Return to Transcripts main page
JOHN KING, USA
Deadly Storm; Governor Jay Nixon Interview
Aired May 26, 2011 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN KING, HOST: Thanks Wolf and good evening everyone. Tonight Sarah Palin suddenly schedules a bus trip starting right here in the nation's capital. One of several signs Republicans say suggests she's now getting serious about a presidential run. Yet FOX News says there's no change in her role at the network.
And the Supreme Court gives its blessing to an Arizona immigration law the Obama White House views as mean spirited toward Latinos and wanted to declare it unconstitutional. But we begin tonight again with the pain and anger in Joplin, Missouri. The official death toll there tonight stands at 125. Though officials concede they expect to find more bodies, perhaps dozens more as they begin now to clear the rubble of the deadliest tornado on record.
There is also a new official count of the missing tonight. This is the list right here -- 232 names on this list. That's way down from the 1,500 estimate officials had been using for days. And with the new list came new promises to speed up the process by which families can identify the remains of lost loved ones.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDREA SPILLARS, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, MO DEPT. OF PUBLIC SAFETY: Going forward, we will have regular briefings in order to update you about what our progress is to get that number of unaccounted for individuals to zero, that is our goal to connect each and every one of those names with a loved one to make sure that we have reconciled that process.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: There are some signs, some signs that process is improving tonight. Yet not enough or fast enough for many of the affected families. CNN's Brian Todd is live in Joplin tonight, and Brian, early on, once the list was finally, finally made public, already you found some discrepancies, some mistakes?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We did, John, and almost no sooner than we got this list than we found that one of the key people who we have been profiling this week with he and his family, he was reported missing, he was on this list, but we found him on this list twice. His name is Lance Hare (ph), 16 years old.
We had interviewed his mother, Michelle Hare (ph), who had been looking for him since the tornado struck. They had reported him missing. This is the list of people officially reported missing by their families, the 232, well our photo journalist Bob Crowley (ph) is going to zoom in here. You can see under Lance's (ph) last name, Hare (ph), it says Caylee. His full name is Caylee Lance Hare (ph). So you see it here, address, age 16. You flip the page and you see it here where I have the mark.
Now it's listed as Caylee Lance (ph). It's under a different version of his name, same address, same age. So clearly he's on this list twice. We have asked officials why that mistake was made, we have tried to get that answer, we have not gotten any response yet, John, and we do have some sad news to report that since this list came out, not more than a couple of hours later, I spoke with Lance's mother Michelle, just to ask her about the discrepancy here and she had some even more sad news to report, they did get a positive identification of Lance from local law enforcement and he is deceased -- John.
KING: It's a sad note, Brian. In that conversation and this is tough, I was there for a couple of days. As you've been there, when you talk to these families, of course they want to find their loved ones alive, they're looking for miracles, but many also as they begin to deal with four and five days later, their hopes have been dashed and they want to begin the closure process. Is that your sense of where that family is tonight?
TODD: Absolutely it is and there's a frustration now because the Hares and other families, those who know that their loved ones are deceased, they have that information. They still can't get to the bodies. They still can't recover the bodies to start to plan memorial services, to do things like that. There was another family whose son -- they were with their son actually in the hospital when he passed away.
And the authorities took the body and put it in this temporary morgue or somewhere else where they're keeping some of the bodies. They can't recover that body either. That's a frustration as well. People have to have some closure. They have to plan memorial services, but because of this process, local and state officials trying to get their arms around finding the missing, Id'ing (ph) the bodies, they just haven't been able to release all the bodies yet.
You know you do feel for the officials too. They're trying their hardest to make everything accurate, but there are clearly problems here, John. This list -- there's another person on the list that we know of, James Williamson (ph). I talked to his daughter tonight. We profiled her yesterday. She told me he's alive. And that he was out volunteering somewhere and they just didn't know where he was. He's on the list. They have got to try to update this list. They have to move faster and I think they know that.
KING: And to that point, there's the biggest issue here is compassion and the search for these hurt families. But there is, Brian, as you get in to day four and five, an accountability question. There's no question the local officials were overwhelmed. There's no question the state and federal authorities are trying to re-enforce them in the past 24 hours or so. But when they release a list, you find inconsistencies and then they don't get back to you. When you -- when they release a list you find somebody whose family says no, no, no, he's alive, and they explain it. They are running into a credibility question, not just with us, but as we have been in the community the last few days, with their own citizens.
TODD: They certainly are. And it's a huge problem. They have got to straighten this out. They have got to get the information out there. They did say today that they're going to start holding regular, daily briefings. I get the sense that the information will be streamlined, that it will be coming out faster, that they'll get it out there.
