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engine revving ] [ door closes ] dad? you see that? did you see that? >> wish me luck. >> you think you're tuning in to watch the hit "designated survivor." >> this is a man who is the most unlikely president in american history. so help me god. >> but tonight, instead, the reality behind it. >> god forbid if it were to happen, you know -- >> you're the man. >> i'd have to call my mother and father and say, you know, your son's the president. >> president glickman? the unknown players who could have become commander in chief. >> we went to a secure, undisclosed location. >> the top-secret hideaways if
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washington were reduced to rubble. >> welcome to the bunker. >> entire underground cities, ready for action. >> this feels kind of scary. >> and the one time in american history when no one knew who was in charge. >> get him out! >> he was wounded. >> president reagan, wounded, in surgery. secretly recorded tapes about it, heard for the first time tonight on television. >> they are beginning to operate now. but it's not for publication. >> the scramble for control. >> as of now, i am in control. >> the secrets are there for a reason. >> and tonight, we're letting you in on them. the real designated survivor. good evening, i'm elizabeth jar vas here in washington, d.c. on the premiere of the new hit series, "designated survivor," you saw the capitol behind me go up in flames. complete fiction. but tonight, the real story behind the idea of a designated
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survivor. the history, the secrets, the close cas, and what it's like to play the president. >> mr. speaker! the president of the united states! >> reporter: every year, they gather in one room. the president, vice president, both houses of congress, the supreme court, all our nation's leaders, for the state of the union. there is no greater display of america's democracy. and there is also no greater target for terrorists. that's why, since the cold war, a cabinet member is selected to remain out of the room -- the designated survivor. a fact that did not go unnoticed by hollywood script writers. it's amazing that somebody hasn't fought of this idea before. >> no, and i agree. because it's so obvious. >> reporter: kiefer sutherland might not be the obvious choice for the role of president tom kirkman. audiences remember him best as the high octane action hero jack bauer from the megahit "24."
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>> you better put that down. >> reporter: now sutherland has ditched the automatic weapons and c-4 explosives for a character who navigates crisis with chutzpah, humor and humanity. much of it conveyed in that trademark intense whisper. >> there is nothing more dangerous than a pawn that thinks it's a queen. jack bauer was such an isolated character dealing with the worst of the worst, this is very different. did you see that? did you see that? when it actually happens -- >> yes, sir? >> i think he goes into shock. it was the one thing that i wanted to play in the car, when i'm being taken to the white house with my wife. >> reporter: in your jeans and hoodie. >> but i think he's in shock. >> sir, you are now the president of the united states. >> reporter: how much research did you do for this? >> absolutely none. i don't believe in research at all. >> seriously? >> i'm kidding. >> reporter: i'm like, wow.
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>> you know, i'm a history buff. >> reporter: sutherland modeled his character on another wartime president -- franklin delano roosevelt. >> the only thing we have to fear is fear itself! . >> reporter: how do you inhabit a character who is suddenly thrust into the most powerful position on earth? >> you use your imagination. i consider myself a physical actor. so, wardrobe matters a lot. surroundings matter a lot. they seem to inform behavior, for me. scrambled eggs. >> reporter: sutherland says the show works because it's not just a political drama, it's also an intensely personal one. >> so, we have a family drama. what happens to the family overnight? >> reporter: not just you thrust into. >> a choice i've made has completely changed the life of my family. and then there's the thriller part of the story, which is very much -- >> reporter: who done it? >> three days of the condor. >> what if this bomb wasn't meant to explode? what if they wanted us to find it? >> who's responsible for this? >> reporter: president kirkman has been confronted by enemies domestic as well as foreign. from the treasonous governor of
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michigan. >> with all due respect, i'm the president. >> not mine. >> reporter: to his disloyal congressional counterpart, played with flair by virginia madsen. >> earlier, you said that you didn't want this job. was that the truth? >> yes. for now. >> reporter: kirkman also faces an inquisitive press. in episode three, i played myself. we have sources who are telling us president richmond fired you from his cabinet on the day of the attack in the cab toll. mr. president, were you fired? >> i'm sorry. can you excuse me for one second? >> reporter: of course. >> thank you. >> reporter: as his character rises to these challenges, sutherland's job is to convey kirkman's transformation from the wonky, bespectacled hud secretary -- >> mr. president, your glasses. they're not very presidential, sir. >> right. >> reporter: to a commander in chief ready and willing to use the immense powers of his office. >> james royce, i am placing you under arrest for treason against the united states of america.
