Skip to main content
Search
Services


 

Return to Transcripts main page

THE SITUATION ROOM

Tracing the Virginia Tech Gunman; Gonzales Testifies on Capitol Hill

Aired April 19, 2007 - 16:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: Happening now, a killer's trail of anger and clues about the bloodbath he was planning. We're tracing the Virginia Tech gunman's every move in the months and weeks and hours before the massacre. We're going to be carrying a news conference at the university. That's coming up shortly here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Also this hour, sorrow in South Korea. Cho Seung-Hui's relatives overseas are speaking out about what he was like and the horrible things that he did.

And a judgment day for the attorney general of the United States. Alberto Gonzales faces some very serious questions and heated clashes during his long-awaited Senate testimony. And one Republican, only moments ago, drops a bombshell.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Three days after America's deadliest shooting rampage, it's now very clear that Cho Seung-Hui did not suddenly explode in a violent rage. Instead, he was a long simmering cauldron of mental illness and hatred who had been planning his final horrific acts for some time.

Our Brian Todd is following the investigation over at Virginia Tech.

What we have learned so far about this -- the latest issues involving his trail leading up to this massacre?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, there are a lot of new details about that trail, Wolf. I'm going to get to those in just a moment.

We have just learned, a few minutes ago, about a new independent panel that's being formed to investigate all the circumstances around these horrific killings. That independent panel is headed by Colonel Gerald Massengill. He is the former Virginia State Police superintendent.

But also on that panel, former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge and other experts that are described as those who know quite a lot about higher education, law enforcement and mental health.

That independent panel is going to be looking into all of the circumstances around these killings.

As you just mentioned, Wolf, details about the killer's trail. New developments that we have just learned in the last few hours. The current police superintendent of Virginia has told us that the disk that Cho Seung-Hui sent to NBC News has revealed no new information, essentially, about his motive for these killings.

Here's what the police superintendent said just a few hours ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COL. STEVE FLAHERTY, SUPERINTENDENT, VIRGINIA STATE POLICE: There was some marginal value to the packages that were received. The fact of the matter is we already had most all of this information and most all of this evidence among the envelope that we had recovered to date.

The package simply confirmed what we already knew in many, many cases.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: Colonel Flaherty said that law enforcement officials were "rather disappointed" that NBC News chose to air that material last night and this morning.

NBC released a statement saying -- defending that decision, saying that it took careful consideration in determining how the information should be distributed.

Wolf, a couple of other details that we have learned today, new details about Cho Seung-Hui's stop at that post office on the -- on the very day of the killings. About 9:00 a.m. he stopped at the post office there on Main Street in Blacksburg, a short walk from the campus. A post office instructor -- official -- told us this morning that the details that stood out to them, according to the clerk who dealt with Cho that morning, were that the digits on the zip code were six digits instead of five. That had to be corrected.

This police -- this post office official said that there were other problems with the labeling on that that stood out. But they would not comment on his behavior -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We're standing by, Brian, as you know, for another news conference over at the campus where you are.

What do we expect to hear coming up in a few moments?

TODD: We expect to hear a lot more detail about this independent panel, Wolf, and what they're going to be looking into. Interesting that they're going to be encompassing all of the different areas of expertise that are really needed in this case -- law enforcement, education, mental health.

A lot of questions about mental health and Cho's admission to some kind of a mental health facility back in December of 2005. And a lot of questions about whether that particular assessment and treatment that night was followed up on and who should have followed up on it.

So this panel will be addressing that. We'll be hearing new details about the panel in the coming moments. And we've also got a couple of added details about his movements in the days and weeks leading up to the killings. We know that from a single -- from a law enforcement source -- that he rented a car at an Enterprise lot in March, returned it in April. He also stayed at a hotel in Roanoke on March 28th, checked out March 29th and he got a speeding ticket on March 30th -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, we're watching every single move.

Thank you, Brian, for that.

We're going to bring you that news conference in a few moments, as soon as it begins.

And as we continue on Cho's trail, let's go to that post office near the campus where he mailed that package of very disturbing photos, videos and writings.

CNN's Deborah Feyerick is there -- Deb.

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, postal inspectors were here at about 7:30 this morning. They came to the main post office. They say that they are helping the Virginia State Police in its investigation of Cho. This is the post office where Cho mailed that envelope.

And just to situate you in terms of where we are, the main gates are about two blocks down. That's where the campus begins.

Cho would have had to walk from his dorm, which is about a 15 minute walk, here to the post office. The envelope is stamped 9:01.

We are told that the postal clerk was already interviewed by agents the moment it was discovered that an envelope had been mailed. And then from here, he could have easily walked back onto campus, passing by a number of buildings, a number of students, a number of teachers, to get to Norris Hall.

But by sending that envelope, it is clear he meant to make sure everybody knew who he was, what he was doing and forever burning him into the public mind -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Deborah Feyerick reporting for us.

Thank you.

Let's go to Zain Verjee.

There's a developing story we're following, Zain, very disturbing.

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf.

Schools in Yuba City, California are being locked down after a man reportedly threatened to go on a killing spree. A county sheriff reportedly said the man threatened to make the Virginia Tech massacre look mild. The man who made the threat reportedly said he was armed with an AK-47 assault rifle.

