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CNN NEWSROOM

President Obama Chooses New White House Chief of Staff; Last Hours in Pentagon Murder Mystery

Aired January 6, 2011 - 15:00   ET

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


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Here we go, top of the hour, a very, very busy Thursday here. Hello, everyone. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

A lot of news on our watch again today. First, of course, we are going to continue following this breaking news here out of Maryland. Incendiary devices, that's what we're going to call them here, going off at state government buildings in Maryland, one in Annapolis, one in Hanover. It's a fast-moving story. We have got a couple of players in different places. We will get to them momentarily.

Also, we have just gotten some new information on that teenager who shot and killed his assistant principal. We now know where he got the gun. It was a breaking story we're staying on top of here day two for you.

And a big announcement from the White House this afternoon. The president has chosen a new chief of staff to replace Rahm Emanuel. It is former Commerce Secretary and Chicago native William Daley, introduced just a couple of moments ago there at the White House.

But I want to begin with our breaking news here out of Maryland.

We have two incendiary devices, one in the state capital in -- not literally in the building, in the state house building, but in Annapolis, and also in Hanover. In fact, these are the live pictures you are looking at from Hanover, Maryland, courtesy of WBAL.

You see a lot of rescue crews there obviously responding to that scene. And I want to just be very transparent with you and tell you that sources from the Homeland Security Department are telling us, look, don't use the word explosion. Don't say blast. Those are too strong of words.

I'm going to be saying incendiary devices that apparently flared up. There are injuries reported. We're going to check in with a couple of folks on that end.

But I want to bring in Fran Townsend, who was working homeland security under President Bush.

And, Fran, I have been listening to your conversation with Ali Velshi. And I think it's important to point out, number one, other than, of course, you know, public safety being a priority, priority number two is taking a close at the forensics of these devices. FRANCES TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: That's exactly right, because (AUDIO GAP) learn from the forensics is really important.

Was this a homemade bomb? Was it a crudely made device that didn't explode, but simply ignited? That's bad enough. But you will understand something about the people who put it together and what their motive may have been.

And so it's really important. We hear now that there's been alerts sent to the U.S. Postal Service. So, they're the on lookout for similar devices. I mean, the first thing that the feds are trying to help with here and with Maryland is to determine whether or not this is a single isolated incident at these two sites in Maryland or whether there's some larger concern nationally.

BALDWIN: Because, let me just be clear, you can figure out a lot of information from going through these devices. Number one, you can take a look at what it was made of and, number two, you can figure out then or begin to deduce who might have made it.

TOWNSEND: That's exactly right, Brooke.

I mean, so the question is, is this a disgruntled state employee or some -- a single individual, or is this a more organized group that had access to more sort of materials where there could be other devices out there?

First and foremost, for public safety reasons, you want to figure that out.

BALDWIN: Also, Fran, what about the fact that we're not just talking about Annapolis here; we are also talking about Hanover? I looked at Google Maps before I hopped on air. It's about -- for people who don't know the area, it's about 25 miles apart.

You have Annapolis of course there on the -- on the water. And you have Hanover, which is near BWI, about 25 miles northwest. What do you make of the fact that these happened, though, according to Jeanne Meserve -- I was listening to her reporting -- just about simultaneously?

TOWNSEND: Right. That's right.

The first thing -- the first sort of operating assumption is that these are related. Of course, this -- you take the facts you have got and you assume the worst, because you want to be prepared to deal with the worst. And so the fact that they were near simultaneous suggests that these two events are related.

They will work from that premise and either try to find further evidence of it or find evidence that they -- that it was coincidental. I expect, Brooke, that they are going to find that these are related.

BALDWIN: Let me just look down at some of my notes, because if you're just tuning in and trying to -- scratching your head over what we're talking about, again, we're talking about two enough different incendiary devices, one in Hanover, Maryland -- Maryland, at the MDOT facility. That's Maryland Department of Transportation. This is their headquarters in Hanover. The other is in the State House office building in Annapolis, 16 Francis Street. It's just across the street actually from the Maryland State House.

According to a couple of reports that we are confirming, there were injuries. I believe Jeanne Meserve was reporting that the individual in the mailroom in the Annapolis building did have some sorts of burns to his or her hands.

And, I guess, Fran, you know, that's part of the reason why we have these -- you know, these mailrooms, is to intercept these pieces of mail which you have to take, you know, these -- these days very careful consideration with, of course, especially in a government building, because, unfortunately, these kinds of things happen these days.

TOWNSEND: Brooke, that's exactly right.

I mean, remember, the country has a fresh memory, of course, of those computer cartridges that were mailed from Yemen. But we have a longer history with mail bombs. Remember, the country lived through the horrible long period -- and there were many victims -- of the Unabomber in this country.

And so, look, we have -- the feds have a history and a lot of experience here. They will be a resource and be incredibly supportive and helpful and involved in the Maryland state investigation.

