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CNN NEWSROOM

Taking The Tax Fight To Twitter; Rice Returns For New GOP Grilling; 368,000 New Homes Sold In October; Powerball Jackpot Tonight: $500,000,000; Garment Factory Managers Arrested; Chavez Getting Medical Treatment In Cuba; GAO: $1 Coins Would Save U.S. $4.4 Billion

Aired November 28, 2012 - 10:00   ET

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


CAROL COSTELLO: New sexual misconduct accusations against the former voice of Elmo, Kevin Clash, and claims that "Sesame Street" knew Clash had violated company policy. Now lawyers for the man accusing Clash of abuse are demanding "Sesame Street" provide more info.

Everyone wants to win tonight's $500 million Powerball drawing, but we'll tell you why you might actually be luckier in the long run if you lose. NEWSROOM starts now.

Good morning. Thank you so much for joining us. I'm Carol Costello. Today, the White House is taking its fight over taxes to Twitter. They want you to tell your story. So if you want to give Washington a piece of your mind the White House is encouraging you to use the hash tag "my2k."

A reference to the estimated $2,200 tax hike the White House says the average middle class family of four would face if the Bush tax cuts expire. White House correspondent Dan Lothian joins me now. Of course, this isn't the first time the Obama team has used Twitter to get people involved.

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. We saw them do that with the payroll tax cut, when they asked folks to push this hash tag "$40," the amount that each person would see taken out of their pay checks.

The reason they use social media is because they think it is very effective in spreading their message. Not only getting out to their supporters, people who see their line, but also those people in turn will push the message across the social media.

Again, they believe it's effective. That's why they're pushing it this time again, but not just that alone. You saw the president yesterday meeting here at the White House with small business owners.

Today, he's meeting behind closed doors with top CEOs. On Friday, he takes his message on the road to a manufacturing plant in Pennsylvania. This is all part of the effort of this administration to put pressure on Republicans to extend these Bush era tax cuts for middle class Americans, but not for those upper income Americans -- Carol. COSTELLO: Well, it's not like Republicans are sitting back. They're launching their own campaign. So what are they doing?

LOTHIAN: That's right. I mean, they are having events here in Washington, having events back in their districts as well along with small business owners and they're pushing the other side of the coin.

They don't think that you should have this -- these Bush era tax cuts should not be extended for upper income Americans because they said these are the Americans who are out there creating the jobs and that if the Bush era tax cuts are not extended for all Americans that that could have downward pressure on the economy.

COSTELLO: Dan Lothian reporting live from Washington. We just got word, Dan, that GOP leaders plan to hold a news conference. Any time now you see the podium all set up there. We understand that Eric Cantor and John Boehner are going to be part of this press conference.

The GOP leaders going to talk about jobs and the economy and probably more about the strategy that Dan Lothian just laid out. When they begin speaking we'll take you back there live.

Also today, President Obama meets with chief executives of some of the nation's biggest companies. You heard Dan say that. All to gauge how the looming tax hikes and spending cuts could impact business.

You may not recognize the faces of these CEOs, but you'll certainly recognize their companies -- Coca-Cola, AT&T, Home Depot, Macy's among the iconic brands. They represent everything from retail to manufacturing to finance.

All right, time for round two, Ambassador Susan Rice will try again to smooth things over with Republicans. Right now Rice is meeting with Senator Susan Collins and then at the top of the hour, she will sit down with Senator Bob Corker.

And they again will examine why Rice told Americans the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi was spontaneous and not al Qaeda related. Rice is most likely hoping this round of meetings goes better than yesterday's.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) ARIZONA: We are significantly troubled by many of the answers that we got and some that we didn't get.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R) SOUTH CAROLINA: The bottom line, I'm more disturbed now than I was before.

SEN. KELLY AYOTTE, (R) NEW HAMPSHIRE: She misled the American public. I think that she would say that. She'd have to say that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: Our senior congressional correspondent Dana Bash is on Capitol Hill. So, Dana, a question for you, how can someone who wants to be America's top diplomat go into a meeting and make things worse?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is inexplicable is the honest answer to that question, Carol. Now, let's just be clear here. The people she had a meeting with, though, yesterday are her most rabid critics, those three senators you just played right before coming to me.

