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CNN NEWSROOM

Obama To Meet CEOs At White House; Nancy Pelosi Wants Another Term; Presidential News Conference Today; Kelley Faces New Scrutiny, Questions; Petraeus Testimony On Libya Attack; 49 Days Until We Go Over Fiscal Cliff; Macy's Urged to Dump Trump

Aired November 14, 2012 - 10:00   ET

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


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: NEWSROOM starts now.

Good morning. Thanks so much for being with us. I'm Carol Costello. Safe to say Donald Trump will not be part of President Obama's big CEO meeting this afternoon.

Despite the fact business leaders and the President haven't exactly enjoyed a warm relationship, he's going to hold a big summit with the CEOs. He'll entertain 12 CEOs at the White House, the topic, of course, the fiscal cliff. Actually business leaders have already started to lobby the country and Congress with an ad campaign.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If Congress does not act, America's entire can economy will be at risk. America's CEOs have a message for Washington.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The top priority for us so to advance policies that will get the economy growing again.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The country has to have a higher rate of growth. That begins by addressing the fiscal cliff issue.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: At the White House today, 12 CEOs, you may not recognize their faces, but their companies are awfully familiar, American Express, Procter and Gamble, Wal-Mart and Ford just to name a few. So wouldn't you like to be a fly on the wall at the White House?

CNN's Ali Velshi joins me now. Good morning, Ali.

ALI VELSHI, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Carol. You know, there are three different groups that you're talking about here. This is the group going to the White House this afternoon and then that group going to the business round table who did some of those ads that you showed on YouTube.

Then there's a third group, which is a fix the debt group and they've got parody ads that are going out in newspapers. So business leaders all over are getting together, although they're not the most popular people in the America right now to start with. COSTELLO: What do you expect them -- let's concentrate on the meeting at the White House later this afternoon with these 12 CEOs and will the President play nice? Will he play hardball?

VELSHI: I think everybody's got to start playing a little nice and deciding where they've got room to move. I think these leaders, these business leaders are going to tell the President what the effect would be of the fiscal cliff and what they can probably live with in terms of compromises that can be made.

What business wants is certainty. They will take that over a decision that they don't love. In other words, if taxes have to go up in some places, they'd rather know that and plan for it. I think this is what they'll tell the President.

This is what we can handle. This is what will help us create jobs and reinvest and they'll have a good discussion. And I think the President will push back a little bit and say you guys have to get on sight.

That group of people meeting the President, many of them are friendly. These are not the President's harshest critics. The harshest critics are the Grover Norquist, the small business people, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, none of whom have been invited to the meeting.

COSTELLO: OK, so, your best prediction. How will it go? I mean, will it make any difference at all? Lawmakers have got to get together and come to some sort of agreement.

VELSHI: Yes, remember, the President is not as influenced by these folks as Congress will be. These are, in fact, donors to the super PACs. They are donors to congressional campaigns. I think there will be -- I think you're going to end up with a friendlier tone.

You're going to have these CEOs come out, probably make some statement saying, we've told the President what we need, we've got some assurances that he is going to work hard toward a deal.

Again, I think it's a process. I don't think you're not going to get some major announcement because it's not for the President and business leaders to make a deal. It's for the President and Congress to make a deal.

And for Congress to make a deal with each other, but they're ratcheting up all the pressure because we have 48 days including today to make a deal.

COSTELLO: We sure do and the countdown has begun. Ali Velshi, thanks so much.

VELSHI: All right.

COSTELLO: Just before that CEO meeting, President Obama will hold a news conference, his first since March. Wolf Blitzer and the CNN team will bring you those remarks live. So tune in for our special coverage. That begins at 1:00 p.m. Eastern Time. On Capitol Hill, the top Democrat in the House will stay put. Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi expected to formally announce she wants another term as House Minority Leader.

This is a live picture right now where Pelosi's news conference is expected to begin shortly. Our senior congressional correspondent Dana Bash broke the story in the last hour of NEWSROOM. She joins us now. Good morning, Dana.

