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JOHN KING, USA

Update on Representative Giffords; New Clues

Aired January 13, 2011 - 19:00   ET

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


JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks Wolf and good evening everyone. A lot of breaking news tonight including talk of a miracle in Tucson tonight, also word a missing piece of evidence is now in police hands and there is pain. One family's numbing loss has in many ways become the unifying symbol of Tucson's and America's tragedy. There was a funeral mass for 9-year-old Christina Taylor Green today.

She was born on 9/11 and a giant flag recovered from ground zero was lifted in a make shift arch outside the family's church. More on Christina in a moment including a conversation with the New York City firefighter who carried the historic flag to Tucson and some spent time tonight's with the girl's grieving parents.

There are also important developments in the investigation including the discovery of a piece of evidence we told you last night was missing, a black bag suspected assassin Jared Lee Loughner had the morning of the massacre. But first, our Dr. Sanjay Gupta joins us after an exclusive day of access to the medical team treating Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

It was another day of startling progress. She lifted both legs when asked to do so and the doctors are now accelerating her physical therapy. Let's go straight to Dr. Gupta. Doctor, before we get into the medical assessment, you also had a fascinating exclusive conversation, the first interview I'm aware of, with Gabrielle Giffords, the congresswoman's husband, Captain Mark Kelly. What did he tell you?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know it was a fascinating discussion. We talked for about 20 minutes. First of all, he did attend that memorial service, John that you were just talking about for Christina Green. In fact I met him right as he returned from that memorial service.

He talked about you know how he found out about what had happened to his wife. He was in Houston at the time. He got a call from Congressman Giffords chief of staff, Thea (ph), who told him what had happened, but just sort of rough idea, vague. There had been no news reports of this at this point, so he, you know he was frankly finding it hard to believe being in Houston, being a pilot, an astronaut, in fact he wanted to get his way to Tucson as quickly as possible.

Commercial flights would take too long. He was able to get some help from a friend on a private plane and got here within 45 minutes. Right about the time now that his wife, Congresswoman Giffords, was coming out of the operating room and that was the first time that this all started to come to reality for him. He met with two doctors, Doctor Rhee and Dr. Lemole. John, you've talked to both of them this week.

They basically told him what had happened at that point and tried to paint a picture of what the next several hours and days would be like. He talked a lot about last night, John, and the president of the United States visiting her. And I asked Captain Kelly, I said did your wife know that the president was there visiting with her. And he sort of paused for a second and he said, well, I think that she knew that the president was there, was in the room, but she wasn't quite sure why, which I thought was interesting and a very fair characterization probably of what is going on inside her mind right now.

John, you know one thing that I learned today as well is that Congresswoman Giffords was brought to this hospital behind me by an ambulance, not by helicopter, brought by ambulance, which is actually considered to be faster than a helicopter given the distance of the Safeway from this hospital. She did not have a breathing tube put in on site. The adopted what's known as a scoop and run sort of philosophy, get her here as quickly as possible and that's what they did here. Captain Kelly himself did not know that she had been brought by ground. He thought she had been brought by helicopter. It just gives you an idea of how fluid the situation still is, John, in terms of getting information.

KING: I want to get to the medical details and your exclusive access to the medical team in a minute, but help me again -- help us all understand, you have this conversation with Captain Kelly, we've all been waiting to hear from him, this is obviously an incredible time of hardship for him, yet there has been this hope in recent days. And so he's in the room, her friends from Congress come in, and what does he take away from that? I assume on the one hand he's incredibly excited but also a little bit of afraid to get too excited.

GUPTA: He's not the kind of guy that strikes me as somebody who would use the word miracle just off the cuff. And you heard the word miracle being thrown around a lot last night. And I'm not somebody who uses it off the cuff either, but I asked him specifically about that and he sort of got a little glimmer in his eyes and he said it was miraculous.

I think he really believed it. I'm not sure if he was referring to the timing of when she opened her eyes, being that the president was visiting right around that time and everything, but he really believes that she was opening her eyes, you know in some sort of recognition of all that was going on around her at that time. You know he said that he met with Dr. Rhee and Dr. Lemole. Dr. Rhee was, you know just straight to the facts.

She's going to survive. I'm confident of it. And he said Dr. Lemole said look, you know we've got to be cautious here and I guarantee she's going to have some steps backwards over the next several days. And then he looked at me and said she hasn't had any steps backwards yet. So we're keeping our fingers crossed. That's sort of his attitude and that's sort of his perception of things right now. Still has the breathing tube in, but Captain Kelly said that could come out as early as tomorrow, could be a few more days, but he's optimistic that's happening as well soon.

