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Fiscal Cliff Negotiations; Obama & Romney To Meet; Powerball Tops Half Billion; Hacking Hotel Keycard Locks

Aired November 28, 2012 - 14:00   ET



Hey, Brooke.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, Suzanne. Good to see you.

I'm Brooke Baldwin coming to you live here from New York. But all eyes on Capitol Hill as we get word of a major development here in talks over the so-called fiscal cliff. We're going to have that in a moment.

Plus, ta-da, get your tickets out. Tonight, the Powerball jackpot now hitting a record.

And this hour, President Obama getting ready to hold his first cabinet meeting since being re-elected. And keep in mind, some members of that cabinet, they will not be there for long.

But first, the fiscal cliff battle here that landed in your lap today. President Obama even wants you to tweet about it. The president went full court press asking Americans to pressure Congress to keep middle class tax cuts for families earning $250,000 or less.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's too important for Washington to screw this up. Now's the time for us to work on what we all agreed to, which is let's keep middle class taxes low. Tweet using the #my2k or e-mail. You know, post it on a member of Congress' FaceBook wall. Do what it takes to communicate a sense of urgency. I'll sign this bill as soon as Congress sends it my way. I got to repeat, I've got a pen. I'm ready to sign it. So --


BALDWIN: The president wants Republicans to first agree to keep those middle class tax cuts, and then he wants to move on and tackle the rest of the fiscal cliff problems. Do not count on groundswell of Republican support. In fact, one Republican, Congressman Tom Cole, proposed a similar idea and conservative Republicans, they shot him down. We're going to get to that here in just a moment. Quite a moment today.

Also, President Obama is meeting today with 14 key CEOs to try to get their support for keeping those middle class tax cuts. The CEOs, they're from huge, huge companies here. Macy's, Home Depot, Pfizer, Comcast, Marriott, AT&T. You see the signs here, just to name a few.

On the Republican side, House Speaker John Boehner says the GOP has done its part and now it's time for the Democrats to show their cards on spending cuts.


REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: 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 problem that our country has.


BALDWIN: President Obama and Speaker Boehner's last face to face meeting on the fiscal cliff was 12 days ago, though apparently they did talk over the phone this weekend. If the president and Congress do not cut a deal, let me repeat myself here, massive tax hikes and spending cuts automatically kick in the first of next year.

Joining me now from Washington is Representative Marsha Blackburn. She is a House Republican, represents the seventh district of Tennessee, which covers some of the suburbs between Nashville and Memphis.

Congresswoman Blackburn, nice to see you. Thanks for coming on today.

REP. MARSHA BLACKBURN (R), TENNESSEE: Good to see you. Yes. Good to be with you. Thank you.

BALDWIN: You know there was some pretty big news out of a meeting with House Republicans today. Your colleague, Tom Cole of Oklahoma, now is proposing that you go ahead and do essentially what the president's been asking for, allow taxes to rise on the wealthy come January 1st. So everyone else, the 98 percent, their taxes would remain the same. Let me just play this sound. Congressman Tom Cole speaking earlier today.


REP. TOM COLE (R), OKLAHOMA: In my view, we all agree that we're not going to raise taxes on people that make less than $250,000. We should just take them out of this discussion right now. We're not going to raise taxes on those people. And I think we ought to go ahead and make that abundantly clear to everybody and take them out of the negotiation. But we recognize we don't control the presidency and we don't control the Senate. So let's get the best deal we possibly can from the American taxpayer. To me, part of that is making sure that people that make less than $250,000 a year don't face a tax increase.


BALDWIN: So, Congressman Cole basically saying to, you know, fellow Republicans, look, we didn't win the White House, we didn't get control of the Senate, as we had hoped. Let's just cut the deal, you know, that we can cut right now and that's a deal that, as he mentioned, you know, would raise taxes on the wealthy and no one else. Congresswoman, what do you think of that idea?

BLACKBURN: Well, I tell you, I think that what you're seeing is how Republicans put a lot of ideas out there, and then we hash through those ideas. You know, my approach is to cut spending. I have looked at the --

BALDWIN: But let's take -- let's take Congressman Cole's idea here.

BLACKBURN: No. you know, what we have to do is look at the fact --

BALDWIN: Can I just get -- let me get an answer on that one first. Let me get an answer on that one first.

BLACKBURN: Well, he has his idea.

BALDWIN: Yes or no?

BLACKBURN: He has his -- well, he has his idea. I don't want to raise taxes on anybody because so many of those that are paying --


BLACKBURN: And this is why. So many of those that are earning and filing at $250,000 are family-owned businesses. And this is how they file for their businesses. And I am hearing from so many of those individuals and some of them are mom and pop stores, some of them are entrepreneurial companies, that are trying to get their sea legs underneath them and they're saying, what are you all doing talking about a tax rate increase?


