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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Another "Stand Your Ground" Gun Case; Powerball Fever; "Fast And Furious" Lawsuit Talks; Sandusky Case Prompts Call For Change; Belly Fat And Bone Loss In Men; Stubborn Battle Over Fiscal Cliff; Senior GOP Lawmaker Pushes Compromise; The Naked Truth

Aired November 28, 2012 - 07:30   ET

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


MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Meanwhile, the shooter in that case, that's 45-year-old Michael Dunn, he was arrested on Saturday, had his first court appearance on Monday. He entered a plea of not guilty to the charge of murder and attempted murder and is currently being held without bond.

His attorney has been outspoken on this particular case. And one of the aspects that she describes is the verbal altercation that took place, this was last Friday night. And she talked about how it began with some nasty words, but escalated with, she claims, one of the teens showing a gun. Listen to how she described it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBIN LEMONIDIS, MICHAEL DUNN'S ATTORNEY: Kill that mother (inaudible), that (inaudible) dead. You dead (inaudible) see that much of a shotgun coming up over the rim of the SUV, which is up higher than his Jetta, and it's -- all he sees are heavily tinted front windows that are up.

And the back windows that are down and the car has at least four black men in it. And he doesn't know how old anybody is. He doesn't know anything but he knows a shotgun when he sees one.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAVIDGE: Dunn reportedly then opens fire, authorities said he left the scene because, one -- he said he didn't know that he had struck anybody until he saw it on the news the next day.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: He fired into an SUV, eight or nine times, and didn't stick around because he thought it probably was all fine after that? This case is so interesting.

And I think you're -- you're right, it's going to lead to lots of questions about the stand your ground case. Martin Savidge updating the story for us and obviously we'll keep watching it. Thank you, Martin. Appreciate it.

Other stories making news, Christine has got that. Good morning.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: All right, Soledad, millions of Americans are planning to retire tomorrow morning, as Powerball fever grips the nation, tonight's jackpot now half a billion dollars.

It's the second largest in lottery history, a record for the 42-state Powerball game, the cash payout for a single winning ticket, a whopping $324 million and climbing. Since you're probably not going to win maybe we should all really be planning for retirement.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you have yours?

ROMANS: No, not yet but I will. We'll all be here I promise tomorrow. The Justice Department, you guys, and the House Oversight Committee are in talks to settle a lawsuit over "Fast and Furious."

That was the government's controversial operation remember where guns were tracked across the border into the hands of Mexican drug cartels. Guns linked to that program, that U.S. government program, were found at the site where a U.S. border patrol agent was shot and killed. The two sides have been fighting over certain documents that the Obama administration has refused to give congress citing executive privilege.

A commission recommending an overhaul of child abuse laws in Pennsylvania is a direct result of Jerry Sandusky's conviction for sexually abusing 10 boys. The former Penn State assistant football coach is serving a minimum 30-year sentence essentially life in prison. But a bit of good news this morning for Penn State, Nittany Lions head coach Bill O'Brien was awarded the 2012 Big Ten Coach of The Year Award.

A new health concern for men with big bellies, the type of abdominal fat could indicate a higher risk for bone density loss and broken bones. A new study has found that men with visceral or deep belly fat had weaker bones and therefore a greater chance at bone fractures than men who carry fat just under the skin.

O'BRIEN: It's interesting.

ROMANS: And New Zealand's capital city overrun by Middle Earth Mania. An estimated 100,000 people lined the streets in Wellington for the star studded world premiere of "The Hobbit." It's the first of three Hobbit films, which serve as a prequel to Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings" trilogy. It has its American premiere next week here in New York. Open to theaters on December 14.

O'BRIEN: Do you think Americans will wear those little hats everyone was wearing?

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Seems like a lot from that story, but if anybody can do it Peter Jackson -- those were a masterpiece.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Blockbusters. That's why they made all three.

MARTIN: We can probably make 500 million each.

O'BRIEN: Easily, easily. All right, Christine, thank you.

So we've been talking about the fiscal cliff, 34 days left until we go off the cliff or slide down the cliff. There have been lots of metaphors about that combination of tax rate increases and deep spending cuts, both sides reporting little progress.

The clock is ticking. Everybody's talking about compromise when you get into the details not that much compromise. Let's get right to former Republican presidential candidate, Tim Pawlenty.

He is now a top lobbyist for the banking industry serving as the CEO of the Financial Services Roundtable, which represents the 100 largest U.S. financial services companies. It's nice to have you with us, sir. Thanks for being with us. Appreciate it.

TIM PAWLENTY, PRESIDENT AND CEO, FINANCIAL SERVICES ROUNDTABLE: Good morning, always good to be with you.

O'BRIENT: Thank you. So this is kind of not your problem anymore as a legislator. But, but I guess it is your problem in terms of your business, and certainly as a citizen. Where do you see realistically the fix for the fiscal cliff coming out? What does it look like? Where is it -- where are the compromise points?