So they definitely, you know, not that they wouldn't give her a fair hearing, but they have been very, very critical of her from the start saying that they would potentially block her nomination even before talking to her.

The meeting she is having as we speak is one that could be the most telling because it's with Susan Collins. She is the top Republican on the Homeland Security Committee. They are doing their own investigation into what went wrong in Benghazi.

On paper, in theory, Carol, she should be a potential ally. She is a Republican. But Susan Rice has ties to Maine and also, you know, she is, tends to be more moderate and more supportive of the president's nominees. But she gave Maureen Dowd a long list of very, very tough questions that she is going to ask her as well.

The one thing I will also say to answer your first question, Carol, about how could they make things worse, to me, which is the most stunning thing of all, is the fact that it wasn't just Susan Rice yesterday that caused a problem.

It was the acting CIA Director Michael Murrell who went with her to this meeting with the three Republican senators, told them that it was actually the FBI that changed the unclassified talking points that Susan Rice used and then really made them mad about that.

Then hours later called back and said, never mind. We were wrong. So they didn't even -- he didn't even have his facts right in that meeting, which really adds fuel to the fire here.

COSTELLO: OK, and not picking on Susan Rice, but I have to lay this by you. I mean, isn't it part Rice's personality the editor-at-large of "Foreign Policy" magazine describes Rice this way, quote, "She's not easy. I'm not sure I'd want to take her on a picnic with my family, but if the president wants her to be Secretary of State, she'll work hard."

This is from a Reuters article. So is it in part that senators aren't used to dealing with a person -- I mean, Susan Rice just comes out and kind of says things. She's blunt. She's not charming, warm, etcetera.

BASH: Or maybe some might say diplomatic, which you need for the role of Secretary of State. You know, that might be part of it because, look, this is a club up here, a member of the club is somebody who wants that job.

We're talking about Senator John Kerry who is the Senate Foreign Relations chairman that might be sort of an undercurrent here. I think the big issue when it comes to Susan Rice isn't so much her personality. It's that Republican senators think that she is just too political.

Bob Corker, who is meeting with her later this morning as well, he is a Republican from Tennessee, he said that she would be better suited for the chair of the Democratic National Committee. He says that she drinks the Kool-Aid.

She is just basically a staffer. That is I think the primary criticism of her. Not just with the issue with Benghazi but even before that, that she is to put it bluntly.

These Republicans have said she is too much of an Obama lap dog and not enough focused on policy and diplomatic decisions that you would need to be Secretary of State. That's their criticism.

COSTELLO: Well, let's see what happens today. I know you're going to stick around there. Dana Bash, thanks so much.

Jill Kelley launching a campaign to save a reputation after reports linking her to the Petraeus scandal. Take a look at these pictures. They were released on purpose to show Kelley as a charitable family woman. She was feeding the homeless there.

Remember, she is the woman who tipped off the FBI and accused Petraeus' mistress Paula Broadwell of sending her harassing e-mails. Kelley's legal team is also accusing government sources of leaking information about her and accusing others of violating her privacy.

All right, just coming into the NEWSROOM, new home sales for the month of October. Christine Romans here to break down the numbers. What do they show?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: It shows a little step back from the pace that many had hoped for, quite frankly, new home sales, of course, the smaller part of the housing market.

You have the existing home sales as a big part of it, but new home sales down just a little bit. The pace is 368,000 at an annual rate. You have to have something closer to 600,000 or 700,000 to be considered healthy. So we've been watching every single little one of these monthly home sales numbers to see if we're seeing any kind of recovery.

Last month was also revised a little bit lower as well so it shows you that month on month we've hit a kind of a snag here in terms of new home sales but year over year, carol, new home sales are still up 17 percent, 17 percent.

You know, new home sales, those are the real important driver of construction jobs, you know, the industry says every new home that's sold creates three jobs and adds something like $90,000 in taxes to the economy.

So that's why we're so closely watching the new home sales gauge in particular to see if it's recovering and it looks like it's kind of stuck in place there. Overall the housing market has been recovering.