I think part of the problem, John, is they've -- you know you were here. You saw the chaotic nature of what's going on here and how -- they're just trying to get their arms around the accounting of people, finding people who may still be alive, if that window is not closed yet, which it may be, but also the overwhelming media presence here.
They're getting inundated with calls. People are coming up to them constantly, pulling them aside, give me this, give me that information. It's very tough for them in a small town like this to try to get their arms around it. Now they've got help from state and federal officials and you hope that it just gets a little bit more streamlined.
KING: That's an excellent point to end that conversation. We hope it gets a little bit -- a lot more streamlined, especially for those families. Brian Todd live for us tonight in Joplin -- thank you Brian.
And I flew back from Joplin just this morning and if you were here with us last night, you might remember I spent some time yesterday with a couple who had been told by a neighbor he saw their son's body taken away in an ambulance just after the tornado, but that family, that couple for three straight days had been turned away or asked to fill out more paperwork when they went looking for information.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How long is it going to be before anybody tells us anything about any of the bodies? I mean is it going to be days before anybody knows? I mean there's people sitting down there you know that or wherever you guys are hiding them, their bodies are just --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can assure you --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We wanted to check back to see if there's any progress today. Joining us now from Joplin, Missouri a couple we first introduced to you on Wednesday, Tammy and Tony Niederhelman. They are frustrated, more than a little angry because they have been unable to account for their 12-year-old son Zach now five days after the tornado.
Thank you both for joining us on yet another painful day. Tammy, I want to start with you first, the governor says he's sending in more state troopers. We are told that federal officials will be more involved now, essentially the state and the federal government trying to take a more active role in helping he families identify the bodies or find the missing. Are you any more confident today than you were when I was with you yesterday?
TAMMY NIEDERHELMAN, SON WAS KILLED IN TORNADO: No, not at all. I just -- every time a phone rings, I pray that that number might be maybe some information, and every time it's a letdown. You know I just -- I don't have a lot of confidence built up in anybody right now after what we've been through all week and losing our paperwork and not having us fill out the correct paperwork. I did see this morning there is a list that Zachary is finally on a list. That, you know, maybe a little bit of comfort at least we know they actually put something in the system. But --
KING: But Tony, I want you to listen, this is Don Bloom. He's from the Federal Mortuary Operations Response Team, and again the federal government, the state government say they're going to take a more active role here because they frankly admit privately local officials they think were too overwhelmed here. Listen to how he explains here -- Mr. Bloom does -- the delays and the frustration.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DON BLOOM, FEDERAL MORTUARY OPERATIONAL RESPONSE TEAM: But we have to be 100 percent accurate. So as much pressure is put on us to speed up the process, the process has to take its time. We have to be 100 percent accurate. And our people are dedicated at not being pushed into making rash decisions or speeding things up. That is why the process on our side takes a little bit longer than it needs -- than you feel it needs to.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: That an acceptable explanation to you Tony, or do you think that's a cop out?
TONY NIEDERHELMAN, SON KILLED IN TORNADO: I think it's more of a cop out. I mean yes, I do understand that they have to be 100 percent sure of who they are processing, but I mean it doesn't take that long. I mean the way science and technology is today, you know, it should be -- I mean they should you know be able to take care, you know, process the body within two hours and have, you know, a phone call made to where somebody can finally get some closure.
KING: And that's the sad part here and I want to remind our viewers if they weren't with us last night. One of your neighbors told you that they saw Zach's body and they say Zach's body being taken away in an ambulance. So your presumption, Tammy and forgive me for asking it this way, but your presumption is you've lost your son. What would you do -- how would you think that the state and local officials should let you go forward here?
TAMMY NIEDERHELMAN: Well, I have asked if I could actually come in and, you know, look. I understand that there's a lot of people in there, there's children, I know there can't be -- everybody in there is not children that are between 12 to 14 years old and they're all male, I know that. So you know I know they don't want to put people through seeing bodies, but at least let us look. Like I have told them, Zachary, we were told his face was not harmed. He would be easy to recognize.
He has very distinct scarring, different things if they were to x-ray him very quickly they would see implants that he had. There's no reason. I understand bodies that are more hurt would be a little bit harder to identify and you know I don't -- you know I want my Zachary laid to rest but I also want everybody else to have closure. I mean I know there are so many people out here hurting. And it's just so hard to see everybody suffer.