Now, he is reportedly a 28-year-old transient and known as a drug abuser. It's really not clear from the initial reports that we've been receiving who exactly he's made the threats to -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We'll stay on top of this story, as well, Zain.

Update us when we get some more information.

Much more on this story, the follow-up of what's happening at Virginia Tech. That's coming up.

Once again, we're standing by for that news conference.

But there's other important news we're following right here in Washington, fireworks, in fact.

The attorney general, Alberto Gonzales, finally faced off with U.S. senators outraged by the way he handled the firing of those eight federal prosecutors.

And just a short time ago, Republican Senator Tom Coburn dropped this bombshell.

Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TOM COBURN (R), OKLAHOMA: It's my considered opinion that the exact same standards should be applied to you in how this was handled. It was handled incompetently. The communication was atrocious. It was inconsistent. It's generous to say that there were misstatements. That's a generous statement. And I believe you ought to suffer the consequences that these others have suffered. And I believe the best way to put this behind us is your resignation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Tom Coburn, the Republican senator from Oklahoma.

Let's bring in our Congressional correspondent, Dana Bash.

She's standing by -- Dana, with a Republican senator telling Gonzales it's time to go, is the attorney general even more on the ropes?

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No question about it, Wolf.

Tom Coburn was the only Republican senator to say today point blank to the attorney general, you should go. But I can tell you, loyal Republican after loyal Republican in this hearing room and more specifically in private to CNN today have made it clear that they are, frankly, flabbergasted by how poorly they think the attorney general has done in this hearing about the fact that he thinks he has not come across as somebody who managed the Justice Department, managed the situation well and not answered key questions about what went on.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

BASH (voice-over): The tone was testy from the start, when the attorney general's credibility in question and job on the line, angered the committee's top Republican.

SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (R-PA), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: I know you've been preparing for this -- this hearing.

ALBERTO GONZALES, ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES: I prepare for every hearing, Senator.

SPECTER: Do you prepare for all your press conferences? Were you prepared for the press conference where you said there weren't any discussions involving you?

GONZALES: Senator, I have already said that I misspoke. It was my mistake.

SPECTER: Were you -- I'm asking you were you prepared?

You interjected that you're always prepared.

Were you prepared for that press conference?

GONZALES: Senator, I didn't say that I was always prepared.

BASH: Alberto Gonzales told skeptical senators he only had a limited role in firing eight federal prosecutors, saying he left it up to top aides to make judgments about dismissals.

In some cases, he knew why he signed off on firing someone.

GONZALES: Mr. McCain, when I accepted the recommendation on December 7th, generally, I recall there being serious concerns about his judgment.

BASH: In others, he did not.

SEN. SAM BROWNBACK (R), KANSAS: Margaret Chiara of the Western District of Michigan.

GONZALES: The same issue. She is the other person, quite candidly, Senator, that I don't recall remembering -- I don't recall the reason why that I accepted the decision on December 7th.

BASH: The disbelief among loyal Republicans was stunning. SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Most of this is a stretch. I think it's clear to me that some of these people just had personality conflicts with people in your office or at the White House and, you know, we made up reasons to fire them.

BASH: Senators were openly frustrated that the attorney general's testimony was peppered by three words.

GONZALES: I don't recall.

But I don't recall.

I don't recall.

BASH: GOP senators were baffled by Gonzales's inability to remember key facts, like whether he attended a high level meeting in November, where the firings were discussed.

UNIDENTIFIED SENATOR: I guess I'm concerned about your recollection , really. Because it's not that long ago it was an important issue and that's troubling to me.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

BASH: Now, the hearing behind me is not going on right now. They've taken a short break. And what many Republicans have said is that they're going to wait until after today's hearing is over to make a final judgment about whether or not they do think the attorney general should, in fact, resign.

But, again, I can tell you, during the lunch break, in private, several very loyal Republicans, Wolf, made it clear to CNN that they were really dripping with disappointment, that the attorney general, they said, had to come here to make it clear that he can save his job, that he has the credibility to remain as attorney general. And many of them said he simply just has not done that -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Dana Bash on the Hill for us.

Our brand new poll, by the way, shows Americans are sharply divided about whether Alberto Gonzales should remain the attorney general. The CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey asked if Gonzales should resign.

Thirty-eight percent said yes, 37 percent said no, 24 percent were unsure.

When asked if President Bush should fire Gonzales -- look at this -- there was a similar split. Thirty-one percent say yes, 36 percent say no, 33 percent unsure.

Let's get the latest take from the White House right now on Gonzales' future, his testimony today on Capitol Hill.

We'll turn to our White House correspondent, Suzanne Malveaux.

What's the sense over there -- Suzanne, on how the attorney general handled himself, at least so far, today?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the official response here from the White House, from Spokesman Tony Fratto -- I'm going to read this here. He says that: "Gonzales has been doing an excellent job of explaining his role. He has been very consistent. He has shown he is willing to answer tough questions, taking responsibility, bringing a lot more context to this process. The result of his testimony should bring greater confidence that nothing improper happened here."

He goes on to say that the president still has full confidence in the attorney general.