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what does that do to a human being? what does it do to his family? >> reporter: what does it do to a human being? does it change him? does power change -- >> i think it has to. i think it's impossible not to. power changes you. do i believe it has to always corrupt? no, i don't. i think you'd be very naive to think that that doesn't have cause and effect. >> ready, and action! >> reporter: the show strives for accuracy and credibility. rich klein, a former presidential speechwriter, now a producer and consultant, helps make the make believe as realistic as possible. the oval office set is to scale, from conception to construction, it mirrors the real-life room. even the adjacent rose garden is brought to life. >> getting the small details right is important to get the big themes right. >> reporter: for classified areas, like the presidential emergency operations center, where vice president cheney was taken on september 11th, set designers had to use their imagination. >> we've created it.
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we've taken some license on what it actually looks like. >> reporter: there is another consultant on set. this one is also an actor. kal penn, best known for his lovable stoner role in "harold and kumar." >> no eating until we get to white castle. yo, let's roll. >> reporter: and for his unusual sabbatical. unlike the rest of the cast, he's an actual west wing alumnus. he left a lucrative career in hollywood to work for president obama as the associate director of the office of public engageme engagement. >> what do you say, no, you're not going to serve your country if you have that kind of opportunity? >> reporter: did you talk to kal penn? >> yes. a lot. >> reporter: does he ever stop and say, this isn't authentic? >> absolutely. yes. >> reporter: and i assume you guys all listen. >> yes we do. we wanted to create a sense of chaos. and kal said, "these people wouldn't be allowed in here." and they said, "oh, no. i would expect not. but in the circumstance."
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he said, "no circumstance." >> reporter: did you change it? >> oh yeah. right away. >> reporter: one thing the show nailed, perhaps to an extreme, is the degree to which any president is under constant scrutiny and stress. >> i didn't hear the question. >> the muslim teenage whole was beaten by police, mr. president, do you have a comment? >> reporter: we love, as an electorate, to a airchairquarterback, to it is around and critique. >> it's fun. >> reporter: the decisions of the president. i don't think a lot of the critics, however, would actually want the actual responsibility. >> no. the lack of respect that i have seen for the office of the president is, i think, something sad. let's focus on one thing at a time. if we can shine a light on how difficult the job is, we don't need to be so divided. that there is a kind of a common ground. it might have some positive impact in our real lives down the way. >> reporter: next, is it the
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best or worst job ever? >> please don't pick me. can somebody else do it? >> reporter: true real life stories from real designated survivors in hiding. furnishings. >> shampoo had curdled. >> reporter: to food. >> they didn't want us to go hungry in the event of an apocalypse. apocalypse. >> reporter: when we return. st e can all e in this moment. i'm thankful for my family and that they care about me. we're another year older, we've been through a lot of trauma no matter what color we are, no matter what uniform we got on. you guys are my family. nothing more important than family today. it's good to be together. lets enjoy. ♪ previously treated withd noplatinum-based chemotherapy, including those with an abnormal alk or egfr gene who've tried an fda-approved targeted therapy,
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this is big. a chance to live longer with opdivo (nivolumab). opdivo demonstrated longer life and is the most prescribed immunotherapy for these patients. opdivo significantly increased the chance of living longer versus chemotherapy. opdivo works with your immune system. opdivo can cause your immune system to attack normal organs and tissues in your body and affect how they work. this may happen any time during or after treatment has ended, and may become serious and lead to death. see your doctor right away if you experience new or worsening cough; chest pain; shortness of breath; diarrhea; severe stomach pain or tenderness; severe nausea or vomiting; extreme fatigue; constipation; excessive thirst or urine; swollen ankles; loss of appetite; rash; itching; headache; confusion; hallucinations; muscle or joint pain; flushing; or fever... as this may keep these problems from becoming more serious. these are not all the possible side effects of opdivo. tell your doctor about all your medical conditions, including immune system problems, or if you've had an organ transplant,
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or lung, breathing, or liver problems. a chance to live longer. ask your doctor about opdivo. see opdivotv.com for this and other indications. bristol-myers squibb thanks the patients, nurses, and physicians involved in opdivo clinical trials. oh caroline. so corporate put you up in a roadside motel. but with directv from at&t, you can download then binge watch your dvr'd shows from anywhere. that makes you more powerful than whatever it is you just stepped in. or that friendly dumpster diver outside. i wouldn't sit there. it's your tv, take it with you. now you can watch your dvr anywhere, at no extra cost, with directv from at&t.