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Carol. That's right. With the help of our intrepid producer who is getting information from inside the meeting that Nancy Pelosi held within the last hour, with her Democratic caucus, where she for formally told them she is going to stay on for at least another two years as their leader.

She has been the leader for 10 years. Four of those years, she was, of course, the Speaker because she did not have success in getting the Speaker's gavel back in this last election, the question is would she stay or whether she would give it two more years, one more try to get that Speaker's gavel back and she made very clear that she was going to stay.

We're told from sources inside that meeting that she had with all the Democrats, by the way, there were some newly elected Democrats in there as well, there were chants of "Two more years." Everybody was applauding her that she was going to stay.

The official leadership elections are not going to happen until after Congress comes back from a short Thanksgiving daybreak, but we're going to hear from the Democratic leader herself.

She's going to be right behind me momentarily and she is going to be on the stage, Carol, with a group of women, in fact, the Democratic women and that is certainly been one of her trademarks and part of history that she has made.

That she has been the highest ranking Democrat in Congress, the first Democrat to lead a party and the first female Democrat to lead her party and the first female Speaker of the House.

COSTELLO: Dana Bash, reporting live from Washington.

Back to President Obama and that news conference because it's bound to be testy. Journalists no doubt will ask the President about Petraeus, Allen, Kelley and Broadwell, and Benghazi, especially in light of new information coming out about the former CIA director's mistress, Paula Broadwell.

Listen to what she said in a speech about the access she was granted by then General David Petraeus.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAULA BROADWELL, GENERAL PETRAEUS' BIOGRAPHER: I had to follow very clear lines of nondisclosure and signing nondisclosure agreements like my colleagues. I felt I was held to a higher level of accountability because I could lose my clearance.

Yet, I wasn't trusted with this opportunity to sit in high level meetings with General Petraeus, on the meetings in the morning. Listen to classified chatter of terrorists talk and so forth.

And I had that background anyhow, so I knew a lot of that information and I knew it was important to inform, but I knew there was a clear line that I couldn't cross when I was writing it out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: Classified documents were found on Broadwell's computer and in her home. We don't know who gave her those documents, so stay tuned. Add to that, bizarre information coming out about the woman who sparked the investigation.

Jill Kelley is the Tampa socialite linked to General John Allen, the commander of U.S. and allied troops in Afghanistan. We've learned she and her surgeon husband have racked up millions of dollars in debt and now face foreclosures and lawsuits.

She's also an honorary consul of South Korea at least for the time being. She even tried to evoke some kind of imaginary diplomatic powers. In this 911 call to police, she was complaining about all the media outside her home.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JILL KELLEY, TAMPA SOCIALITE: I don't know if by any chance -- because I'm an honorary consul general so I have inviolability -- they should not be able to cross my property. I don't know if you want to get diplomatic protection involved as well, but now, because it's against the law to cross my property since this is now like, you know, it's inviolable.

911 OPERATOR: All right, no problem. I'll let the officers know.

KELLEY: Thank you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: Kelley's role as honorary consul may be in danger, too. The news agency in South Korea quotes officials are saying the symbolic post could be taken away from Kelley if she proves, quote, "problematic."

Now, the intersection of that scandal and personal tragedy, in the next hour, lawmakers will begin close door hearings on the terrorist attack that killed the ambassador to Libya and three other Americans. The White House faces withering criticism over how it responded to security concerns before and how it handled the investigation after.

David Petraeus was expected to be a key witness before the sex scandal forced him to resign as CIA director. He recently traveled to Libya. He discussed the violence and other issues with the CIA station chief there and some lawmakers say he needs to testify. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS, (R) MAINE: I will say that I think it's absolutely imperative that General Petraeus come and testify. He was CIA director at the time of the attack. He visited Libya after the attack. He has a great deal of information that we need in order to understand what went wrong, how this attack occurred, why were Americans lost their lives.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: All right, these live pictures you're seeing, Nancy Pelosi, you know, we told you moments ago, she plans to keep her post as minority leader in the House of Representatives. She will head out and address her supporters about her big decision.