PAWLENTY: Well, Soledad, the organization that I represent, the Financial Services Roundtable, and our members are very concerned about this issue. By the way, we should be clear about the stakes if they fail to solve this.

The respected and nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said if they don't solve this in a timely manner we're going to have unemployment back over 9 percent, and we'll go back into recession. So the stakes are high.

I think, in order for the policy airplane to fly over the fiscal cliff it's going to need two wings. One wing is what Speaker Boehner has said, which is we are going to have to work on revenues and put that on the table. The details are to be defined about that.

But at least they're working on it, and there's some acknowledgment around that. But the other wing, of course, is structural spending reform, and containment. And that's going to have to include entitlement reform, and so far there's less progress or less coming together on that issue. But those are clearly the two main wings that are going to make the airplane fly.

O'BRIEN: It's interesting. And I think that sounds very conciliatory and kumbayah and all that, then when you actually start digging into some of the details, let's start with the entitlement spending.

I was just talking to Senator Dick Durbin and, you know, he feels that that should be something that, that's tabled for a -- for a long-term fix, versus trying to fix it in the next couple or four weeks before we fall of the fiscal cliff.

So then that sounds like compromising when you look at taxes, people are talking about deductions, and closing loopholes, but some people stepping away from the idea of actually raising taxes on, on the two top 2 percent. So I guess I'm -- I'm confused about, you know, do you think in fact entitlements could be done more thoughtfully and carefully as he puts it down the road?

PAWLENTY: Well, of course, most of the possible solutions here have been white paper think tank symposium debated considered data ran for a decade or more, Soledad. So I don't think the options are a mystery. I think the real question is does the body politic have the will to actually do any of them.

And if they don't have the time now at the very least, they should buy themselves a little more time with an extension, agree to some targets and goals, and do a more comprehensive fix after the first of the year. But we'll see.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Governor Pawlenty, Ron Brownstein from "National Journal." Let me ask you, yesterday, Tom Cole who is one of the ranking Republicans, former head of the National Republican Congressional committee said that the Republicans should accept what President Obama is asking for.

To extend the tax rates, at the Bush levels for all but the top 2 percent at the end of this year, and litigate the issue of what happens for those at 250 above next year. Do you believe Republicans should accept that as a way of averting a tax increase on all Americans?

PAWLENTY: I think many Republicans would embrace the idea of some revenues being on the table. But, Ron, as there's a dispute about how to best do that. Some are saying, look, don't raise rates but we would be willing to limit or reduce exemptions, credits, deductions and exclusions and the like.

Of course, the Democrats come back and say, yes, but you can't really get enough revenue by just doing that so we need a rate increase. That will have to be resolved. At least they're in the same universe in terms of revenues.

There's another way, by the way, to also get revenue from the wealthy, if you want. And that is to means test certain aspects of the entitlement programs in the future and that could be on the table, as well.

BROWNSTEIN: Just to be clear, do you believe, does your organization believe, that rates on those at the top will need to go up as part of a final deal in the tax area?

PAWLENTY: The membership and my organization haven't taken a specific position on that. So I can't speak for my -- that organization and their specific views. But I think most of my members would say, they recognize some revenues and we need to be part of the mix. But they haven't taken a position on what specifically would generate those revenues.

O'BRIEN: Let me ask you a follow-up to that, because one of the things that Cole said was he wouldn't see this as a violation of his pledge to Grover Norquist. So you'd effectively be raising the tax rates for the top 2 percent.

But you technically literally would not exactly be raising those tax rates, which would I guess, in his mind keep you under that pledge. I guess my question for you would, be did you sign that pledge as governor and would you think this loophole would be enough to get around the signing of the pledge?

PAWLENTY: Well, I first ran for governor, Soledad, in 2002. I signed a bunch of pledges including the tax pledge. When I ran for re- election in 2006, I said I'm not signing any pledges. I'm out of the pledge business. I'm just going to do what I think is right.

I'm not going to get into the game or sign or not sign pledges. Look, from President Obama's perspective and the Democrats perspective, part of the exercise is to get more revenues from the wealthy, there's lots of different ways to do that.

It doesn't necessarily need to be rates although it could be, but there's lots of ways to do that. At least they're in the ball park with each other on the revenue side. The thing that I think should be more troubling to people who are watching this debate is the apparent, at least current lack of progress on the entitlement reform and restructuring side.

WILL CAIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: That's where I wanted to pick this up. We can talk about how we're going to make up revenue, but we're talking about to use Governor Pawlenty's metaphor the trim on the wings of his airplane.

But I'm afraid the news you made this morning, Soledad, is Dick Durbin seems to be very clear he's not in on one of these wings as Governor Pawlenty again describes him.

Spending will not be part of the fiscal cliff negotiation, according to Senator Dick Durbin. I wonder, from Governor Pawlenty's perspective, does that mean we're going over the fiscal cliff then?