BALDWIN: OK, Fran. Stand by for me.

Just getting news in my ear here that we have my colleague Tom Foreman arrived on the scene.

Tom, forgive me. I don't know what the scene is, if it's Annapolis or Hanover. Tell me where you are, what you see, and if you have had a chance to talk to any eyewitnesses.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We haven't talked to any eyewitnesses, Brooke. It's still not -- not so much confusion here, as much as people trying to figure out exactly what's happened.

I'm in Hanover, just outside -- very close to the Baltimore Washington International Airport at the Department of Transportation building here. The building has been emptied out and it is really surrounded right now by police units and people from the hazmat technical response unit here from the county, also the county fire department, state investigators, the Maryland Transportation Authority, local -- the airport fire department, i mean, just a tremendous number of people here right now.

I see a whole squadron of fire workers coming out of the building right now.

BALDWIN: Hmm. FOREMAN: What we do know is that, according to all accounts, nobody was seriously hurt. There's a real question of exactly what happened with these two devices, which were around the size of books, we're told, one in Annapolis, the see capital, not far from the capitol building itself, and the one here. In both cases, you're talking about in the mailroom where these things -- I hesitate to say exploded, because officials don't seem to be saying that right now.

BALDWIN: Right. We don't want to take it that far. Let's just they -- they went off.

FOREMAN: Right.

BALDWIN: They flared.

FOREMAN: Some -- something happened with them, yes. And there were no serious injuries.

BALDWIN: Tom, let me -- let me -- let me --

(CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: Let me jump in here --

FOREMAN: Yes.

BALDWIN: -- just talking specifically. And again we're looking at live pictures from WBAL at this building where you are at.

I'm hearing that there are buses on site. I know there's a -- a lot of activity. I don't know if you have seen the buses. Any idea if you have seen people, perhaps -- I know that building was evacuated -- getting on the buses? What can you tell me about that?

FOREMAN: I have not seen -- I have not seen any buses here.

And -- and, frankly, I see very few folks here that seem to be state employees. I think they have all either been cleared away already or they're somewhere where I just can't see them.

BALDWIN: Hmm.

FOREMAN: I do know that all the other state offices were alerted, and even the U.S. Naval Academy, which is quite close to the state capitol in Annapolis, is on a degree of alert, in the sense that they're looking at their mailrooms, looking at all packages and saying to everyone, look, just back away. Let us look at these things before we have anything else in any other office in case another one is out there.

BALDWIN: You know, I was looking at the live pictures before I came up here. And you see a lot of these, you know, fire trucks, official vehicles. Yet I didn't see a lot of activity.

Where is everyone? Is everyone in the building? Or is the scene starting to clear? (CROSSTALK)

FOREMAN: Well, I think a lot of went in the building. As I mentioned, just a minute ago, I saw a bunch of --

BALDWIN: Yes.

FOREMAN: -- firefighters coming out.

I mean, typically, Brooke, in my experience with these things, what happens is, you get the professionals in, and they start just going through the building. They do an initial cursory sort of walk- through to see what they can find, without endangering themselves, to -- to sort of make sure there's no clear sign of other problems, or, frankly, other people in the building who for any reason might not be there, including their own -- or might -- might not -- shouldn't be there, including (AUDIO GAP) but then they they -- they will go more thoroughly from that to look the building over more carefully and make sure nothing else is going on.

So, any activity that is really important (AUDIO GAP) is happening inside the building, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Yes, and that is why we can't see it.

Tom, stand by for me, because I'm just now getting word. We're getting our first pictures from that Jeffrey Building in Annapolis.

So, if you're watching me at home or wherever you are, we're going to look at these pictures here together for the first time. It looks like the outside of the building and a few officials there gathering about.

And if curious, you know, who -- whose offices are in this building in Annapolis, you know, Annapolis is the capital of Maryland. If you're familiar, there's that roundabout in Annapolis. In the middle of that circle is the Maryland State House.

Across the street, you have one of the side streets. It's Francis Street. That is where the State House office building, where one of these devices went off in a mailroom. It's the Jeffrey Building.

And, inside, according to the Maryland state Web site that we were checking earlier, you have the Office of Appointments. You have the Maryland Office of Homeland Security. You have the Maryland Secretary of State Office and a couple of other pertinent governor's officers inside that Jeffrey Building.

Again, just to reiterate, we're not calling these explosions. We're not calling these blasts, according to our sources at Homeland Security Department. They're saying that's -- that's taking it a step too far. They did flare up after they went off.

And there was -- there -- there have been injuries. But they're not explosions, not blasts. So, we're watching these stories unfolding here, two different government buildings within the state of Maryland.

But, if I can, I want to move on to a story that we're also watching for you out of Los Angeles. And here is what I can tell you. In Los Angeles, the fire department tells CNN there is a hazmat situation -- and here are pictures from KABC. There's the situation there in downtown L.A.