Yesterday, we told you home prices have been moving up, existing home sales prices have been moving up so sort of three steps forward two steps back in the housing market this morning. You can see stocks are down too. That is one of the reasons why.

COSTELLO: That is the story of the whole economy.

ROMANS: Yes.

COSTELLO: Christine Romans, thanks so much.

History in the making, the Powerball jackpot is currently the largest ever. Wouldn't that be nice? Someone could win more than $500 million before the day is done. And that sum of money could grow as more people catch lottery fever.

Alison Kosik has got the fever. She's at a 7-11 in New York. She has been watching customers come in all day. You're with one new. What does she saying?

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I've caught the fever. I bought my own ticket. I ran into Stacey here who bought one ticket as well. That is enough isn't it?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes it is. Hopefully it's the winning ticket.

KOSIK: What would you do with the money?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Wow. I would pay my bills. I would help my family. I guess, I'd help a few friends as well. I don't know. Maybe I'd help somebody on CNN. Who knows?

KOSIK: There you go, nothing like a dollar and a dream or in this case $2 and a dream because the Powerball tickets now go for $2 a shot. Thanks a lot, Stacey.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you. Bye-bye.

KOSIK: Carol, go ahead.

COSTELLO: No, I thought that was really nice. She was going to help you out in case you were the big loser today.

KOSIK: Yes. But I could win today and I could help her out and I could help everybody else out at CNN so who knows? It does really only take one ticket doesn't it? I mean, the odds are pretty slim at this point, but everybody is giving it a shot.

COSTELLO: That's right. You know, one thing to keep in mind. If you join an office pool as we have with our team, I don't know if you've -- no, you didn't put any money in the pot so if we win and you don't -- I'm sorry, Alison. What I was going to say is you should be careful about your office pool. You should write down who exactly gave you money and make sure they pay you on time so you don't have a fight later. KOSIK: Exactly. Document everything. Write down everybody's names. Make a copy of all of the tickets. If you wind up buying your own ticket you want to document that as well. Really, I can't stress that enough. You want to definitely write it all down because it can be held up in court. It's fine. It'll do fine if you've got an office pool. You don't want your colleagues to run away with the money now do you?

COSTELLO: No. Although the nice lady said she would give you some money, I don't really believe her.

KOSIK: She ran off.

COSTELLO: She ran off.

KOSIK: She doesn't have my contact info.

COSTELLO: Alison Kosik, thanks so much.

Win or you're done. That is the thing in college football. He was just fired as the head football coach at the University of Colorado, but the debate over minority coaches is heating up. Was he fired too quickly?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSTELLO: It's 15 minutes past the hour. Time to check our top story. As if this story couldn't get any worse. Three managers at a clothing factory in Bangladesh have now been placed under arrest. They're accused of locking the main gate while the factory was on fire to prevent workers from escaping. More than 100 people died in the fire at least 200 were hurt.

Cuban state media reports that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is in Havana, Cuba revealing, quote, "medical treatment." It's not clear what those treatments are. Chavez previously received cancer treatments there in June of 2011. Chavez says he was cancer free before winning re-election earlier this year, but critics have voiced concerns over his health.

If you want to stop wasteful government spending you may have to get used to carrying around dollar coins instead of dollar bills. A watch dog called the "Government Accountability Office" says over 30 years a dollar coin would save the government $4.4 billion. The treasury does make dollar coins, but they are so unpopular more than a billion are just sitting around in government vaults.

In sports as in life very few people get a second chance specially minority coaches. University of Colorado football coach Jon Embree is finding that out. He was fired just two years into a five-year contract. His task was to turn around a struggling football program and in his two seasons the team just kept struggling. Now he's out of a job.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JON EMBREE, FORMER UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO FOOTBALL COACH: We don't get second chances and that's OK. You know, you know it going into it. Tyrone did. You know, I don't know if there's ever been another one fired that has gotten another opportunity at the college level. But every minority coach knows that going into it. If you just hire the next guy and say you got two years, keep your fingers crossed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: Tyrone is Tyrone Willingham. In recent history, he is the only minority coach to be rehired by another school. Roland Martin was intrigued by the story. He joins us now. So why is it so tough for minority head coaches?