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we continue with the real designated survivor. >> there are times when we make history. and there are times when history makes us. >> reporter: so, what is it like to be that mysteriously missing cabinet member? each year, their strategic absence from the state of the union is announced on air. >> this year it is anthony foxx. >> it's secretary of interior ken salazar. >> that is hud secretary shaun donovan. >> reporter: in, of course, 1997, tonight's designated survivor was you. >> that's correct. >> reporter: dan glickman. he has neither a name or a face
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you would easily recognize. just ask this child given the task of introducing him at an event. >> secretary of -- >> dan glickman. >> dan glickman. >> reporter: and yet, had things gone horribly wrong on the evening of february 4th, 1997, today, we might be teaching schoolkids about the fortitude and wisdom of president glickman. >> the secret service called and said they wanted to come over and talk to me. >> reporter: it was the start of bill clinton's second term, his first state of the union since re-election. >> the president of the united states. >> reporter: in that more relaxed, bygone era before the september 11th attacks. >> this year, it is the agriculture secretary, dan glickman. >> i got the feeling they went with the very important departments like the agriculture department. and so -- >> reporter: you're being facetious, but were you a tad insulted? >> no. because i figured that it would be a nice thing to put on my resume. and god forbid if it were to
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happen, you know, i mean, i'd have to -- >> reporter: you're the man. >> -- call my mother and father and says, you know, "your son's the president." so, i didn't have a lot of preparation for it. i had very little background as to what would happen. >> reporter: they didn't give you briefing books? >> no. >> reporter: they didn't give you a national security briefing to let you know? >> no. >> reporter: glickman was allowed to choose any designation out of washington, d.c., so, he picked his daughter's manhattan apartment, where he traveled in unfamiliar presidential style, with a security detail, and even a small motorcade. >> i flew up on air force airplanes. and there was a policy person, and the military person, i presume, with the nuclear colds. and a physician. >> reporter: and all these people sat with you at your daughter's parent? >> well, they stayed downstairs. i went up to her apartment and we watched president clinton. >> my fellow americans, the state of our union is strong. >> reporter: were you nervous? were you tense? >> not particularly. i think that i felt like it's going to be okay.
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nobody's going to do anything. >> reporter: of course, that nonchalance vanished forever on september 11th. >> today, our fellow citizens, our way of life, our very freedom came under attack. >> reporter: the military is responding by putting its forces around the world on the highest state of alert. the government did not know if more attacks were come, and where. gale norton, george w. bush's secretary of the interior, was one of a handful of high ranking officials sent to secret locations. >> we went to a secure, undisclosed location. >> reporter: i know you can't tell me exactly where you were, but can you sort of describe what the conditions were? >> the shampoo had curdled, the deodorant smelled bad, because it was all so old. >> reporter: it was clear when you got there that it hadn't been used in awhile. >> it had not been used. >> reporter: four months later, she was pressed into duty, as the first state of the union
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designated survivor after 9/11. >> as we gather tonight, our nation is at war, our economy is in recession and the civilized world faces unprecedented dangers. >> because we had seen what happened with 9/11, it was much more a real concern than it had ever been before. >> reporter: people took it more seriously. >> there's always that nagging doubt in the back of your mind saying, "gosh, maybe something could happen." >> reporter: norton even prepared her possible speech to the american people. >> i didn't write anything on paper, but i certainly thought about it. >> reporter: at least along with the stress apparently there are some perks. according to 2004 designated staffer alex vogel, yes, there are staffers in those bunkers, too, it was the top notch cuisine. >> i was pleasantly surprised that we were very well fed. i think we had steak and lobster and red wine, which was great. they didn't want us to go hungry
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in the event of an apocalypse, which was somewhat reassuring. >> reporter: but with that said, andrew card, chief of staff for president george w. bush, says cabinet members weren't exactly clamoring for the job of designated survivor, preferring the air time and access at the state of the union. >> we have had people as early at 8:15 this morning, staking out cements on the aisle. >> there are funny stories, no, please, don't pick me. can somebody else do it? >> reporter: did your daughter, i mean, she obviously knew but were the designated survivor. was she aware of -- >> she called every one of her friends. >> reporter: as for developing an agenda for a sudden presidency, fortunately, none of the designated survivors thus far have had to worry about that. in fact, dan glickman spent more time that night worrying about how to get home. >> i remember one of the agents called me. they said, "mr. glickman, the mission is terminated." and i said, well, why don't you all go home, because i'll take