You have a couple of people -- and you see them there on the corner of this street. They're being treated for non-life-threatening symptoms.

Let me talk to my -- Angie, can you tell me how many people have been treated? Eleven people -- 11 people being treated. Apparently, you know, they have been sick here on the corner. They're in downtown L.A. I think this is outside of one of the medical buildings in downtown L.A. So, we're trying to get to the bottom of that. We're working our phones in L.A.

And, obviously, we have people on the ground in Maryland.

So, stay with me. We are going to bring you the latest in all of these different breaking stories here again, busy day this Thursday.

Also, we are learning some new information about the final hours of that former Pentagon official whose body was found just a couple of days ago in that landfall. So, we will have more on John Wheeler.

And President Obama just now announcing his new chief of staff. We will have more on William Daley. Who is he? Why was he chosen?

Coming up here in the CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: Piecing together that bizarre final hours in that murder mystery.

We're tracing the final steps of John Wheeler, that former Pentagon aide and the driving force really between the Vietnam Veterans Memorial along the National Mall.

Here is what is known here in the final hours before his body was found just sort of hanging out of this garbage truck in a Delaware landfill almost a week ago now. Take a look.

Wheeler parked his car here. This is the Wilmington train station, if you follow me here on the map, on December 13, headed to Washington. Now, he is believed to have returned to Wilmington some nine days ago, Tuesday, December 28.

The first confirmed sighting of Wheeler was the very next day, at 6:00 Wednesday evening at Happy Harry's discount pharmacy in New Castle. Here it is. Now, apparently, he asked for a ride to Wilmington to someone inside the pharmacy, but was instead offered a taxi instead. He refused the taxi.

And then, 40 minutes later, Wheeler showed up as a parking garage in Wilmington. And here's that surveillance -- surveillance video. We showed it to you yesterday. He appears disheveled. He appears confused. He has one of his shoes there -- You can see it in a second in his left hand -- and apparently can't find his car.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

IMAN GOLDSBOROUGH, PARKING GARAGE ATTENDANT: It strikes me as a little bit -- as being odd, because he had one shoe in his hand, and he didn't have a coat on. And it was like really cold that night. There was snow on the ground.

He said to me his parking ticket was inside his garage -- inside his briefcase. So, I said, well, where's your briefcase at? He said his briefcase was stolen from him. So, when I kept asking, how it was stolen, all he kept saying to me, my briefcase was stolen. It was stolen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: The last known sightings are the very next day.

Wheeler was spotted at the intersection of 10th and Orange Streets at 3:30 last Thursday afternoon, so just the day before New Year's Eve. Unreleased surveillance video shows Wheeler inside a nearby high-rise at 8:30 that night.

Wheeler's body was then found at a landfill less than 14 hours later.

And Susan Candiotti is now on the scene there for me in New Castle, Delaware, where John Wheeler lived.

And, Susan, you know, it's so bizarre still here in the days after, you know, they found his body. Is there any explanation for his behavior, his sort of odd, appeared-lost behavior, in those final days of his life?

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Brooke, this is all about searching for answers. Police are searching for answers. And so are the people who knew John Wheeler. In fact, his neighbors call him Jack. That's how they called him and referred to him.

And, right now, police are analyzing not only those tapes, but they're looking for as many more as they can find to try to figure out where he was, what he was doing, and with whom he might have been. Obviously, they're trying to figure out, how did he get into a dumpster? How did he wind up in the garbage truck that took him to the landfill?

There are so many gaps here along the way. How did he get from one town to the next town when apparently he didn't seem to have his car with him. He had turned down a ride, yet was asking for transportation. We're talking about unexplained distances that he was able to travel that, right now, police just don't have any answers about.

We did learn this from talking with police spokespeople today. And they told us, remember that videotape that you just saw, that surveillance video of him in the parking garage, where he was in the wrong place looking for his car? It wasn't there.

Well, the next time he is sighted on tape is in another building that you talked about. In that tape that they haven't released, they say he changed. He is wearing different clothes. Again, there's no explanation for how that happened, where he was in those 24 hours that transpired, just about that.

And also in talking to his neighbors just down the street here, they say they're as baffled as anyone at the strange behavior that their friend Jack Wheeler just was observed on, on those videotapes. They can't explain it. They say it's not the man that they know.

BALDWIN: Hmm.

CANDIOTTI: Clearly, they said something was wrong. And they said if only, if only, if only he had called us for help, they would have driven down and picked him up -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: Susan -- Susan, it's sort of this odd dichotomy of behavior between, you know, what some of the people saw in the final day or two, like we saw in the surveillance video, and then the neighbors. It's just sort of inexplainable, I guess, at this point.

What about, you know, bottom line from police? I mean, they still don't have a crime scene. I know there's still a lot of questions. Bottom line, what are you hearing from investigators?

CANDIOTTI: Well, they have a lot of work ahead of them. And they're still waiting for the results of the autopsy to even tell us exactly -- hopefully reveal exactly how this man died.

