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THE SITUATION ROOM

Benghazi Investigation Continues; Interview With Senator John McCain

Aired December 20, 2012 - 18:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Senator John McCain has pressed especially hard for answers about the September 11 attack in Benghazi, Libya, that killed the United States Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.

A blistering new report calls the State Department security preparations in Benghazi -- and I'm quoting now -- "grossly inadequate." On Capitol Hill today, department officials promised to do better as lawmakers' outrage quickly turned partisan.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: From the very beginning of the Benghazi events, every member of this committee has shared with the president and Secretary Clinton our determination to get all of the facts about what happened and why in Benghazi.

WILLIAM BURNS, U.S. DEPUTY SECRETARY OF STATE: The board's report takes a clear-eyed look at serious systemic problems, problems which are unacceptable.

REP. DANA ROHRABACHER (R), CALIFORNIA: I'm sorry, Mr. Ambassador, but your statement that the president and Ambassador -- and Secretary Clinton made clear that it was a terrorist attack right afterwards is not true. It's not accurate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's a long tradition of bipartisanship in this committee, how we should be standing side by side when we're dealing with a attacks on our people overseas. It really cheapens that to make it into some kind of gotcha game or to try to make it into some conspiracy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Kate Bolduan is here in THE SITUATION ROOM with me.

Senator John McCain is joining us now from Capitol Hill.

Senator McCain, thanks very much for coming in.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Thanks.

BLITZER: Are you satisfied with this report?

MCCAIN: Well, I think it was significant and I think it was very helpful. And I have a lot of confidence in the witnesses, especially Thomas Pickering and Bill Burns.

Obviously, we still want the secretary of state to testify. But, Wolf, there are many unanswered questions ranging from the talking points and what -- why classified information was not used, which would've changed the entire narrative, to what was the president and the secretary of state doing? Why was the warning -- why were the warnings ignored both before and during?

Why would not DOD, Department of Defense, military capability available over a seven-hour period? There's a long list of questions that need to be answered. So I still think we need an independent commission. But I -- but I appreciate the testimony today.

BLITZER: An independent commission beyond this report that Ambassador Pickering and Admiral Mullen helped put together. What specifically do you want to hear from the secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, when she testifies supposedly mid-January some time?

MCCAIN: Well, among other things, what did she know about these warnings, these constant warnings that she received as late as August 16, where they stated unequivocally that in the case of an attack that the consulate was not defensible?

What actions were taken? What did she know about it? Why is it that Ambassador Stevens' last message before he was killed was his concerns about security? Why was there so few people there? There are so many, as I say, so many questions, and ranging from before, during, and after, including this whole business of giving the American people information, the president of the United States as late as September 25, before the U.N., where he talked about hateful videos.

Why did the president of the United States say in his debate with Romney that he had called it a terrorist attack on September the 12th, when now we know that that very day he gave an interview with CBS which we didn't find out until after the election that he said he didn't know whether it was a terrorist attack or not.

There's a whole bunch of -- and why would secretary -- Ambassador Rice say that al Qaeda is decimated? We know al Qaeda wasn't decimated. Why is it that she would say that the security of our consulates and embassies were -- is good, when we all know now that they are clearly not

BLITZER: I want to move on to some other subjects, Senator.

MCCAIN: Sure.

BLITZER: But the ambassador, Susan Rice, she is not going to be the next secretary of state. Four State Department officials have now resigned in the aftermath of this report that was released this week. Is that enough? Should more heads roll?

MCCAIN: Well, again, we want to know what the president and the secretary of state knew, what did they -- where was the president during these seven hours? Where was the secretary of state during these seven hours? We have had plenty of views of them watching the raid that took out bin Laden. What were their actions during this period of time as well? So, of course, supposedly, the buck stops at the president's desk.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Senator, I want to turn to this movie "Zero Dark Thirty." You have written a letter to the studio along with Senator Feinstein, as well as Senator Levin, saying the movie is grossly inaccurate and misleading in its depiction of the use of harsh interrogation techniques in the hunt for Osama bin Laden. Why come out so forcefully against a movie?