Now, Wolf, privately, there's a very different story that I'm getting from sources inside this building, outside of this building, people who were involved with those discussions, have been following the Gonzales testimony.

They believe that Gonzales is in trouble. They even say that two senior White House aides here describing the situation as Gonzales -- the testimony going down in flames, that he was not doing himself any favors.

One prominent Republican describing watching this testimony as "clubbing a baby seal."

Many people I've talked to say that there is one thing and that this all hangs on the president here, that he is the one who can save Gonzales' job.

Multiple sources involved in these discussions describe the testimony as troubling. They say people are shocked. They didn't win over any Democrats. He may have lost a few Republicans. That people are putting their best face forward here, but everyone is disappointed here. They are discouraged. The White House, really, in a wait and see mode, to see how is the public going to react, how are members of Congress going to react to Gonzales' testimony.

But it is clear, they want to make it clear that they are not floating any names out. There are no lists for replacements here. But the sense here is that they are discouraged and they believe that Gonzales is in trouble -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We'll continue to watch this story.

Clearly, not such good news for Alberto Gonzales.

Suzanne, thanks.

Suzanne Malveaux and Dana Bash, they are both part of the best political team on television.

And remember, for the latest political news at any time, check out our Political Ticker at cnn.com/ticker.

Coming up, we may learn more about the Virginia Tech gunman's moves and motives in the days and weeks before Monday's mass shooting. We're awaiting a news conference. Authorities standing by to brief reporters on the campus. Once that starts, we'll have live coverage.

Also, Cho Seung-Hui's relatives in South Korea speaking out now for the first time. Wait until you hear what they have to say.

Plus, Bill Clinton speaks out about the Virginia Tech tragedy, as well. You're going to want to hear what the former president of the United States has to say in his exclusive interview with our own Larry King.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We're standing by for a news conference over at the Virginia Tech campus. We're expecting to get some more information, perhaps on this gunman, also on this independent investigation that's expected to be announced shortly. We'll go there live, once this news conference starts.

Many questions being asked today about how and if the Virginia Tech gunman could have been stopped.

Former President Bill Clinton weighed in on the sensitive subject today in a special interview with CNN's Larry King.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "LARRY KING LIVE")

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In this case, the issue here wasn't really the gun laws, for example. He cleared the Brady bill checks. But he had been identified as being profoundly troubled and having violent tendencies at least -- either toward himself or others -- as early as 2005.

So I think we really -- without recrimination, because nobody tried to have this happen -- there ought to be some serious attempt to see whether there was some breakdown in the way the law works and the way the mental health systems works to see if we can make some positive changes to avert this in the future.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: We're going to have more excerpts from Larry's interview with President Clinton and the entire interview, his first TV interview since his wife launched her campaign for president, will air tonight, a special "LARRY KING LIVE."

Larry goes one-on-one with the former president of the United States.

All that starts at 9:00 p.m. 6:00 Pacific, only here on CNN.

Virginia Tech students are sending in new images of the victims through CNN's I-Report.

Let's bring in our Internet reporter, Jacki Schechner -- Jacki, why are we receiving so many tributes?

Jacki?

JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Frankly, Wolf, because people don't want their friends to be forgotten.

I want to show you this video of Dr. Kevin Granata. This was sent to us by Christine Hermann, who was one of his students.

He was an engineering professor who was killed on Monday. You can see them there outright. She says if you look closely, you can see at the end of this video, he's smiling. It's the first time that this video has -- this experiment, rather -- has gone right.

This was taken in the winter of 2003. She says that Dr. Granata was her graduate adviser, that he was brilliant.

BLITZER: Jacki, hold on a second.

That news conference is starting over at Virginia Tech.

Let's listen in.

LARRY HINCKER, ASSOCIATE VICE PRESIDENT, UNIVERSITY RELATIONS: The town was Centreville, Virginia. She was a freshman in international studies and she was here since the fall of 2006.

Sherman, Leslie Geraldine. And her hometown was in Springfield, Virginia. And she was a junior in the honors program, majoring in history. She was a student since the fall of 2005.

Turner, Maxine Shelley. Her hometown was Vienna, Virginia and she was a senior in the honors program in chemical engineering. And she had been here since the fall of 2003.

White, Nicole, from Smithfield, Virginia, a sophomore in international studies, since the fall of 2004.

My colleagues, Granata, Kevin P. a professor in engineering science and mechanics here in Blacksburg, a resident. He'd been here since January of 2003.

Couture-Nowak, Jocelyne. She was an adjunct professor in foreign languages and her residence was here in Blacksburg. She joined Tech in August of 2001.

And Bishop, Christopher James. And he was an instructor in foreign languages. He was a resident of Blacksburg and he joined Tech, August 2006 -- 2005.

Those names will be made available to you. They will be posted on our Web site.

From here forward, I need to have a discussion with you. I have to admit very freely and frankly that I am totally exhausted and spent. I have had about six or seven hours of sleep since Sunday night. This has been the most trying ordeal, as you can imagine, of anybody in this country.

We grieve for our families and friends. We cannot understand how something like this happened and our university is going to have to try to find a way to move forward.