BALDWIN: Mm-hmm.

CANDIOTTI: So, a lot of questions unanswered, but hard to explain the behavior of a man who worked as a consultant at a cyber- security firm outside McLean, Virginia, who regularly made a commute between there and here to Delaware.

BALDWIN: Hmm.

CANDIOTTI: What happened in those days before his death? No one understands it.

BALDWIN: Keep digging, Susan Candiotti. I know that's what you are excellent at. Susan, thank you there for us in -- in Delaware.

Now I want to take you back to this breaking story out of Maryland, these incendiary devices flaring up in mailrooms, both in Hanover, Maryland, and also in Annapolis.

I want to bring in Jeanne Meserve, who I know has also been digging on this story as well.

And, Jeanne, you have some new information from Maryland State Police.

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Right.

BALDWIN: What are they telling you?

MESERVE: They have issued a statement, this obtained by CNN producer Kelly Marshall Smoot.

In the statement, they give some details. They say, at approximately 12:30 and 12:45 p.m., two incidents involving suspicious packages at Maryland government buildings prompted the evacuation of approximately 300 state employees.

The Jeffrey Building located on Francis Street in Annapolis, which they say houses state offices and staff, including the mailroom for packages mailed to the office of the governor, there, they received a package described as the size of a book.

BALDWIN: Hmm.

MESERVE: When the package was opened by a mailroom employee, it triggered a reaction involving smoke and a sulfur-like smell.

The employee sustained minor singeing to his fingers, but refused further medical treatment. The employees of the building were immediately evacuated, and reentered the building at approximately 2:30, after the building was declared safe.

Then they talk about a similar incident at the mailroom of the Maryland Department of Transportation near BWI Airport. They say, in that instance, when an employee opened the package, a similar thing occurred to the Jeffrey Building incident occurred.

Of course, the Maryland State Police, the FBI and others are on the scene, are all investigating, trying to determine who might have been responsible for these packages -- back to you.

BALDWIN: So, Jeanne, I just want to confirm what you're saying. So, it was the one injury to the person's hands in the mailroom at that building in Annapolis.

And then at the MDOT -- MDOT facility in Hanover, how many injuries -- are we talking there?

MESERVE: Let me double-check what they have written here. It said it was a similar reaction when the employee opened it. They don't mention any injuries in that case.

BALDWIN: OK.

MESERVE: So, we --

BALDWIN: OK. MESERVE: -- don't know exactly --

(CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: Just wanted to make sure --

(CROSSTALK)

MESERVE: Yes.

BALDWIN: Yes.

MESERVE: A different source has told us that they don't believe anybody was hospitalized as a result of either of these devices. And that appears to mesh with what the state police are telling us now, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Thank goodness.

All right, Jeanne, I know you are going to keep making some phone calls. As soon as you get some new information, we will pop you back in front of that camera and get -- get you on live on CNN. Jeanne Meserve, thank you.

Also-, big day in Washington, day two of the new Congress. Look at this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: We, the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Remember that, the Preamble of the U.S. Constitution? Remember having to memorize that many a year ago?

One of the first things House members did today, read the U.S. Constitution. We are going to tell you why they decided to do that and who was a little bit upset about that.

Also, with a new year comes a new White House chief of staff. Former Commerce Secretary William Daley was just introduced.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: I will tell you more about him and why he was chosen for the job next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: A couple other top stories here in the CNN NEWSROOM. First, reports from Iran say an American woman who was arrested on spying charges last week when she tried to cross into Iran from Armenia. Now, Iranian customs officials reportedly said that they found -- quote -- "espionage devices" in her teeth. But an official Iranian news agency says this woman is Armenian, not -- not American, and did not enter Iran because she lacked an entry visa.

The State Department says it is trying to get the -- to the bottom of that.

And the Pentagon wants to slice that $78 billion over the next five years as part of this massive cost-cutting measure. That's according to Democratic Congressman Adam Smith. He says Defense Secretary Robert Gates told congressional members about the plan just this morning. Gates also said he would announce cuts in troop levels. This follows a proposal already made by Gates for an additional $100 billion in savings.

And you remember just a little while ago when Juan Williams, then a senior news analyst over at NPR, was fired? It caused all kinds of controversy. A review was then launched into the facts and circumstances leading to his termination.

Well, in light of that review, NPR's senior vice president for news, Ellen Weiss, has resigned. She was with NPR for nearly 14 years.

And when we come back: Who is President Obama's new chief of staff? We will tell you about him, who he is, why he was chosen for the spot. That's coming up next.

Also -- and I know by now you have heard this guy's voice -- the homeless man with this golden voice, he's now got a job. We will tell you what is next for Ted Williams coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: Want to let you know, in wake of these two different incendiary devices that flared up, both in Hanover and in Annapolis, Maryland, we're just getting word there is going to be a news conference here any moment now there in Maryland. So, as soon as we see somebody start speaking, we are going to take that live here at CNN.