MCCAIN: Well, several reasons, Kate.

One is obviously movies, particularly by very highly credentialed producers, directors, and cast, does have an effect on public opinion, not only in the United States, but around the world. First of all, the brutality depicted there is very disturbing.

But the thing that we, Senator Levin and Senator Feinstein and I, have focused on is that you believe when watching this movie that water-boarding and torture leads to information that leads then to the elimination of Osama bin Laden.

That's not the case. In fact, when KSM, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, was water-boarded, he gave information that was false about the courier, the guy that eventually led to Osama bin Laden, said he had retired. The moral of the story is that torture does not work, it is hateful, it is harmful, incredibly harmful to the United States of America. And to somehow make people believe that it was responsible for the elimination of Osama bin Laden is in my view unacceptable.

BLITZER: Was none of that so-called enhancement interrogation techniques that were used on Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, none of it provided any useful information that eventually resulted in the killing of bin Laden?

MCCAIN: It did not, and that's what this study, that intensive study that the Intelligence Committee just completed, thousands of pages and a yearlong study, indicate clearly that they found out about the courier from an outside source that was outside the country.

There is no information whatsoever that shows that. In fact, there's information that they misled the interrogators while this violation of the Geneva Conventions, torturing people, was going on. And they -- again, the moral of the story is, if you inflict enough pain on someone, they will tell you anything they think that will make the pain stop. And that's what was happening in these interrogations, and it did not lead to eliminating Osama bin Laden, which -- a goal we all shared.

And to tell the American people that it did, I think, is really harmful.

BOLDUAN: But let me button it up with this, Senator.

MCCAIN: Sure. BOLDUAN: With so many problems and issues on the plate of the Senate right now, the attack on Benghazi, as we were just talking, the consulate in Benghazi, the fiscal cliff, what to do with Syria, just to name a few, why is it important? Why is it so important, with so much else going on in the world, to take on this issue, when we know it's -- when they stay it's a fictional movie?

MCCAIN: Well, first of all, Kate, I have been involved in this issue for a long time, as you know. The Senate voted 93-3 that this kind of thing was unacceptable, not to mention the Geneva Conventions for treatment of detainees, which we are a signatory to.

But I think it really goes to what America is all about. Do we really want to do things which are inhumane and basically immoral, in other words, torturing people? Do we want to do that? And what is the impact of our image in the world when we do do that?

We are in a vast, long twilight, ideological struggle with the forces of radical Islam. And this gives them all kinds of ammunition when they have a movie that shows we are torturing people. You see my point?

BLITZER: We see your point, certainly do, Senator.

Let's talk about Chuck Hagel, the former Republican senator from Nebraska, a man you know. You served with him. If the president nominates him to succeed Leon Panetta as the secretary of defense, will you vote to confirm him?

MCCAIN: I want to give him the opportunity if he's nominated to testify. He will pay visits to people, before the Armed Services Committee, which I'm a member, as you know.

But I do believe that with any nomination that we will exercise our responsibilities of advise and consent. As you know, Chuck Hagel and I had had some differences over the years, for example, over the surge, which he said would be the worst mistake since the Vietnam War, and obviously it was successful.

But I think we need to look at his record and exercise our responsibilities. But I don't think we will be pre-judging him.

BOLDUAN: Let's turn to the fiscal cliff, Senator, since the days are ticking down, as you well know. This plan B that they're voting on in the House this evening, if it passes the House, will you support it in the Senate?

MCCAIN: Well, I think it's a good proposal.

I think that it is now going to -- what their intention is to put the ball into the Senate's court. What I'm still hoping is that really -- I'm praying, actually, because of the consequences of not only the cliff, but sequestration, is that maybe the president will call these individuals and leaders down to the White House and sit down and say, look, let's get this settled. I think it's really important that at least he do that. I think if he said, look, we're not going to leave this Oval Office until -- until we have an agreement -- I don't think they have made enough of that effort.

BLITZER: One final question before I let you go, Senator.

MCCAIN: Sure.

