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tv   60 Minutes  CBS  January 17, 2021 7:00pm-8:00pm PST

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captioning funded by cbs and ford. we go further, so you can. >> tens of thousands of troops are en route to the capitol to join thousands of police officers and federal agents, all preparing to defend the inauguration from further domestic terrorism. >> i was very heartened to see the joint chiefs of staff issue a statement that the united states army would be there to support the mission of a smooth transition of power. >> it's a hell of a thing for the pentagon to feel like it has to issue a statement that it is supporting the constitution. >> it is. but it is necessary. ( ticking ) >> what we saw on january 6th in
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d.c., in some ways, may have been the most predictable terrorist incident in modern american history. >> it was a day no american will ever forget-- when a frenzied mob broke into the capitol, halting the electoral vote count, chasing legislators from their constitutional duties, leaving five dead and more than 60 injured police officers. right there at the archway entrance to the capitol there was a pitched battle. >> there was a pitched battle that went on for hours. for hours. >> could this happen again in washington or in state capitols around the country? that's our story tonight. ( ticking ) >> sometimes athletes do remarkle nothing to do with sports, and the comeback of alex smith fits that description like few things we have ever seen. what is a compound spiral fracture? >> he had a fracture that extended from his ankle joint up
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to his knee joint. so it spiraled all the way up the tibia and then he had a piece of bone sticking out of his skin. >> here we go. >> tonight, a much needed story about character from our nation's capitol. ( cheering ) ( ticking ) >> i'm lesley stahl. >> i'm bill whitaker. >> i'm anderson cooper. >> i'm norah o'donnell. >> i'm scott pelley. those stories, tonight, on "60 minutes." ( ticking )
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>> scott pelley: will the next president be inaugurated at noon on wednesday? that's an unthinkable question. the constitution demands it. but, on the other hand, the law also required congress to count the electoral votes january 6th, which the attack on the capitol delayed. this week, washington is an armed camp. with a president impeached for inciting insurrection, tens of thousands of troops are on route to the capitol to join thousands of police officers and federal agents-- all preparing to uphold their oath to defend the constitution against all enemies. will joe biden be inauaton on j0
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>> muriel bowser: absolutely. this nation will have its 46th president. joe biden and kamala harris will take the oath of office right here in washington, d.c. on january the 20th. >> pelley: muriel bowser is the democratic mayor of washington. she took us to the ground, trampled by the mob, to show us a capitol and tradition restored. >> bowser: you see the balconies there? and that is where the next president will take the oath of office. you see the red drapes just behind the podium. that's where the president and special guest will enter. >> pelley: ritual is returning after the greatest attack on the capitol in 206 years. in the aftermath of january 6th, mayor bowser asked the federal government to reassess security. they're adding reinforcements and imposing a larger, earlier, lockdown around the white house,
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capitol and national mall. this exclusion zone of seven foot fences and military roadin, six days sooner than planned. >> bowser: what we know is that not only is the inauguration itself a target for these extremists who stormed these capitol steps and put 535 members of congress, and the transition of power for our country in danger. we know that they're planning events leading up to it. so, it was very important that we have a posture that discouraged people from coming, all people, but also discouraged these extremist groups from thinking they could come back. >> pelley: earlier plans called for 10,000 national guard troops.loyed; more troops in washington than in wars overseas.
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their gear includes shields for covid and combat. many of the troops are being mustered in the corridors of the capitol itself, as they were in 1861 during the civil war. >> bowser: i was also very heartened to see the joint chiefs of staff issue a statement that the united states army would be there to support the mission of a smooth transition of power. >> pelley: it's a hell of a thing for the pentagon to feel like it has to issue a statement that it is supporting the constitution. >> bowser: it is. but it is necessary. and i'm glad that it happened. but we, as americans, have to stop thinking that we can take for granted that every american has pledged his allegiance to the constitution. what we saw in plain view, were too many americans who have pledged allegiance to donald trump. >> pelley: the military has
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taken the decision to give combat weapons to the national guardsmen who will be providing security for the inauguration. are you glad about that, or are you worried about it? >> bowser: it's a place in our history that i'm sad that we've come to. american troops should not have to be armed against their fellow americans. but what we saw was an unprecedented attack on our democracy, in the cradle of that democracy. >> pelley: the secret service is in charge of what the government calls a national special security event; a designation for high-risk gatherings, for example the super bowl after 9/11 and political conventions. >> ken cuccinelli: theecrvare, available to them, 10,000 to 20,000 security personnel. >> pelley: ken cuccinelli is acting deputy secretary of the department of homeland security which oversees the secret service.