I know that you all have a job to do. I have a job to do. I've spent my career finding ways to help journalists get their job done, and I want to find a way to continue to work with you. Many of you in the room I've known for an awful long time and I respect you sincerely.

There's not a whole lot of information left at this point to disseminate. The question and answers, we're going over the same points again and again and again. There is now, as you know, the commission, as the governor is now calling it, that will be reviewing everything that took place.

I don't know whether that's going to have a blanket on what I can say. Obviously, we need to continue to work with them to ensure that they've got that information. But I don't see a whole lot more drilling down that I can do.

We do have a joint information center and I'm going to talk to you just a little bit about that, how I can continue to get your requests for information and your requests for interviews.

I don't know what the number is here. I think it's something like 300 or 350 journalists. You know, I couldn't do an interview an hour and get that done in several weeks.

From my university standpoint, we have got to move forward, as you can imagine. We cannot let this horror define Virginia Tech. We're going to do whatever we can to try to get this place on its feet again, while we remember what took place and we do what we can to ever prevent anything like that happening again in the United States.

We're going to work with our families and our community and get this place up and running. Our motto at this university is "invent the future," and that's what higher education in this country is really all about. Those of us that believe sincerely and deeply in the role of education in lifting us up and making us a better community will move forward.

I want to thank you again and I hope that you will continue with the coverage of these victims. And I will continue to try to make my university available, officials in my university available, myself available and the information available.

I would ask, frankly, for a discussion, to the degree that I can have a discussion with all these folks, of how I can continue to operate and how I can continue to be of service to you so that you can get the job done that you need. And before we move into that phase, at some point we're not going to be able to park in the drill field, we're not going to be able to be parking on the sidewalks. We're going to have to get this building back to where it needs to be. So the joint information center will be open through the weekend. We're going to try to find another location to have a briefing when it's necessary, if you folks think it's going to be necessary. If I can work just from the joint information center, we can do that.

Frankly, this is not the White House and I'm just -- I'm just not set up to do that kind of thing.

So, I mean, how do we do it, folks?

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Larry.

(APPLAUSE)

HINCKER: Thank you.

QUESTION: Larry...

HINCKER: Yes, ma'am?

QUESTION: You might ask for (UNINTELLIGIBLE) how many people will be staying for the weekend. That might give us a sense of (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

HINCKER: How many people plan to stay through the weekend? Can I see a show of hands? Can somebody give me a count?

That's somewhere in the neighborhood of about a dozen-and-a-half?

QUESTION: Hey, Larry, while you count, as a former member of the sporting press, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) media room, that briefing room, if you worked from there, it would accommodate this many hands.

HINCKER: You know, that's a -- that's an excellent idea. We do have a facility that's set up for working journalists. You know, you've got your links over there.

Roman (ph), you obviously were over there, right?

And we could use that as a base of operations. You've got the South End Zone parking lot if people are going to keep their trucks here, your vehicles. I can make arrangements to get some areas cordoned off, either there, in the coliseum parking lot, over on Chicken Hill.

So, who have I got?

Mark?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What we'll do is we'll go ahead and work immediately with the sports information office to commandeer that location and we'll begin that tomorrow?

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: Saturday? QUESTION: Monday?

HINCKER: Monday.

QUESTION: Monday.

HINCKER: Monday.

OK. We'll do that starting Monday.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And this room will be locked overnight tonight.

HINCKER: This room is going to be locked tonight?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This building.

HINCKER: This building?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Overnight.

HINCKER: Why?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

HINCKER: You all are working out of here, right?

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

HINCKER: All right.

I don't want to do that. But we -- but we can start tomorrow, OK?

So I'm going out on a limb. He's a vice president, I'm an associate vice president. But we'll leave this -- we'll leave this room open tonight. But then starting tomorrow, we'll have to start vacating out of here at end of the night.

QUESTION: Larry, in the past they've set up tables in that interview room there so we could all just -- it's sort of like this, not elevated. There's plenty of room in that South End Media Room and Photo Room.

HINCKER: Right. Right. And we'll have some directions.

Yes, Gary?

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) inner portion of the building (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

HINCKER: Good.

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE). HINCKER: OK. There's that kind of living room area?

That's the part that was going to be locked. So this will continue to be open in here for your use.

QUESTION: What time to you lock it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 10:00 p.m.

BLITZER: All right, there's a lot of logistics going on right now. Clearly a very emotional moment for Larry Hincker, the associate vice president for university relations on the campus.

This has been an extraordinary, extraordinary effort on the part of authorities, officials at Virginia Tech, to deal with literally hundreds of journalists who have descended on that campus, not only from the United States, but from around the world.

I've spent the last couple of days there. I haven't seen that many satellite trucks, television satellite trucks, for example, since I covered the Oklahoma City bombing some 12 years ago, the bombing of the federal office building in Oklahoma City.

It's a huge, huge story, obviously taking its toll on everyone, including officials at the university, at Virginia Tech.

Carol Costello is watching all of this for us.

I see some of those satellite trucks behind you right now -- Carol, you and I have covered a lot of stories over the years and the pressure on the campus from the -- from the international news media has been intense.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It has been intense, Wolf.