BLITZER: Will you support that assault weapons ban that Senator Feinstein and the president are now proposing?

MCCAIN: I want a commission that -- such as Senator Lieberman has proposed, where we can look at every aspect of this terrible tragedy. I believe that American people want us to act.

I think we're ready to act. But, you know, there are cases in Norway. They have very tough gun control, as you know. And yet a person was able to go out and kill, slaughter, a massacre, a terrible, tragic situation. I think we have got to look at its entirety, rather than just say we're going to rifle shot it.

And I will be glad to consider anything, but I would like to see a commission of people we respect and admire and their recommendations before I would support most any measure.

BLITZER: Senator McCain, thanks very much for joining us.

BOLDUAN: Thank you, Senator.

MCCAIN: Good to be with you.

BLITZER: Up next, we're going to have the latest on the Connecticut shooting investigation. It is now moving into a new phase. Stand by.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Now to the Newtown, Connecticut, shooting investigation.

Investigators say they're done for now after spending days combing through the house the gunman shared with his mother and where he killed her before setting off on his rampage at the local elementary school.

CNN's national correspondent, Deborah Feyerick, is outside the home, joining us now with the latest on the investigation.

What's going on?

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We can tell you, Wolf, that there was probably one of the largest sort of presence of detectives from the major crime squad here today.

They really -- they wrapped up. They took the mobile crime lab with them. We spoke to the lieutenant who is in charge of speaking on behalf of the police. He said that they are done for now. They still have the house. It is still a crime scene. They can go back to it any time they want. But right now they are done searching through it. They have gathered evidence. They have gathered what they need. They're going to be looking through that.

If something else materializes, what they will do is they will return to the home. But for now, we're being told that they are done for now as far as processing the home and processing the crime scene. It took them about three-and-a-half days, but they were able to do it and they're working very aggressively, especially because the computer was smashed, the hard drive badly damaged.

So they have really got to create a very full picture. But it appears that they're done, at least for the time being, Wolf.

BLITZER: And so the next -- the next situation, the next process as far as the investigation is concerned, what are they trying to do? Deal with some of the -- the key question, why, why would someone do this?

FEYERICK: Yes, a couple of things, exactly.

First of all, they have got to process the toxicology reports. They took hair and blood and saliva samples from Adam Lanza. They're going to process that to see whether he was on any kinds of medications, whether they were prescribed medications, whether they were illegal medications. That's the first thing.

It's going to be several months until we get any sort of report on this. One thing we do want to say is that the gunman's mom, she was laid to rest today. There was no fanfare, it was very quiet, she was buried at an undisclosed location. Her son was not with her. Not clear whether his body has been released yet or whether they're keeping it to do more tests as the need arises.

But we do know that she was buried, a private service, according to the police chief in New Hampshire, only for family, Wolf.

BLITZER: Deborah Feyerick, thanks very much for that update.

BOLDUAN: Back here in Washington, the House of Representatives is getting set to vote on extending tax cuts for most Americans, those making under $1 million. We're talking about the fiscal cliff.

But President Obama's made it clear the Republicans' plan B, as it's called, is nothing more than veto bait.

Let's get more on the back and forth and where things stand today with our senior congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, who is on Capitol Hill with more.

Dana, I know there has been some question even if House Republicans had the votes to pass this.

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And I think if you look on the House floor right now, you will see that there is a vote. It's not the vote, but there's a vote going on now. As you know, Kate, that's a key time for members of the leadership to twist arms and I'm told that that's exactly what is going to happen now.

We're just two hours away from that plan B vote and Republicans aren't entirely sure that they actually have the votes to pass it. It's just one example of how things are moving very fast today, but at the same time, things are stalled.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BASH (voice-over): The fiscal cliff impasse is so surreal, Democrats are resorting to movie analogies, calling Republicans Thelma and Louise.

SEN. RICHARD DURBIN (D-IL), MAJORITY WHIP: Rather than face the reality of what lies ahead, they hit the gas. That's what we're hearing from Speaker Boehner now.

BASH: Don't blame us, say the Republicans; it's the president.