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he told us inauguration security planning has been going on eight months. on social media, the terrorists seem to see the attack on the capitol as a win.and i nder if g up intelligence that they're emboldened by that. >> cuccinelli: there is a lot more online chatter, if you will, that has come up since january 6th. but i would point out that a lot of that chatter isn't capital nation's capital focused, it's more general across the country. >> pelley: has the suspect who planted two pipe bombs during the attack on the capitol been caught? >> cuccinelli: as you and i sit here speaking, the answer to that is no. >> pelley: so you have him to worry about. >> cuccinelli: of course, yes. >> pelley: is t.s.a. intercepting known suspects before they get on planes for washington? >> cuccinelli: if they identify an individual like you described, they will, first of all, keep that person from flying.
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and if there's a legal basis to do so, they will seize and hold that person for delivery to the fbi or local authorities. >> pelley: the local authority in washington is the metropolitan police. on january 6th, the m.p.d. helped rescue the capitol police and break the siege. >> robert contee: everyone is working very hard to ensure that that never happens again >> pelley: we met acting chief robert contee in his command center which, on inauguration day, will be filled with representatives of the f.b.i., secret service and defense department. while the world is focused on the podium at the capitol, contee will still have to cover his city of more than 700,000 people. chief, what will the m.p.d. have deployed on inauguration day? >> contee: every available resource. that's our entire department. our total department will be activated we'll have support of law enforcement officers from all across our country, to the tune of about 2,500 that will be
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here to support us in this effort. >> pelley: you've been with the m.p.d. for 31 years. is this the tightest security you've ever seen in washington? >> contee: the tightest security that i've ever seen, absolutely. >> pelley: but the tight security faces unprecedented chaos at the top. both the attorney general and director of homeland security recently resigned. the defense secretary was recently fired. even homeland security deputy secretary ken cuccinelli is a stand-in. he was never confirmed by the senate. d.h.s. has had six secretaries in four years. why should the american people have confidence in federal law enforcement when the leadership is not in place? >> cuccinelli: because the professionals we have in law enforcement in the federal government, in the secret service and across the department of homeland security and beyond, d.o.j. and all the rest that we work with, are lifelong, career professionals.
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that's 99.9% of the people creating and executing the plans to ensure the safety of incoming president-elect biden and none of them are going anywhere. >> trump: we will never give up. we will never concede. >> pelley: but there's also the dilemma that the security is commanded by president trump who encouraged the attack on the capitol and has relentlessly worked to stop the inauguration of joe biden. who does the national guard answer to? >> cuccinelli: they answer through d.o.d. they can have-- >> pelley: to the president? >> cuccinelli: that's the chain of command. the whole executive-- >> pelley: if he orders them to stand down, will they stand down? >> cuccinelli: well, you're going to have to ask them, but that's unimaginable. >> pelley: if the president orders d.h.s. to stand down, will you stand down? >> cuccinelli: we're going to complete our jobs. there's not-- there's not a stand down. we have a statutory mission we're going to perform under all circumstances. and i think that hypothetical is not going to happen. it's unimaginable. >> pelley: a lot of things are unimaginable in washington these
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days. and we don't have a very good track record taking the president's word on things, so-- >> cuccinelli: in the department of homeland security-- >> pelley: my-- my point-- is are you going to-- are you going to follow--w,'re-- >> pelley: --the president or are you going to follow the constitution-- >> cuccinelli: we all swore an-- >> pelley: --in your role now? >> cuccinelli: we all swore an oath to the constitution. that is first and foremost. and we take homeland security very, very seriously. we deal with a lot of curveballs of all kinds. and yet, we march forward to keep the american people as safe as we possibly can. >> chuck schumer: we must go forward. we must make it as safe as possible, but we must go forward. >> pelley: much of what happens in washington after inauguration day is in the hands of democrat chuck schumer of new york who will be the new majority leader in the senate. he's making plans for the trial of president trump after last week's impeachment. why put donald trump on trial when he'll be out of office anyway? >> schumer: what donald trump did is the most despicable action any president has ever
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taken. and he should be convicted at this trial. in addition, if we convict him, we can then, by only 51 votes, remove him from ever running for office again. i know we want to heal. but when something this awful happens, to just push it off will not heal. >> pelley: to convict him, you need a supermajority, which means 17 republicans would have to vote to convict. it doesn't seem likely. >> schumer: i just believe that our republican colleagues, when they look at this, will see how awful this was, what it means in history, and join us in convicting him. >> pelley: how soon would you like the trial to begin? do you feel that it's important to get part of pdent-elect biden's agenda completed in the senate first? >> schumer: we have tr the president.