When Congresswoman Pelosi begins speaking, of course, we'll take that live for you. Let's talk to another lawmaker right now. Republican Congressman Patrick Meehan is chairman of the subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence. He joins me from Pennsylvania. Good morning.

REP. PATRICK MEEHAN, (R) PENNSYLVANIA: Hi. Good morning, Carol. It's nice to be with you.

COSTELLO: It's great to be with you. I'll just warn you, when Nancy Pelosi begins speaking, we'll probably go to that press conference, but hopefully you will stay with us and we can get you on the other side. Is that OK?

MEEHAN: You bet.

COSTELLO: Yes, I don't want to be disrespectful in any way. I want to talk about David Petraeus and whether he should testify in these Benghazi hearings. What do you think?

MEEHAN: As a former prosecutor, I would suggest that he's material. He's a material witness and I believe he not only needs to but should, and I have heard reports that he will. He's necessary.

He understands and was there during the time when the Benghazi events occurred. More has unfolded than what we understand in these last 24 hours about e-mail chains. There's still a great deal we don't know about Benghazi and that's really the critical issue.

COSTELLO: And I just got word, Congressman, just as you were speaking that CNN has confirmed that General Petraeus will be testifying at that committee hearing so that must be music to your ears.

MEEHAN: Well, it is important because again, I think he brings the ability to talk specifically about what he knew and when, which is the essence of the questioning. I mean, just the revelation of, by Ms. Broadwell, that there might have been, CIA may have been holding prisoners at a compound.

I mean, this is the kind of information which is going to lead to a whole lot of questions and I think he's again a material person who would be in a position to answer them.

COSTELLO: Congressman, I think there's a sentiment out there, that's why General Petraeus didn't want to testify because he was going to be asked about this affair with Paula Broadwell. Will you be asking? I mean, should there be questions asked of General Petraeus about Ms. Broadwell?

MEEHAN: Well, my hope is that the focus is on finding out about what happened in Benghazi. To the extent there may be a relationship of information that Ms. Broadwell has brought forward that relates to what went on in Benghazi, I think that's an appropriate line of questioning.

There maybe be an appropriate line about whether there's any security issues associated with Ms. Broadwell's access to information she shouldn't have had or shared, but my sense again is that would be a different line of inquiry and I'm concerned about what went on in Benghazi and the loss of life of those brave men who were there.

COSTELLO: And Congressman, I'm going to ask you to stand by because Nancy Pelosi is now coming to the stage to the podium to speak, so stick around and thank you so much for doing this for us.

(BEGIN LIVE FEED)

REP. NANCY PELOSI, (D-CA) HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: Still coming. OK. I think that most of them are here. Good morning. More coming, more are coming. Yesterday, when we gathered here, I began my comments standing here with our new members of Congress by saying a picture is worth a thousand words.

That's what they say. I said then and I say now that this picture before you is worth millions of votes, millions of votes, millions of women's votes that it took to re-elect President Barack Obama. Millions of women's votes who helped us elect a record number of women to the Congress of the United States.

As you look forward, understand that you are looking into the future, the future of empowerment of women in America. You saw some of these faces yesterday among the new members elect. I said then that they were part of the most diverse caucus in the history of the world.

The first time the body would have a power with a majority of women and minorities as its strength and we're very, very proud of that. Said yesterday we could not have the majority, but we have the gavel. We don't have the gavel.

We don't have -- we have our own gavel. We have something more important. We have unity. We do not have the gavel. We do not have the -- majority, but we have unity. I think our caucus this morning demonstrated that very clearly.

So, I come here with my sisters. When I came to Congress 25 years ago, there were about 23 members of Congress who were women, out of 435. Just think of that, 11, 12 Democrats, 11 Republicans something like that. Today, we have over 60 House Democratic women, very good. Not enough. We want more, but all of us who were there that dozen early on, that dozen of us there, we all took responsibility to try to pull more women into Congress in our state delegations and across the country.