KING: And as you go through this, Tony, it's just -- help somebody explain who might not quite understand what it's like every day to get in that line, every day to fill out more paperwork, every day when you're looking for, as Tammy poignantly describes this, at least the beginning of some process of closure, to be told that almost that you're the problem.
TONY NIEDERHELMAN: It's real frustrating. And it just feels as though the officials that's orchestrated this whole deal could really care less. I mean it seems to me like they want to get on to cleanup and you know maybe start building or whatever. But I mean there's a lot of families need closure out here. Last count I seen was 125 in the morgue and that's unacceptable. I mean we're five days into this now, and as far as I know, there's been no phone calls made.
KING: And Tammy we tried to go into that meeting you had yesterday where you were pushing yet again for access to the morgue or at least some answers to your questions. They wouldn't let our camera in, but at the very beginning our microphone was still on you and it picked up part of the conversation that you were having where you essentially said why doesn't anybody in here have a heart? Is that how you feel about this process?
TAMMY NIEDERHELMAN: Yes, because I feel like they all are quick to stop you when you're trying to say something and stop you in the middle of your sentence and say this is the way it needs to work. But you know I know that if one of those federal officials or the Jasper County (ph) coroner, one of them had a loved one in that morgue, you can bet they would have been identified and he would be laid to rest. You know I mean I just feel like we're being treated as a number and we're all individuals out here.
KING: Tammy and Tony Niederhelman, we appreciate your time today in the middle of this painful period and we promise you if there's anything we can do along the way to help, we'll keep trying. TONY NIEDERHELMAN: We appreciate it.
KING: Thank you both very much. We taped that interview mid this afternoon, a little more than an hour ago Tammy called us to say that she had finally received a phone call from the morgue and they had been told to come down to the morgue and the couple were shown a piece of paper with their son Zach's name on it confirming that he was deceased.
We asked Tammy if she believed the attention here on CNN helped speed her case along. And she said quote "absolutely". She also said "finally they are doing something and maybe the same thing will happen for everyone", even in her grief, voicing hope that the other families can be helped dealing with this problem in Joplin, Missouri.
Our thoughts and prayers with Tony and Tammy tonight of course as they begin what she, as I noted so poignantly calls the beginning of closure tonight and there are dozens of other families like this in Joplin, so will those families with loved ones missing and unaccounted for finally get help? The Missouri Governor Jay Nixon joins us next.
KING: This is the list we talked about at the top of the program, 232 names, the official list of the missing from Sunday night's tornado in Joplin, Missouri. I want to sit it down over here for a second because we took the names and the addresses and we put them in on the map. This is Joplin here, I want to come in a little bit -- come into the missing -- look into the community here in Joplin.
If you look closely here -- and I can pull out the map a little bit -- there are new satellite images, and you see many of the pinpoints where people are listed as missing. You see the devastation. I was just in this community for two days and it numbs you to walk through these streets and drive through these streets and to see the power of this tornado, as you can see in the swathe of destruction that is where you see so many of the missing still unaccounted for tonight.
I want to show you one address in particular; we were just talking to Tony and Tammy Niederhelman, who just this afternoon learned their son Zach's body has been identified. They lived right here at the intersection of Texas and 20th. This is particularly devastated. Houses just swept off the foundation, part of this community. Their name was one name of 232 on this list. Come back out to the missing. You see them, they come along the swathe, and tonight there's finally an official list of the missing.
The question is, the question is well now that there's a list will the families get a quicker resolution? Joining us now from Joplin is the Missouri Governor Jay Nixon. Governor, I want to start with this. I'm holding up the list that came out today, 232 names on it. How confident are you in this list, after several days of confusion, conflicting information and that confusion causing a lot of pain and anguish for the families involved, how confident are you now that this list is an accurate list of the missing?
GOV. JAY NIXON (D), MISSOURI: Well yesterday morning we brought in a state team, had about 60 people working all night last night to go through the various sources, the calls that came in from across the country. Quite frankly (INAUDIBLE) people I'm very confident that the list that we have this morning were confirmed unaccounted folks as of 10:30 this morning. We have been working on that list this afternoon. There have been some of those numbers coming off that late in the day, but I am confident that the hard work of those 60 professionals over the last 30 hours has yielded the accurate list that we can now work with families to connect.
KING: And what conclusion should we draw, Governor? You and I had a conversation last night when I was still in Joplin about the fact that you had to bring in this state team. Is it fair to say that part of the pain and anguish that the families are feeling is the fact that the local officials were simply overwhelmed, some of the families would even say not quite competent?