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that's mandated by law. second, there's a very, very real need for president biden to have in place key people in his cabinet, the people in charge of national security, the people in charge of domestic security, the people in charge of making sure everyone gets vaccinated as quickly as possible. and third, this country is in the greatest economic crisis since the depression, the greatest health care crisis since the spanish pandemic flu 100 years ago, and we must pass more relief for the american people. we must do all three and we have to do them all quickly. one cannot stand in the way of the other. >> pelley: on wednesday, president trump will not be on the podium-- the first president to snub his successor's inauguration in 152 years. also not attending will be the usual inauguration multitude on the national mall. the two-mile-long park is closed. invited guests, members of
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congress, family and dignitaries will be socially distanced on t. mayor muriel bowser is telling the general public not to come to her city. she's even asking the interior department to revoke permits it already issued to demonstrators. >> bowser: for a couple of reasons. for the security of the event. and let's keep in mind what we just saw here one week ago. people storm these steps and put our democracy in danger. but we're also concerned about people traveling and gathering, celebrating in big groups because of covid. >> pelley: what is the best guarantee that you can make to the american people? >> bowser: i know for sure that the united states secret service that is responsible for the security of the president of the united states. if they thought that this couldn't be a secure event, they wouldn't let it happen. >> pelley: but security comes at
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a cost to a ritual celebration. constitution avenue, the spine of federal washington, is vacant for miles from the lincoln memorial to the white house, past the washington monument, and to the capitol. the military cordon has the feel of some other country, one with a tenuous grasp on the rule of law. halfway up the avenue, the constitution itself has been locked out of sight in the national archives to protect the parchment for future reference. ( ticking ) many people with type 2 diabetes like emily lower their blood sugar. a majority of adults who took ozempic® reached an a1c under 7 and maintained it. here's your a1c. oh! my a1c is under 7! (announcer) and you may lose weight. adults who took ozempic® lost on average up to 12 pounds.
