did have a motive, to shoot people. Is any of that from you?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I did not do the interview, and I'm really not prepared to talk about that right now. It's part of our investigation, Scott. That will come out at some point.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Glen Miller Maple Leaf. Chief, the report was that he was arrested on Woodland Road. Is that correct?
MCKEENA: That's correct. He was arrested on Woodland Road.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Were there any people -- trying to get his gun from TJ? Did they try to apprehend him at all, teachers, students?
MCKEENA: We had a teacher in the school that attempted to stop him, and he was probably our best observer, best witness to let us know that that student had left the building. That gave us the green light to get our officers in the door, our EMS in the door, and make the assessments we had to make yesterday morning.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What about students?
MCKEENA: As far as what?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Students trying to apprehend TJ?
MCKEENA: I don't have that information, no.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sir, I'm from the "New York Times." I have a question for Prosecutor Joyce. Could you tell us about the murder weapon? CNN is reporting I think it was a .22, that it was a semiautomatic, and he took it from his uncle. Can you tell us about the weapon?
JOYCE: No, I can't at this time. As you know, we are under a gag order from the court that was just imposed. We were allowed to talk about the fact what was given, the statement read in open court today, and I'm not allowed to go beyond that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You deny that he took it from his uncle --
JOYCE: I said there's going to be a time and place for this. We're going to try this case, and we'll show it to you, but this next week is about getting our community back on its feet.
(END LIVE SPEECH)
BLITZER: All right, we're going to continue to monitor this news conference in Chardon, Ohio outside of Cleveland. We'll update you on what's going on. Lots of dramatic developments.
Stand by for much more on this story. We'll take a quick break. When we come back, we'll speak live with Newt Gingrich on this very, very important day for the race for the White House.
BLITZER: Today's primary drama revolves around the two frontrunners, at least for now. Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich, they're really out in the spotlight, to a large degree. But they certainly are still in the presidential race. Both are looking ahead to one week from today, the Super Tuesday contests, 10 of them, a week from today.
Joining us now, the Republican presidential candidate, Newt Gingrich.
Mr. Speaker, thanks very much for coming in.
NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's great to be with you. It's a very exciting time.
BLITZER: Quickly, since you probably almost certainly are not going to win in Michigan tonight, who would you prefer Michigan tonight?
Would it be Mitt Romney or Rick Santorum?
GINGRICH: Look, I -- I think whatever the outcome tonight, the race is going to go on. I think Romney has much more at stake than Santorum does. If Romney loses Michigan, it's hard to understand the rationale for his campaign, because it was never built on ideas, it was built on the idea that he was inevitable. And you can't lose your home state and be inevitable.
On the other hand, if Santorum loses, I suspect we'll begin to see a lot more doubts about whether or not he can go the distance. And that's something I've lived through now with Pawlenty, Bachmann, Trump, Cain, Perry. So it would not be at all surprising to me to find out that this was one more brief period of -- of somebody being really exciting and then they disappear.
BLITZER: Let me rephrase the question, maybe, this way.
Who do you feel more comfortable with, Romney or Santorum?
GINGRICH: Well, I -- I don't approach it that way. I -- I've been out here talking about a totally new generation of ideas, different from either Romney or Santorum. I -- I prefer a much bolder approach to saving Social Security than they do, by giving younger people a chance to have a personal savings account. I have a proposal for American energy that leads to energy independence from the Middle East and leads to $2.50 a gallon gasoline. I have a proposal for very dramatic tax reform, including a 15 percent flat tax, which is very different from theirs.
I'm actually trying to create sort of a new solutions market that doesn't compete with either Romney or Santorum in terms of, you know, right-left. It competes as being the ideas of the future, the solutions that will work. And I hope to take votes away from both of them.
BLITZER: The super PAC that supports your campaign is out with a new ad. It's playing right now.
Let me play a little clip from it and I want to discuss it with you. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM CAMPAIGN AD)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mitt Romney.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I looked at Mitt Romney's record. I can't figure out what he stands for. It changes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just don't relate to Romney.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I really don't know if I can trust him.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He doesn't have the strength to stand up against Obama.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: That ad is running in Georgia, Tennessee, Ohio, Oklahoma, four of the 10 states with contests one week from today.
If he does turn out the nom -- to be the nominee, can he beat President Obama in November?