I'm very proud that in California, our delegation of Democrats is the majority of women. Not even counting our two senators, Senator Feinstein and Senator Boxer, so women are empowered in California. I also want to acknowledge that although our numbers are great here, two of our colleagues have gone on to the senate.

Senator-elect Tammy Baldwin and we're very proud of that. Senator- elect Maise Herano, only the second woman of color to serve in the Senate. So, that's pretty, pretty exciting. And unfortunately, we won't have Cathy Hopewell and Betty Sutton in this next Congress, but the future is soon and coming upon us and we know they will be making a great public contribution.

So, here we are. In the past week since the election, we're still finishing up some of our campaigns. We're very proud of the success as I said yesterday and as you see here today. Why is it important for us to make this statement of the strength of women in the Congress of the United States, of the House Democratic women? Because this is where the hopes and dreams of America's families are riding, they may not know that. They may not know one party from the next and the rest, but we know that without Rosa Delaro, we would not have Lilly Ledbetter and the Paycheck Fairness Act.

Without Gwen Moore, we would not have the Violence Against Women Act put forth the way it is. Thank you. Jackie Spear working so hard with other members of our caucus, Loretta Sanchez working so hard to protect women in the military.

We are so very, very proud of the chair of the Democratic National Committee, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who is here. I could go around here and talk about the leadership. Certainly, Susan Davis, women in the military, has been her issue for a long time.

But in any event, the point is that if America is going to reach its full fulfillment as a nation, we must have the further empowerment of women, women in the military. If we want to be at our strongest, we must give women every opportunity in the women to hold every job so that they can one day attain the top job.

Women in business, how could it be that there are Fortune 500 and fewer than 20 CEOs at Fortune 500? If we want our economy to flourish and grow, we must lift up women's leadership in our economy, very important.

Women in the academic world, women in health care, any subject you can name is more wholesome, more successful, more efficient with the involvement of women. And so, women came to the polls, when women came to the polls last week, they registered their support for those who understood the challenges that women face.

It's really, really a remarkable thing. Under the leadership of the women standing here, the voices of America's mother, daughters and granddaughters will be heard. Women are the breadwinners for our families in many cases, the small business owners in our communities, isn't that right, Nidia? And the workers that will stir our prosperity -

(END LIVE FEED)

COSTELLO: OK, we're going to jump away from this. That's Nancy Pelosi announcing that she wants to continue to keep her post as the House Minority Leader and as you can see, she invited Democratic women of the House of Representatives to stand with her in a show of force, she says, for Democratic women in the House of Representatives.

Let's go back to Washington to another part of Washington. We're talking to Congressman Meehan. Thank you so much for sticking around. We appreciate it.

MEEHAN: Happy to do so.

COSTELLO: Can I ask you one question about Nancy Pelosi?

MEEHAN: Sure.

COSTELLO: OK, she wasn't exactly reaching out to Republicans in that news conference. She was saying that this is a show of force for Democrats in the House and she made that very clear. In your mind as a Republican, what does that say?

MEEHAN: Well, I hope what we don't do is begin to divide the country again and look for ways at the outset to look at division. I worked hand in hand in my area on the violence against women act.

Had many women at the top of the offices that I ran and have a deep respect for their accomplishments and what they contribute. I echo in many ways, the necessity for that to be appreciated.

And for women to play a more meaningful role, but we're one country as well and so long as it's being produced as an empowerment, I get it, but we can't be dividing as well.

COSTELLO: Many Republicans, Congressman, think Nancy Pelosi is the problem for -- at least part of the problem, for gridlock in Congress. What do you think?

MEEHAN: Well, I'm hoping that what she is as a known commodity and all of the leaders at this point in time are going to have what I call Nixon to China moments in which the real test of their leadership is going to be their ability to break away from the constraints of what they normally.

Then you know, tied to and reach out and use that leadership pulpit to get us to where we need for the best interest of the nation. And so, I'm hoping that perhaps as a known leader, she will have the credibility to be able to do that.