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my daughter to dinner. and we get out of the restaurant, and there's a giant sleet storm and we couldn't get a cab. >> reporter: for an instant, the hand of history had raised him from relative anonymity to the cusp of greatness and then, gently but firmly, put him back down. >> we waited and waited and waited. and we walked ten blocks in the rain and the sleet, back to her apartment. and three hours before, i was probably the most powerful man on the face of the earth. and i couldn't even get a cab. it's a great story about life, to be honest with you. >> reporter: about life? >> you can fall just as fast as you go up. >> reporter: next -- >> whoa. this feels kind of scary. >> it is scary. >> reporter: huge underground cities ready to house governments. officials taken there in blindfolds. >> kind of right out of the movies. >> reporter: and now, we're taking you inside. >> welcome to the bunker. >> reporter: when we return. limd earns you unlimited 1.5% cash back on everything you buy. that's 1.5% cash back on whatever these billboards are selling. what are they selling? the products not so subtly placed in this movie -
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this special edition of "20/20" continues. once again, elizabeth vargas. >> reporter: the idea of a designated survivor isn't just about a single person, but a whole way of keeping a government and a country going in the wake of a catastrophe. but the location where that would take place is beyond classified.
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so, consider this for your eyes only, as abc's pierre thomas shares the secrets above ground and below. >> reporter: it's a far cry from the polished marble and majestic buildings of washington, d.c. tunnels chiseled out of solid granite. bunkers hidden deep underground. they are the shelters of last resort for a government under catastrophic assault, not just for the president, but congress, and the supreme court. most are closely guarded secrets, but here is what we do know. from the air, you'd never guess that in the wilderness of virginia's blue ridge mountains, there's a massive facility called mt. weather. >> we have to have a way to make sure that there will be a government if washington, d.c. is attacked. >> reporter: andy card, white house chief of staff for president george w. bush says, these places are the heart of continuity of government plans.
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so secure, they are classified beyond top secret. it's called sci, secure compartmentalized information. these are some of the best-kept secrets in government. >> the secrets are there for a reason. they're there to protect. >> reporter: but some have become known to the public, like here in colorado, nicknamed the mountain. cheyenne mountain air force station is 2,000 feet deep. hidden behind multiple 25-ton blast doors three feet thick. five acres dug out of the rock, 15 buildings built to withstand a nuclear bomb. supported on these 1,300 half-ton steel springs. >> like a shock absorber. >> reporter: there's a power plant, a 6 million gallon water supply, potentially ready to support not just the president, but hundreds of staffers to help him. abc news consultant richard clarke knows. he once ran the continuity of government program. >> copy, range is green.
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>> reporter: much of it close and dagger. >> the continuity of government program is always running 24 hours a day, seven days a week. >> reporter: a program so secret, even the white house chief of staff was kept in the dark when he visited. they covered your eyes and your ears so you wouldn't know or have any idea where you were going. >> that's an accurate description. i did not know where i was being taken. and i was transferred from one vehicle to another vehicle and kind of right out of the movies. >> reporter: for example, here, at the end of this corridor in west virginia, the wallpapers panel slides away, revealing this. >> welcome to the bunker. >> reporter: its one of the great u.s. government secrets of all-time -- the greenbrie re bunker. >> the floor is five feet thick. the walls are five feet thick. the ceiling is five feet thick. we're in a big concrete box. >> reporter: this facility was built to house congress if the u.s. capitol was destroyed. this is the tunnel members of congress would use to enter the
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bunker in case of a catastrophic attack. sealed in by a 30-ton blast door, 60,000 pounds of concrete and steel to protect. the greenbrier bunker dates back to the height of the cold war. nuclear devastation was a clear and present danger. president eisenhower went to the posh greenbrier resort with a >> you want us to do what? >> reporter: he asked them to build a 112,000 square foot underground bunker beneath the hotel, and keep it secret. this was a serious matter that required novel thinking. >> right. it's pretty phenomenal. it's a hell of a story. >> reporter: greenbrier historian bob conte says it was ingenious. there was a ready made cover story, the hotel was expanding. >> somebody comes up with the idea, "we'll build two buildings. we'll build an overt building and a covert building. we'll do it simultaneously."