But I want to move on to this. While we're keeping one eye on that, we're keeping on eye on news, big news in the past hour, big announcement at the White House. President Obama introduced William Daley -- there he is -- as his new chief of staff.

You remember, Rahm Emmanuel left the White House to go run for mayor of Chicago. And Pete Rouse served a few short months as interim chief of staff. And now it is Bill Daley.

And here is the president. And listen to what he said just -- just a little while ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Few Americans can boast the breadth of experience that Bill brings to this job.

He served as a member of President Clinton's Cabinet as commerce secretary. He took an several other important duties over the years on behalf of our country. He's led major corporations. He possesses a deep understanding of how jobs are created and how to grow our economy.

And, needless to say, Bill also has a smidgen of awareness of how our system of government and politics works. You might say it's a genetic trait.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Hmm, genetic trait.

There is Ed Henry.

And, Ed, I want to bring you in, because, you know, look, this could be a little confusing for people who follow politics -- or perhaps if they don't. There are a couple of different Daleys in Democratic politics.

The Daley -- this particular Daley just so happens to be the one who we remember who fainted forward, sort of famously, while serving under the Clinton Cabinet.

So, we actually -- Gary Dodders (ph), our political writer here, pulled this moment. So, let's just revisit.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- company --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: And down he went. That was way back in 1996. You see all kinds of people rushing, rushing, how is he doing? Obviously he was fine, Vice President Al Gore and President Clinton rushing in. Besides, Ed Henry, being the guy who famously fainted forward, talk to me about William Daley. Who is he?

ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all I can report that things ended a lot better today. He didn't faint or anything like that.

BALDWIN: Excellent.

HENRY: I think also that a lot of people here at the White House want people to know there are a lot of other moments that Bill Daley had as commerce secretary that are strong and show he has a good record as commerce secretary, pushing through trade deals, working with American businesses. And the president citing his ties to corporate America is fascinating because the first two years this White House has been saying we are not anti-business. We have plenty of folks around here who have close ties to corporate America.

And groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said no way. You don't know enough about creating jobs. They're finally giving in a little bit and acknowledging they've got to bring in more voices who do know about corporate America. Bill Daley not just former Clinton commerce secretary but most recently was at J.P. Morgan-Chase.

And that's really fascinating to me. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce that has been at war in some ways with this administration put out a statement earlier saying, "Great pick, Mr. President, a man of real stature."

Meanwhile, a couple of minutes ago I got two statements, one from Public Citizen, a liberal group. And they said "Why would the president pick someone from the very Wall Street that wrecked the economy?" They're going to be jumping all over that, people on the left.

And secondly, the AFL-CIO, organized labor, put out a statement. It says, quote, "The president is of course entitled to choose a chief of staff in whom he has complete confidence." My emphasize on the word he, as in "he has complete confidence." Maybe organized labor and others on the left do not. Saying, you know, the president is entitled to his pick. Obviously he is. They're not saying we're thrilled.

I think there will be a push and a pull. This administration is signaling very quickly to the House that they are ready to move to the center. They'll say, well, no, it's one pick. This is the chief of staff. It's a big job.

BALDWIN: Indeed, it is. Ed Henry, thank you.

And as promised, the House of Representatives read the constitution just this morning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN BOEHNER, (R-OH) HOUSE SPEAKER: We, the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union established --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: The new speaker, there he is, John Boehner, kicking off the reading. The whole thing lasted 84 minutes. We were counting.

Interesting to note, there was a brief discussion beforehand as to precisely which version was being read. It was a pretty interesting back-and-forth if you were watching it live here on CNN. Not the original version, it turns out, but the constitution as amended. So, for example, no reading of article one, section two, paragraph three which reduced black Americans to three-fifths status, none of that.

Also, one more quick note here. I want you to listen to Speaker Boehner talking about the Republican effort to repeal health care reform and how it might affect the federal deficit. Here now is Speaker Boehner.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOEHNER: If you believe that repealing Obamacare is going to raise the deficit, then you would have to have some way to offset that spending. But I don't think anybody in this town believes that repealing Obamacare is going to increase the deficit.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: And then just a very short time later, the Congressional Budget Office issued a preliminary finding that said repealing health care reform would add a quarter trillion, with a "t" dollars to the national debt over the next decade.

And again, I want to remind you we are waiting for this news conference on these two incendiary devices that flared up in Hanover at the MDOT, Maryland Department of Transportation headquarters in Hanover in the mailroom, and also in Annapolis in the state house office building, the Jeffrey building. We'll bring that to you live.

Also today, you know, it's a confusing time to be a parent with an autistic child. Now that this major study linking autism to vaccines is being called, and I'm quoting here, "an elaborate fraud," what should parents be doing right now?