KING: It's breathtaking. Now, Dr. Gupta, this is what you do for a living and you were granted exclusive access to the trauma suite where she is being cared for, Congresswoman Giffords is being cared for today. Tell us what the highlights of what you learned from Dr. Lemole and the others.

GUPTA: Well you know Dr. Lemole in pretty great detail really talked about the specifics of this operation and you know we talked a little bit about that, but he really showed some of exactly what he did to try and make sure she had no pressure on her brain. John, it's called a decompressive hemicranectomy. You don't need to remember that name, but here's the point.

You take off almost half the skull on the head and the point is to provide a lot of room for the brain to swell. He said there hasn't been a lot of swelling and you know he just showed that in great detail, but you know I was curious especially after talking to Captain Kelly of what Dr. Lemole's perception was and exactly what the congresswoman knows right now. I mean does she understand what is going on with her and I asked him about that. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GUPTA: Do you feel that she understands all that has happened to her?

DR. MICHAEL LEMOLE, CHIEF OF NEUROSURGERY: I'm starting to think so.

GUPTA: She knows.

LEMOLE: It's really -- I was there when the congresswoman and the senator were in the room and to see her open her eye and look at them, there's just no question in my mind. And she's done that for her husband, as well. Those glimmers of recognition, that tracking of the eyes tells you a whole lot more, that she is aware of her surroundings to some extent coming in and out perhaps and that she's trying to engage that reality, as well.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GUPTA: You know so we've been talking about the fact that she follows commands, John, obviously significant because it shows a certain higher level of cognitive and consciousness in terms of her function. This is more than that. And I think that's why Lemole is excited. I think that's why Captain Kelly was excited, the fact that she now is getting some recognition, sort of putting the pieces of the puzzle together, John. That's what Lemole and Captain Kelly were really describing to me today.

KING: And Doc, help me the best you can here. I'm sure in your experience you have lost patients that you thought were going to make it and that patients have made it that you thought you were going to lose. At the briefing earlier today, Dr. Lemole was saying you know miracles happen every day and most doctors like to think it was their work or the work of somebody else in the medical team, but he also says sometimes you just can't connect those dots and let's just not understate that there are miracles in our lives. How spiritual I guess are you when you're trained clinically, you're practiced not to panic, but what is the spirituality of the moment?

GUPTA: Well, there -- you know as much as we'd like to think we know everything there is to know about these operations and predictive of the outcomes and all that, you're absolutely right, John. I've been surprised and I think every surgeon probably has been surprised in both directions. Things that you thought were flawless and the outcome was not what you wanted and vice versa, where patients somehow recovered in some way that you just could not possibly explain.

And families ask you can you explain to me what happened here and you simply can't. And I think that Lemole is referring to that. He is a very good neurosurgeon, no question he was very quick in terms of being able to take her to the operating room and do that operation. But you know he even -- he thought that she was going to have some backwards days as he told Captain Kelly and myself that she was just going to backward, you know move backwards over a couple of days, and she just hasn't done that. She's moved forward every single day for the last five days and I think that's what is so -- probably that's the most astounding part of this for the doctors caring for her.

KING: It is remarkable. Sanjay, before I let you go, you also had a chance to talk another shooting victim who is recovering in that hospital, Ron Barber and I'm told he relayed quite a remarkable story to you. Share it with us.

GUPTA: It's hard to tell, John, the story. And I've been thinking about it almost since I spoke with him. Ron Barber is a staff member, a community outreach member for the congresswoman. He worked 40 years in another job, development of disabilities (ph), was retired, and he came back to work for the congresswoman. He was standing next to her on the day that this happened.

And he -- like some of the other stories you heard, he saw some activity and started to recognize something was wrong. And he told me he was looking at the congresswoman when she was shot. He was looking at her. And obviously realized what had happened and then he turned around like this and he himself was shot in the face and in the leg. And when he fell down, John, this is almost hard to talk about -- when he fell down the congresswoman was facing in the other direction.

He fell down next to her so he was facing her back. And they were both just slumped over. And he was a wake. He was conscious. He was you know cognizant of what was happening. And then right in between them fell Gabe, Gabe Zimmerman. He fell down and Ron had a hard time talking about this, but he wanted to tell the story as a part his own catharsis I believe, but he saw Gabe fall right in between him and the congresswoman and he said he was clearly had died.

He was still. He was not moving. He saw significant gunshot to his body. And he described that. You know he also described the fact that he had significant bleeding coming out of a wound in his leg, one of the major blood vessels there and a bystander, someone who is not part of this event at all. It was just someone actually going to the Safeway to shop, actually put pressure on his leg and all the doctors here and Ron himself said there's no question it saved his life.