In fact, we ran into a crew from Japan just today. They were taking pictures of the dorm where the suspect, Cho, lived.

You know, in listening to Larry talk about the exhaustion, everybody has been readily available to the media, and I found that amazing. All of the administrators, the vice presidents, the president of the university, they've been up front with all of us, holding these news conferences, you know, every couple of hours or so. These people haven't slept at all since that incident took place.

They've even provided us food, which I find absolutely astounding.

But, you know, most students here have had enough of the media and have had enough of the sorrow. We drove around campus today and we saw memorials, little memorials set up all over campus, like just bouquets of flowers, with students sitting around in a circle, praying together, crying together.

And then we saw a lot of students packing up their cars to leave to go anywhere, just to escape the campus for a few days. They will come back on Monday. Most of them did tell me that. But, as they sit in that classroom on Monday, a lot of them told me they will be very nervous. They will be watching the door. It just will take a long time for them to feel normal -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And what's been the reaction among the students, Carol, because I know you have been speaking to a lot of them, to the decision by NBC and the other major television networks to broadcast those haunting pictures of this killer? It's in every newspaper around the world, as well, today.

COSTELLO: Well, there's mixed reaction. Some students want to see more, because, you know, they are a different generation. They -- you know, they watch stuff on the Internet. They watch stuff on television. And they learn from it.

And that's what they want to do. They want to see more of this Cho. They want to understand why he did that, knowing they probably will never understand. But they just want to try to figure it out, you know, this guy who really has changed their lives forever.

I talked to other students who don't want to see any of it, can't believe it's on television, can't believe it's in the newspaper. They refuse to watch it. But I must say, most students I talk to, Wolf, agreed with NBC's decision to put this on television, because they just want to know.

BLITZER: All right, Carol, stand by. We're going to be getting back to you. You have got some more information for us.

The parents of the Virginia Tech gunman may be in hiding right now, but some of Cho Seung-Hui's relatives in South Korea are starting to speak out. The family in their homeland clearly have been affected by Cho's deadly rampage.

CNN's Matthew Chance is in Seoul, South Korea -- Matthew.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this tragedy is being sorely felt in South Korea, as well, from where Cho Seung-Hui emigrated when he was just 8 years old with his family.

He still has family members here, of course, still living in South Korea. And now, for the first time, they are speaking out.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHANCE (voice-over): In the country where the Virginia Tech killer was born, shock has given way to sorrow -- this, a memorial service for the victims of Cho Seung-Hui.

In South Korea, grief is combined with grim fascination with their countryman's past. And now a few of Cho's distant Korean relatives have gone public.

KIM YANG-SOON, GREAT AUNT OF CHO SEUNG-HUI (through translator): My brother came in at about 3:00 in the morning, saying something big has happened. My daughter's son has shot some people.

CHANCE: This is Kim Yang-Soon, Cho's 85-year-old great aunt, his grandfather's sister. She says the family knew very well the young Cho was suffering with some kind of mental illness, even when they left Korea when he was 8 years old.

KIM YANG-SOON (through translator): In Korea, he was very quiet. From the beginning, he wouldn't answer me. Cho doesn't talk. Normally, sons and mothers talk. There was none of that for them. He was very cold.

CHANCE: It's now known Cho had a history of mental illness. His great aunt says Cho's state of mind drove his mother and his family to despair.

KIM YANG-SOON (through translator): Every time I called and asked how he was, she would say she was worried about him. She said she couldn't deal with him. She didn't what to do. Cho's father and grandfather worried about that. Who would have known he would cause such trouble? The idiot.

CHANCE: Trouble and heartache, both in the United States and for his family here.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHANCE: And, indeed, among his country of origin as well, because, among many South Koreans, there's a great deal of concern now about what impact this tragedy will have on the reputation of their nation -- Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: Matthew Chance reporting for us in Seoul, South Korea.

I want to check back with Zain Verjee. She's getting some additional information -- Zain.

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, two victims who were wounded in the Virginia Tech shootings have been released from hospital, the Montgomery Regional Hospital.

We don't know their names or the exact status of their conditions, but we do know that one male, one female have been released. There are others that still remain hospitalized, some of them in the intensive care unit.

Hospital officials, as you know, Wolf, have said that the students have been so strong in all of this, and they have worked very hard to recover -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you, Zain, for that.

Coming up, we're going to have much more on this story.

Coming up also, other news -- as Defense Secretary Robert Gates makes a surprise visit to Baghdad, the battle between the Democrats and the White House over the war in Iraq rages, specifically over funding that war. Which side are the American people on? We have got a new poll.

And raising the alarm -- schools nationwide are looking at new ways to alert students to emergencies. We will get that situation online.

Stay with us. We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Before the shootings on Monday, Virginia Tech had been looking into a text message alert system for its students. Now campuses nationwide are looking at new ways to alert students of emergencies.

Let's go back to our Internet reporter, Jacki Schechner.

How does a text message alert system for a college campus really work, Jacki?

JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Well, Wolf, I want to show you this demonstration.

Let's say you send out a message from the Web. This is a demo from the site. In the course of this segment, it should turn out that my cell phone will ring. You will see how quickly this will happen.