BLACKBURN: And what I want to do is put the focus on cutting spending. That is item number one. And it's something we as Republicans have been trying to do since 2005 when we passed the Deficit Reduction Act.

BALDWIN: Let me jump to that.


BALDWIN: Let me jump to that, because, you know, part of the intriguing thing here is the fact that Congressman Cole, you know, he is doing something that the president said at that post election news conference and that is, you know, extend the tax cut for everyone but the wealthy and then, you know, after you get that done, and I don't know if you'd be going along with that, but nevertheless, you know, you go ahead, you talk about this long-term deal that would involve possible cuts, as you're -- as I think you're getting at, you know, cuts to programs like Medicare. Is that something that we could see taking shape here?

BLACKBURN: Yes. No, you're talking about -- you're talking about getting rid of redundancies. Great example. Three hundred and forty- two economic development programs that are in the federal government system. Let's start cleaning up these redundancies. Let's do some of these across the board cuts in discretionary spending. Let's make certain that Medicare and Social Security, which are trust funds, not entitlements, they're trust funds, that they meet their obligation to our seniors and near seniors. Let's look at how they become long-term sustainable, because right now the liabilities that we have on the books for the federal government, this is something we've got to deal with.

And, Brooke, you know, what the president is doing is saying, look, let's address a tenth of the problem. Let's talk about raising taxes, tax rates, so we can pay for eight or nine days more of federal government spending every year.

BALDWIN: Well, it sounds like it's not just the president. Essentially it's other --

BLACKBURN: What I'm saying is let's -- let's address the whole enchilada.

BALDWIN: I understand and I think a lot --

BLACKBURN: And it's going to mean we have to do some spending cuts.

BALDWIN: I understand. I think a lot of your colleagues would agree. And we're starting to hear some of your other colleagues maybe flirting with something that it sounds like you would not go along with.

But nevertheless, let me just back up here because, you know, your side is criticizing the president for going straight to the public here when you talk about the president's strategy, right, he's going to the public, meeting with middle class Americans, meeting with CEOs to make his case on this. You have Speaker Boehner. You have Senate leader, for your party, Mitch McConnell. You know, they're both saying, hang on, he needs to get in there and negotiate.

But I want to point this out, congresswoman. So let me just point this out. This is from Erskine Bowles today. We all know. We've talked about this ad nauseam of the Simpson-Bowles debt reduction committee.


BALDWIN: And we're looking at video. This is Erskine Bowles about to meet with the president yesterday. And he later said that the president expressed flexibility on tax rates. Let me quote him. Bowles is quoted as saying, "I didn't sense it, I heard it." He went on to say, quote, "the White House really believes at its core that new tax revenue ought to come from the wealthy." But, according to "USA Today," he went on to say the president is open to Republican alternatives. Open to Republican alternatives. You're there on The Hill. Are you hearing anything like that?

BLACKBURN: We have not been invited to present those alternatives and we do have them. Cleaning up the tax code is a great place to begin. And looking at what you're going to do with closing some of these loopholes. We all know that if you want to generate more revenue, you need to flatten the rates, clean up that tax code, broaden the base. That is how you do it. And at the same time, you've got to get in there and cut some of the spending. We can't afford to continue to borrow nearly 50 cents of every dollar that we spend. We can't afford to run $1.2 trillion to $1.5 trillion deficits every year.

BALDWIN: Congresswoman Blackburn --

BLACKBURN: And we can't afford to bring Obamacare on to the books because we know it has already doubled in its predicted cost. It was going to be --

BALDWIN: Congresswoman --


BALDWIN: Forgive me for cutting you off. But just final question, yes or no, you think you're going to be on The Hill come Christmas talking about this?

BLACKBURN: Oh, no, no.


BLACKBURN: I think that what you're going to do is see us find a way to move the bulk of this --


BLACKBURN: To get past the fiscal cliff, to address that, and then to have a good discussion. I'm pleased to welcome the president and the Democrats to the discussion. This is something some of us have been trying to get done for many years.


BLACKBURN: And I'm delighted to see that they're finally putting their attention on it. We have to get the fiscal house in order.

BALDWIN: Congresswoman --

BLACKBURN: Thanks, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn, thank you so much, live for me on The Hill today. Appreciate it.


BALDWIN: Today, business titans. Tomorrow, the business guy who tried to take his job. That's right, President Obama and Mitt Romney will be meeting at the White House for lunch in the private dining room. No, no. No cameras, no reporters, just the president and his challenger sitting down to talk after a long and bitter battle. It's a meeting President Obama anticipated in his acceptance speech back on election night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We may have battled fiercely, but it's only because we love this country deeply and we care so strongly about its future. In the weeks ahead, I also look forward to sitting down with Governor Romney to talk about where we can work together to move this country forward.