He was bleeding so profusely from this injury that she saved his life. I don't know if you're looking at video, John, but apparently this woman, Anna, was with him today. He got to meet this woman, the woman who saved his life today, and they were strolling around here behind me at the memorial. But it was just -- it was an unbelievable story. I have, you know I've never heard anything quite like that, the horror of it and then the unbelievable heroic efforts of it, as well.

KING: Dr. Sanjay Gupta on the scene for us -- Doc, fascinating reporting. Keep at it. Thanks so much for sharing all that exclusive access with us today. We'll be in touch with Dr. Gupta. Thank you, Sanjay.

Now to some important developments in the investigation today, the authorities now have a black bag and they're testing it to learn if it is the one suspected assassin Jared Lee Loughner had the morning of the massacre. With us on the telephone now one of the lead investigators, Bureau Chief Richard Kastigar of the Pima County Sheriff's Office -- sir, it's good to speak with you tonight.

When we spoke yesterday, you said this was among the pieces of evidence you were looking for. They have found it today. As we speak tonight, are you certain or not yet certain it is the bag that Mr. Loughner's father said he had that morning?

RICHARD KASTIGAR, BUREAU CHIEF, PIMA CO. SHERIFF'S DEPT. (via phone): Well, John, we're absolutely not certain, but we certainly have very good reason to believe that this is related. The location that the bag was found at, its description as per the dad, and even the contents are very, very, very suggestive to lead a reasonable person to conclude that this is likely what was involved in this case.

This is one of the pieces of missing evidence. Obviously we have to be cautious, we have to take that bag as well as its content and I think by now your listeners know that there were several -- or several boxes of ammunition in there, the ammunition type happens to fit the weapon that was used. And we have to take that and we have to do trace evidence.

It's with the FBI now. I'm certain that they're going to be looking for everything from fingerprints to DNA, so there's a little bit more work to do, but I feel comfortable in telling you that it's very likely involved in this incident.

KING: And so that would help you, assuming you are correct, it would help you with the what and the how. When we were speaking yesterday, we were still trying to answer the big and the most important riddle of why, anything else in the bag? There's ammunition I'm told, the receipts I'm told. Any other notes, news clippings, anything at all that would give you any sense to motive?

KASTIGAR: Well, I can tell you there are other things in the bag, but I'm not going to discuss the specifics because we need to substantiate through others who might have been involved with what is in the bag how they got there. So it sounds a little bit coy perhaps in our approach to this to you folks, but to be very honest, we need to protect this as evidence and go talk to people who may have further information that can substantiate how the items in the bag got there.

(CROSSTALK)

KASTIGAR: Suffice it to say we got ammunition in there and it matches that type of ammunition that was used in this incident.

KING: Is -- are the other materials, I understand and respect the need for privacy and to protect the integrity of the evidence. Are the other materials something that could get you into the motive issue if you are certain -- if you are certain they were not put in after the fact or if they have his fingerprints, for example?

KASTIGAR: They don't really lead to a motive, John, but they certainly do tell us that there's a relationship between what's in the bag and what happened on Saturday and what his movements were leading up to that time.

KING: By that can I assume some notice of the event or some photographs of the site or something to that effect?

KASTIGAR: Well it gives us some indication where he was and what he was doing.

KING: All right, let me move on to another question. A bunch of reports, we talked about this yesterday and you were adamant that there was nothing in the record, he has a few minor offenses in the past that young people get involved, drug paraphernalia, underage drinking, but you said there was nothing in the record, at least in front of your department that would say, wait a minute, we've got a problem here, we need to intervene and do something.

The Pima Community College Department of Public Safety released a bunch of reports today and there are evidence in here that no, no direct threats against anybody, but the people who were around this guy at the school felt threatened. They thought he was capable of violence. In Arizona, you can petition and go and say this person has a problem. This person I think is unstable.

This person I think is dangerous and you can petition to have them forced into mental health treatment, at least an evaluation. Do you believe when you look at this evidence that someone at that school and the police department or the administration should have taken that step?

KASTIGAR: Well I can tell you that hindsight is certainly 20/20 and I know that's cliquish (ph) in my comment. But there's still not specific information that would lead a reasonable person to conclude of what the events would be just a few days ago. This individual certainly had some bizarre behavior and it's easy to sit back and say, you know what, this guy was very strange in the classroom and disruptive and I could have predicted that.