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>> when the project began, the lakeside golf course was nine holes. by the time the project was finished, it was 18 holes. >> reporter: the dirt's got to go somewhere. >> where did the dirt come from? th bunker. >> reporter: three years of construction later, there were 18 dorms, a hospital clinic, a giant auditorium with exactly the number of seats for every member of the house of representatives. even a studio for tv broadcasts. this feels kind of scary. >> it is scary. >> reporter: all deadly serious. this is where they came to get cleaned off? these showers designed for the newly arrived congressmen to be decontaminated from nuclear fallout. up to 240 people an hour. >> no time for modesty. and the clothing would have gone in, it would have been burned in an incinerator in the power plant. after the shower, there would have been someone with a geiger counter and if you glowed, back you go. >> reporter: for three decades, the bunker was in a constant
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state of readiness. until one day, "a washington post" reporter found out. when this secret came out in 1992, how angry were people? >> it was very troubling, and we weren't happy when it was done. >> reporter: someone described it "as awful as if a nuclear bomb had taken it out." >> this bunker was in a state of readiness at all times. >> reporter: the greenbrier bunker forced to become a tourist attraction. and congress needed a new secret backdown ho backup home. and where it exists, we don't know, but we do know the continuity of government plans were executed for the first time ever on that one tragic day. on 9/11, things did not go exactly according to plan. most federal workers couldn't even get out of d.c. >> most of them couldn't get to their alternate sites because the traffic jam on 9/11 was such that they couldn't get out of
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washington. >> reporter: meantime, president bush was in florida. >> i said, "get a line open to the vice president. get a line open to the white house situation room. get the crew back on air force one. we're going to have to leave." >> reporter: it becomes clear to you guys, you can't go right back to washington. >> it became clear to me. i'm not sure it was to clear to the president. >> reporter: andy card says bush wanted to return but was convinced otherwise. >> it's not just going to protect the person, it's going to provide that person a venue where they can meet their spots. >> reporter: bush ended up at strategic air command in nebraska. >> fbi and dhs is reporting a credible threat. >> reporter: but were lessons learned after 9/11? can we be sure things would work any better if continuity of government had to happen now? >> no, we can't be sure at all. these are difficult issues for people to raise and deal with and the easiest thing to do is put your head in the sand. >> reporter: norm ornstein founded the continuity of government commission. he says, since 9/11, no significant steps have been taken to address the problems.
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>> we have no plan in place if the supreme court or congress are wiped out or designated in any significant way. it is mandatory that we have our constitutional institutions in place as quickly as possible. >> incredibly alarming united states capitol building in flames. >> reporter: ornstein d many others are hoping the newfound attention from the fictional "designated survivor" will renew focus, forcing the federal government to truly answer two critical questions, "what if?" and "are we truly prepared?" >> reporter: next, the day president reagan was shot. the country kept in the dark. >> he was wounded. god. >> reporter: but for the first time on tv, secret recordings of the scramble for control. >> who is running the government right now? >> reporter: when we return. ♪
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therand always leave youagic willwanting even more.der because one day just isn't enough. here, there is magic for days. we continue with the real designated survivor. >> reporter: now, a day in the life of a country that had no leader. not a foreign country, but the united states of america. in those frantic hours after we saw president reagan gunned down
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in 1981. but what we didn't see was the chaos going on. the competing claims of who was next in command. martha raddatz has the incredible story that very few people ever knew. >> reporter: march 30th, 1981 started off as an ordinary monday for the newly elected republican president. >> welcome the 40th president of the united states, ronald wilson reagan. mr. president. >> reporter: reagan gave a speech before the afl-cio at the sprawling washington hilton hotel. >> when the president was in public, i made it my job to always be there, where the body was. >> reporter: abc news white house correspondent sam donaldson. >> the term is often, in my day, called the body watch. >> reporter: at 2:27, a small group of press and onlookers were gathered outside the hotel. >> right here was a rope line. >> reporter: okay. >> and it kept everyone back. >> reporter: del wilbur is
