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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Susan Rice to Meet with Senatorial Critics; Salmonella Shuts Down Peanut Butter Processor; "Girl Meets World"; Advice on Office Lottery Pools; Gymnast Rebounds After Addiction; Young Actress's Big Hit Drama

Aired November 27, 2012 - 08:30   ET

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


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: He's not talking about the confusing message surrounding the deaths of those Americans. He's talking about her role, which is pretty strong -- strong wording.

DANA BASH, SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Oh, absolutely. Look, this is going to be an early test of Susan Rice's diplomatic skills, this meeting today, because these three senators, you're right, have been very critical. And they're specifically threatening to block her nomination if President Obama does nominate her as Secretary of State. I can tell you CNN's Eric Spiegle just caught up with Senator McCain moments ago about his meeting, and here is what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) ARIZONA: Whatever Ambassador Rice wants to tell me, she's the one who asked for the meeting. I didn't.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you trust her to be Secretary of State?

MCCAIN: This issue needs to be resolved, clearly. It needs to be resolved before -- I don't make a judgment as to whether she should be Secretary of State or not until she's been nominated.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: Now you can hear, John and Christine, McCain's tone has really moderated when it comes to Rice from sound bites you played were from a couple of weeks ago and now he he's saying that he's willing to listen to her explanation for what angers him and those other senators the most, that she went out on those five Sunday shows right after the Benghazi attack in September and did not mention al Qaeda as a possible cause of the attack. And that really is what has been the crux of this.

And that, we understand, is the questions that these senators have, why she did not mention al Qaeda, not just that -- because we understand now that she didn't mention it because she was told that that was classified and she was given unclassified talking points and that's what she read from. But the bigger question they have, we're told, is why she went further and said that the Obama administration has decimated al Qaeda and whether or not she said that knowing the classified information which suggested that al Qaeda might have been behind or at least an affiliate of al Qaeda might have been behind this attack in Benghazi.

ROMANS: Dana Bash, it will be an interesting morning on the Hill.

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: This is ridiculous, because, first of all, she wasn't Secretary of State. You have critics who don't want to mention Secretary of State Clinton, didn't want to mention Petraeus when it came to the CIA, and so they want to zero in on somebody who frankly was sent out on television who was not even over the ambassador.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Are we seeing here, basically, the end game on this? Will this resolve these issues? Do we think that basically we're going to expect to see her nomination of Secretary of State in the next few days?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It seems to be heading in that direction. There's a larger context here. The Republicans just went through an election where they lost 80 percent of the combined vote of a rapidly diversifying country, nonwhite population. Do you want as a party the first thing after that to be two older white senators filibustering the second African-American woman as Secretary of State? Is that really what they want to do after that election? I think there is a limit to how far you can push this.

MARTIN: The president also wants to make it perfectly clear to Republicans coming out of the gate in the second term, I'm the president. I'm putting forth who I want. So if I'm the White House, frankly, I want this fight. If you want to fight with me on this here, my appointment for Secretary of State, fine. You bring it.

BERMAN: It seems to me she will be somewhat conciliatory when she goes up to the Hill.

WILL CAIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Two quick points. The focus has always been on Susan Rice. Republicans made a mistake in focusing on her when there's a larger issue of what happened in Benghazi, and the fact that the talking points were changed only illustrates that there's a larger problem than Susan Rice.

Second, you talked about Lindsey Graham's words. We'll have to ask Dana again, but will they talk about her role, she should have known, not what she said but should she have known more and said something different?

ROMANS: Four Americans are dead. In the end, four Americans are dead. There should be numerous investigations. We haven't had an American ambassador assassinated since the 1970s. That that happened is horrific. So much of the conversation has been about politics, not about securing --

MARTIN: Looking forward, this is all about can you stop the president's -- one of his major nominations out of the gate? That's what this is about.