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house, thousands of pro-trump demonstrators marched on the capitol to stop the electoral vote count presided over by vice president mike pence. trump true believers, proud boys and boogaloo bois joined costumed q-anon conspiracists. there were neo-nazis and other white supremacists. some were armed or wearing tactical gear or capes improvised from trump flags. what was once the fringe had become a threat to american democracy. >> chief steven sund: they came with body armor, they came with helmets, tor thamwith baseball bats, they came with pipes. they came with bear spray. they came with their own explosives. they came with climbing gear. they came well-prepared and coordinated. this was no less than a coordinated, violent attack on the united states capitol. >> whitaker: on january 6th, steven sund was chief of the capitol police. he'd held the post a year and a half, but he'd spent almost 30
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years in law enforcement in the nation's capital. he'd seen massive, sometimes violent protests before and from the intel he says he'd received, sund was confident his plan for deploying his officers was robust enough to handle the pro- trump demonstration. it was a tragic miscalculation. when insurgents filled the capitol's grand halls with rage and rancor, chief sund was scrambling to mount a response from his command center two blocks away, watching defilentfs housn security cam. you offered natin the wake of this. >> sund: yes sir. >> whitaker: why? >> sund: you know, i understand how things work. i'm the chief-- the visuals of what i watched were-- were alarming. >> whitaker: five people died as
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a result of the siege, including capitol police officer, brian sicknick. the next day, house speaker nancy pelosi said she'd lost confidence in the chief. >> speaker nancy pelosi: i am calling for the resignation of the chief of the capitol police, mr. sund. >> whitaker: his two superiors, the sergeants at arms of the house and senate, resigned as well. >> sund: she had gone onto national tv and basically made everybody feel that it was a failure on my part. if that's how the leadership feels, then i have no problem. then i will step down to let this department move forward. >> whitaker: you said that you let your officers down. >> sund: no leader wants to see their officers go through what they went through. you know it's heartbreaking to see that. >> whitaker: three days before the siege, an internal report by sund's own intelligence unit, obtained by the "washington post" and confirmed by "60 minutes," warned the rally of angry trump supporters, white
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supremacists and militia members january 6th could erupt in violence, their rage focused on congress. >> sund: we were expecting some large crowds are going to come down. their grievance would be on the capitol, and the counting of the votes. we expected altercations between some of the counter protests. we may have some people within the group that may be armed. we had contingency planning for that. but nothing about an armed, violent attack on the united states capitol building. >> whitaker: but i'm sitting in new york, and i was aware that this was likely to be-- a day of violence. >> sund: we expected demonstrators with some potential for violence. not a directed, coordinated violent attack toward the nation's capitol. make-- i consider those two different things. >> whitaker: he told us he thought he had everything under but he was concerned enough to get additional helmets for his officers and widen the perimeters. he asked the sergeants at arms to activate the national guard but they wouldn't approve a
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formal request, a decision he told us he came to regret before president trump finished speaking to his throng of supporters. >> sund: we had a couple of pipe bombs. we had a vehicle with some explosives and a weapon in it. >> whitaker: how far away from the capitol were these bombs? >> sund: just a couple of blocks. and i believe those were purposely done to draw resources away from our perimeter. >> whitaker: sund told us while some officers were diverted by the bombs, the seditious mob stormed the bike rack barricades on the west side of the capitol. >> whitaker: describe that scene for me when-- when the mob first got to the-- the perimeter. >> sund: they tore apart, immediately tore apart the bike rack, literally started throwing it at the officers' heads. dozens of officers were-- were fighting with them, the officers were being hit with pipes, bats, batons, you name it. >> whitaker: it's almost like you're describing a military operation. >> sund: it was well- coordinated. whi chief sde anor hel the d.c.
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metro police. about 100 officers responded immediately. right there at the archway entrance to the capitol there was a pitched battle. >> sund: there was a pitched battle that went on for hours. for hours, that you know, both capitol police, metropolitan police defended that door with everything they got. >> whitaker: with the mob battering the door, sund called on the national guard. he says it took him a half hour to make his way up the chain of command to the office of the secretary of the army, which controls the d.c. national guard. >> sund: i was pleading, absolutely pleading for national guard assistance as quickly as possible with the-- with the secretary of army's-- representative, telling him "i need boots on the ground now." he kept saying, "i don't like the optics of national guard standing in line with the capitol building behind them. >> whitaker: and this is while the siege is underway? >> sund: this is while the siege is underway.
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>> whitaker: what's going through your head? >> sund: i'm begging, literally begging for support for my men and women, and that's what i'm hearing. >> whitaker: the army told us there was no discussion of optics. but the chief of the d.c. metro police, who was also on the call, confirmed to us sund's account. it took another three hours and 15 minutes to mobilize and deploy the national guard. it was 8:00 p.m. when the combined forces of police and national guard cleared the capitol, making it safe for lawmakers to return to the floor to certify the election of joe biden and kamala harris as the next president and vice president of the united states. >> sund: we had 60 law enforcement officers injured, 15 went to the hospital. capitol police lost two of their officers that week. they did not fail in their mission. they need someone to really stand up and-- and let the american people know, they didn't fail. >> whitaker: it's hard to understand how you can describe what we all saw as successful.