Now, there is no telling if a system in place like this would have made a difference at the Virginia Tech campus on Monday, but it has certainly led other universities to take a look at the alert system.

(PHONE RINGING)

SCHECHNER: There you go. You can hear it right there. It sent me a text message at this point. So, you can see how quickly that can get out to people on campus.

Now, other universities are taking a look at their emergency systems to see how up to date those systems are. One of the companies that offers this service is called e2Campus. They say they are under contract with about 30 schools and universities, and they have had hundreds of calls from others over the last few days. They say it costs about $1 per student per year for a school to implement this service -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Every campus, I think, in the country right now taking a closer look at these kinds of issues, as well they should. We will get back to this story shortly.

But an important development in Iraq today -- the secretary of defense, Robert Gates, touched down in Baghdad just a short while ago for an unannounced visit. Gates held talks with U.S. commanders and top Iraqi officials.

The visit comes on the heels of a bloody 24-hour stretch that left more than 200 people dead. After meeting with Gates, the top- ranking U.S. general had this to say about the violence.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GENERAL DAVID PETRAEUS, U.S. COMMANDER IN IRAQ: Clearly, these sensational attacks can't be anything other than viewed as setbacks and challenges. And it does show that the enemy has a vote. And the enemy in this case, al Qaeda, clearly is intent on trying to reignite sectarian violence and on trying to derail the Baghdad security plan.

And I think the Iraqi leaders and the coalition leaders have shown the determination to -- to give back.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Our new poll shows support for the Iraq mission remains low. Sixty-nine percent of those surveyed by Opinion Research Corporation now say things are going badly for the U.S. in Iraq. That's up from 62 percent last October and from 54 percent in June of last year.

And our poll asked Americans who they are more likely to side with in a dispute over the Iraq war funding issue and a timetable for withdrawal. Sixty percent say they would likely side with congressional Democrats. Thirty-seven percent say they would side with President Bush on this issue.

President Bush, meanwhile, is standing by his threat to veto any Iraq war spending bill that includes a deadline for withdrawal. During an appearance in Ohio today, the president once again urged Democrats to hurry up and send him the legislation, even though it will be, according to him, dead on arrival.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My attitude is, if they feel like they have got to send this up there with their strings, like they said, please do it in a hurry, so I can veto it, and then we get down to the business of getting the troops funded.

(LAUGHTER)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Mr. Bush also added that he thinks it's a mistake for Congress to tell the military how to do its job, doesn't want Congress, in his words, to micromanage the commanders.

Zain Verjee is working some other stories right now. She's monitoring the video feeds coming in from around the world.

Update our viewers on what's going on, Zain.

VERJEE: Wolf, the Palestinian president says the BBC reporter who was kidnapped last month in Gaza is alive. Forty-four-year-old Alan Johnston is thought to have been abducted at gunpoint on the 12th of March.

Speaking in Stockholm, in Sweden, just a short while ago, President Mahmoud Abbas says claims by a militant group that the reporter had been killed are not true.

California Congressman John Doolittle is giving up his seat on the House Appropriations Committee. His decision comes a day after it was disclosed that his House was raided last week by FBI agents as part of a corruption probe. Doolittle, a Republican, is being investigated over his links to convicted GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

In Oklahoma City this afternoon, mourners marked the 12th anniversary of the bombing of a federal office building that killed 168 people. Presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani told the crowd that the city had become a model for communities that are dealing with the tragedy -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Zain, thanks for that -- Zain Verjee. We will get back to her.

Also coming up: new video coming into CNN inside Cho's dorm room at Virginia Tech. That's just coming in.

Plus: the fallout from the Virginia Tech massacre. How will politicians handle it?

Plus: Alberto Gonzales fights for his political life. But did the attorney general's appearance today in Congress help or hurt his cause? Paul Begala and Rich Galen, they are standing by in today's "Strategy Session."

Stay with us. We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Our John King is on the campus of Virginia Tech. He's got some new information. We are going to be going to him shortly for that. Stand by. He's got some new videotape just coming in from that dorm room as well.

Meanwhile, here in Washington, political lines over abortion are sharper today. That's because of a United States Supreme Court decision upholding a controversial procedure that critics call partial-birth abortion. The 5-4 high court ruling yesterday could signal a willingness by the court to revisit the 1973 decision legalizing abortion here in the United States.

Senior political analyst Bill Schneider is joining us.

Bill, given the decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, what's the likely impact of all of this to be the fallout?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Wolf, really, it depends on how the issue is framed.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) SCHNEIDER (voice-over): How you frame an issue means everything. Take Wednesday's Supreme Court decision.

The 5-4 decision upholds the federal Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003, which bans a specific abortion procedure typically performed in the second trimester of pregnancy. Abortion opponents want to frame the debate around that specific procedure, says this Republican strategist.

ALEX VOGEL, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Yes, I think that this -- this particular decision will focus the debate on partial-birth. And they will not necessarily relish a broader debate on this issue.

SCHNEIDER: Abortion rights supporters frame the issue as a woman's right to choose.

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: The court, in this case, has -- by a narrow 5-4 margin, has essentially enacted the first federal abortion ban in this country, and has struck down a primary part of Roe v. Wade, protection of the health of the mother.