And why did -- looking ahead here, why did a Nebraska teenager take his father's gun and go on a deadly shooting rampage at his new school? I'm going to talk to a local reporter there who has been digging on the story all day.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: It has been this major debate and a major concern for parents for more than a decade now. What causes autism? Is it linked to childhood vaccines?

Today a study linking vaccines to autism is being labeled, quote, "an elaborate fraud." "The British Medical Journal" says Dr. Andrew Wakefield faked or lied about the medical histories of all 12 children in his study from 1998.

Now, the study said nine children developed autism soon after being vaccinated. But BMJ says only one actually had it.

Forgive me. I'm going to interrupt myself talking autism. That news conference has just started there in Maryland. Let's listen.

GREGORY SHIPLEY, MARYLAND STATE POLICE SPOKESMAN: With me is the state fire marshal's office, also, Major A.J. MacAndrew (ph), and the assistant bureau chief of field operations of the Maryland state police.

At about 12:25 today, here in the Jeffrey building in the mailroom, a state employee opened a package that is best described by showing it to you. It's described as something that looks like you would receive a book in from the mail. I will give you individual shots of this afterwards.

But this is the package that was opened by that employee. It was addressed to Governor Martin O'Malley, and state mail comes through this mailroom. When the employee opened that package, there was an initial flash of fire and smoke and a smell that emanated from that reaction.

The employee reported his fingers being singed but refused any type of medical treatment, so very minor irritation to that employee.

Obviously we called emergency officials right away, and multiple agencies have responded here to include the state fire marshal's office, the Annapolis Fire Department, Maryland capital police and other agencies including the Maryland state police. The package was contained. The mailroom quarantined. The state fire marshal's office used the robot to go into the room and to examine the package further, render it safe.

And the investigation here is continuing. Employees went back into the building, were allowed to go back into the building here before 3:00 today.

Now, about 20 minutes after this incident occurred, about 12:45 at the Maryland department of transportation headquarters in Hanover, Maryland near BWI airport, there was a state employee from the department of transportation going through mail in an answer room near the office of the secretary of the Maryland department of transportation.

A similar package was examined by that mailroom -- or that employee. That employee opened the package and a similar reaction occurred, a flash of fire, smoke, and some smell.

The employee immediately dropped the package and emergency officials responded to that location. The headquarters was evacuated about 250 people were evacuated from DOT headquarters. The fire marshal's office responded to the scene. That package was rendered safe.

Again, the employee complained of singed fingers and we have several employees from that general area who I am told were transported to the hospital as a precaution, not due to any kind of serious injury that was inflicted as a result of any kind of explosion that occurred.

So both investigations are continuing. It's very early in the investigation. We are working -- the Maryland state police, the Maryland state fire marshal's office are working in coordination with allied law enforcement and our partners in the FBI, the joint terrorism task force on this investigation as it continues. So there are a lot of questions yet to be answered.

QUESTION: (inaudible)

SHIPLEY: When this package -- when both packages were open, there was a reaction, a reaction that caused a flash of fire, a brief flash of fire, smoke, and a smell. This is not to be compared with a significant explosion that you think of when you say that word. I want to stress that. There was no property damage. And there was obviously no serious physical harm inflicted on these employees as a result of this reaction. So I'll let Commander Waldner speak to that in a second.

QUESTION: Did you get a chance to look at the material that was in there?

SHIPLEY: The fire marshal's office is reporting no explosive material has been found at this point. No explosive material has been found. But, again, it's very early in the investigation. Both these packages will be going to our forensic sciences division for examination.

QUESTION: Have you found any other packages similar to this anywhere else?

SHIPLEY: Not at this time. Let me address that. Governor O'Malley sent word to quarantine all mailrooms in al buildings. That was done after these incidents were learned of. And so those mailrooms have been quarantined. And investigators will be communicating information about these packages to those other offices and going through the mail meticulously. As of this time, we have none.

QUESTION: Are the packages it the same -- basically the same?

SHIPLEY: Similar description. I have not personally seen a picture of the second package, but it was described about the size of receiving a bore was that from?

QUESTION: The second package was addressed to who?

SHIPLEY: It as addressed to the Maryland Department of Transportation. I'm not certain at this moment who specifically.

QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE)

SHIPLEY: It appears it has come through the U.S. postal service. Again, it appears to be U.S. stamps on this, holiday stamps. And we have notified the postal inspector. They are involved in this continuing investigation.

QUESTION: What date is it postmarked? When might it have --

SHIPLEY: I'm sorry?

QUESTION: Are there any evacuations of these builds or other state facilities? SHIPLEY: I mentioned that earlier. There was an evacuation of both buildings. This building, about 50 employees, the Maryland department of transportation building, about 250 employees. Employees were allowed back into this building shortly before 3:00. They have not gone back into DOT headquarters as of this time.

QUESTION: (inaudible)

SHIPLEY: I have no information on that right now.

QUESTION: Do you have any information on what area they were sent from and through --

SHIPLEY: All I can give you right now is this photo, what we have here. I don't have the details to that extent.