BALDWIN: Jim Acosta covered that long and often brutal campaign.


BALDWIN: Jim, you look -- you look nice and rested. Good to see you.

ACOSTA: Every time I try to get out, they pull me back in, if I can use a "Godfather" quote there.

BALDWIN: Well, we needed you. We needed you.


BALDWIN: Look, this meeting, this is not the kind of thing where you're the president of the United States, you pick up the phone and you say, hey, Mitt, let's meet.


BALDWIN: I mean there are negotiations. There are conditions. How did the meeting happen?

ACOSTA: That's a very good question, Brooke. I have to tell you that both the White House and aides to Mitt Romney have been fairly tight lipped about this. We did see Jay Carney, the White House press secretary, talk about this at the briefing. And, you know, the invitation was extended and it was accepted by the former GOP nominee. He will be in town tomorrow. He'll be here in Washington tomorrow to have lunch with the president. Before he does that, he will be meeting with his old running mate, Paul Ryan, who is in the midst of all of these fiscal cliff negotiations. So it's a busy time in Washington right now and Mitt Romney will be coming right into the thick of all of this.

But, you know, a lot of this is happening just as it seems the Romney folks and people in the Romney world are trying to resuscitate Mitt Romney's image somewhat. You see Stu Stevens, a former Romney advisor, taking out an op-ed in "The Washington Post" just today, Brooke, talking about how losing is just losing, and that it's not a mandate to throw out every idea that this candidate expressed during the course of the campaign, and it's not an excuse to show what he called disrespect for what he calls a good man.


ACOSTA: So we're seeing a lot of Mitt Romney, not just from the former candidate, but from people around him as well. And so it's going to be interesting to watch all of that tomorrow. BALDWIN: Obviously we'd love to be a fly on the wall in the room. We will not be there. But during his first post election press conference, the president hinted at some possible discussion points. Watch.

ACOSTA: That's right.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: How can we make the federal government more customer friendly, and how can we make sure that, you know, we're consolidating programs that are duplicative. You know, how can we eliminate additional waste? He presented some ideas during the course of the campaign that I actually agree with. And so it would be interesting to talk to him about something like that.


BALDWIN: Moving forward, Jim Acosta, is there a goal for Mitt Romney here?

ACOSTA: Right. Well, Jay Carney was asked about that at the end of the briefing. He was asked, will they be discussing a cabinet position tomorrow? And everybody sort of laughed in the briefing room and Jay Carney shook his head and said, no.

I will tell you, though, that we did get confirmed from a couple of different Romney aides that the former Massachusetts governor will be taking up an office in the offices of his son's private investment firm, Solamere Capital, in Boston. But he is not joining the firm. So he is going to have an office in those offices, but not be a part of the firm.

So what does this equal? That equals to he still has a day job. And, you know, if you do look at how President Obama has handled himself as president, he has sort of cultivated this team of rivals atmosphere within this administration. He had a hard fought campaign with Hillary Clinton and then he went on to make her secretary of state. Does that mean he's going to name Mitt Romney to his cabinet? I talked to a Democratic official who told me she would be shocked if that were to occur. And that this should be an interesting discussion when you look at some of the things that Mitt Romney said in the days after the election. He had that conference call with those donors where he talked about, well, the president won because he was giving out gifts to minority groups and so forth.

So there may be some fence mending going on, but there may also be a discussion of ideas. Mitt Romney talked about ideas during the campaign that the president says he respects and likes. And some of that has to do with this fiscal cliff situation, Brooke. Mitt Romney talked about loopholes and deductions that could be curtailed and that obviously is now part of the discussion. So we'll see if that comes up as well, Brooke.

BALDWIN: We will chat tomorrow and get a follow-up on what perhaps was discussed. ACOSTA: Sounds good.

BALDWIN: Jim Acosta, thank you.

ACOSTA: OK. You bet.

BALDWIN: Coming up next, Susan Rice, once again, comes face to face with several Republicans here today. And one senator in particular says, Ambassador Rice would make a better politician than a diplomat.

Plus, if you are in an office pool for tonight's Powerball drawing, listen up, my next guest defended a very messy situation involving co- workers who won.


BALDWIN: All right, let's get down to what we're all really thinking and talking about today.