SCHNEIDER: Only 15 percent of Americans believe abortion should be illegal in all circumstances. The prevailing view is that abortion should be legal only under certain circumstances.

For years, abortion opponents have been working to narrow those circumstances. They count Wednesday's decision as a major breakthrough. Abortion rights supporters believe the decision will motivate their base.

JENNY BACKUS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: The more that this is seen as a beginning of an attack on the right, it's only going to motivate and help the abortion rights movement grow.

SCHNEIDER: This Democratic strategist believes:

BACKUS: Democrats win on the issue of abortion when it's a larger issue, when it's a right.

SCHNEIDER: And Republicans win:

BACKUS: When they keep it narrow, when they try to -- they win with language describing specific procedures.

SCHNEIDER: One thing both sides agree on:

VOGEL: To quote the president, elections matter. And this is one on abortion where the -- the change in the court has made a difference.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: Seven years ago, when the court struck down a similar law, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor cast the decisive vote. The decisive vote to uphold the law on Wednesday was cast by Justice Samuel Alito, President Bush's choice to replace O'Connor -- Wolf. BLITZER: Bill Schneider, reporting for us, thank you.

Let's get back to one of our other top stories.

The attorney general, Alberto Gonzales, was on Capitol Hill today for what turned out to be a heated hearing on the firings of those eight federal prosecutors.

Joining us now in our "Strategy Session" to discuss that and more, Democratic strategist Paul Begala and Republican strategist Rich Galen.

Thanks, guys, very much for coming in.

It was a tense hearing. I don't know if you watched a lot of it. I had a chance to watch at least a good chunk of it. But the former President of the United States Bill Clinton was asked by our own Larry King about Alberto Gonzales, what he thought.

And I want you to listen to what Bill Clinton told Larry.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "LARRY KING LIVE")

WILLIAM J. CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I understand why President Bush is reluctant to let him go.

I don't think he ought to force the president to fire him. I think he ought to -- he has had a long and good run here. And, if what I saw coming out of Senator Specter today and others is right -- and there's a lot of opposition to him in the Congress, and these cases raise real troubling questions, these U.S. attorney firings -- the best thing he could do for this president that he served so loyally is to step aside.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: What do you think? You think that advice from the former president is going to be heeded?

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I hope not. I love Bill Clinton. He's a lot smarter than I am, but I think he's wrong.

I think Gonzales helps President Bush by staying in there, because it focuses the Democrats on the attorney general, not the president and his top aides.

This story is a White House story. It is not a Justice Department story. From all the evidence we have learned so far, we were falsely told the White House had nothing to do with it. Now we know, from e-mails, that the president's closest aides, and maybe the president himself, were complicit in this firing.

As soon as Gonzales goes, the story goes right inside the White House. So, by staying, I think Judge Gonzales actually is helping to protect...

BLITZER: He does a favor to the president?

BEGALA: He's protecting his boss. Now, a disfavor -- a disservice to the country. We need a functioning Justice Department. And we don't have one right now.

BLITZER: What do you think, Rich?

RICH GALEN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I find myself in the odd position of disagreeing with Paul when he's disagreeing with Clinton.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

GALEN: So, that I'm agreeing with Clinton. It's -- I have to go home now.

(LAUGHTER)

GALEN: The -- but I think -- I was actually surprised that Alberto Gonzales lasted through the recess. I thought it would have made some political sense to resign during the recess, so that, when they came back, it would have been old news by now.

But I -- I do think that Gonzales really is collateral damage. The Democrats in the House and Senate, I think, have their sights set dead on Karl Rove. They are going to take every opportunity they can to tie him into every story, because what they really, really want to do between now and January 20, 2009, is get him in front of one committee or another, under oath, so they can just open the doors.

BLITZER: They haven't agreed to that yet, but we will see if that changes.

Tom Coburn, though, is not a Democrat. He's a Republican, a very conservative Republican, from Oklahoma. And he dropped this bombshell. We reported it earlier. But listen to this little clip.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TOM COBURN (R), OKLAHOMA: It's my considered opinion that the exact same standards should be applied to you in how this was handled.

And it was handled incompetently. The communication was atrocious. It was inconsistent. It's generous to say that there were misstatements. That's a generous statement. And I believe you ought to suffer the consequences that these others have suffered. And I believe the best way to put this behind us is your resignation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Now, when Coburn -- and I will let Rich start this time -- when -- when he says that, that's not the same as Senator Schumer of New York saying he should resign. GALEN: Well, remember, going all the way back to the confirmation process, Gonzales was certainly far from the favorite of conservatives in the Republican Party. They always had suspicions about him being really too moderate.

And Tom Coburn is a very conservative Republican out of Oklahoma. And I think that's reflective in what we saw...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: You think that's part of what's going on?

BEGALA: That could be.

It's also -- it could be that, you know, there are some of the great lions and legends of the Senate on that committee, the chairman, Senator Leahy, the ranking member, Senator Specter. You mentioned Chuck Schumer.

But there's some new blood on that committee, the newer members. Tom Coburn is one of the few who is not a lawyer. He's a doctor. And maybe he is just bringing -- I think he's not exactly my cup of tea ideologically, but he may be bringing sort of a less technical, non- legal, maybe just common sense perspective to this.