QUESTION: Did the packages just get there today? Do you have any sense of when they might arrived?

SHIPLEY: I don't know.

QUESTION: Do they have postmarks on them?

SHIPLEY: I assume so. This one has what appears to be several postmarks on it.

QUESTION: (inaudible)

SHIPLEY: I can only assume. I do not know for sure. I'm certain that's something investigators will be looking into. It appears to have come through the U.S. mail. That has not been verified at this time.

QUESTION: (inaudible)

SHIPLEY: This office opened mail addressed to the governor, yes. It comes here.

QUESTION: Do they appear to be connected, these two packages?

SHIPLEY: We certainly have indications that they are connected at this point. But that's up to investigators to determine as this proceeds.

QUESTION: It was a very minor explosion in that entire --

SHIPLEY: It is. It is. And so I hope -- that's an important point to convey.

QUESTION: There are reports that there was a sulfuric odor. Can you confirm that.

SHIPLEY: Yes, yes it was.

QUESTION: Is this similar to any other situation that you've encountered? SHIPLEY: Can you address that?

QUESTION: And the reaction that was perceived once by --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's real consistent with most types of this incident. We have not had any, though. To address your question specifically, these are the only two incidents that have been reported in the recent past.

QUESTION: You were saying it's real consistent with what?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The odor is real consistent with the burning that occurred when the minor flash occurred when it was opened.

QUESTION: When would you normally detect sulfuric acid or --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Instantly.

QUESTION: So did these fail or did they explode when --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's too -- you're using the word explode. An incendiary reaction occurred as it was opened.

QUESTION: (inaudible)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: An incendiary reaction occurred producing a small flame and fire as the package was opened. That's correct. And Major Shipley addressed that, incendiary device.

QUESTION: What kind of materials --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have no results yet. Bomb technicians are taking a closer look at everything.

QUESTION: (inaudible)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know. It would be unprofessional to speculate.

QUESTION: But you said the sulfuric acid smell was there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not sulfuric acid, the odor of sulfur.

QUESTION: Oh, I'm sorry.

QUESTION: How did the robots disable this package?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They did not. It was disabled when it was opened. It was just used by the Annapolis bomb squad in conjunction with to examine the room, to get a good handle on what's going in prior to bomb technicians having to make an initial entry.

QUESTION: Sir, was there any other material inside the package? Would you talk as much as you can about the screening process when mail comes to the state government?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can't talk about that.

QUESTION: There was no message inside?

SHIPLEY: These are details we're not going to get into right now. That's for investigators to look at to determine and to work through as this investigation continues.

QUESTION: Can you say are you -- how are you investigating this? Is it terrorism or what is this?

SHIPLEY: We're investigating this as an incendiary device that was received as two locations involving state offices. So it -- we're covering all the bases right now until evidence points to one direction or another.

And so we're leaving nothing to chance. We have local, state, and federal law enforcement involved. From the ground floor, from the beginning on this the governor has directed that all appropriate resources be implemented in investigating these. The Maryland emergency management agency has been stood up to a level two. So they're in operation and assisting with this.

So all appropriate resources are being directed to this. But we -- and we have the best in the business here in Maryland. And they're working to solve this case.

QUESTION: Is there a quarantine on the mail?

SHIPLEY: I don't know specifically --

BALDWIN: Here are the couple of items making news here. We've been listening to the spokesperson for Maryland state police. What we finally saw here for the first time wasn't the actual incendiary device itself, but he held up that picture. And he said it was about size of a book. There it is, about the size of a book. You can see five holiday stamps.

And that is the picture of the incendiary device that was sent to the Jeffrey building there in downtown Annapolis. And we learned it was actually addressed to the governor of Maryland, Governor Martin O'Malley. And when that mailroom employee opened up that particular package, he/she reported a flash of fire, saw some smoke, and it was a bit of a sulfuric smell, caused that employee's fingers to singe a bit, didn't go to the hospital. No major injuries there.

The mailroom was quarantined. They sent one of those robots in to check out that package and it was rendered safe. About 50 different employees work in that building there in Annapolis. They've been able to go back in.

A bit of a different in Hanover, and I want to remind you that we are waiting for a news conference there that will be held from the state fire marshal.

But what the Maryland state police spokesperson did say about the Hanover situation with is that incendiary device in a mailroom at the Maryland department of transportation headquarters went off all of 20 minutes later at 12:45 eastern today in a mailroom, similar situation, flash, smoke, sulfuric smell.

That headquarters has been evacuated. It was a bunch of people, 250 people and they apparently have still not been able to go back in. And now those packages will go on to the forensics department and they can glean a lot of information as to, you know, how it was made and perhaps who made it. And now all state offices, all the mailrooms are quarantined in the state of Maryland.

Again, we are waiting for a news conference to happen in Hanover at the Maryland department of transportation headquarters. We will bring that to you live. For now, sneak a break in. CNN newsroom will be right back.