NIXON: Well as the response was starting and calls were literally coming in from all across the country, they just began you know trying to make a record of those contacts. As time moved on and we moved through that first list, it was clear that there were a lot of data points coming in that needed to be put together. So yesterday morning after seeing the way that that was, we decided to take over that part of the operation, bring our folks from drug and crime control in, bring troopers off the road to make sure that we manage that and by working all night we were able to put a hard list out there that is accurate that we'll work with over the next few days to move that 232 number of unaccounted for people down to zero. That's our goal to get to zero.
KING: I want you to listen here to a woman I spent a lot of time with yesterday and then revisited today once I got back to Washington. This is Tammy Niederhelman. I spent some time with her because she was told by a neighbor they saw her son's body taken away. And yet four days in a row she went to where she was told to go. She got in line. Sometimes she was told to go away, we'll call you. Other times she was told to fill out some more paperwork. I want you to listen to her.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TAMMY NIEDERHELMAN: I want my Zachary laid to rest, but I also want everybody else to have closure, I mean I know there's so many people out here hurting and it's just so hard to see everybody suffer.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Governor, a short time ago that couple did get a call from the morgue and they have been able to identify the body of their son. They think that the process was sped up a bit because of the attention they received and frankly they're worried other families who don't find a TV camera might not get help as quickly. They were told yesterday it could be two weeks. I guess thank God they can at least start their closure today. What about the other families? How long will it take?
NIXON: Well, as the other families are there, all of the families that are on that accounted list have been contacted or are currently being talked to individually through that area. Our folks worked to move that unaccounted number down and then work across with the folks at the morgue and the folks that are doing the other identification to make sure that there was some folks here that were not only badly injured, but you know THIS -- a tornado of this magnitude does very, very heinous things to a human body and making sure that we get accurate counseling as well as accurate identification is very important and I think that the additional effort we put in essence take that over yesterday will speed up the process, but it will not slow down the accuracy. We're going to make sure these difficult discussions are had, so tonight all of those families that have been on that list are going to be contacted for sessions in which we go through, the officials go through where they are, what the process is so that they'll know full well what's going on.
KING: There was some tension and it's inevitable tension, I don't mean to make too big of a deal of it, but it is real tension between those who came and volunteered to want to do search and rescue and officials who are saying as we get into now the fifth day that it's time to bring in bulldozers and move to recovery and conceding that there may well still be some bodies in the rubble. Do you have any doubt, could there possibly still be survivors in that rubble or is it time to move on?
NIXON: It has been warm and there is still -- you know we'll keep those search teams out there and those dogs out there until they're fully assured that the areas have all been cleared of that likelihood. But I did sign an executive order this afternoon putting our National Guard in charge of beginning that process of moving debris out, beginning the process of cleaning that huge swathe of space so that we can begin the rebuilding process.
Clearly we're moving forward in the next phase. We're out there and in pockets where there still may be folks that are living and we're not lessening our efforts in those areas, but in areas that have been cleared, we're going to begin the process started this afternoon signed that order will begin the process of getting the debris out of the way and getting Joplin rebuilt.
KING: I want to ask you, sir, because you're the governor in a state where, you know, one of your famous residents once said the buck stops here. There has been a lot of complaints and there will be complaints, some of them are legitimate, some of them are born of emotion and grief, and we need to understand that, but grade the process, especially the early days, especially of someone who has heard all the complaints and someone who to your credit took the step to say we need to do more and send in more people from the state.
NIXON: Well I think that, you know, we were focused in those first few days by backing up the local police and others to make sure that we had a coordinated search for the saving of folks and a few people were saved, people that would otherwise be on the wrong list here are on a list to recovery. That's an important first phase.
As you move into the next one there's a lot of grief. There's going to be for this entire area. I think a collective sense of the size of loss here. Thousands of buildings gone, thousands of businesses gone, thousands of lives affected forever, hundreds of folks that are lost and families separated. This is going to take a long recovery, but my sense is this community, we're going to have a memorial service on Sunday, when I spoke with the pastors yesterday they were unified in that. I think this is a strong community and we'll work to recover.
KING: Governor you're being polite and diplomatic and I understand and respect that. Let me try asking it this way in closing. Are there important lessons that the governor of Missouri has learned that when you get past the painful, the most painful part of Joplin and you're on the path to rebuilding and recovery, are there lessons that you will make sure that God forbid anything like this ever happen again in your state, the first 72 hours won't go the way the first 72 hours went there?