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I'll tell you when you look at the combination of those who want to win, look at boosters, school presidents, all of this plays a role in it. Part of the issue, Carol, is when you look at a lot of these black coaches they are really hired at some of the worst programs in the history of the NCAA.

And so Jon Embree needs to be a Jesus and perform a Lazarus-like experience to wake these programs like. And what's crazy is he is saying, wait a minute. This program was in the pits when you hired me. I'm trying to rebuild it. He had eight seniors this year.

You don't win many football games playing eight seniors and a bunch of freshmen and sophomores. That is part of the fundamental problem a lot of these black coaches face because they are expected to turn around stuff that, frankly, is difficult and do it in two years, absolutely crazy.

COSTELLO: Frankly, Roland, you could say the same pressures are put on white coaches. Football programs are enormously important for the universities because they make a lot of money for the schools.

MARTIN: Of course, but the reality is when you look at a term, two years at Kansas, Embree two years at Colorado. The key point, he said a second chance. To say this is 1979, you've had 41 minority coaches hired and in that time only one has ever been rehired as a head coach?

You look at Gene Chisic just fired at Auburn. Look, he was terrible at Iowa State, terrible. I think he had like five or six wins and got hired at Auburn. And so I can show you a list of coaches. Not only that, Carol, Bill McCartney the former Colorado great who led them to a national championship, even he said, look, he is a white guy.

He said black coaches do not get a fair shake because they are asked to do the impossible. This is about opportunity. This is not about, well, you know, this guy and the other. This is about opportunities being afforded and what folks are saying is, man, make it a fair shot. But don't expect Jesus to walk in the door because he's black.

COSTELLO: Well, you mentioned McCartney and I just wanted to quote a statement. He said ESPN 102.3 in Denver, he said, quote, "To short circuit a five-year contract before two full years is an indictment of true integrity." McCartney goes on to say, "Men and women of Colorado don't let this happen. Please weigh in. This is wrong. It undermines the values of the university. This is a great school. Boulder is a special place. Please stand up and be counted." So what does he want people to do?

MARTIN: I think what he wants you to do is say look, you have to give somebody a fair shot. The previous coach, he also in that interview said the previous head coach was given five years. They had five straight losing seasons.

He said, this guy should have been given an opportunity to turn it around and when you just won a five-year contract ask any coach. They'll tell you I got to recruit my own players. I have to bring a recruiting class in, typically 25, 30 players to rebuild the culture.

That's what it takes. Look, you got my Texas alma mater, he was a great coach but went to a program at the University of Houston that was not in the doldrums and was able to raise it up.

The difficult task is we have a lot of these black coaches hired at places like New Mexico, Eastern Carolina, I mean, schools that frankly have had 10, 13, 15 years of losing, and then they say, your Jesus, revive us. Come on.

COSTELLO: Roland Martin, thanks so much. We appreciate it.

MARTIN: Thanks a bunch.

COSTELLO: Just a couple minutes ago, I told you the GOP leaders were holding a news conference on Capitol Hill. They did that just moments ago. The House Speaker John Boehner, the Republican, spoke about the Republican commitment to work with Democrats to avoid the fiscal cliff. Let's listen.

(BEGIN LIVE FEED)

REP. JOHN BOEHNER, (R-OH) HOUSE SPEAKER: Good morning, everyone. In going over the fiscal cliff it will hurt the economy and hurt job creation in our country. Republicans are committed to continuing to work with the president to come to an agreement to avert the so-called fiscal cliff.

It's one reason why we believe that we put revenue on the table as long as it's accompanied by serious spending cuts to avert this crisis. We believe that this fits the president's request for a balanced approach to this issue.

We're going to continue to work with the president to try to resolve this in a way that is fair for the American people. We all know that we've had this spending crisis coming at us like a freight train and it has to be dealt with.

And in order to try to come to an agreement, Republicans are willing to put revenue on the table, but it's time for the president and Democrats to get serious about the spending problems that our country has. But I'm going optimistic that we can continue to work together to avert this crisis and sooner rather than later.