Well I'm going to tell you we couldn't have predicted that. The other difficulty is what the other police department reported was not of a criminal nature and it might have violated the college campus' administrative rules and it might have caused them to take administrative action against him, but there was very little criminal action. And another thing, John, you need to understand, although there's a little more specificity with regard to the issue of commitment, and you really have to make a direct threat to yourself or someone else before you may be involuntarily committed.

Now, voluntary commitment is a different issue. And that would rest with the individual and/or the caretakers and/or perhaps the parents' influence. But involuntary commitments are a little bit more of a difficult challenge.

KING: Chief Kastigar, appreciate your time tonight for this breaking news, we'll stay in touch in the days ahead. Thank you very much, sir.

KASTIGAR: Thank you, John. Have a good night.

KING: Thank you, sir, you too. And when we come back, one of the friends who was in the room when Congresswoman Giffords first opened her eyes and a sense of whether the tone might be different when Congress gets back to business next week and Republicans push to repeal the Obama health care law -- first, though, a farewell.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: She showed an appreciation for life uncommon for a girl her age. She'd remind her mother, we are so blessed. We have the best life.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There aren't any words, but just for them to show their love and support and be there for us, it's comforting. We have to be strong. Our country is being strong; our community is being strong for us, so we will, you know, get through this with our faith, our friends and our family.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She would want to say to us today enjoy life. Live it to the full. Don't squander it.

OBAMA: If there are rain puddles in heaven, Christina is jumping in them today.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Joining us now a Democrat who was at last night's memorial service in Tucson and who just before that ceremony participated in what she likes to call a miracle. Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida joins us now. And Congresswoman I want to ask you about what comes next week when you get back to business and back to repealing health care, the effort in the House. But I want to start, I want to start -- take us inside the room last night, you're visiting your friend Gabby Giffords, the congresswoman and you say you saw a miracle.

REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D), FLORIDA: Well, it was nothing short of a miracle. I don't know that I've ever -- other than the birth of my kids, I don't know that I've ever been that close to a miracle. But just first of all the thrill and the joy to be able to be there for my friend Gabby, you know Kirsten Gillibrand, myself, Leader Pelosi there by her side. We wanted to do everything we could to help encourage her, to you know to get better as quick as she could.

I had a chance to talk to her about you know some of the good times we've had. I said to her at one point, Gabby, you know you need to get better as quick as you can because we expect you back in New Hampshire where we've -- they vacationed with us the last couple of summers. And right when I did that, John, she -- her eyes just started to open slightly, just in slits. And then Mark, her husband, he just got so excited.

He said Gabby, Gabby, if you can see me, then give me the thumbs up sign and she couldn't do it -- she didn't do it not right away. Then we just kept talking to her and the doctor said oh my gosh this is incredible progress. He whips out his BlackBerry. I see him out of the corner of my eye, e-mailing frantically, then -- and we're all getting overcome with emotion and continuing to talk to her and urging her on, you know Mark said Gabby open your eyes again.

Can you see me? Give me the thumbs up. And then all of a sudden she opened them up a little bit more and a little bit more and then her arm flew up after the last time, he asked her to give, to give him a thumbs up, and he said touch my ring, honey, and she did. And she touched his arm. And, John, it was just -- my heart I think was about to burst out of my chest. It was just amazing.

KING: And you have zero doubt, zero doubt that she knew who was talking to her and exactly -- and she was responding to specific words and commands?

SCHULTZ: Oh, look, I'm no medical expert, but it was very clear that she was responding to our voices, to what we were saying. And I mean actually after we left the hospital room, Dr. Lemole, who has been on the news and so wonderfully explained what's going on medically to the country, he said, you know and he's pretty matter of fact guy. Not easily impressed like most doctors don't seem to be. And he said to us, look, I usually dismiss emotion and the impact of emotion and friendship, and he said to us we just witnessed the power of friendship. So I just -- it was incredible.

KING: Did he sound any cautionary --

(CROSSTALK)

KING: We don't know sadly and the signs are very optimistic and what you saw last night is incredible and I'm glad you're helping us understand it -- any cautionary notes about what it tells you about where she can get?

SCHULTZ: Oh, yes. He absolutely continued to caution us and everyone that there is a long road ahead and -- but the hopeful thing was how happy they were that this was significant progress so soon after the injury. But there is a long way to go. There's no question about it and that can't be understated.

KING: What were you told to expect going into the room? I assume it was a lower expectation which is what made it all the more dramatic and miracle.

SCHULTZ: Oh, yes. I mean I -- you know I had a chance to talk to Mark on the phone and we've been texting back and forth. And so you know I was aware of what she looked like and actually she looked so much better than -- she looked beautiful actually -- so much better than I expected. I mean I have not seen someone who has had a gunshot wound ever in my life.