BALDWIN: Yes, Powerball. More than half a billion dollars on the line tonight. Working folks across the country tossing in a couple dollars into the office pool. Don't want to dampen the fun here, but I have to read you a couple of headlines from just this past year. Quote, "$118 million lottery win brings office pool lawsuit." This is from May. This one's from March, "New Jersey man to pay millions in lottery lawsuit." He told his co-workers the winning ticket was one he bought for himself with his own money. Well, guess what, the jury disagreed. How about this one from February? "Lost love, man has no right to ex- girlfriend's lottery winnings, judge rules." Wonk, wonk.

Time to bring in defense attorney Joey Jackson, who, you know, you represented a case like this here.


BALDWIN: This is what everyone was talking about. I was driving in from the airport today and I'll tell you, the guy who was driving me in, it was like all about, what would you do if you win, yada, yada, yada.

JACKSON: Big money.


JACKSON: A half a billion dollars! What can we do with that, Brooke?

BALDWIN: Half of a -- I told him I'd take my family around the world on a trip. Nevertheless -- so you were part of --

JACKSON: A few times. BALDWIN: A few times. You were part of this -- you represented this guy who said, sorry, office co-workers, I bought my winning ticket, therefore money's mine.

JACKSON: It was pretty amazing. What happened was, he was the designated representative to get the ticket, OK. So they won second place. So then when they won, he said, wait a second, but I bought that winning ticket with my money. You had nothing to do with it. And get this also, Brooke. By the time they came to me and we talked about the case, it was two weeks and he had spent half the money.

BALDWIN: He spent half the money?

JACKSON: Half the money in two weeks. So immediately what I did was I moved to -- it's called the preliminary injunction.


JACKSON: Where you freeze the account. And thank goodness the judge agreed that the account should be frozen pending the outcome of the case, because, guess what, there would have been no money left over. So you got to be careful.

BALDWIN: So then how did it all end?

JACKSON: It all ended where they didn't go after him -- that is the office pool agreed not to go after him for the money he spent, but what was left in the account. The three workers that I represented, they split it amongst themselves.

BALDWIN: OK. So basically whoever's coordinating the office pool, Stephanie Jewit (ph), I'm looking at you. So, you know, lot of people getting in an office pool. What's the protocol right now?

JACKSON: All right. So you've got to remember the ds. It's all in the ds. And here's what the ds say.


JACKSON: The first thing is, is that you have to define the office pool. That is, you want to see who's going to be involved, right? Who are the amount of people that are going to be involved, and then you see what that group is, that's your definite group.

Now the next d, you designate a person of that group to go out and be the purchasing agent to get the ticket. All right?

Ready? Then when they come back, the third d is that you display. That is you copy all the tickets they purchased, right, and then you distribute them. But before you distribute them, Brooke, everybody has to sign. This way we're all protected. Everyone in the group is known. And we're all good. It's, you know, it's contract, legally.

BALDWIN: That I have not done yet. OK. (INAUDIBLE) that key final d that will get you.

Joey Jackson, thank you. Good luck tonight.

JACKSON: A pleasure. I'm winning. I'm winning.

BALDWIN: You will still -- you will still work if you win?

JACKSON: Absolutely.

BALDWIN: Yes, right.

JACKSON: Once in a while.

BALDWIN: Joey, thank you.

JACKSON: Thank you, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Coming up next here, a scheme targeting life savings of more than a million bank customers. You will hear how the suspects pulled the whole thing off.

Plus, shocking allegations in the factory fire that killed more than 100 workers. A factory that makes clothes for American brands. Now, word of arrests.


BALDWIN: Want to talk about Egypt here. And we have some new images from Cairo's Tahrir Square. Riot police firing tear gas on protesters. More clashes today over a move by Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi to extend his powers. These protesters insist they will stay in the square until Morsi gives back some of the sweeping powers he seized all of six days ago.

An update now on that fire at this Bangladesh clothing factory that killed 111 workers. Today, three supervisors at the factory have been arrested. That's the news here. They are accused of locking the main gate at the facility, making it impossible for people to run out and away from the fire.

A Ponzi scheme has been uncovered at the Kabul bank in Afghanistan. Hundreds of millions of dollars siphoned from the savings of regular folks.


DRAGO KOS, INDEPENDENT JOINT ANTI-CORRUPTION MONITORING-EVALUATION CMTE.: $935 million had been lost through loan book scheme. Additional $66.2 million were lost through other forms.


BALDWIN: The victims here are people who were convinced to put the money into a western style bank, seen as a symbol of hope for a country emerging from the ruins of war. The Kabul bank is also where a lot of U.S. reconstruction money is deposited.

More fireworks on Capitol Hill as the criticism of U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice is heating up. We'll have a live report coming up next.

Plus, thieves cleaning out hotel rooms in mere minutes. We will show you this new technology that's making it easier for robbers to swipe your belongings.