REP. ERIC CANTOR, (R) HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: Good morning. You know, I was heartened to see that last week the president's chief political adviser, Mr. Plouffe, indicated that Medicare and Medicaid are the main drivers of our deficit.

And I know we have seen this morning also several editorial writers indicate the same, that it is important that we put these drivers of the deficit on the table and include them as part of any agreement to avoid the fiscal cliff.

As the speaker said, we have done our part. We have put revenues on the table, something that we didn't do two years ago during the debt ceiling negotiations. We still believe that it is most important for us to address the economic situation in this country where so many people are out of work.

And that's why we take the position and believe strongly that increasing marginal rates is income tax rates is not the way to produce growth and to put people back to work. But we have not seen any good faith effort on the part of this administration to talk about the real problem that we're trying to fix.

I'm told that Mr. Bowles, some of us will meet with him later today, has said earlier this morning that there's been no serious discussion by the White House on entitlements on Medicare and Medicaid.

This has to be a part of this agreement or else we just continue to dig the hole deeper, asking folks to allow us to kick the can down the road further and that we don't want to do.

(END LIVE FEED)

COSTELLO: All right, we're going to talk about this on the other side of the break. Does it give you hope that we'll avoid the fiscal cliff? We'll talk about it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSTELLO: Checking our top stories, the family of Robert Champion waiting to find out if a wrongful death lawsuit they filed against Florida A&M University will be dismissed. The 26-year-old died after being beaten on a bus in a hazing ritual last November. This morning the historic college is asking an Orlando judge to toss the suit saying it's not at fault for Champion's death.

New violence today in Cairo over President Morsi's move to extend his own powers. Police fired tear gas at Egyptian protesters gathered near Tahrir Square. Egypt's cabinet chief says there will be no retreat from the constitutional decree.

The two men who fought to win the presidency will meet again. Tomorrow, President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney will have a private lunch at the White House. CNN has also learned Mitt Romney will meet with his former running mate Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin. To politics now, and if you're hoping to influence the way Washington does business, today might be your lucky day. The Obama administration is taking its tax fight to Twitter asking you to speak out on the bush tax cuts using the hash tag "my2k."

That is the estimated amount in tax hikes the administration says a middle class family of four could face if the Bush tax cuts expire on the middle class. But the White House isn't limiting its efforts to social media.

President Obama is heading to Pennsylvania on Friday where he'll make his pitch to extend existing tax breaks for families making $250,000 or less. Joining me now CNN contributor, L.Z. Granderson and Republican strategist, Ron Bonjean. Welcome to both of you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good morning.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good morning, Carol.

COSTELLO: OK, minutes ago we heard from Eric Cantor, part of the GOP leadership. He was talking about avoiding the fiscal cliff and he said what Republicans want on the table, what must be on the table, Medicare and Medicaid. He did not mention Social Security.

So, L.Z., I guess I just want your thoughts about that. I guess now we know what Republicans want in return for those tax hikes on the rich.

L.Z. GRANDERSON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I don't think there's been much of a secret. In fact, I've been in support of trying to have some sort of entitlement reform for the past couple years on air with CNN because let's face it that is where a lot of money is going.

We need to figure out how to fix it. I don't think it needs to be in exchange for. I think the Republicans need to be looking at it as the prudent thing to do. We should be allowing those taxes to expire on people making $250,000 or more because that's the moral thing to do.

And we should be addressing Medicare and Medicaid because that is the moral thing to do. It shouldn't be a political move. It should be what's best for the country.

COSTELLO: Ron, something else that Eric Cantor said. He said the White House has not put out a plan, has not talked seriously about what it might do about Medicare and Medicaid, and that's like -- that's not really very helpful in the negotiations.

RON BONJEAN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, I have to say that the effort by Republicans now is to place as you saw an emphasis on entitlement reform over Medicare, Medicaid, because the issue has been focused by the White House on tax rates.

You know, there's -- it needs to be a balanced conversation. Republicans are looking for a balanced effort here to promote economic growth to, you know, through saving money on revenues, through tax reform on revenues, through entitlement reform and through spending cuts.