But she -- and I don't want to violate her privacy, so I'm not going to describe anything, but she looks -- her strength really, you could see it in her. We could feel it with her struggling to open her eyes. I mean you could see every ounce of Gabby Giffords' determination that I know so well just pouring out of her to get those eyes open and to respond to our voices and to Mark's encouragement.

KING: It is remarkable and we will continue to pray as I know you will.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: It's a tough transition to make, but the Republican leadership says it's back to work next week. And one of the questions, and the president talked about this last night, can we be more civil in our politics. You are going to get to the business; the House Republicans want to repeal the health care bill. And as you well know that was one of the most emotional, some would say vitriolics (ph), certainly a lot of hyperbole in the debate about it in the Congress and throughout the last campaign season.

The question is what next. I want you to listen here to one Republican and one Democrat. This is from just last week on the prospect of moving ahead for the repeal. This is not as tough as it was in the first debate, not as tough as it was in the campaign but listen to this language.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I suggest that we pull Obama care out by the roots, root and branch, lock stock and barrel, eradicate it completely and leave not one vestige of its DNA left behind because it is a malignant tumor into the spirit of America's vitality and constitutionality.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The repeal of it is actually a killer of human beings. Some 40,000 Americans die every year for lack of health insurance. That's the reality. Repeal this bill, and you're going to find more Americans dying.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Will it be different next week? Will people decide, will Democrats say here are the provisions we like. This is what we think they do to help people and will Republicans say, no, these are the provisions we don't like and whether it's the reach of government or the cost or whatever. Will we have a policy debate or will we have that?

SCHULTZ: I am no less opposed to repealing health care reform than I was last week before this tragic accident -- this tragedy happened. But I think we all need to -- we have to lead by example in Congress and then hopefully others who are outside the congressional process will almost be shamed into taking a page from our book. Because I think it's absolutely imperative. What President Obama, his beautiful words last night when he said that Christina Green had hopes, high expectations for our democracy, and we have to live up to those expectations and the expectations of our children.

KING: Let me ask you lastly as a symbolic gesture, one of your Democratic colleagues on the Senate side, Mark Udall, has proposed never mind the usual practice of the Republicans sit on this side of the House chamber, the Democrats sit on this side of the House chamber. Let's all sit together. Let's all sit together and listen to the president as a sign of respect and a sign of unity. Good idea?

SCHULTZ: You know I've already -- I think it's a great idea. I've already been thinking of who I might ask to sit with me.

KING: Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz there -- when we come back, the Republican perspective from Jeff Flake of Arizona. He was at Christina Martin's -- Christina Green's -- excuse me -- funeral today and at the memorial service last night. We'll talk to Congressman Flake in just a minute.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Joining me now, Republican Congressman Jeff Flake of Arizona. He was at last night's memorial service when the president spoke at the University of Arizona. And he's just now back from the funeral of the youngest victim of this tragedy, Christina Green.

Congressman, let's start there. You have a congresswoman shot, a federal judge killed, the president leading the nation in tribute and reflection. And yet this little girl in some ways has become the most unifying figure just because of the most horrible thought of a nine- year-old girl, who wanted to see what democracy looked like. Her life snuffed out in this heinous rampage and her parents having to do what no parents should ever have to do. Tell us about the service today.

REP. JEFF FLAKE (R) ARIZONA: It was a beautiful service. And as you mentioned, there is nothing tougher. I cannot imagine. I don't believe any of us that haven't gone through it can know what a parent must feel as they bury their child. And it was just a very difficult service in a way, but very beautiful, as well.

KING: When you see the community together as it is, I spoke a bit earlier to the New York City fireman who rushed down there, with the giant flag, and it is an incredibly sad moment. I'm a parent of two children. I can't fathom. I can't wrap my mind around it. And yet when you see the community rallying like that there is-it's a tough thing to say at the moment, but there is an upside, no?

FLAKE: I can tell you being it at the memorial service last night and being in Tucson a bit this past week, it's been a community that's gone through a lot. And to see the community rally together and to celebrate those who are recovering, and to honor those who gave their lives and those who risked their lives to save the others, it's just an incredible experience all the way around. And for the say state of Arizona, I think the state certainly wants to people to remember all the heroism, and the good things rather than just one lone gunman.

KING: That is an excellent point you make. I just flew back this morning after several days there. And it's very raw in Tucson, as you, I'm sure have experienced. And people are mad on the one hand, and they are shocked on the other hand.