GINGRICH: Well, I hope so. I was -- I'm -- I'm going to support the Republican nominee. But, you know, you have to admit, having somebody who invented RomneyCare debate somebody who has ObamaCare, it's going to be pretty hard for them to make a difference between the two of them. And I think that that's something -- the Republicans have to really look seriously at who could debate Obama and win?
Who could stand on the same platform, draw a sharp distinction and win?
And I think every time people ask that question, I start moving back into being the leader. Twice now, I've nationally been leading in the polls. Every time, it's based on new ideas, new solutions and a sense that I'm the one person who could actually debate Obama successfully and win that debate.
BLITZER: What's the minimum number of victories for you next Tuesday that you really need to keep your campaign going?
GINGRICH: Well, I think we have to pick up delegates in a number of states and we unequivocally have to win Georgia. But we have to gain delegates in a number of states and I think we will. I think we're -- we'll get -- we have very good opportunities, as you pointed out, in Tennessee, Oklahoma, Ohio. Also, I think we'll have a chance to pick up some delegates in Idaho, in Vermont, in a variety of -- North Dakota, for example.
So I -- I'm looking forward to next Tuesday. And we, frankly, made a decision that we'd put our resources into next Tuesday and beyond and recognize that we -- we weren't in a position to compete head-to-head in Michigan.
BLITZER: Let's get to some substantive issues right now, beyond the politics. Afghanistan, first of all. You've criticized President Obama for apologizing for the mistaken burning of the Korans in Afghanistan.
But you know that President Bush did very much the same thing back in 2008...
BLITZER: -- when he formally apologized when an American soldier started shooting his weapon into a Koran.
I'll play a clip from Dana Perino, the White House press secretary at that time.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM MAY 20, 2008)
DANA PERINO, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I believe it was either the first or the second issue that the president brought up to tell Prime Minister Maliki he had heard about the incident when -- where a Koran was desecrated. And he apologized for that in the sense that he said that we take it very seriously. We were concerned about their reaction. We wanted them to know that the president knew that this was wrong.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: I -- I don't know if you remember, but did you criticize President Bush in 2008 for apologizing to the Iraqis?
GINGRICH: Look, I wasn't a presidential candidate at that point. What I -- what I will say is, the U.S. Army destroyed bibles in 2009. I find it reprehensible that we have this double standard. I find it at the -- at the present time, you have Americans being killed in Afghanistan over this issue. I don't think the commander-in-chief apologizes when young Americans are being killed. I -- I don't find anything acceptable about Afghan religious bigotry leading to the kind of hatred we're talking about.
And the fact that Americans aren't even supposed to be allowed to talk about it is baloney.
Churches get burned in Nigeria.
Does anybody apologize?
Churches get burned in Egypt.
Does anybody apologize?
Churches are burned in Malaysia.
Does anybody apologize?
The Iranians, last week, sentenced a Christian minister to death.
Is anybody apologizing? I, for one, am tired of this one-sided process by which a -- by which -- and I don't care which president you describe it...
BLITZER: But do...
GINGRICH: -- I'm tired of American presidents thinking that they have to kowtow to whatever the Islamic frame is.
Do you think Assad worries about destroying Korans in -- in Syria right now?
Do you think Gadhafi worried about destroying Korans in -- in Libya?
They were using artillery. They're bombing people. They're destroying mosques. They're doing whatever they have to do to stay in power.
Do you see any riots over that? this was an excuse...
BLITZER: All right...
GINGRICH: -- just like the Danish cartoons.
GINGRICH: And I think we ought to be clear about this, this is an excuse to have anti-American hatred whipped up.
BLITZER: So I just want to be precise. I can -- I totally understand where you're coming from as far as President Obama is concerned, apologizing now.
But with hindsight, was it wrong for President Bush to apologize back in 2008?
GINGRICH: Look, I think we should always have respect for various religious documents.
But I would also ask you, Wolf, why was it OK for the U.S. Army to burn bibles?
I mean I -- I don't understand this one-sided nature that is always apologizing for Islam while it is dissing Christianity. And it was the U.S. Army policy to burn bibles in 2009. It wasn't the Obama administration.
And I am just -- I -- I personally am -- one of the reasons that I'm running for president is that I'm tired of the elite view in this country, you can do anything you want to to Judaism and Christianity, but you have to apologize for Islam as often as necessary and you can never stand up and just say that's baloney.