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>> sund: i know it didn't look pretty, but the number one goal is to protect the members of congress. they protected the members of congress, and they need to be recognized for that. >> whitaker: officer eugene goodman led the mob away from a corridor where vice president mike pence had been hustled to safety by his security detail just moments before. since the siege on the capitol, federal and state law enforcement have made arrests every day. because cell phones were so ubiquitous, authorities have a cache of digital evidence-- about 140,000 pictures and videos so far. many of the people who rampaged through the capitol revealed themselves, posting their actions on social media. now facing federal criminal charges: kevin seefried, the man with the confederate flag. adam johnson, who walked off with nancy pelosi's lectern. the man with his boot on a desk
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in the speaker's office, richard barnett. this past week, the acting u.s. attorney for the district of columbia said expect more arrests and charges tied to sedition and conspiracy in the days ahead. >> oren segal: what we saw on january 6th in d.c., in some ways, may have been the most predictable terrorist incident in modern american history. >> whitaker: oren segal runs the center on extremism for the anti-defamation league. he and a team of researchers scour the web, monitoring hate groups and share what they find with law enforcement. segal told us he was raising the alarm to federal, state and local authorities for months before the siege on the capitol. but he's been watching violent extremism grow for years, built on grievances and a sense of loss. >> segal: for white supremacists, they believe that their culture, their race is being taken away, that they're
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going to go extinct. immigrants are coming in, the browning of america. for militias, it's often that their guns are going to be taken away. and conspiracy theories, like q- anon, that the government is trying to take away their freedom. so here we have all those factors coming together. and now they're telling you your election is being stolen, is it a surprise that people reacted the way that they did? >> whitaker: you called this a terrorist incident. not a protest, not a riot. but a terrorist incident. >> segal: one of the lasting impressions of what we saw at the capitol was not some white supremacists, some militias dressed up in their gear, but it was john q. citizen who got wrapped up in that. >> whitaker: is that more frightening or less? >> segal: to me, the idea that people who are not necessarily card-carrying membe of any em wrapped up in extremist activities is more frightening. >> whitaker: oren segal says extremism has been growing in
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plain sight on social media like facebook and twitter. now that those platforms are curtailing hate groups, extremists have retreated to distant corners of the internet. >> segal: these people are still out there. their grievances are still real to them. they have a narrative that is wrapped up in a bow for the next four years. the belief in an illegitimate government that was stolen from its rightful leader, donald trump. and if they perceive it to be stolen, and they hear people who animate those thoughts and support it, then they're emboldened. and when you have extremists who are emboldened over a period of time, enas shootis in el paso and pittsburgh and poway. you end up with people storming capitals in michigan. and you end up with january 6th. >> whitaker: this past week the f.b.i. sent warnings to local law enforcement across the country that extremists,
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conspiracists and hate groups plan armed protests in all 50 state capitals in the days before the inauguration and threaten violence if president trump is removed from office. to democrat dana nessel, michigan's attorney general, it's like a recurring nightmare. when you saw the siege on the capitol unfold on the 6th, what- - what did you think? >> dana nessel: of course, i was horrified but there was a part of me that wasn't actually surprised because i've seen the threats of domestic terrorism in our own state. >> whitaker: when governor gretchen whitmer, also a democrat, shut down the state to fight the spread of the coronavirus, president trump tweeted, "liberate michigan" and militia members armed with assault weapons occupied the capitol in lansing. several months later, 14 militiamen, at least five of whom had occupied the capitol, were charged in connection with a plot to kidnap governor whitmer. >> nessel: a lot of these same
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individuals saw what happened in lansing, michigan last april and decided that they might be able to do the exact same thing in washington, d.c. and it turns out they were right. >> whitaker: michigan is taking the f.b.i. warning seriously. attorney general nessel urged state lawmakers to cancel their session this week. they did. >> nessel: i have recommended to the legislators that i know that they go to-- you know, an army store and purchase kevlar vests, purchase helmets, perhaps gas masks. and these are the kinds of items now that our state legislators are having to purchase just to provide some sense of security to themselves, so they can feel at least a little bit safer while they're in session. >> whitaker: if lansing, michigan and washington, d.c. have shown us anything, it's that we're in a battle for the soul of america and it requires each of us to answer one basic
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question: who are we? ( ticking ) answer one basic question. who are we? more on how the approach to domestic security has changed after the assault on the capitol. at age-related macular degeneration may lead to severe vision loss. so the national eye institute did 20 years of clinical studies on a formula only found in preservision. if it were my vision, i'd ask my doctor about preservision. it's the most studied eye vitamin brand. if it were my vision, i'd look into preservision.