I think the same of the President with that election. He has the ability to reach across and try to get compromise without having to fear that somehow, they'll be constrained by the elements on his side and of course, the same is true for our leadership.

COSTELLO: I'd just like to ask you about women because you know, many people say the Republican Party has a woman problem. So what piece of legislation will immediately fly through Congress to make women out there happy?

MEEHAN: Well, I'm not sure that there's a particular piece of legislation. I think sensitivity to issues. I pointed back again to the violence against women act. As a prosecutor, I dealt closely with many who were victims and that's a real empowerment issue.

If you understand what, how a woman is victimized and how she's trying to retain some sense of control. Not really just over herself, but often for the benefit of her children. So the kind of sensitivity in which you understand the circumstances that the women are facing.

And then speaking to that issue where you resolve something that helps them to gain control of their situation a little bit better, so I don't think we have to try to look for magic bullets.

I think we have to listen and be responsive to things that really help women, who are often the breadwinners in single parent families and often have a lot of issues with -- worried about their children's welfare as well.

COSTELLO: Congressman Meehan from Pennsylvania, thank you so much for sticking around. We appreciate that.

MEEHAN: Delighted to be here. Thank you so much.

COSTELLO: Thanks so much.

COSTELLO: The fiscal cliff, you know, it's coming and if Obama and Boehner don't compromise, could mean economic disaster, but some lawmakers say, there's no rush, actually, we should go over that fiscal cliff.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSTELLO: People are counting down the days until the nation goes off the so-called fiscal cliff. As you know the simultaneous tax hikes and spending cuts that could throw the country back into a recession.

And all the President and the House Speaker are promising compromise, there is no deal in sight, but some lawmakers think taking a step off the cliff may not lead to such a bad thing. It could even lead to a better deal.

One of those lawmakers joins me now. Congressman Peter Welch is a Democrat from Vermont. Welcome, Congressman.

REP. PETER WELCH, (D) VERMONT: Thank you.

COSTELLO: So, we hear all these dire things, if we go off the fiscal cliff, the country will be thrown back into recession, a deep recession at that, I mean, really, seriously? We should allow the country to go off the fiscal cliff?

WELCH: No, I mean, what the country needs is a sustainable and serious deal on the debt and that's got to be balanced. It has to include revenues and it has to include squeezing the Pentagon a bit and obviously, making some entitlement reforms.

If the leadership and the President can negotiate that between now and January 1, that's great, that would be the preferable option. But the worst option would be if they failed to negotiate and I'm a real skeptic that they can reach that agreement in the next two months.

Then the worst thing we could do is simply change the date from January 1 to say August or September. That would send a terrible signal to the markets. Congress is once again dodging its responsibilities and our responsibilities to come up with something that's durable and sustainable.

If January 1 comes then, it's not so much a cliff as it is a slope. We would be under enormous pressure to come up with that balanced deal. So my view is much better for us to get a good, durable deal that is achieved before and after January 1.

COSTELLO: So, Congressman, you know, I never want to hear the term fiscal again. I mean, the election sent a mandate. We want something done. Get it done.

WELCH: You're right. You're exactly right about that and if the leadership and the President are able to negotiate and we get it done, that would be the best thing. But you know, there's got to be revenues.

This election, people said two things. One is you guys ought to work together just as you said and number two, revenues have to be part of the package. The Speaker is making soothing words about revenue, but he hasn't shown us the money yet.

Bottom line, if we're going to make progress, he has to come forward with a serious plan that meets what we would raise if you eliminated the Bush era tax cuts for folks over $250,000.

COSTELLO: So are you saying the President should play hardball? He met with progressive and union leaders yesterday. He's meeting with CEOs, business leaders today. He's going to meet with lawmakers from both parties tomorrow. Is he wasting his time?

WELCH: Not at all. You know I wouldn't use terms like "hardball", I would say be practical and realistic. And practical and realistic in view of the election is that we have to have a substantial deal that includes revenues and for the past two years, that's not only been off the table in the Republican House.