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author of "rawhide down", a book chronicling that fateful day. "rawhide" was the code name given to reagan by the secret service. >> the limousine was 15 feet away this direction. >> and he came out. he was waving. he was smiling. i began to ask him a question. the president began to turn when -- [ imitating gunfire ] the president was being pushed into his car and, obviously, i wanted to see if i saw any evidence that he'd been hit. and i did not see any. >> reporter: six shots fired. three men down. the secret service swarmed the shooter. unbeknownst to anyone, the sixth bullet had ricocheted off the limo door and struck the president. >> reagan's complaining of pain in his back and his chest. >> reporter: he doesn't even know he's been shot yet. >> "i think i hurt my rib or something." >> reporter: the press, including abc's frank reynolds, also believed that reagan was unharmed. >> the president was not hit. he was pushed into his limo and immediately taken away to
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safety. >> reporter: bru but in the limo, his lead agent could tell something was wrong, and secretly diverted the motorcade to george washington hospital, as the president's closest advisers huddled in the situation room at the white house. >> 15:34 in the afternoon. >> reporter: this inner sanctum typically eyes and ears only, but national security adviser richard allen broke protocol that day, making a split-second decision to record the proceedings with this device. >> god, what a tragedy. >> reporter: heard here for the first time on television. >> we'll decide here what the hell we're doing. that's the best way. >> reporter: did anybody notice you were recording? did anybody care? >> nobody objected. i was running the meeting. my tape recorder, my table, my chairs. my rules. >> reporter: in the situation room, we hear discussions centered around the motives of the shooter.
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>> do we have any information? any evidence of his being other than a loner? could've been a soviet plot or someone inspired by the soviet union. >> reporter: within the hour, the secret service identified the gunman as john hinckley, jr. >> his spokesman said he appeared to have acted alone. >> reporter: but a crucial fact had still not been revealed publicly. that reagan in fact had been hit. a bullet was lodged in his left lung and doctors were preparing him for surgery. >> they are beginning to operate now. but it's not for publication. >> reporter: the public still believed that reagan was awake and unharmed. >> reagan was not hit. he was bounced around as the secret service agents flung him into the car. >> reporter: is it right, do you think, to have kept the secrets that were kept at the time? >> yes. >> reporter: and why? >> you had to be absolutely certain of your facts. i wouldn't want to be the one to communicate to the american
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public the niceties of an operation on ronald reagan's lung and heart. i think the right thing was done. >> i can confirm that the president has been shot once. >> reporter: when the news of the severity of reagan's injuries finally broke, nearly 45 minutes after the shooting, it took even veteran newsmen by surprise. >> he was wounded. god! >> reporter: now the advisers were faced with a dilemma. who would run the country while the president was under anesthesia? >> one of the most consequential conversations in u.s. presidential history, "do we invoke the 25th amendment or not? >> reporter: the 25 amendment of the constitution allows for the temporary transfer of power from the president to the vice president in a time of crisis. >> they desperately don't want to do this, for political reasons. >> reporter: at that very moment, vice president george
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h.w. bush was flying back frto washington from texas. >> did you get to george? >> no. >> reporter: complicating matters, there was no secure phone line between the white house and air force two. >> is there any faster way to get him back? >> how do we alert him? the russians are going to listen to everything we have to say anyway. and so, they were like, "we are going to keep it quiet. we're not going to do anything." >> reporter: for almost five hours, the country would have no functioning commander in chief. when the white house press corps learned the president was in surgery, the question on everyone's lips -- >> who is running the government right now? >> reporter: deputy press secretary larry speakes struggled for an answer. >> pardon? >> who will be determining the status of president? >> i don't know the -- i don't know the details on that. >> reporter: that's when secretary of state alexander haig headed to the press room. >> at that point, i did not want us to go into the press room. >> they're coming back again.