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BALDWIN: You know, a lot of people have been trying to piece together clues as to what prompted a Nebraska high school senior to pick up a gun Wednesday, take it to school, and shoot his principal. I'm going to get you that in just a moment.

Again, remind you, we are waiting for the Hanover news conference, Maryland fire marshal, to happen any moment now.

But moving forward this is what we learned about the shooting at Omaha's South Millard High School today. Omaha police are confirming that 17-year-old Robert Butler Jr. had been suspended first thing Wednesday morning. According to school officials, Butler took the suspension calmly at the time. I want you to listen to Omaha's police chief explain the chain of events.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHIEF ALEX HAYES, OMAHA POLICE: He walked into the school, just like a normal student, was not displaying any firearm, any weapons. He walked back to the office area. He took the time to sign in, sign the log as he came in at 12:45.

He then walked back into the back rooms, back where the assistant principal would be. He was back in that area for, we believe at this time, approximately about four minutes. People in the office area then heard four sounds.

All indicators were that he was acting normal. He was disappointed about the discipline but he was not acting in any kind of manner that -- where he was upset, acting, you know, frustrated or angry or anything like that.

We are at the opinion at least at this point in time -- we don't have our ballistics back yet -- of a belief that the firearm used did belong to Robert Butler Jr.'s father, Robert Butler Senior. It was put away in a closet, in a room and we believe he got access to it when his father left the house for approximately 40 minutes yesterday.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BALDWIN: As we now know, the school's principal was wounded, its assistant principal killed. Also dead, the shooter in this case, 17- year-old Robert Butler. One more disturbing piece to this puzzle, Butler had been a student at the Omaha school for all of two months. Until then he had lived with his mother a town away in Lincoln, Nebraska.

So what happened? I want to turn now to Hannah Pickett of CNN affiliate KNTV out of Omaha, Nebraska.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HANNAH PICKETT, CNN AFFILIATE CORRESPONDENT, KNTV: The student who shot two of his principals was new to Millard South.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He started going to school up here at Millard in November. His name is Robert Butler Jr. He was a transfer student from Lincoln.

ANDREA ANDERSON, MILLARD SOUTH STUDENT: He fooled himself sometimes. He wasn't quiet or anything, just very arrogant.

PICKETT: Robert Butler Jr., a high school senior with a close connection to Omaha police.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Omaha police department as the suspect's father is an Omaha police detective.

PICKETT: His father, Robert Butler, on the force for seven years. The 17-year-old posted a disturbing status using many expletives on his Facebook page before he opened fire, saying, "Everybody that used to know me, I'm sorry, but Omaha changed me and f-d me up, and the school I now attend is even worse. You're going to hear about all the evil blank I did, but that f-ing school drove me to this.

I want you guys to remember me for who I was before this. I know I greatly affected the lives of the families I ruined, but I'm sorry. Goodbye."

Just after the shooting, Butler takes off in his red Honda, making it about two miles away.

JEFF HOOK, WITNESS: Basically, he just seen a guy going through, kind of slow, wanting to turn into a parking stall, changed his mind, go down a little bit with, changed his mind, and finally the car just left.

PICKETT: Butler pulled into this business parking lot, put the Honda in park, and reportedly shot himself. The SWAT team, police and crime lab al on scene, as Butler's car and body taken away.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BALDWIN: I want to bring in Matthew Hansen, a reporter for the "Omaha World Herald" and he joins me from Omaha. Matthew, I read your piece. It is chilling. And you have been digging on the 17-year-old. What have you found out about him, because from what I read, he seemed like a pretty good kid, according to both the students at Lincoln and Omaha?

MATTHEW HANSEN, REPORTER, "OMAHA WORLD-HERALD": Yes, definitely, the early indications we were receiving, at least yesterday, was when he lived in Lincoln, he was fairly well liked, popular kid you can at least, you know, in his group of friends. No real super obvious warning signs, at least to outsiders, that, you know, he was the sort of kid that was going to end up doing something like this.

BALDWIN: Was he ever a troubled kid? From what I understand from a news conference with police, he was, you know, using some drugs in Lincoln. What do you know about that?

HANSEN: We actually haven't confirmed that yet. I'm honestly not sure if that's true.

BALDWIN: We will move on. I think that is something we had heard on our end.

Let me just get to this then I got to let you go. We got a lot going on with Maryland today. Let me ask you about the gun. Have you confirmed that the gun used in this shooting was that of his father, who was a police detective?

HANSEN: Yes, that's what our reporting indicates, that he evidently had used one of his father's guns, his father, a well- respected Omaha police detective.

BALDWIN: Matthew Hansen, forgive me to speed this along. We have a lot of breaking news out of Maryland, but thank you so much and I urge everyone to hop online and read from the "Omaha World-Herald" your article. Matthew Hansen, thank you so much.

And now, we will be right back.

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