The Ryan budget cut revenues very substantially. In fact, Mitt Romney's effective tax rate would have gone to one percent. So if we're going to make progress and it's consistent with the election outcome then Mr. Boehner has to -- and I think he has some interest in doing this. He's got to come up with substantial revenues as a contributor to a debt deal.

COSTELLO: Well, I guess the best thing is that at least everybody's talking, but in your mind, I mean, what is the percentage that there'll be a deal by January 1st?

WELCH: Well, I say it's less than 50-50. And the reason I say that is that there have been no discussion for two years. We've been deadlock and no progress has been made and so almost as though we're in lockdown.

Now, we've had an election. The world has changed, but is there the time that's required to have the very difficult discussions about entitlements, about domestic discretionary, about limits on the Pentagon and then of course the really tough issue for Republicans are revenues?

And it's an awful lot to get done in a very short period of time. So if we can get it done, let's get it done. That's the -- that's the ideal.

(CROSSTALK)

COSTELLO: We'll I'm hoping for a Christmas Day surprise, Congressman.

WELCH: Well, a lot of us would welcome that.

COSTELLO: Congressman Welch, thank you so much for joining us this morning.

WELCH: Thank you. Thank you.

COSTELLO: It is 31 minutes past the hour. Checking our "Top Stories" now.

Nancy Pelosi likely will spend her next term the same way she spent her last one as House Democratic Leader and California Democrat made the official announcement moments ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PELOSI: I made the decision to submit my name to my colleagues to once again serve as the House Democratic Leader.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: There you have it. Nancy Pelosi surrounded by a host of Democratic female lawmakers. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSTELLO: Now is your chance to "Talk Back" on one of the big stories of the day. The question for you this morning: "What do you make of the generals' scandal?"

Jill Kelley. Who is she? We know who she thinks she is, an honorary consul who can wield power just like a diplomat. Get a load of this 911 call to Tampa police where Kelley tried using her supposed diplomatic clout to get the so-called paparazzi off her property.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

KELLEY: I don't know if by any chance, because I'm an honorary consul general, so I have inviolability, so I should -- they should not be able to cross my property. I don't know if you want to get diplomatic protection involved as well, but now because it's against the law to cross my property, since this is now like you know, it's inviolable."

(END AUDIO CLIP)

COSTELLO: Are you thinking what I'm thinking? Salahis, anyone? You know the couple who showed up at the White House dinner as invited guest before their cover was blown? Although Jill Kelley does appear to be more adept at wiggling her way into -- into the circles of power. Obviously, friends with the Petraeus's and now thousands of e- mails between her and General John Allen.

Kelley is not talking about the scandal publicly, but get this. She actually is an honorary consul to South Korea. A volunteer job with no official diplomatic capacity, sort of like a glorified social secretary. Now, the South Korea news agency Yonhap is reporting that officials there may fire her from that symbolic post.

Still, Kelley remains at the heart of the escalating military scandal. There's no evidence right now she did anything wrong, but even without any official power, she's certainly having a powerful effect.

The "Talk Back" today: "What do you make of the general's scandal?" Facebook.com/CarolCNN, Facebook.com/CarolCNN. Your responses later this hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSTELLO: It's the story all of Washington is talking about, it's highly controversial, it could result in a huge crisis and everybody has their own take on what should happen. No, I'm not talking about that e-mail sex scandal. I'm talking about the fiscal cliff.

The President is set to meet with business leaders at the White House today trying to work out a deal that will stir the country away from financial crisis.

Joining me now, chief political correspondent for Politics 365 and political science professor at Hiram College, Jason Johnson and Republican strategist, Ron Bonjean. Welcome to you both.

JASON JOHNSON, PROFESSOR POLITICAL SCIENCE, HIRAM COLLEGE: Good morning.

RON BONJEAN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Good morning.