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the secretary of state. >> but al jumped right up on the dais and i just went up after him. >> first, as you know, we're in close touch with the vice president, who is returning to washington. >> al's knees were shaking and his voice was cracking. >> there are absolutely no alert measures that are necessary at this time or contemplated. >> my first thought was, if he collapses, should i just let him fall and step up to the microphone and continue the briefing myself? he was that nervous. >> as of now, i am in control here in the white house. >> reporter: haig's now famous attempt to calm the media backfired, sounding more like a power grab. did you realize what affect it would have? >> you bet i did. every person in that press room knew that it wasn't true the moment he spoke it. >> reporter: but nightfall, vice president busch returned to the white house.
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reagan was finally out of surgery. the public never told, in real time, about the presidential power vacuum. when you look back at this, what lessons, in terms of crisis management, are there? >> well, for me, it would be to tell the public everything you can reasonably tell the public without sending it into a panic. >> reporter: is there not a way to do that, and tell the truth? can you keep calm and tell people what's going on? >> i think -- you don't have to go 100% of the way to releasing everything until you yourself are absolutely certain of what the outcome may be or what the impact might be. >> the president is now in stable condition. >> reporter: the outcome, of course, was positive for president reagan, who kept his cool throughout. the consummate showman. >> from nancy reagan, honey, i forgot to duck, was one of the quotes. >> he comes out of surgery, he's joking with his nurses.
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"can we shoot that scene over again from the hotel?" >> reporter: next, what if air force one ever went down? it actually happened, to another country. >> nobody is alive. everyone is killed. >> reporter: but who, or what, caused it? with all due respect, sir, we need an enemy, and soon. >> reporter: when we return. ok! impaciente! manolo! you're so cold, come in! what's wrong? take off your hat! no hey...it's, it's dry... your scalp? mine gets dry in the winter too. try head and shoulders' dry scalp care it nourishes the scalp 3 surface layers deep to help... ...prevent dryness and keeps you up to 100% flake free now we can cuddle the whole winter! head and shoulders' dry scalp care you don't have to pay a lot to get a lot. at cricket wireless, plans now start at $30/mo. monthly taxes and fees included. and we have more 4g lte coverage than t-mobile or sprint.
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>> reporter: well, a true designated survivor disaster has never happened here in america, it has happened elsewhere, just a few year's ago. much of poland's entire government was wiped out in a plane crash. so, how did that country survive? and the controversy that lasts to this day. it was a quiet saturday morning in warsaw, when president lech
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kaczynski boarded poland's equivalent of air force one and took off. that's the plane there, captured on amateur video, as it departs for a special trip with 96 very special passengers. >> it has the president, it has what we would call the joint chiefs of staff, it has several secretaries from cabinet members. >> well, i knew 80% of the people onboard. >> they were leaving warsaw, they took off to fly into russia to a little place called smolensk. >> reporter: it's a trip, important politically, and emotionally to the nearby site of the notorious katyn massacre. 22,000 polish officers slaughtered by the soviet army during world war ii. >> and they were going there to commemorate this very black event that hangs heavy within the polish psyche. >> reporter: dense fog near the airstrip endangers the flight. >> the ceilings were so low, the visibility was so low, it made it almost impossible for this airplane to land. >> but in the end, the pilots allowed the plane to go too low, and they hit a tree.
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>> reporter: the plane crashed just short of the airport. and amidst the smoldering wreckage, there were no survivors. foreign minister radek sikorski had been invited to go, but could not. he's having breakfast with his mother when his phone rings. >> and i get a call that there was something wrong with the presidential plane. >> reporter: soon, the news is on television, and the anchors are having trouble keeping it together. deputy speaker of the house jerzy szmajdzinski was on the plane. his wife malgorzata finds out he's dead from those television reports. >> translator: it's unimaginable shock. i shouted to my daughter, who was still asleep. she ran downstairs. we both collapsed with grief. i can't describe it anymore.