REP. JOHN FLEMING (R), LOUISIANA: He's doing everything within his power to take us over the cliff and he is set on dividing us.

BASH: Adding to the sense that Congress is in an alternate universe, instead of negotiating to avert the fiscal cliff, the House will vote tonight on the GOP plan B, a bill to keep tax rates in place for households making less than $1 million. Senate Democrats call it dead on arrival.

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: House Republicans know that the bill has no future. If they don't know it now, tell them what I said.

BASH (on camera): Senator Majority Harry Reid just had a press conference saying, "House Republicans know this bill has no future. If they don't know, tell them what I said."

(LAUGHTER)

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I talked to Senator Reid this morning. He was more polite then. I am not convinced at all that when the bill passes the House today that it will die in the Senate.

BASH (voice-over): Democrats say the House speaker is in denial. The truth is, the speaker is well aware of political reality. If the country careens of the fiscal cliff in 12 days and every American's taxes go up, Republicans will take much of the heat. That's a key reason he's holding tonight's vote.

BOEHNER: Our bill will protect 99.81 percent of American people from an increase in taxes.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: A Republican lawmaker who is familiar with the strategy here among House Republicans says another reason why they're taking this vote is to make sure that Republicans get on record and even to tell Republicans internally inside their own caucus that they need to see what the reality is, and the reality is, as you just heard from the Democrats in that piece, that they are not likely to take this up, even if it does pass, which is going to be very tight.

And so the question is, what's going to happen next? And I can tell you, there is a lot of uncertainty here tonight about what does happen next.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. And, of course, the question of with this vote, does it loosen up negotiations once again? Or will it be even more stalled or in peril in terms of negotiations going forward? But we will wait, watch, and see together.

Dana Bash, thanks so much. We will talk to you soon.

BLITZER: Washington's full of tough talk right now about cutting our trillion dollar deficit, trillion dollar deficit every year by closing loopholes, capping tax deductions. Tonight, we're going to get specific.

You're going to see who may get hit and the serious consequences.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From the arts, from hospitals, to universities, to emergency rooms, some of these charitable institutions would be on the verge of collapse.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

BLITZER: Reports say President Obama could pick a former U.S. senator who is a Republican as his next defense secretary.

So, why does the backlash against Chuck Hagel -- Hagel seem to be growing?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

Happening now: Americans from coast to coast reach out to the people of Newtown, Connecticut. They're crafting tributes to the victims.

Also, how's Washington's tough talk about closing tax loopholes and capping deductions? How could that turn into a devastating blow to some of your favorite charities?

Plus, how an airliner full of potatoes may make your next trip more convenient and maybe a little more productive.

All that coming up. But first, former Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska is thought to be President Obama's top choice to be the nation's next secretary of defense succeeding Leon Panetta. But he may end up becoming the next Susan Rice. The president reportedly wanted her to become the next secretary of state, but she ultimately withdrew from consideration when it became clear her nomination would provoke a fight on Capitol Hill.

Kate, that fight would have been intense.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: That fight would have been intense. And we're joined now to talk about this and much more by former Bush White House press secretary, Ari Fleischer, as well as Democratic strategist, Hilary Rosen. They're both CNN contributors.

Hey there.

BLITZER: Ari, let me start with you, why is Chuck Hagel all of a sudden so controversial?

ARI FLEISCHER, REPUBLICAN JEWISH COALITION: Because he'd be a disaster as secretary of defense because of the things he's said and the positions he's taken. For example, he's voted against sanctions for Iran. He's called instead for unconditional talks with Iran. Contrary to the Obama position, he's even said that a military strike against Iran should be flat-out ruled out. He said it's not an option, it's not feasible. Shouldn't it be considered?

So I don't know why there'd be even talk that he should be appointed and it's worse than that, Wolf, he's also called for talks, direct talks with Hamas, the terrorist organization, and finally, during the Second Intifada when President Clinton was in office in October of 2000, he was one of only four senators who refused to write a letter in support of Israel.

So he's a problematic choice for all issues in which the American people are unified about our approach to the Middle East. He's outside the mainstream of both parties on those issues.