COSTELLO: Good morning. OK Ron, so we just heard from Nancy Pelosi. She's keeping her leadership post. Of course, to avoid the fiscal cliff, we need compromise in Congress. Are Republicans celebrating now that Nancy Pelosi's going to stay at her post? BONJEAN: Well yes, actually we love the fact that Nancy Pelosi's staying in her post. She's a very liberal leader. She has kept the House in minority status. She lost the House in 2010 and we're glad she's there. At the same time however, we do need leaders to be able to compromise with on the fiscal cliff.

Speaker Boehner is working with President Obama and has offered -- you know has offered a reasonable package of tax -- revenue raisers as well as entitlement reforms in order to get this done.

COSTELLO: OK, so the President, Jason, is meeting with these top CEOs, about a dozen and he's going to be talking to them about tax hikes let's say and other things. He met with progressive and union leaders yesterday. He's going to meet with lawmakers tomorrow from both sides of the aisle.

So with all of this -- does all of this make America feel better about a compromise in Congress as it applies to the fiscal cliff?

JOHNSON: I don't think it makes America feel better. I think what we're hoping for is after a two-year long presidential election where the country basically decided that they agreed with what Barack Obama wants to do, that we're not going to see a bunch of unnecessary political posturing.

Look, this may not be a fiscal cliff that will destroy our recover but at the end of the payroll tax cut there's something that's going to hit every American in the pocketbook and that alone, not to mention the fact that unemployment benefits ending, I think those are the kinds of things, America wants those fixed. They don't want this to become a political football and hopefully will be done by Christmas.

COSTELLO: Well it's interesting I interviewed Ron Bonjean, Congressman Welch, he's a Democrat. He said that you know, if Republicans don't go along with what Democrats really want and what he says most voters of this country want, then we should just allow the country to go off the fiscal cliff until we can get a better deal.

BONJEAN: Well, that -- that doesn't make a lot of sense because Republicans are willing to compromise. And if they're not and the country does go off a fiscal cliff, it will crash into the rocks below, send us back into a recession, sent unemployment over nine percent with millions of people unemployed and in all of the other -- and there's a lot of other bad things that are going to go along with it including lost GDP, productivity.

I mean, the list goes on and on and I think having a reasonable conversation where the leaders can sit down and hammer this out makes a lot of sense. I don't think sending cars to the cliff, racing for pink slips makes any sense to me at all and Democratic leader -- Democratic members of Congress who say that, I think that's rather irresponsible.

COSTELLO: What do you think, Jason? Is it irresponsible because some economists even say oh, it won't be that bad if we go off the fiscal cliff because the business community only needs to know that they're working on a viable deal.

JOHNSON: Right. Right look, it's not so much a fiscal cliff. Like I said, the payroll tax, it's more like a bathtub filling with water that's eventually going to spill over the sides. It's inconvenient, but it will take it a while before it ruins your house.

But it's more of a symbolic issue. Look, we just had a two-year long campaign about these issues. Americans believe by 50 percent not to mention 55 seats in the Senate, that the Democrats plan is better and I think it's probably time for the Republican Party -- yes, Barack Obama you know negotiated a bad deal a year ago -- but I think it's time for the Republican Party to sort of roll over and say look, we're going to go with the mandate that the President has. It makes a lot more sense rather than fighting at this point.

COSTELLO: All right, we'll see. Jason Johnson and Ron Bonjean thanks so much.

JOHNSON: Thank you.

BONJEAN: Thank you.

COSTELLO: We'll bring you the President's news conference, yes he's going to have a news conference later this afternoon. 1:30 Eastern Time, we think, so tune in to CNN for special coverage with Wolf Blitzer. That begins at 1:00 Eastern.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSTELLO: Donald Trump, Donald Trump, Donald Trump -- no stranger to controversy. He even pokes a little fun of himself in this Macy's commercial. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, REAL ESTATE MOGUL: What's with the get-up Gringo?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm Santa Claus.

TRUMP: Let me see for myself.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, go ahead, pull it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: See, Tommy, I told you he was real.

TOMMY HILFIGER, DESIGNER: You also said that about the Easter Bunny.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: But a half million people are not laughing at this. Trump's recent post-election Twitter rampage, it went too far. The online petition to have Macy's boot Trump has grown to, yes, over half a million signatures.