BROWNSTEIN: The questions are right. The mistake is personalizing it on the individual. ROMANS: Other stories we're following for you guys, the U.S. military monitoring what it says is increased activity by North Korean launch site captured by satellite imagery. However, there is no rocket visible on the launch pad. And a Pentagon source tells CNN the military doesn't believe a launch is imminent, but the activity is similar to what went down back in the spring when a North Korean rocket blasted off. That rocket, by the way, failed.

BERMAN: The Fast and Furious case heads to court this morning. Attorneys will be arguing the merits of a lawsuit filed by a House committee against Attorney General Eric Holder. Republican lawmakers want Holder to turn over documents from the failed gun trafficking operation. Guns linked to the botched operation were found at the scene of a murder of a U.S. border patrol agent. The White House is invoking executive privilege to keep the documents under wraps.

ROMANS: One of the FBI's 10 most wanted fugitives is now under arrest. Joe "Smiley" Saenz avoided arrest for 14 years. He is accused of killing rival gang members and raping and killing his own girlfriend in 1998. Investigators say he was caught on surveillance video shooting a man in the head execution style outside a California home back in 2008. FBI says a tip led them to Saenz Friday at an apartment in Mexico.

BERMAN: Big arrest.

Meanwhile, dangerous scene in downtown Sydney, Australia. The top of a giant crane at a construction site burst into flames and the top part of the crane collapsed on to a nearby rooftop. Incredibly, there were no reports of injuries. This crane is operated by the very same company that owns a crane that partially collapsed on a New York City luxury skyscraper during Superstorm Sandy.

ROMANS: The FDA has shut down the largest organic peanut butter processor in the country as part of its newest crackdown on salmonella poisoning. Inspectors found salmonella all over a New Mexico processing plant. Earlier this year 41 people in 20 states, most of them children, were sickened by a peanut manufacturer there and sold by Trader Joe's Grocery Stores. It's the first time the Food and Drug Administration has used the new enforcement power it gained as part of a 2011 food safety law.

BERMAN: Children of the 90s rejoice. Do you remember this awesomeness?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(SINGING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: I have no recollection of this whatsoever. Did I miss the '90s?

BERMAN: It's "Boy Meets World." There is a "Boy Meets World" sequel, according to a tweet from Ben Savage himself. He has official signed on to star in "Girl Meets World." Will Cain the only person in the world who knows anything about this.

CAIN: I would like to say that I'm young enough to remember this show in the '90s, but Topanga, California. Topanga.

(LAUGHTER)

ROMANS: I have pop culture amnesia.

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: We could talk about money.

ROMANS: We could buy pop culture. At a whopping $425 million, tomorrow's Powerball drawing is set to be the biggest jackpot in Powerball history, the second largest overall.

BERMAN: You may remember the previous Powerball record was $365 million, a jackpot won by eight co-workers at a Nebraska meat packing plant in 2006. But each walked away with just over $15 million each after taxes. Not bad. But still there are some warnings if you are going to join an office pool. Honestly. These end badly, like always.

ROMANS: Did you put in money today?

BERMAN: No way! I don't trust any of you. State attorney --

(LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: He's greedy.

BERMAN: Explain to my friends here why this is such a sketchy notion.

ANN MARGARET CARROZZA, LEGAL EXPERT AND ESTATE ATTORNEY: Thousands of people are engaging in office pools and there's so much excitement going on. But it's critically important that we put a few ground rules in writing or, as you said, people are going to be at each other's throats. There's a lot of room for misunderstanding.

ROMANS: You have a point. Somebody has to be in charge, the lottery captain. Walk us through the dos. Who is involved, copy the tickets. Walk me through it.

CARROZZA: So you appoint someone who will be the lottery captain or manager. The identity of this person can change as we go along. They have a lot of responsibility. They collect the money. They keep a sheet of collections and they check it off. They buy the tickets. They ensure that everyone signs the back of the ticket, and then photo copies it and distributes it to everyone.

ROMANS: Put it in writing. Appoint a lottery captain. Contribute equal amounts. Some people put in ten. Some people put in two.