BOLDUAN: Hilary, jump in on this. I mean, when you hear how -- what Ari is saying, and I'm sure some Republicans share his views, I mean, the president already lost one fight looking at Susan Rice, is he, you know, going to lose another fight when it comes to Chuck Hagel now?

HILARY ROSEN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: First of all, there's just no way that senators are going to vote down Chuck Hagel. This is -- you know, this is a litany of Republican attacking talking points. Like it amazes me that they consistently find a way to, like, grab defeat from the jaws of victory.

They're about to get a Republican secretary of defense. You know, along -- look at what Bill Cohen did, and former secretary of defense who was a former GOP senator from Maine. Look at how he brought people together in the Clinton administration, made a big difference overseas, brought allies on the hill together. That's the vein Chuck Hagel is in. And in fact, Secretary Cohen today said that Chuck Hagel would be a great secretary of defense.

BOLDUAN: So if nominated, you think he's going to -- he'll --

ROSEN: I think he's going to win this. Scare tactics by people making up stuff to somehow suggest that Chuck Hagel would be anti- Israel when President Obama makes the policy, that's just nonsense.

BLITZER: You know, Bob Gates was a Republican, too, and he served as secretary of defense, Ari. I just interviewed -- we just interviewed John McCain here and he said he's going to wait and see if he's nominated, he'll give him a shot, see what he has to say during the confirmation process. But what you're saying is that he's totally unacceptable even though, you know, I just interviewed him myself on many occasions. He's a very, very smart guy.

FLEISCHER: Wolf, I'm rising above party. To me this isn't the question of what party does somebody belong to? If President Obama wants to appoint a Democrat that's fine. If he wants to appoint a Republican, that's fine. But he should appoint somebody with a good record.

I'm making nothing up. You know, Hilary didn't refute anything I said. Every fact I stated is Chuck Hagel's record. And it's a record, frankly, that the Democrats raised when Chuck Hagel was thinking about running for president, I got all those facts, many of them from a Democratic organization that decided for why Hagel wasn't even qualified to even run for president.

ROSEN: You know, Ari --

FLEISCHER: So my opposition is -- hold on, Hilary, my opposition is principled and is based on the things that Senator Hagel has voted for and the troubling things that Senator Hagel has said.

ROSEN: Senator Hagel has said repeatedly that his comments on Iran sanctions are -- are taken out of context, that's just fact.

FLEISCHER: It says bogus.

ROSEN: This is President Obama's policy running the -- running the Defense Department. Look, there are a lot of things that Chuck Hagel votes that Chuck Hagel has taken or that other members of Congress have taken that I don't like, I don't like his original position on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," for instance, when he supported it. But President Obama repealed that. He made the decision. I'm confident any secretary of defense is going to go with the positions of the president.

BLITZER: You know, Hilary, he also voted against confirmation of a U.S. ambassador to Luxembourg during the Clinton administration.

ROSEN: He did. My friend.

BLITZER: Who was openly gay, as you well -- you well recall. ROSEN: Yes.

BLITZER: And he made a statement at that time. This goes way back, almost 20 years, that the United States should not send ambassadors around the world who represent that lifestyle.

ROSEN: He did. And I don't -- I don't like what he said. But I think people can evolve. And I trust this president that when he appoints somebody, he is -- he is following the policy of the president and those are the rules. And I just think we have to assume that that's where Chuck Hagel is going to be when he speaks himself if he's nominated to the Senate. I'm confident he's going to straighten all of this out.

BOLDUAN: And Ari, I mean --

FLEISCHER: You know, it --

BOLDUAN: Go ahead, Ari.

FLEISCHER: -- raises the question, why would President Obama nominate somebody whose positions are so far outside what the president's positions are? Because you don't want to set up that type of internal clash between a secretary of defense --

(CROSSTALK)

ROSEN: In many ways, you're nitpicks, that's why.

FLEISCHER: And you also don't want to have somebody who might indicate that the president is changing his tune. That's why I think it's a very questionable judgment by the president to even entertain the possibility of Chuck Hagel. It raises a whole series of questions I don't think the president needs to have right now.