Alison Kosik is continuing to follow this story from New York. So, I -- I mean, he has a perfume, who would want to smell like Donald Trump?

ALISON KOSIK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's not just perfume. The ties, suits, everything. This also involves Cher. You know when was the last time we heard about Cher? I don't know. I may have heard a song on the radio recently that was from the '90s. That's Cher --

(CROSSTALK)

KOSIK: Yes, that. Yes, something like that. So yes, it's between Cher as well, so you mentioned that petition that's online where over a half million people are signing on to this. They're asking for Macy's to pull its Donald Trump merchandise and yank Mr. Trump from its ad campaign. So this petition is a reaction to negative comments that Trump made during the election and on election night about President Obama.

And it's prompted some very entertainment mud-slinging on twitter with Cher saying "I'll never go to Macy's again," calling Trump a loud- mouth, racist cretin and Trump fired back, "You know, Cher should spend more time focusing on her family and dying career." Carol.

COSTELLO: Well, you know, at some points, you know, half a million, that's a lot of signature, right? At some point, it's going to start to hurt the Trump brand, right?

KOSIK: Not necessarily.

COSTELLO: His merchandise is all about him because it has his name on it.

KOSIK: It could be, but you know what; for now, Carol, it seems Macy's is not giving in to the pressure. Look, you know, Trump is a celebrity spokesperson for Macy's. He'd been in Macy's ads for years now.

You know, same with other celebrities, you know, from Justin Bieber to Martha Stewart who are their own headlines there. You know, Macy's just taking a more civil tone saying Macy's marketing and merchandise offering are not representative of any political position. Many of the individuals associated with products sold at Macy's express personal opinions that are not related to the philosophies of the companies.

And, you know Trump's got this whole line that's selling really well and, you know what; others in the Twitter verse Carol are saying just as Cher has every right not to shop at Macy's, Trump has every right to tweet his opinions. It's free speech. Isn't that what our country's about in the first place?

COSTELLO: That's right. You're right about that part of the equation. Well, we'll see what happens. Alison Kosik at the New York Stock Exchange.

"Talk Back" question today, what do you make of the generals' scandal?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COSTELLO: What do Jennifer Lopez, Beyonce and Kim Kardashian have in common? Great curves. "Daily Dose" fitness expert Chris Powell, shows you how to get your curves in shape.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS POWELL, FITNESS EXPERT: All right, so we see so many popular stars and artists out there flaunting their glutes. The butt is such an important muscle in the body and in fact, it's one of the most powerful muscles and it's only in charge of what we call hip extension.

Now, there's a lot of different exercises out there and people are touting the best butt exercise, but you know what; let's bring it all back down to the basics. The best butt exercise out there is the basic squat.

What we want to do is we want to stand with your feet shoulder width. Toes out about ten degrees. We're actually going to use our hands in counterbalance and our butt's going to move down and back away from our body, almost like someone is grabbing me by the belt and pulling me down back. My weight's on the heels -- and I'm trying to keep a curve through my lower back. So we're going to press up through the heels to a full hip and knee extension. Now, that's the proper squat.

And it's so important that we're going to be exploring these movements s every day because this is the human body and this is how it's made to move.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSTELLO: "Talk Back" question for you today: What do you make of the generals' scandal?

This from Michael: "Unless the pillow talk between the general and his biographer included classified information. It's between him and his wife and everyone should stop caring about it."

This from Joseph: "Some folks seem to think that this scandal is a private personal matter, but such acts by top military leaders are immoral and unethical, which usually means there are deeper systemic problems in our national defense. Please keep investigating."

And this from Joan: "Older men with some form of power, younger women who massage their egos, nothing new about that. Been going on forever. Will we never learn?"

Thanks for your comments today -- Facebook.com/carolCNN. If you want to continue the conversation.

I'm Carol Costello. Thanks for joining us today. CNN Newsroom continues with Ashleigh Banfield.

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