NIXON: I mean we had hundreds of firefighters in from all across the region that saved lives and covered the territory. When I see the local folks strained beyond their limits, we move in. That was yesterday morning when we brought these folks in. I think they did solid work last night. Families are being -- having tough discussions with folks as we speak about the difficulty of the challenges they have in their lives to come in the future. Now is not the time to point fingers. My sense is that this region is working together to recover and I'll look forward to mourning with those who have lost.
The mourning here is not over. That mourning and that feeling of sadness will go far beyond, you know, some of the initial challenges. This is going to take a long time for people to get over. We're going to be calm. We're going to be reassuring. We're going to do everything we can to make sure there's complete and accurate information out there for the families that need that information.
KING: Governor Jay Nixon of Missouri, appreciate your time tonight, sir, and you can be sure you and your state, and particularly that community are in our thought and prayers.
NIXON: Thank you, John.
KING: Thank you, sir. And you can also be sure CNN will stay on top of this story to watch to see if these families get the answers the governor is promising them.
When we come back new rumblings in presidential politics, Sarah Palin's about to take a big bus trip, if she gets in, would fellow Tea Party favorite Michele Bachmann get out?
And as we go to break, even four plus days after this deadly tornado in Joplin new evidence of just how powerful the storm was -- this is a security camera in the back of a home. There's no audio, but look at this.
(VIDEO CLIP OF TORNADO)
KING: There's breaking news in presidential politics tonight. CNN has just confirmed that former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney will make his formal declaration that he's running for president, the Republican nomination for president. He'll make that announcement next Thursday, June 2nd in New Hampshire, the state that is critical, critical to his hopes.
Also tonight more presidential politics, Sarah Palin back on everyone's 2012 political radar in a big way. The former Alaska governor is announcing today that she's beginning a, quote, "One Nation Tour" this weekend. It begins right here in Washington. She'll then take a campaign-style bus, take a look at it right here, to Philadelphia is one stop. New Hampshire is another -- stopping a series of key historic sites along the way.
Now, this is important. The FOX News Channel says Palin will remain a paid contributor, despite renewed speculation her bus tour is the first step in run for president. And that raises an interesting question, has she assured FOX News she's not running, she's just taking this bus tour? Or does FOX News have a different standard for Sarah Palin than it had, say, for Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum? We'll continue to track that question.
A short time ago, we spoke with another likely candidate, the Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, who says she's confident she can raise enough money to win if she runs and will make her final decision about seeking the Republican nomination within days.
REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R), MINNESOTA: It has absolutely nothing to do with me. It has everything to do with the American people and our economy and where we're going to go. And my decision about getting into 2012 or not is a completely independent decision. It doesn't matter if you get into the race or if anyone gets into the race. My decision will be made on whether I think it is the right thing at the right time and we'll let you know in June.
But I do know that no matter who the candidate is on the Republican side, that person needs to be elected because Barack Obama has not been good for our economy, and we've seen millions of jobs lost and they're not turning around, and the dollar has been grossly devalued under this president.
For the sake of our children, we need to have a change in course.
KING: But if the political people came to you and say, Congresswoman, here's our plan, but now that Governor Palin is going to run, it might be harder to raise some money. Iowa would get tougher. South Carolina would get tougher. Are you sure you have the heart for this, the spine for this? Would you blink or would you say, let's go? BACHMANN: My decision will be independent of whichever candidate gets in. I have great respect for Governor Palin. I consider her a friend. And if she gets in, she gets in. That won't -- that won't impact whether or not I get in or not.
KING: Won't impact you at all, huh? There are some who have questioned your discipline if you run for president. So, let's --
BACHMANN: They should watch me.
KING: -- deal with a few things. They should watch you. That's right. You had a conversation with Chris Wallace right after the Libya invasion started, the Libya bombing started where you said, you know, you heard a report from an ambassador in Tripoli that maybe 10,000 or 20,000 or 30,000 people had been killed. That number was, of course, not anywhere near reliable.
So, some people say, well, Michele Bachmann just sees one little report and goes and quotes it on television. Do you have to work on discipline if you're going to run for president?
BACHMANN: I think it's important to have discipline and a message. That's true. And have I been accurate in everything that I said? No, that's not true, you can fact-check.
But the fact is, I read and I read a lot, and that morning I had read a TV -- or a report by "A.P." and the overall number was correct and it was a number that was given by the ambassador. It wasn't in one particular engagement, but it was the number of people who had been wounded so far. So, that was accurate.
KING: Another thing people cite is when the president was going to India, there was a report in a publication over there that used this wildly exorbitant number about how much his trip would cost. And you for several days were talking about that.