CARROZZA: You can't be loose with this because it leads to expectations that will go unfulfilled. If a throw in an extra $5, I might think I'm entitled to 33 percent and you might not. MARTIN: Do you require the lottery captain to not buy an individual ticket?

BERMAN: Absolutely.

(CROSSTALK)

CARROZZA: That's an excellent question. Yes, but you need to clearly identify that on the front end.

ROMANS: We have to get an attorney.

MARTIN: So you say, OK, you're the lottery captain, you can't buy an individual ticket if you're going to be lottery captain. Sign this sheet of paper?

CARROZZA: I think they should be able to buy an individual it ticket, but we as a group should sign what is supposed to be the group ticket.

BERMAN: What are the other don'ts.

CARROZZA: Don't leave it open ended. I'm not going to pass you in the hallway and say I'm going to go buy a lottery ticket this afternoon, and you say, OK, I'm going to give you some money. I should send out an e-mail. Realistically, no one is going to have the time or wherewithal to do a full blown contract. That's silliness. But I can send out an e-mail to everyone saying I'm going to the deli at 3:00 pm. Anyone who is interested please get me $5 before then. If you didn't, I assume you're not in it. And that's a paper trail. We all know that e-mails hang around forever.

CAIN: We know that these office pools are terrible ideas. I guarantee we have some guys in the room, Mike, Brad, guys on the crew. Did you guys do an office pool? And who is your leader?

MARTIN: They said not Berman.

CAIN: There is our office pool right here, every time, these guys.

BROWNSTEIN: What happens when it goes wrong? Is there litigation? What happens in the litigation?

CARROZZA: What happens in the litigation, if there is a winner and it's an office pool, you can be sure that people are going to say, I thought I was in. I thought that you were going to cover me. That's our usual deal. That's why it's so important to have rules and never deviate from the rules. With any legal protection, you want to anticipate the slings and arrows down the road. And I want to be able to say in court, no, no one said that they were going to cover you, because we don't do that for anyone. That's very important.

BERMAN: And there are very real lawsuits about this.

CARROZZA: Oh, yes. And there's a hope that they're going to settle. So if you guys won the office pool, I might bring a nuisance lawsuit because you're eager to get your hands on the winnings. You don't want to be in court with me for a year even though you're going to win.

MARTIN: Lump sum or take the payments?

CAIN: Lump sum.

MARTIN: What do you like?

ROMANS: Lump sum.

MARTIN: Absolutely.

ROMANS: Last time we did a pool, there was an office -- the captain and then I was the money manager. I was going to decide how we were going to do it. We didn't win. For the record, I would just like to say, you should spend more time planning your personal finances than dreaming about the lottery.

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: If you are going to join a pool, we just got some good tips for how not to screw it up if you are joining an office pool.

ROMANS: All right, ahead on STARTING POINT, hear from the tween megastar from "Pretty Little Liars," Lucy Hale.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: A recovering addict says striving to be perfect almost cost him his life. As a young gymnast, he felt so much pressure he turned to alcohol and then drugs. But he made a stunning rebound.

Chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta has this story in "The Human Factor."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOSEPH PUTIGNANO, GYMNAST: I started gymnastics when I was 9 years old. And I was watching the 1984 Olympics and it spoke to me as if it was like broadcasted directly to me.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Joseph Putignano's foray into gymnastics got serious after that but his insatiable need to perform perfectly took over his life.

PUTIGNANO: For me it became a darkness that I have to be perfect.

GUPTA: And that's where his downward spiral began.

PUTIGNANO: I had my first drink and all that desire for me to be perfect and to be the best was just washed away in a moment.

GUPTA: Drinking led to pills, cocaine, eventually heroin. In 2007 after several failed stints in rehab and two life-threatening overdoses, recovery finally stuck.

PUTIGNANO: I'm 27 years old. I hadn't been, I hadn't done a handstand in almost ten years. But in the rehab, for whatever reason, I started to do handstands and splits and the more sobriety I maintained, the more this -- this like light, if you want to call it -- I don't know what else to say -- it kind of pulled me in a better direction.