And the memorial service last night, everyone I spoke to found uplifting. And I want you to listen to a little bit what the president said. And we'll talk about it because you understand, you're coming back to work next week, and people will question will it be any different? Let's listen to the president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: At a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who happen to think differently than we do. It's important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we're talking with each other in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Will we meet that test, Congressman? As you know, you delayed the health care repeal vote this year, it was the right choice by your leadership, they will bring it up next week. I think everybody think everybody has to get back to business. You just heard your Democratic colleague Debbie Larson Schultz saying she is, you know, she is determined to fight your effort to the repeal, but she hopes that she, herself, will do it in a more civil way. Will we?

FLAKE: Right. Well, let me just say first that I told the president after the speech that he's given a lot of good speeches, but none better than last night. It was just exactly what I think we needed to hear and I've seen things in the last couple of days that I didn't think I'd see in Congress. To have a bipartisan conference call, where you don't have either side jockeying for a political advantage, and the same on the House floor. And when we get to the health care debate and other things, those are items that there should be debate on. And there might even need to be partisan debate. But I think that all of us, myself included, and others, want to go into this next week and into the future with a renewed commitment to more civility and more civil tone.

KING: And our leaders are being watched at this moment. You have a Republican congressman right here applauding the Democratic president of the United States; doesn't happen that often in our politics this day. You had a there last night Senator McCain cut short an overseas trip, or his trip to South America to come home. The state leadership was there, a lot of national leadership was there. The new speaker of the House, your leader, John Boehner, did not make the trip. And he was at a political event here in Washington. Do you think that was the right call?

FLAKE: Well, let me say that the Arizona delegation, some of us have been scheduled to take part in the memorial service held on Capitol Hill and we felt badly at having missed that. And the speaker felt that he should stay for that, and I think that that was appropriate. That was already scheduled and he did a great job on the floor prior to that, and in that service. So I don't think anyone should fault him for staying in Washington.

KING: Jeff Flake, Republican congressman from Arizona. Sir, it's been a tough few days. And a tough few days, we appreciate your time tonight.

FLAKE: Thank you.

KING: Thank you. Take care, Sir.

When we come back, a veteran criminal profiler takes us inside the investigation. Her perspective on what might have motivated this assassin just ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: A pair of troubling questions keep getting bigger as we learn more about the suspect, Jared Lee Loughner's past. What happened and why? With us now former FBI criminal profiler Candice Delong. She also has served as the head psychiatric nurse at Northwestern University.

Ms. Delong, thanks for joining us.

CANDICE DELONG, FMR. FBI CRIMINAL PROFILER: You're welcome.

KING: From everything you've seen, everything you've read, everything you've heard, when you overlap that with your experience, who is Jared Lee Loughner?

DELONG: It sounds to me as if Jared Lee Loughner is probably someone suffering from a major psychiatric disorder known as schizophrenia. This is not multiple personality. This is a condition wherein the individual may hear voices, but is frequently guided by delusion. They have a thought disorder. They misperceive things. They may see two strangers talking across the street and instantly think that those people are talking to them. They may see you on the TV and think that you are speaking directly to him. They don't perceive things right and they frequently feel threatened by their surroundings and threatened by others. It appears to me that may be at the root of what Mr. Loughner's problems are.

KING: And if he is who you believe him to be, by your estimation, what is he thinking now as he sits in federal prison?

DELONG: Well, the thing about schizophrenia and delusions, which a delusion is a strong belief and an idea that has no basis in concept, it appears that he was threatened by the congresswoman. That he -- I'm guessing he took a shot at her, tried to kill her, because he believed she was dangerous, at least dangerous to him. The fact that he was apprehended and he's been in jail for five days hasn't taught him a lesson. He can't be talked out of delusions. People suffering in the grips of schizophrenia are irrational, and unreasonable, so he's probably still thinking, she is still a danger.

KING: And does he compare to others? You're basing your assumptions here, your estimations, based on your own experience in other cases you've studied. Put him into context for us. Put this crime into context.

DELONG: Well, this is a very serious crime, the vast majority of people with schizophrenia and it's approximately 1 to 2 percent of the population, never hurt anyone except themselves. They don't want to be around other people. They don't like talking to other people. Of the millions of homeless people in this country, approximately 50 percent of them suffer from a serious mental illness such as this, but they're not the people on the street going up to you and even asking for spare change. They don't want interaction with people. So if Jared is suffering from schizophrenia, the fact that he did this is unusual. It's rare. Sadly, however, though John, when a schizophrenic does become violent, it usually makes headlines like this.