BACHMANN: Well, I was doing again, I was quoting from "The Financial Times." And so, I gave the source that I was quoting from and it was a financial newspaper from India. And so, it isn't my job to go and fact-check sources that come out in publications. So, I was using that quote. But you're right --
KING: It's your job as a candidate, that people -- the left likes to use you as a galvanizer.
BACHMANN: You have a very good point, though, that I think when you're in the presidential realm, I do think that message discipline is required and I think that that is something that, you know, all of us have areas that we need to do better on and that's certainly one that I'll pay a lot of attention to.
KING: I read a fundraising detail under your name just an hour or so ago. It was talking about "our president is too busy gallivanting around Europe with his Irish cousins, to focus on rebuilding our economy and strengthening our nation." Now, people have a lot of fun in fundraising letters. But a President Bachmann would never take a personal detour on a very important overseas trip for a G-8 summit or sitting down with the prime minister of the United Kingdom?
BACHMANN: Well, of course, presidents take trips. But remember, I think if the shoe was on the other foot and we had a Republican as president and we just saw the devastation in Joplin, Missouri, and we see the president of the United States playing ping-pong on TV and we see him serving up hamburgers -- in a day we're not dealing with devastation in the heartland of the United States, that would be fine for the president to be out doing these things. I don't fault him for that. And it's actually a small thing in the scheme of things.
The bigger issue that we have to address, John, is dealing with the economy and jobs, quite honestly, and the president has not had his eyes on job creation. His idea of job creation was borrowing $1 trillion from China and spending it on pr projects that didn't increase jobs. Now, you can't walk away from that. That's a fact. That's exactly what happened.
So, now, my children and your children and your viewers' children have to work that much longer to pay back the trillion dollars that didn't yield jobs. That's a decision that our president made that has very real consequences negatively for the next generation. We can't just afford those mistakes.
KING: Many more questions I'd like to ask you. But we're out of time.
So, let me ask you this: we have a Republican presidential debate in just a few weeks in New Hampshire, will I see you there?
BACHMANN: That may happen. We'll let you know very soon.
KING: Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, appreciate your time.
BACHMANN: Thank you, John.
KING: Thank you.
KING: We have more of that conversation with Congresswoman Bachmann tomorrow tonight. We talked about her views on Libya, Afghanistan, Medicare and many other issues. More of that conversation tomorrow.
But next here, a rare public comment from former President George W. Bush about the revolutions sweeping the Middle East.
KING: Welcome back
A very busy news day today. Here's what you need to know right now:
A U.S. official confirms to CNN that Pakistan has given permission for the U.S. to send a team of specialists to Osama bin Laden's compound there, to search for possibly hidden buried documents or other intelligence.
A short time ago, Congress finished working on a bill that extends the provision of the anti-terror Patriot Act. Those provisions were set to expire tonight at midnight.
In Texas today, the former President George W. Bush broke his public silence about the wave of revolutions in the Middle East and North Africa.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: And I'm not surprised that freedom continues to march forward.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: The former president also warned the United States should not, quote, "grow wary" and become isolated from what the former president termed the inevitable, march of freedom.
Up next: the big Supreme Court ruling today giving states more power in their battle against illegal immigration. How will a sheriff whose tactics are quite controversial, Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, how will he use this ruling in his fight? That's next.
KING: The Supreme Court today handed Arizona a huge victory on immigration reform. The justices upheld the 2007 state law punishing businesses for hiring illegal immigrants. The 5-3 ruling is seen as a defeat for the Obama administration which had argued that law interfered with federal authority.
In a majority opinion, the Chief Justice John Roberts wrote, "Arizona has taken the route least likely to cause tension with federal law."
CNN's senior legal analyst Jeffry Toobin joins us now from New York.
Jeff, anything novel in this decision on the issue of, say, state's rights?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, this is an expansive view of state's rights and it is very much a preview of the big case that is coming down the pike, which is the federal review of the more controversial immigration law, the 1070 law, which if this decision is followed, would certainly be more likely to be upheld than prior -- than we had thought before today's decision.
KING: And that bigger law, S.B. 1070, allows police -- gives police broader latitude, if they se suspicious behavior, they can ask for documentation. In this decision today, if you continue the logic, do you get S.B. 1070 embraced by the Supreme Court or was this more narrow in some way to deal with business regulation or the question of employment?
TOOBIN: It's hard to draw that connection precisely, but I think it is very much a signal that the five conservative justices are looking to uphold 1070. I think it is more likely today for them to uphold 1070 than it would have been without this decision.