BLITZER: Let's talk about Afghanistan a little bit more. I blogged, I wrote a blog post on this yesterday. The U.S. is still spending $2 billion a week in taxpayer money maintaining about 90,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, building hospitals there, bridges there, infrastructure, new -- power plants, if -- if you will. One hundred billion dollars a year, Mr. Speaker.
Is this money well spent?
GINGRICH: No. I think it...
BLITZER: What would you do?
GINGRICH: Look, I think after -- well, first of all, I -- and I've said this over and over and over again. We need a complete and thorough re--- rethinking of our strategy in the Middle East. We're -- we're deeply focused on Afghanistan, which is not the ctrl front. We're time of -- the Obama administration is stunningly effective on Iran -- ineffective on Iran, which is trying to build nuclear weapons. The Pakistanis have now proven they're totally unreliable. When you learn that they keep -- they kept bin Laden for seven years in a compound in a military city a mile from their national defense university and then you learn they didn't go after the people who were hiding him, they went after the people who helped the United States find him, I mean there's something deeply rotten about our entire intellectual approach to this, our unwillingness to be honest about the problems and our unwillingness to be mentally tough.
If Karzai doesn't want to apologize for the killing of young Americans in the current Koran incident, I think we ought to seriously deeply reevaluate our entire attitude toward his government. And if the Pakistanis insist on going after people who are pro-American, I think we need to rethink our position toward them.
Would not have any long-term obligation to be in either Afghanistan or Pakistan. We can shift to a much deeper alliance with India very easily in a setting like this. We can also figure out new strategies that don't involve American forces in the region.
I do not believe we have to go around and appease corrupt governments and appease people who are killing young Americans just in order to stay some place where they apparently don't want us to be.
BLITZER: One final question, Mr. Speaker, because I know you've got to get going, but in last week's debate, the CNN debate in Mesa, Arizona -- you remember it. You were critical of the j what you called the elite news media for never questioning President Obama four years ago when he was running for president about his position on what you called legalizing infanticide.
We checked. In fact, I remember it, at the time, we did report on that extensively and we did question President Obama at the time. Our special contributor, David Brody, of the Christian Broadcasting Network, interviewed President Obama on this subject.
Here's a clip of what we ran right here in THE SITUATION ROOM on CNN.
Listen to this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM 2008, COURTESY CHRISTIAN BROADCASTING NETWORK)
DAVID BRODY, CHRISTIAN BROADCASTING NETWORK: Real quick, the Born Alive Infant Protection Act, I've got to tell you that's the one thing I get a lot of e-mails about.
BARACK OBAMA: Yes.
BRODY: And it's not just from Evangelicals.
BRODY: It's about Catholics, Protestants...
BRODY: -- main, male. They're trying to understand it...
BRODY: -- because there was some literature put out by the National Right to Life Committee.
BRODY: And -- and they're basically saying that you -- they felt like you misrepresented your position on that bill and...
BRODY: -- you...
OBAMA: -- I -- let -- let me clarify this...
OBAMA: -- right now, because one thing...
BRODY: Because it's getting a lot of play.
OBAMA: Well, and because they have not been telling the truth.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Mr. Speaker, I just wanted to correct the record. So let it show that we did report on that.
BLITZER: We did question President Obama. And -- and it was played right here on CNN in THE SITUATION ROOM.
I just wanted to clarify that for the record.
GINGRICH: Well, listen -- listen, I -- I commend you for clarifying it. I'm going to go back and look at the full transcript. And I'll be curious whether or not anybody came back and said that, in fact, the person who wasn't telling the truth was Barack Obama, because the bill he supported did, in fact, protect doctors who killed babies after they were born alive in an abortion.
And the nurse who has been the most deeply involved in that has her own Web site. She held a baby for 45 minutes as it was dying. And I think her vision of that bill is radically different from the president's.
But I'm going to go back -- listen, Wolf, I always know when I deal with you, we're going to -- you're going to do your homework. So now I've got to go back and read the transcript. And I apo -- I promise you I will do that.
BLITZER: Please. Then we'll talk. We'll continue this conversation.
BLITZER: Mr. Speaker, as usual, thanks very much for joining us.
GINGRICH: Good to be with you.