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>> norah o'donnell: if you are looking for strength and character in the nation's capital these days, look no further than the story of alex smith. just over two years ago, the washington quarterback suffered a crippling injury that almost led to the amputation of his right leg. it would have been a brutal end to the long career of a man who was once the first overall draft pick in the n.f.l. and a three time pro-bowler. instead, smith defied expectations by rehabbing the way injured special forces do. tonight a look at one of the greatest comebacks in sports history. it all began a little over two years ago, november 18, 2018 when alex smi houston texans, and pass rushers, kareem jackson and j.j. watt, crashed through his offensive line. >> alex smith: it was one of those plays as a quarterback, you know, "okay, they got us--" you know, "secure the football and-- and just kind of get down.
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>> there goes alex smith, down at the 40 yard line. alex smith is down. >> alex smith: i immediately knew that it was broken. >> o'donnell: you could see it or you felt it? >> alex smith: the visual was the most alarming thing, for me to look down and know that my leg was broken, it wasn't straight-- bending in a place it shouldn't bend. >> dr. robin west: alex isn't a guy who goes down a lot. i had never run on the field for him. >> o'donnell: dr. robin west is the washington football team's head physician. this is her 18th season in the n.f.l. >> dr. west: and i realized quickly that the injury was-- was severe when i got out there. >> o'donnell: just so that people understand, what is a compound spiral fracture? >> dr. west: he had a fracture that extended from his ankle joint up to his knee joint. so, it spiraled all the way up the tibia, and then he had a piece of bone sticking out of his skin. >> o'donnell: how often do injuries like this happen in football? >> dr. west: like this? no. very, very rarely. >> o'donnell: after watching from the stands, alex smith's wife elizabeth rushed down to be with her husband.
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do you remember what he said to you in the ambulance? >> elizabeth smith: yes. he wanted me to pull the game up on my phone. he wanted to know the score, he wanted to know how the offense was doing. he was not even worried about his leg whatsoever. he was worried about his team. >> o'donnell: a team of orthopedic trauma surgeons was waiting to operate at inova fairfax hospital in virginia. they put smith's leg back together with three plates and 28 screws and pins. after surgery the x-rays looked good, but what dr. west and her colleagues could not see, was bacteria, she thinks from washington's football field, had infected the open wound on smith's leg. >> alex smith: there in those couple days after is when it-- it, you know, quickly-- quickly got sideways. >> elizabeth smith: his blood pressure's dropping, his fever was skyrocketing. and that's when i knew it was a lot worse than we ever anticipated. >> o'donnell: not many diagnoses sound worse than necrotizing fasciitis, more commonly known as flesh eating bacteria.
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as the infection ravaged smith's leg, his body reacted by developing stage two sepsis, a dangerous condition that can damage organs and lead to death. and his infection just keeps getting worse. what's going through your mind? >> elizabeth smith: i'm obviously more worried about his life. he is septic. and, you know, you hear all these staggering numbers on when people go septic. >> o'donnell: at one point, elizabeth smith asked to speak to dr. west privately. his medical team was already considering the amputation of her husband's right leg. >> dr. west: she said, "just-- just to get rid of it. i just want him to live and walk out of here." so, we talked to his family and his father had a similar view. and then we went to alex. but he said, "do what you can to save my leg. do anything you can to save it." >> o'donnell: smith underwent eight operations in ten days to carefully remove all the dead or infected tissue.