Plus, this decision is a green light to all kinds of states -- states all over the country -- to get involve in the immigration fight. It is a green light for mostly Republican legislatures who's been the most interested in this subject, to restrict immigration under state laws. It's going to invite states to get into this. And a lot of states, I think, are going to take up that invitation.
KING: And is it that these five justices, this is how they think, or did the Obama administration, in your view, maybe mis-argue this? Their view was immigration, federal jurisdiction, anything that messes with it, can't be.
TOOBIN: No, that's the argument you had to make and that was the only potentially winning argument. And they did get three votes. Elena Kagan was solicitor general when this case was being prepared, so she didn't participate.
Look, this is just a legal/political decision that conservatives see one way, liberals see another. And there are more conservatives on the Supreme Court. So, they won today.
KING: Let me ask you a final question, nothing to do with immigration. But you mentioned Justice Kagan recusing herself. A lot of conservatives say, good for you, Justice Kagan. If you did it for this immigration case that you dealt with as solicitor general, you better do when the Obama health care plan comes to the Supreme Court. Can we connect those dots?
TOOBIN: No, not a chance. I mean, Elena Kagan was asked this in some detail in her confirmation hearing and she was quite clear that she was not involved in any of the health care deliberations. There were no legal issues that came before her.
This case was actually briefed -- the petition for certiorari was actually prepared while she was solicitor general. She signed a brief in this case. This was a very recusal decision. I think there is zero chance she will recuse herself when health care comes up probably next year.
KING: Jeff Toobin, appreciate your insights tonight.
And let's go straight now to Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Arizona's Maricopa County, which includes the Phoenix Metropolitan area.
Sheriff, you have been criticized over the years. You've been praised by some and criticized by others for the aggressive practices you take in your business sweeps, targeting illegal immigration.
As you read this ruling, will you be more aggressive tomorrow than you might have been yesterday?
SHERIFF JOE ARPAIO, MARICOPA COUNTY, ARIZONA: Oh, I don't know, I'm going to continue doing our job. We've been doing it anyway -- 504 people we have arrested, raiding 46 businesses, John. The majority have false identification, the illegal aliens working there.
So, we're going to keep going. I got two more on the line coming up for all of those critics, especially some of those Hispanic legislators who want me to resign. I got news for them -- I'm going to continue my crackdown on illegal immigration.
KING: Well, you're the sheriff who says you will continue your crackdown. What should the legislature do in Arizona? What should the governor do? What should the United States Congress and the president do to make it so that you don't have to do this at your level?
ARPAIO: Well, I think the Congress and the president should look at this decision. I think locally here in this state, we should have more tougher penalties on the employers. Right now, it's just a civil offense. So, I'd like to see that happen, maybe it will now after this decision.
But you know, once again, 1070, no 1070 or these laws, we've been doing it anyway in three years. Thousands we have arrested, my office has. So, we should have the laws on the books. Let's enforce the laws.
KING: As you know, though, your critics and they include the United States Justice Department some times in this administration say that you're not following the law. That you're profiling.
ARPAIO: Well, they have been investigating me on that matter for 2 1/2 years. We don't. And if they want to keep investigating? OK. But that's not going to deter me from doing the job.
I think I have proven that in the last two years. So, they can investigate me. I have been a top law enforcement official federal. I know how the system works.
But let's not throw politics and try to drive me out of office.
KING: You heard Jeff Toobin just say that he thinks you can make a pretty strong argument that this court, these five conservative justices, will in fact uphold 1070, some of the most controversial provisions in that law were frozen essentially because a lower court said, no, we think they might be unconstitutional.
If the United States Supreme Court tells Arizona your law is fine, what would you do differently then? What new powers would you have?
ARPAIO: Nothing. We still ask people where they're from after we stop them on any type of violation. We're still doing the same thing, regardless of the 1070. But it would be nice to have the Supreme Court, if it gets up there to rule in law enforcement and the state of Arizona. Every little bit helps fighting this problem.
KING: You know, every time we have you as a guest on the program -- it's been a while, but every time we have you to guest on the program, I will get emails, I will get other conversations. Some of them polite, some of them not so polite -- saying, you know, why doesn't this guy acknowledge that there's less after a problem now? That there's less of a problem coming across the border, that they would say -- and even the White House would argue they've put more people on the border and lowered your problem.
Is that not true?
ARPAIO: That's why in 30 days when I mobilize our posse, air posse, we locked up almost 300 people, smugglers and coyotes and that type of thing, drug traffickers. So, they're still coming across, 300 in that operation. They're still coming across by the hundreds and thousands.
KING: Even in this tougher economy? Again, the statistics -- the statistics tell a different story.