KING: And so what are the signs? I have in front of me a bunch of reports. Let's start here. From Pima Community College, Department of Public Safety, teachers, fellow students did not want him in the classroom. They felt he was bizarre and in some cases threatening. Here is from one of the reports. Teacher had said Loughner made comments in the class after the poem that were a huge leap from the context of the poem, said things about abortion, wars, killing people and why don't we just strap bombs to babies. Loughner has a dark personality and it is creepy. They have resolved to keep an eye on him.

Arizona has a law in which you can petition to force somebody to get a mental health evaluation. Do things like that in these reports, is that enough to meet the test in your view?

DELONG: Yes, absolutely. One of your earlier guests said, and this may be the case with Arizona, but, it's not the case in other places where I've worked, in Illinois and currently in California, or that I'm aware of, their psychiatric laws. They can be -- a person can be evaluated, can be picked up by the police and brought into a county psychiatric facility and evaluated by a psychiatrist, who may find them to be in need of mental health treatment, and can hold them against -- it's called an involuntary commitment for 72 hours, if they are suicidal, homicidal or gravely disabled as a result of their mental illness. Someone hearing voices, delusional, talking about blowing up babies with bombs and what not, might have been considered by psychiatrists to be gravely disabled at that moment and could have been held for a minimum of 72 hours. If they're deemed after 72 hours by this the psychiatrist to still need treatment, then they may have a hearing in front of a judge who would decide if they stay for two more weeks.

KING: And when you look at cases in the past, is this consistent or inconsistent? And the question is this, the police say when they finally searched his house, they found a lockbox in his bedroom that had a form letter the congresswoman had sent, talking about an event he had been at in the past. And some scribbles an envelope, die bitch, die pigs, reference to cops, but not a big diary, not a lot of news clippings, just a couple of things. Not somebody who is obsessing to the point that they're collecting all these things.

DELONG: Well, what was probably going on, and certainly what we certainly know now after the events of last Saturday, the approach earlier that he had months before, probably is what we know in law enforcement and profiling and this kind of analysis as a nonlethal approach. He approached her -- he probably had a gun with him at the time -- to see how close he could get to her. A true political assassin would not have scribblings, writings, would not tell anyone. In this particular case, Mr. Loughner's mental illness was guiding him. And that probably-I mean, he had moments of hate, moments of -- he's probably told someone what was in his head and why he believes he was justified in what he did. His reasons make perfect sense to him.

KING: Candice Delong, appreciate your insights tonight. Thank you very much.

DELONG: You're welcome.

KING: When we come back, the shooting comes up at the White House briefing and the president's press secretary defending the United States of America.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: She saw all this through the eyes of a child; undimmed by the cynicism or vitriol that we adults all too often just take for granted. I want to live up to her expectations.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: The president of the United States talking last night about nine-year-old Christina Green. Funeral service for her today. Will we? Will we live up to her expectations? Let's have a conversation with Erick Erickson our contributor and the editor of ConservativeRedState.com. And with me here, Democrat Cornell Belcher.

Let me start with you Cornell. You are in the room. Will we? Will it get-or will we in 72 or 172 hours be back to screaming at each other and calling each other jerks. CORNELL BELCHER, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: I'd like to hope so. However, I've been in this town long enough to know that it is tough. Here is the problem: If the American people demand I think it will change. If the middle swath of Americans demand it, and they reward the politicians for it, which I think they will, I think that some of the numbers coming out right now say that they will. They will force the politicians to change. But right now, unless the American people are demanding that they change it will be hard to change.

KING: What do you think, Eric? Because the point I like to make, and we made it a long time ago when you agreed to enjoy this network and come on the program, there are great ideas to fight about, there are great debates to have about the size of government, and spending, and taxes, and healthcare and the role and reach of government, and schools, and everything else across the spectrum. We can have them without saying well, I disagree with you that means you are un-American, or you don't love your country? Can't we?

ERICK ERICKSON, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: I would hope so. I was somewhat disappointed reading the transcript of the White House press conference with Gibbs and the number of reporters trying to get him to engage in the blame game. And you know it is not just the politicians it is all around. It will have to be the press, American people, everyone participating and trying to change the tone-if it is to change at all.

KING: Let's listen in. You mentioned some of the back and forth at the White House briefing, with reporters trying to see if the president had anybody in mind, when he said certain things. And this is one of the things they were asking about. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION: This is America, the democracy, the freedom of speech, the freedom of assembly, the freedom to petition your government, and many people outside would also say.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: That was a question from a Russian reporter there, I want to come back in a minute. I wanted to play a little bit more from the president's speech last night. This is what reporters were asking, who did the president have in mind when he said this?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: If this tragedy prompts reflection and debate, as it should, let's make sure it is worthy of those we have lost.