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what did alex smith's leg look like? >> dr. west: bone, basically. all he had was his calf muscle and his tibia and his fibula. >> alex smith: we were in he hospital approximately a month. they had to remove quite a bit of muscle and tissue from my lower leg in order to-- to get the infection under control. and then faced with the reality that, "hey, we--" you know, "we- - we still might have to cut off your leg." and for me, that-- to hear those words-- hard to deal with as a professional athlete, and someone that-- that really-- i-- i mean, i think i took that for granted for so long- my body, my health. yeah. >> o'donnell: the most basic thing people take for granted. >> alex smith: yeah. no doubt. just wondering, like, i mean, would i ever be able to go on walks with my wife? would i ever be able to play with my kids? crazy reality. so yeah really thankful to be here. >> o'donnell: surgeons covered smith's bones so they would heal, partly by removing a portion of his left thigh muscle and placing it on his lower
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right leg. >> elizabeth smith: you got this. how's that feel? >> alex smith: i'm afraid to put too much weight on it. >> o'donnell: his leg was also fitted with a piece of hardware called an external fixator. >> alex smith: it looks medieval, but it's really advanced orthopedics. and so i wear this metal cage that's bolted into and pinned into my leg, and it holds my leg and bone in place-- while it heals. >> o'donnell: how long did you have to wear the fixator? >> alex smith: yeah, it was almost ten months i wore this bolted in my leg. it was a long process. >> o'donnell: the center for the intrepid in san antonio was specifically built to help wounded warriors through that process. dr. west reached out to her friend johnny owens, who for ten years had been the center's chief physical therapist. had you seen a lot of injuries that were similar to what alex had? >> johnny owens: i have. that was the hallmark injury of- - of the wars was these lower leg injuries from blast traumas,
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stepping on landmines. >> o'donnell: smith requested and received special permission from the pentagon to visit and consult with the center for the intrepid's staff. >> owens: we saw hundreds of alex smiths come through this door with those type of injuries and-- and said, you're going to be able to run. you're going to be able to do all these type of things that-- that people told you you weren't going to be able to do. >> dr. joe alderete: i'm going to have you push down on the gas pedal for me. >> o'donnell: dr. joe alderete is a west point graduate and chief of orthopedic reconstructive surgery at the center. >> dr. alderete: from the moment we-- we met, you could tell in the look behind his eyes that can be so many of my patients, either blast injury, roadside bomb, cancer. that look is binary. it's "you will succeed" or "you will fail."the look of success. there you go, alex. >> o'donnell: during smith's first trip to the center for the intrepid just a few months after his injury, the espn program "e60" recorded a major milestone in his recovery.
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>> johnny owens: first throw since? >> alex smith: november 18th. >> o'donnell: what happened when you tossed alex a football for the first time? >> owens: two things. he almost broke my ribs because i didn't catch the ball right. and second, ere was that spark in his eye. it-- it was so cool. i think it was like a light bulb went off. >> o'donnell: smith says he was humbled and inspired to be around service members, some with injuries similar to his own, who were not only running but returning to duty. >> alex smith: the rest of the world was telling me, "temp--" yeah, "go be happy about the rest of your life and-- and hopefully you save your leg and- - and that'd be great. and, you know, whatever you can do beyond that is icing on the cake." and that was not the mentality down there-- >> o'donnell: at the center for intrepid-- >> alex smith: that was the exact opposite. that it's okay to dream about playing again. it was okay for-- for service men and women if they wanted to go back and try and serve, and to do triathlons, and-- and--
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and be elite. to go chase it. and that-- >> o'donnell: no mental limitations. >> alex smith: no, no. >> o'donnell: through thousands of hours of physical therapy and with the help of various braces and orthotics, smith would re- learn to walk, then run, and eventually move like a quarterback again, sometimes with the help of his wife elizabeth. alex smith first threw a football as a toddler. he says he always wanted to be a quarterback and despite being recruited by harvard and princeton, alex smith chose to play football at the university of utah. >> the san francisco 49ers select alex smith, quarterback, utah. >> o'donnell: after being selected by the 49ers as the first overall pick in the 2005 draft, ahead of quarterback aaron rodgers, smith struggled with injuries and consistency, but after a move to kansas city