GUPTA: But it was a chance meeting with a Cirque Du Soleil producer that changed his life forever.

PUTIGNANO: He saw something in me that was sort of inspiring.

GUPTA: Today three years after that chance encounter five years of sobriety, Joe is starring as the crystal man in the Cirque Du Soleil touring show "Toto".

PUTIGNANO: Crystal Man is the spark of change, it's like some of the darkest of men carry the brightest of lights and -- and here I was, the darkest of men and now I get to come down and shine.

GUPTA: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, reporting.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: That's cool.

BERMAN: And coming up next she is the star of the smash-hit series "Pretty Little Liars". We're talking to actress Lucy Hale about the series and her upcoming country album.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: "Pretty Little Liars" is a hit drama on ABC Family filled with juicy secrets and twisty plot lines. Soledad loves that type of thing, so she sat down with one of the stars of the show, Lucy Hale.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Actress Lucy Hale is one of the stars of the smash hit TV series "Pretty Little Liars". She plays high schooler Aria Montgomery. The show is ABC Family's number one series of all time and it tells the story of four teenage girls who attempt to solve mysteries surrounding their friend's death, sometimes by telling pretty little lies.

Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She is taking the long legs; the reporters are hounding her for interviews.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. How are we going to do this?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Emily thinks she's coming over here so we can apologize. But when she realizes what this is, she'll probably be more mad at us than she was before.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am not looking forward to seeing that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In a successful intervention, the loved one feels safe not judged.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Great, great so we'll -- we start out all warm and fuzzy and then we just have to hit her with the truth.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LUCY HALE, ACTRESS: Oh yes.

O'BRIEN: Lucy Hale has done shooting the shows third season and for the holidays she's going to be working on getting "Toys for Tots". We're going to talk about all of that. Nice to have you with us.

HALE: Thank you much. It's lovely to be here.

O'BRIEN: Oh you're so tough, you sound so sweet.

HALE: It's like I know, you got to hit them with the truth, yes.

O'BRIEN: Why do you think that show has been so successful? You guys have, you know the -- the killer demographic that people, no pun intended.

HALE: Yes I think -- nice. I think it's just everybody loves a little scandal. We have wonderful cliff hangers and, you know, people like to escape through drama and TV and I think we have all -- all these great combinations and it all just sort of works together. And we're very lucky to have the show we have.

O'BRIEN: Every episode has these twists and turns and mysteries and then secrets inside of mysteries.

HALE: I know.

O'BRIEN: Do people hit you up for like tell me what happens, inside scoop?

HALE: All the time. My mother. All the time, what's going on, what's going on.

O'BRIEN: And do you tell her? I mean, she's your mother.

HALE: Yes and if -- if I had scoop to give, I totally would. But the writers and producers are, you know, very, very careful about what they tell us. And I think it's mainly because they know that we all have big mouths and we just like running off and tell everyone.

O'BRIEN: They won't tell you what's happening?

HALE: No. And they want to keep it exciting for us as well. And completely.

O'BRIEN: So how far ahead do you get a script?

HALE: Sometimes the day before. The finale script we got the day we started shooting. So --

O'BRIEN: They didn't want to give you the finale -- they didn't trust you on the finale.

HALE: No, completely.

O'BRIEN: I'm sorry.

HALE: That's OK.

O'BRIEN: So you're from Memphis, Tennessee.

HALE: I am.

O'BRIEN: And you can sing. You've got an album coming up.

HALE: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: Tell me about your album.

HALE: Yes I do. I'm doing country music and I signed with Hollywood Records about a year ago. And I've just been writing, you know since I've been shooting the show so just been writing with some wonderful musicians and --

O'BRIEN: I didn't realize that music was your first love and, in a way, your first skill, too.

HALE: Yes, that's how I first started out. I grew up performing and, you know, I got really lucky on the acting side of things and, you know, I completely love my day job and what I do. But you know at the end of the day like music is my main passion. And so I'm really excited to -- to let everyone hear what I've been working on. And so we hope to have the album out in the summer and a single in the spring.