ROSEN: It doesn't. It doesn't. You're nitpicking. I mean, you know, look, "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" has been repealed so that's not even an issue anymore. The -- when you talk about a single --

FLEISCHER: Hilary, I think (INAUDIBLE) issue.

ROSEN: Wait, wait. I know what I'm saying, when you talk about a single quote about something he might have said about the Israel lobby years ago and concerns that he might not be pro-Israel enough or might not be tough enough on Iran, we're talking about positions of years ago. We don't need to nitpick another nominee just so you guys can try and undermine the president again. That's not going to happen.

BLITZER: He is on the president's foreign intelligence advisory board right now, has been a supporter of President Obama, endorsed him in 2008, endorsed him once again in 2012.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: And so we should point out, not yet nominated. BLITZER: Yes -- we will see.

BOLDUAN: Not yet nominated.

BLITZER: We'll see if the president, you know, goes ahead and nominates him.

BOLDUAN: Right.

BLITZER: Has a fight in the Senate, I suspect. Most senators will vote to confirm him if, in fact, there is that fight. But we'll see, we'll see what happens.

BOLDUAN: We'll see.

BLITZER: Ari, thanks very much.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, Ari.

BLITZER: Hilary, thanks to you, as well.

ROSEN: Thank you.

FLEISCHER: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: If Washington can't come to terms on fiscal cliff negotiations, nonprofits could see a lot less goodwill. Automatic measures would include limits on deductions for charitable giving.

Lisa Sylvester is joining us with more on this.

What would happen if there's no agreement, Lisa?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I can tell you, Wolf, you know, nonprofits, charity groups, universities, hospitals, they are all watching very closely the fiscal cliff debate because their bottom line could be directly affected.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SYLVESTER (voice-over): Earle Mack looks to art for imagination and inspiration. This picture from the Spanish artist Manolo Valdez speaks to him.

EARLE MACK, PHILANTHROPIST: It says think. And look. And observe what's around you.

SYLVESTER: Mack, a former U.S. ambassador to Finland and a multimillionaire several times over, he says he sees the world as a place for doing good. After the earthquake in Haiti, he chartered two planes and brought in a team of doctors and medical supplies on his own.

MACK: I felt a passion that all these people dying and haven't gotten any medical help, just lying there, bleeding to death, getting sick, getting infected. I don't know. I can't tell you anything more than that, that I just did it. Just woke up one day and did it.

SYLVESTER: Mack has donated millions over the years to various causes. He has long been a patron of the arts, theater, and museums. He made his fortune in real estate development and investment. He is part of that 1 percent, the wealthiest Americans who make the most but also donate the most. Now Mack is worried for the institutions he has long supported because of the fiscal cliff.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We ask the wealthiest Americans to pay a slightly higher tax rate.

SYLVESTER: As Congress debates how to close the budget gap.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: Closing loopholes, especially on those who are wealthy is a better way to raise this revenue other than raising rates.

SYLVESTER: One proposal that keeps coming up, cap charitable deductions.

(On camera): Who do you think is going to be hurt the most if Congress changes the -- the current charitable deduction?

MACK: If giving is hurt, all of these programs -- so from the arts, from hospitals, to universities. To emergency rooms, are on the verge of collapse.

SYLVESTER (voice-over): Mack says it's large individual donations that help keep nonprofit hospitals open and fund college scholarship endowments, reduce the incentive to give, and giving will slow down hurting programs across the country.

Mack is not the only one worried.

JOHN LIPPINCOTT, PRESIDENT, CASE: A 1 percent decline in giving to American higher education would result in a loss of $300 million a year to colleges and universities. That's 300,000 student scholarships that would be lost.

MACK: A $10 million giver could be disincentivized.

SYLVESTER: Earle Mack says he personally will continue to donate to worth causes, deduction or no deduction, but he knows many others who will not.

MACK: If we were all angels, we'd be up in heaven and I wouldn't be sitting here.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SYLVESTER: And the real concern is that Congress could create a disincentive for people to give to charities at the very same time it is cutting government spending and services.