(APPLAUSE)

Let's make sure it's not on the usual plane of politics and point scoring and pettiness that drifts away in the next news cycle.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: There were some, Cornell, and maybe it was coming more from people on the right, who might have been trying to stir something up, but politely. Saying, look, the people who were playing blame, or those who were-whether it was pointing to the Sarah Palin Web postings or other things. Was the president there, delivering a message to the left saying back off?

BELCHER: I think he was delivering, he delivered a message to the country, which he has to do as the leader of the country, he was delivering a message to the country. The other thing he said, no one can know what triggered this. He was speaking directly to us saying bring this down, let's move forward. He was-he was a leader last night. And it was one of his finest performances.

KING: Eric?

ERICKSON: You know I think that was probably the best speech he has given as president. It really was a tremendous speech. The genius of those paragraphs there is the left can say he was talking to the right. Right can say he was talking to the left. Overall he was talking to everyone. As I have said all week, the blame game and did political rhetoric cause this, and all, we have got six people dead in Arizona. And it's just been a distraction all week and I'm glad he said it.

KING: Amen. We will end on that point. We will see, when we are here next week and we're talking about the efforts to repeal healthcare in the House, let's see how we handle ourselves, and lets see how the politicians handle themselves. Maybe we can have a fierce, partisan, feisty debate that is not so personal and vitriolic. Eric and Cornell, appreciate your time tonight.

When we come back I will talk to the New York City firefighter who had this important mission today. Carry the flag from 9/11 from ground zero to Christina Greene's funeral in Tucson.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: As the family and mourners entered the church for Christina Green's funeral they passed under a U.S. flag recovered at the scene of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack in New York City. Christina was born that very day. A short time ago I asked New York City firefighter Jimmy Sands, who brought the flag to Tucson, what Christina's parents told him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIMMY SANDS, 9/11 FLAG HONOR GUARD: It meant a lot to them. That was pretty much the extent of our small conversation. They were definitely overwhelmed with all of the people that came out today. It was a beautiful ceremony and we are just very happy to -- to give them a little happiness today.

KING: Help people who maybe don't quite understand the history of the flag, what it means to you, and what you think it should mean, not only to the people of Tucson tonight, but to the country? SANDS: Basically it is a symbol of our rebuilding, turning a tragedy into something positive. The flag is 20 by 30, and it is being stitched back together. And when it is completed it will be brought down to the museum at the Trade Center site.

KING: And, Jimmy Sands, what, what else did you hear from people there today, not only from Christina's parents, but others about the significance of seeing that giant flag up there to help them through this difficult day?

SANDS: It was very emotional. Everybody was saying thank you. They were -- they were very happy that we were able to bring this flag here today.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Great to have that conversation with Jimmy Sands, adding to the solemn day in Tucson.

Let's close the night with a conversation with our Pete Dominick.

Pete, we usually have fun at this time in the program. Tonight and this week has been a time of reflection. I know you were struck last night as a parent, by the president speaking, near the end of the speech, he was speaking much more as parent of two daughters than the president of 309 million people.

PETE DOMINICK, CNN OFFBEAT REPORTER: That's right, John King.

Not only did he speak as a parent, I think he spoke as a son, when he thought about losing his mom. He spoke as a husband, I think, you know, looking down at his wife. And, yes, he spoke most importantly as a parent. Last night the president I think, he wasn't only the president. He was an American, he was a parent.

My wife walked out after putting our little girls to bed, I was just waterworks, crying. She said, what's wrong? The president is talking about this little girl. We think about our little girls. It was really poignant, really touching. I thought the president did a great job.

John, I think you did a great job out there as well. I am happy you were out there, because you were able to tell us and our viewers the energy out there. Last night you said these people needed something to celebrate. They have been mourning for days. What was it like that energy out there being in that community?

KING: Well it was, sad to make the trip, Pete. But I am a reporter, I am a reporter, I am a report. This anchor thing is sometimes still new to me in the sense you are sometimes forced inside a studio. I say that with no disrespect. When something like this happens, you are saddened, but you want to go there to see it and feel it. To the point, I think it was hard if you were just listening at home and you hadn't been to Tucson, to hear the laughter, cheering and all the applause and what looked like a celebration. The town had been in shock for days, and crying for days, they were celebrating the first responders, the doctors, and everybody else. It was quite moving.

Pete, we will see you tomorrow.

DOMINICK: Tomorrow, we'll have a good time.

KING: We'll have time to laugh in the days ahead.

That's all for us tonight. I am glad to be back. I don't dislike my studio that much. We'll see you right here tomorrow night. PARKER SPITZER starts right now.