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in 2013, played the best football of his career. then the team drafted a young quarterback from texas tech. what's the name of that guy again who replaced you at kansas city? >> alex smith: yeah. don't know if you ever heard of him. pretty good player. >> o'donnell: reigning super bowl m.v.p. patrick mahomes spent the 2017 season as alex smith's backup and understudy. >> patrick mahomes: he didn't hold anything back from me. i mean, he taught me. that's just the type of person he was and that he is. and i'm-- i attribute a lot of my success to him. >> alex smith: i think the thing that jumps out to me, from our relationship is from day one the mutual respect. and i think just, you know, what a good person he was. >> o'donnell: how did you mentor him? >> alex smith: i was going to be a good teammate. i wasn't going to be selfish. you know, i-- i signed up to play a team sport and was going to do my part. >> o'donnell: this past summer at the age of 36, after 17 surgeries and 20 months out of the game, alex smith was
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medically cleared to rejoin the washington football team, despite the fact that his tibia bone was not yet 100% healed. but after everything that you've gone through, why would you risk it? >> alex smith: i'm not crazy. i was-- i wasn't going to do this if i didn't, you know, obviously hear from the experts. and so to hear finally from the experts that, "okay, you can." for me, a bit of a gut check, you know. do i really want to do this? do i put myself out there, walk across those white lines potentially again in live action. >> o'donnell: exhilarating or nerve-wracking? >> alex smith: both. >> o'donnell: he wouldn't actually play in a game until week 5, when the starting quarterback got hurt against the los angeles rams three plays in, smith was sacked by all pro tackle aaron donald. and then, he got right back up. watching on tv, while deployed in iraq, was dr. joe alderete. >> dr. alderete: i was so proud of alex-- sorry-- and-- and all that he had achieved.
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>> o'donnell: you were emotional then watching that. >> dr. alderete: i was, i was totally blown away. i didn't know whether i w-- i wanted to cheer or throw up. it scared me to death, but i-- i just loved watching alex achieve. >> up tall, there we go. >> o'donnell: dr. alderete says the only other patients he's seen achieve similar outcomes are the most elite u.s. special forces. >> o'donnell: so you've worked with almost 1,000 limb salvage patients. how many have been able to get back to the type of functionality that alex smith has? >> dr. alderete: less than a dozen. alex is my capstone patient of somebody who absolutely knocked it out of the park. >> o'donnell: smith went on to record a five and one record as a starter. washington beat archrivals the cowboys on thanksgiving day and in their next game, ruined the steelers' undefeated season. >> i want to resist from your heel.
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okay, ready? >> o'donnell: the day after he helped washington clinch the n.f.c. east and a spot in the playoffs, smith was sore and needed some physical therapy. he had missed the prior two games because of a bone bruise, on yes, his salvaged right leg. >> does that feel like pain, at that spot? >> alex smith: yeah. >> o'donnell: washington's coaches decided not to play him last week against tom brady and tampa bay, which won the game. afterwards, the greatest of all time made it a point to pay his respects, to the triumph of alex smith's comeback >> tom brady: hey, so proud of you, bro. you're unbelievable, you know that? >> o'donnell: and despite the end of his season, the comeback might not be over yet. >> alex smith: this year has-- has only emboldened-- for me that i can, you know, play at this level. i feel like i've had a lot of people reach out to me, saying they feel like my mom, you know, when i'm playing. and how concerned they are for me. >> elizabeth smith: i understand
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people's apprehension. i have the same apprehensions. but i think it's bigger than football. that's what i tell people. it's not about the game. it's about what happened and getting back on your feet and dusting yourself off, no matter what the obstacle is. ( ticking ) feet. no matter what the obstacle is. cbs hq present biding progressive insurance, a dominant defense from the stifling lamar jackson and company, and they come up big playing for the the chiefs, as they hold off the browns setting set up a show down between kansas city and buffalo a super bowl birth on line next sundays, 24/7 news and highlights you woke up early. no one cares. yes.
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