Normally it's the private -- these social agencies that fill in the gap, for example, if unemployment benefits are cut, but if some of these changes go through, well, those nonprofits may have a harder time serving those in need. Wolf and Kate?

BLITZER: All right. Lisa, thank you.

BOLDUAN: Still ahead in the wake of the Connecticut shooting, parents are looking for ways to make their children -- keep their children safe. Could bulletproof backpacks be one of the answers?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: After the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, CNN's Miguel Marquez finds parents are looking for anything to keep their kids safe.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It is a disturbing sign of the times.

(On camera): You guys make inserts for children's backpacks?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's correct.

MARQUEZ: Bullet-resistant inserts.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's correct.

MARQUEZ: This is one of them?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

MARQUEZ: Show us how they work.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. So this is our military-grade product.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): COO Rich Brand says in the last week sales have jumped 500 percent and they're still climbing. Desperate parents seeking ways to protect their kids in the most extreme situations. The material will not stop high-velocity rounds like the ones used in Newtown, but three shots with a .9 millimeter at point-blank range?

BRAND: All of the kinetic energy and penetration was actually absorbed with our armor.

MARQUEZ (on camera): Three small holes, the armor is a little stiffer. And the rounds are inside here?

BRAND: That's correct.

MARQUEZ: And Amendment Two is not alone. In Boston, Bullet Blocker promises your peace of mind is our business. In Austin, Texas, Bulletproofme.com says sales are up 50 percent. New customers, schools and daycare facilities.

Even the Colombian designer of fashionable protective clothing has a request for bullet-resistant garments for a toddler. (On camera): People do say you're profits off of terror and horror.

BRAND: And that's the last thing we wanted to do. I mean, this was something that we put out there at the request of parents, trying to meet the needs.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): Amendment Two says it's proprietary. Carbon nano tube material lends itself to a product some teachers have asked for, a protective blanket.

(On camera): Because of the lightweight nature of the material that the company uses, they say it could be used as a mat in a school, for instance, and in an emergency for protection.

(Voice-over): At Salt Lake City's Get Some Guns and Ammo owner Stuart Wallin says protective gear won't stop a killer, only another gun will.

STUART WALLIN, OWNER, GET SOME GUNS AND AMMO: If you knew every teacher in the school had a gun, I think you would think differently about your little plan.

MARQUEZ: Since 1995, Utah has allowed teachers to carry concealed weapons. The law is yet to be tested. But after Newtown, anything seems possible.

Miguel Marquez, CNN, Salt Lake City.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Certainly a sign of the times. Wow, what a sign of the times it is -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Yes. Erin Burnett "OUTFRONT" begins at the top of the hour. As always, tonight, looking at the mental health angle of the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut.

Erin, give our viewers a preview. What are you looking at?

ERIN BURNETT, CNN'S "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT": All right. Well, we're going to continue to focus on the mental health angle, Kate. And specifically, we have a man who's been studying the brains of people who have killed other people in horrific acts for 20 years. And he actually has a scan. I'll show you two brains here. And you guys can see one brain versus another.

The one that has more of the blue on it, that is the brain of a psychopath. And that is something you can tell when you look at a brain, it is also something that you can tell when you look at the genetic profile of somebody. But what's very interesting, is even though a lot of psychopaths or killers have brains like that, the brain that you're looking at there that would look to be psychopath is actually the brain of our guest.

His name is Dr. James Fallon, he's the guy who's been studying these killers. So he's going to explain about exactly what that scan tells you and what we can learn about Adam Lanza. Plus, we have some breaking developments at the top of the hour on some new information we're just learning about the alleged shooter Adam Lanza and what he -- what he may have wanted to do just a few years ago in regards to the U.S. military.

So we have that story coming up at the top of the hour. Back to you.

BOLDUAN: A lot going on. Very interesting. Erin Burnett, we'll see you at the top of the hour.

Thanks, Erin.

BURNETT: All right.

BLITZER: We will.