ARPAIO: Well, I don't know. I should get an award from the president because I'm helping the economy. All those people we arrested in the workplace, now people here that are here legally can find a job, and those illegally go back where they came from.
So, I think I'm doing something for the economy.
KING: All right. We'll keep in touch as that plays out. Sheriff Joe, before I let you go, I'm going to ask a question: "The New York Times" and the "Arizona Republic" reporting that you have somebody new in your community to take care of and protect, that Sarah Palin, the former governor of Arkansas -- I'm sorry, of Alaska, and her husband, Todd, have purchased a house in Scottsdale, which is in your county.
Do you know anything about that? What do you make of it?
ARPAIO: No, there's some rumors about that. But I hope she gets here. The more the merrier. As long as they come here legally, I have no problem.
KING: I somehow knew you would work that in. Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona -- we appreciate your time tonight, Sheriff. We'll keep in touch.
ARPAIO: Thank you.
KING: All right. When we come back, a familiar face -- former CNN correspondent Christiane Amanpour joins us next to talk about today's arrest of a man she covered in the 1990s. He's accused of Europe's worst genocide since World War II.
KING: Tonight, a 16-year manhunt is over. Ratko Mladic, the Serb military commander during Yugoslavia's bloody civil war, has been found and arrested and will now face charges of genocide, extermination and murder. Among other things, Mladic led the 1995 military campaign that left nearly 8,000 men and boys dead -- the worst European massacre since the Holocaust.
This is much more than a historical curiosity.
ABC's Christiane Amanpour was the CNN correspondent back during the Bosnia wars. She interviewed General Mladic, and saw firsthand the results of his orders.
I spoke to Christiane a short time ago.
KING: Christiane, many who remember the Bosnia wars of the 1990s, who remember the atrocities, maybe they remember the name. But you're one of the few who have actually met this criminal and seen the cold stare of a murderer. Tell us what that was like.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, ABC'S "THIS WEEK WITH CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR": Exactly right. We lived and we reported the war, the siege of Sarajevo, the bombardment. We saw men, women, and children who were not spared the atrocities that were rained down upon them for three long years, 3 1/2 long years.
I met him several times. He was a very cold man. He would smile and talk and try to be genial. But the eyes were very, very cold.
And he was determined -- he believed in what he was trying to do. He believed that it was right to just kill or expel Muslims from that part of Bosnia, that the Bosnian Serbs wanted to keep it as an ethnically pure statelet for themselves in this appalling experience in Europe so many years after World War II.
KING: Help us understand the chapter we're closing or at least hoping to close here. Milosevic is dead. Karadzic on trial in The Hague. And now -- and now, finally, Mladic apprehended.
AMANPOUR: Well, John, this is a very good month for international justice. And that is what we should understand, that Osama bin Laden, for instance, was on the lam for nearly 10 years after 9/11, he has finally been delivered summary justice. And now, Ratko Mladic, who was the architect, the perpetrator, the director of so much genocide for which he's been indicted and crimes against humanity in Europe after World War II.
So, the chapter that is closing and the signal that it's sending is that justice will eventually be done. No matter how long it takes, no matter what kind of conspiracy of silence and of protection that Serbia and people there were giving to Mladic, in the end, his day has come. Sixteen years after the war, and as I say, after those indictments, and for the relatives, for the families of those people who were slaughtered, some of them executed in cold blood after Srebrenica, the families of 8,000 men and boys who were Muslims there -- are now going to at least see that these crimes cannot be committed with impunity. That one day justice will be done.
KING: Christiane Amanpour, important perspective. Good to see you, my friend.
AMANPOUR: Thank you.
KING: Thank you.
KING: I covered the White House for 8 1/2 years once. Never have I seen a statement quite like this. First a little background. The House of Representatives today passed an extension of three provisions of the Patriot Act, those provisions scheduled to expire at midnight tonight. They vote at the House, 250 to 153. That follow the Senate vote, 72 to 23. So, the Patriot Act re-endorsed by the Congress, the president is out of the country, right?
Well, the White House has put out this statement: "Failure to sign this legislation poses a significant risk to U.S. national security. As long as Congress approves the legislation, which it now has, the president will direct the use of the autopen to sign it."
The president will direct the use of the autopen to sign it. With the use of technology there, the president overseas, I guess with the stroke of a keyboard, the autopen signs away, the Patriot Act extended.
Hope to see you back here tomorrow night. We'll see if the autopen in use again, too.
We'll also have more of our conversation with the Republican likely presidential candidate Michele Bachmann.
That's all for us now, though. "IN THE ARENA" starts right now.