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>> reporter: at the crash site and back in warsaw, the scene is chaotic. >> the prime minister called an emergency session of the cabinet. >> reporter: sikorski and most of the surviving members of the government race to their offices to grapple with the unprecedented crisis. as the world reels from the news. >> death of a president. a country in mourning tonight. >> reporter: within days, the flag-draped coffins return. >> it was a terrible shock. >> the polish government was essentially dissolved. it was no longer. >> reporter: and yet, through the agony and grief, the young democracy remains stable. trains keep running. the atms keep working. more importantly, the constitution keeps working. >> the country needed reassurance that the government was continuing, and that we will come through this. >> reporter: the line of succession is clear and unbroken. in accordance with the law, the
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head of parliament, bronisaw komorowski, assumes the office of the president. even though he's from the opposition party, nobody objects. >> translator: emotionally, it was hard. however, from the political point of view, the transition was actually quite smooth. >> so, in that sense, we were torn between our emotions and our sense of duty. >> reporter: but the moment of unity doesn't last. in fact, the nation begins to fracture soon after people start asking, just how did the plane crash after all? >> well, we know what happened, because we have the tape from the black boxes, on which you can hear the warnings of the system that there is terrain ahead, and pull up. >> terrain ahead. pull up, pull up. >> reporter: crucially, ganyard says the pilots were under immense pressure to land the
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plane, regardless of the delegation could make it to its all-important photo op. >> they had somebody come into the cockpit and tell them, the president will go crazy if we don't land here. so, this crew is under incredible pressure to land the airplane, even though they knew that it was unsafe and they had very little chance of doing so safely. >> it was the worst organization you can imagine. of course. but it was only the decision of our president. he wanted to come, and he came. and he -- and he died. >> reporter: the implied negligence and recklessness stains the memory of the dead president, a stain the leader of his law and justice party, who happens to be his twin brother, is determined to remove. how? by borrowing a page from the "designated survivor" script. >> with all due respect, sir, we need an enemy. and soon. >> reporter: the enemy in poland isn't hard to find.
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it's always been there. it's russia. >> russian intelligence knew it was a plot and hostile act against the republican of pola. >> reporter: at the offices of the conservative paper gazeta polska, these journalists are devoted to the theory that the smolensk tragedy was an act of terrorism, an assassination devised by vladimir putin to rid himself of a regional rival. >> you don't remember the russian common practice of murdering their political opponents? and kaczynski was such a great opponent to putin. >> reporter: their proof? everything from this video of russian responders tampering with the wreckage. questions about missing debris, disputes about the ability of a single tree to bring a large plane down, and claims that the russians tampered with the cockpit voice recordings. scientific researchers, documentaries, even a recent
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movie are devoted to the theory. >> and now, we have one-third of the polish people still believe that this airplane was either an association or a terrori assassination or a terrorist attack. >> reporter: every month, mourners throng warsaw's largest cathedral to commemorate the tragedy. the service is followed by a political rally for the law and justice party. the law and justice party won the 2015 elections. the new defense minister is now heading a new commission to investigate the case. >> but nobody has yet produced a consistent story alternative to the official report that would make the evidence fit into a logical sequence of events. >> so, it's being used in a fairly cynical way to keep the
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party in power in power. >> reporter: today, many of the dead are buried here, in warsaw's military cemetery. but just last week, the new government started exhuming their bodies, looking for forensic evidence of a bomb or other treachery. they will never be forgotten, i kept on top of things. i was a doer. then the chronic, widespread pain slowed me down. my doctor said moving more helps ease fibromyalgia pain. she also prescribed lyrica. fibromyalgia is thought to be the result of overactive nerves. lyrica is believed to calm these nerves. for some, lyrica can significantly relieve fibromyalgia pain
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and improve function, so i feel better. lyrica may cause serious allergic reactions or suicidal thoughts or actions. tell your doctor right away if you have these, new or worsening depression, or unusual changes in mood or behavior. or swelling, trouble breathing, rash, hives, blisters, muscle pain with fever, tired feeling, or blurry vision. common side effects are dizziness, sleepiness, weight gain and swelling of hands, legs and feet. don't drink alcohol while taking lyrica. don't drive or use machinery until you know how lyrica affects you. those who have had a drug or alcohol problem may be more likely to misuse lyrica. with less pain, i can be more active. ask your doctor about lyrica.
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of bad breath germs% for a 100% fresh mouth. feeling 100% means you feel bold enough to... ...assist a magician... ...or dance. listerine®. bring out the bold™ >> reporter: so, perhaps you've learned a little something about how the real designated survivor came to be. maybe we'll all enjoy the fictional one a little more. i'm elizabeth vargas. thank you so much for watching. have a good
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it's offensive to read and expensive to clean up. it is a big problem. >> next, a live report on a bay area graff

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