So it's what some flyers want. Many of them, though, dread being able to use cell phone on flights and not just in airplane mode. The unusual way one company is now testing the technology, that's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Many of us certainly like to use our computers or other electronic while in flight. New testing is underway right now to improve our Internet connection. But wait until you hear how these tests are being conducted.

And, Kate, you have discovered how these tests are being conducted.

BOLDUAN: How bizarre, how bizarre are they. Absolutely.

Aircraft engineers, they needed something to fill in for humans while they developed a test for wireless equipment. And strangely enough, they found their solution in the produce aisle.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BOLDUAN (voice-over): Potatoes, 20,000 pounds of them, in fact, were piled into the seats of this decommissioned plane in Arizona.

KENNETH KIRCHOFF, BOEING RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT ENGINEER: Potatoes, it turns out, have properties that are similar to humans in the way they interact with those radio frequency waves and they were quite cheap. And so -- and they stayed still and worked out that you could actually with sacks of potato build semi-human forms in the seats.

BOLDUAN: The goal for engineers like Ken Kirchoff was to design a better way to test wireless signals like wi-fi in aircraft.

KIRCHOFF: What you want to do is you want to design the system so that you get the best signal coverage throughout the airplane. BOLDUAN: This graphic shows the wireless signal strength inside a lab. The benefit of this potato project cutting down their testing time from weeks to just hours.

KIRCHOFF: It's not only just wi-fi that we can use that test technique for. It's other technologies, cell phones, Blue Tooth, headsets, anything that can transmit.

BOLDUAN: The FCC and the FAA have long banned cell phone use in flight. But Boeing and other manufacturers sell planes equipped with on-board cell phone systems outside the U.S. Emirates has let passengers talk on their phones for nearly five years.

PATRICK BRANNELLY, VICE PRESIDENT, EMIRATES: When we launched the service, it was kind of -- we were kind of surprised because people just said, why did it take so long? Now if they get on a plane that isn't equipped, they tend to complain.

BOLDUAN: An FAA study says carriers around the world that do allow cell phone use in flight have not reported any problems. Delta Airlines, the only U.S. carrier to respond to the study, called for allowing in-flight texting on phones but not voice calls. Citing a survey where 64 percent of passengers said talking on cell phones would hurt their in-flight experience.

Whatever kind of wireless service is allowed, Boeing says with the help of these spuds, it's figured out an even better way to make sure it works and is safe.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BOLDUAN: As for the potatoes, after their very fine service, they were shipped off to a food bank. So there's a good ending there. And the next time potatoes are loaded into a Boeing jet, it will likely be part of your in-flight meal. Kirchoff, the aircraft engineer, says this was a once-in-a-lifetime career project -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Delicious French fries.

BOLDUAN: Very sweet potatoes.

BLITZER: Thank you.

(LAUGHTER)

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BOLDUAN: Final goodbyes today to three more children from Sandy Hook Elementary School as well as two teachers and a beloved principal.

Today Dawn Hochsprung always was smiling. Parents say even the youngest kids at Sandy Hook Elementary knew their principal cared about them. Her funeral was in New York state. And Lauren Rousseau wanted to be a teacher since she was a child. She had just handed a job as a permanent substitute teacher at Sandy Hook.

And Anne Marie Murphy's mother says the special education teacher died doing what she loved. Serving children and serving God.

Six-year-old Allison Wyatt was quiet and shy but if someone did something funny, she'd be the first to laugh.

Catherine Hubbard is remembered for her bright red hair, her constant smile, her love of sports and her compassion for animals.

Benjamin Wheeler followed his dad around the yard helping him always with chores. His family moved to Newtown just last year.

BLITZER: From coast to coast, people are finding ways to honor their memories. Here are just a few.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a tribute to the schools. Because I have two kindergartners in school now. So there are just no words you can say for it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The outpouring of love in the community and throughout the world has been unbelievable.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need to find some way to come together around all victims of violence.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There was a group of students that had traveled from Florida, I believe they drove overnight to get up to Sandy Hook and they appeared at the memorial site and just started playing and singing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I feel your pain, I understand you're grieving. We are here for you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)