It is, I think, a pretty fair reading that the guy did not do a very good job, and, thus, ought to go. But we will see if Judge Gonzales is listening to Dr. Coburn.

BLITZER: Let's talk a little bit about the Virginia Tech shootings, the worst shooting spree in American -- at least modern American history.

And it comes at a sensitive moment, politically, right now, as candidates, Republican and Democratic candidates, trying to get themselves nominated. What is going to be, in your assessment, the political fallout?

But let me rephrase the question: the strategy. What should Republican and Democratic candidates be saying and doing right now in the aftermath of this horrific story?

GALEN: Before I answer that, let me -- let me have a moment of personal privilege. I watched you and your crew on Tuesday afternoon. And I will tell you that I even called Pat Reap (ph) when it was over, and I said, you -- you folks and all of your on-air people handled this with professionalism, with sensitivity, and with grace.

BLITZER: Thank you.

GALEN: And I was proud, however tangentially I am, to be connected with this network.

Anyway, to your question, the -- I think that -- that -- that candidates would be very wise to say good things about the folks who got killed, bad things about the guy who did the killing, and not try to draw large examples from what happens. This is -- this was a one- off. It doesn't -- this doesn't happen all that often.

BLITZER: Thank God.

GALEN: It happens too often, absolutely.

But to try to determine huge policy changes based on this, I think, is fraught with danger, and I think bad policy.

BLITZER: What do you think, as a strategist?

BEGALA: Yes, I think Rich is right. It's -- it's not only strategy. It is morality.

There is nobody in public life who has a stronger claim to talk about gun violence than Senator Kennedy of Massachusetts, two brothers murdered by gun violence. And, when he was asked about this, about gun control, about making it a political or even a policy debate, he said: Stop. No. No. I'm not going to talk about that. There will be time in the future. But, right now, we're going to heal.

And I so admire that.

And contrast that with the president's new spokesperson, clearly not ready for prime time, Ms. Perino, who, on the day of the murders -- they hadn't even identified the bodies, Wolf, and she starts yapping about how the president supports the Second Amendment, code language to the anti-gun-control crowd, to the NRA, the National Rifle Association, code language to them that: We're with you, base.

Well, you shouldn't be thinking about your base. You shouldn't be thinking about politics. And shame on the White House for putting out a statement like that.

(CROSSTALK)

GALEN: It wouldn't have happened if Tony were...

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: It would not have happened if Tony was there. This -- this young person maybe needs -- deserves a pass or a break, but she's not ready for prime time.

BLITZER: All right, guys, we have got to leave it right there, a sensitive subject, indeed. But I suspect we will be talking about it for some time.

Rich Galen, thanks very much.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Paul Begala, as usual.

Up next, there's new video coming into CNN, inside Cho's dorm room at Virginia Tech. John King is on the scene for us. And did the system fail Cho Seung-Hui and all the people he killed and wounded? We are going to talk -- walk you through the process, the missteps and all.

And was Cho's deadly rampage inspired by a movie? On-screen violence meets real-life horror -- all that coming up, as we continue our special coverage.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Right now, we're getting some new pictures in from Virginia Tech, from the campus, inside Cho Seung-Hui's dorm room.

Our chief national correspondent, John King, is on the campus for us.

Walk us through a little bit of this. I know you are going to have more coming up in the next hour, John.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we believe these are the first pictures of inside Cho Seung-Hui's suite since the shooting began.

It is room 2121 of the Harper building. Harper Hall is the dormitory on this campus. CNN had access to the suite earlier today. And, again, we believe these are the first pictures inside the suite.

This is the hallway. The door at the end is Cho's room. It's under lock and seal, after police searched it the other night. If you look here on the wall, you see room 2121, Joseph and Seung-Hui, the nameplate there for the two students who slept in that room.

This is a common area for the six students who stay in that suite. And, when I talked to his roommate earlier today, one of the suite mates, he said, when he watched that NBC video last night, he had a chilling feeling, because he believes, in that common area, where you see the chairs sitting in the room -- it's a cinder block room -- and the suite mate believes -- believed that is where the shooter recorded some of that angry diatribe he sent into NBC.

Again, that is the room right here, a cinder block room, that the suite mate said gave him a chill when he saw the video on NBC, believing that must have been recorded when the other suite mates were out of class. Again, we believe these are the first pictures of actually inside the suite at Harper Hall.

Behind that door is where police searched the other night. They took a computer away, a desktop, a laptop, notebooks, a digital camera, other C.D.s. That is all now part of the evidence, as the police try to figure out why -- why this gunman, whose suite mates said, said nothing to them, not a word, in nine months living in that suite, why he would have committed those heinous crimes on this campus -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, John, I want you to stand by.

I know we're some getting additional pictures in. And we're going to come back to you in a few moments.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.voxant.com

Search
© 2007 Cable News Network.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us. Site Map.
Offsite Icon External sites open in new window; not endorsed by CNN.com
Pipeline Icon Pay service with live and archived video. Learn more
Radio News Icon Download audio news  |  RSS Feed Add RSS headlines