O'BRIEN: Do you have a role model, I mean, would you look at someone like Taylor Swift and you're like that's what I want to do?

HALE: No. You know what I -- I grew up with people like Faith Hill and Martina McBride and Shania Twain --

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: Hardcore country?

HALE: Oh yes, I'm -- I'm a huge, huge country fan. And you know but -- Taylor Swift has sort of paved the way for people like me who are -- who have, like, I will have some crossover stuff as well and, you know, there's no one bigger in the world than Taylor Swift.

O'BRIEN: Right.

HALE: So I got to give her credit, too.

O'BRIEN: And good thing to aim for. Anything in the Taylor Swift world will be great.

HALE: Oh, come on, yes.

O'BRIEN: So you were -- you and I was mentioning "Toys for Tots".

HALE: Yes.

O'BRIEN: And you're going to be helping in getting toys for tots.

HALE: Yes.

O'BRIEN: And I think it's Duracell that's doing --

HALE: It's called Duracell's -- it's called Duracell's Power Holiday Smiles, and what they're doing is they partnered up with "Toys for Tots". And it's a sweepstakes that they have on their Facebook page, which is Facebook.com/Duracell. And the consumers can enter the sweepstakes and hope to win toys for themselves. But also with every entry Duracell is giving one battery to "Toys for Tots" to power up the toys that they're giving away this holiday seasons.

O'BRIEN: I have to imagine that you have a million things vying for your attention; that there's a zillion people who would love to partner up with you on this. Why this one?

HALE: Yes. I do so many things. I think this campaign really spoke to me because I'm always looking for something to sort of lend my voice to and help out in any way that I can. And this one really was a no-brainer for me and something I'm really passionate about. And, you know, I just feel very honored that they chose me to sort of help get the word out for it.

O'BRIEN: It's nice to have you with us, Lucy Hale --

HALE: Thank you so much.

O'BRIEN: -- congratulations in all you do. We're looking forward to when your album comes out.

HALE: Thanks. Please do. Thank you so much.

O'BRIEN: We're back in just a moment.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: We're really feeling it here this morning on STARTING POINT. Check out the new LED lighting system on top of the Empire State Building in New York. The lights can produce more than 16 million colors simulcast with Alicia Keys "Empire State of Mind" on the radio. We're playing --

MARTIN: Jay-Z. Got to give it up. Last night the Brooklyn Nets beat the New York Knicks. My Rockets destroyed the Knicks on Friday. But great job by the Brooklyn Nets. BROWNSTEIN: I saw the Nets with Rick Barry at the Garden. That was a long time ago.

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: That's a long time ago.

BERMAN: You want to make Rick Barry your "End Point", that's okay. But I want to make you --

(CROSSTALK)

BROWNSTEIN: Look, "The Wall Street Journal" editorial board today saying that Republicans basically have to accept a world where not only revenue but tax rates go up is an absolute turning point in the fiscal debate. It is a moment where that becomes I think inevitable.

MARTIN: Real quick. He loves it. Heisman voters, vote for Johnny.

CAIN: I love Johnny Football. I don't even like (INAUDIBLE).

MARTIN: -- terrible.

CAIN: Yes. But a quick substantive point, OK, a lot of talk about tax pledges and Grover Norquist. There has to be a flip side and AARP is marshaling their forces right now to make sure no entitlements are --

MARTIN: Don't mess with AARP.

BERMAN: All right gentlemen, great to have you here this morning.

ROMANS: Can you tell me as we go to break -- can you tell me who Rick Barry is?

BERMAN: Oh, yes. Yes.

MARTIN: Joe Namath of basketball. Long time ago.

ROMANS: That's all I need to know. All I need to know.

Tomorrow on STARTING POINT, guys, former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, former New Jersey Governor Christy Todd Whitman, Illinois Senator Dick Durbin, and singer Dionne Warwick.

BERMAN: That's a great show.

ROMANS: Hello.

BERMAN: Meanwhile, "CNN NEWSROOM" with Carol Costello begins right now.