PAWLENTY: Well, I saw the senator's interview while I was waiting here at the CNN in Washington, D.C. and you know, he, of course it's early yet by legislative time clock. I don't mean early in terms of the severity of it and the fact that they've got to deal with this.

But a lot of this is posturing and negotiation and putting markers out and feelers out and trial balloons and the like. So I certainly was hoping for more specific details from the senator's interview, but we've got to give everybody a little latitude because it's a very sensitive topic for the Democrats to touch entitlement programs.

It's a very sensitive topic for Republicans to touch revenues. And you don't want to push people so far into corners that they feel they have no -- no way out. You've got to let them live and get together in a place where they both can declare some success.

O'BRIEN: Governor Tim Pawlenty joining us now, the president and CEO of the Financial Services Roundtable. It's nice to see you, sir. Thanks for talking with us, always appreciate that. PAWLENTY: Thank you very much.

O'BRIEN: Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, the chairman of the RNC, ready for a post-mortem. Now he's ready for a post-mortem? Reince Priebus says his party needs an autopsy. We'll tell you what he had said about that.

Plus, naked protesters show up to the House Speaker John Boehner's office. We'll tell you what was behind that that bare it all kind of protest when the seven of them join us straight ahead.

Plus you want to know what your must-get gifts are this year? You can upload a picture of yourself or your loved one even a letter to Santa. Tell us about the gifts you're hoping for.

You can submit your story graph at cnn.com/starting point and share those here throughout the holidays on CNN. Back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is reportedly in Cuba for medical treatment. It isn't clear what those treatments are whether it's a sign of a cancer relapse or for a check-up. Cuban state media reports he arrived this morning. Chavez underwent cancer treatment in Cuba. That treatment ended last May. He declared himself cancer free in July.

A determined deer really wanted to check out a Detroit area beauty supply store. Store owners say they kept hearing noises outside yesterday. Turns out, it was a deer trying to get in. Check out the surveillance video. The deer finally crashed through the glass door, hung out for about 15 minutes, and left on its own.

The chairman of the Republican National Committee is ready to break out the scalpel for an election post-mortem. Reince Priebus telling CNN's Piers Morgan it's time to examine the GOP platform like a coroner examines a corpse.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REINCE PRIEBUS, RNC CHAIRMAN: We have to look at everything we're doing. I think that's what we have to do. I don't think you can draw any quick conclusions other than the fact we lost and we know that. But I think in order to get back in the game, you've got to look at and do a full autopsy of what happened. What we did well and what we didn't do well, what we can do better in the next year.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Priebus says Republicans will be conducting an analysis of the recent election over the next few weeks and will put together a four-year game plan to avoid the mistakes it made this year. You know, that exit polling really was a pretty good autopsy of what people said they were feeling and thinking when they headed to the voting booth. BROWNSTEIN: Not just this year, the reality is that somewhat obscured because of 2000. Republicans haven't lost the popular vote in five of the past six presidential elections, which was the same record Democrats had from '68 to 1988.

There is a real pattern. There are consistent pattern in the way the electorate is dividing. The Democrats had the coalition of young people, minorities, college educated whites, especially women. That is a coalition unless Republicans do something to disrupt it.

CAIN: I totally agree with your analysis. Five of the last six popular elections is resonating, but that extends beyond things like gay marriage or immigration, which suggests you have a deeper problem. An economic messaging problem the Republicans are going to have to figure out how to make it apply to the middle class.

MARTIN: Real basic. You cannot ignore large groups of people, and actually think you're going to win.

O'BRIEN: You all should call Reince Priebus.

MARTIN: I've been trying to get him on my show for eleven months -- come on Reince.

BROWNSTEIN: It's just math. You're spotting Democrats 80 percent of the non-white population every four years, gets hard.

O'BRIEN: Still ahead on STARTING POINT this morning, they showed up naked at the House speaker's office. The point that they were trying to get across coming up when all seven join us, fully clothed, we're hoping, straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: So that's what it looked like when a group of seven protesters showed up to House Speaker John Boehner's office in Washington, D.C. Yes, we have it blurred a little bit because they are naked.

They are members of a Coalition of AIDA Rights advocacy groups fighting for federal funding to fight AIDS and they wanted to take what they call the naked truth straight to the top.

So we are joined this morning by the naked seven in the flesh, so to speak. Michael Tepelus is with us. Cassie Gardner, Megan Mohollan, Jennifer Flint, Stephan Georju, William Lyndsey, and Leon Tyler, nice to have you all with us. I appreciate your time.

So how did you get naked into the speaker's office? Is that like -- that can't be easy to get access and then take off all your clothes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are constituents. We're not from Ohio, but he is the Speaker of the House. He is an important person. We walked into his office and we just took off our clothes.

O'BRIEN: What was the reaction because he was not there, but his people must have freaked out a little?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. They all ran into side offices and slammed the doors and we were just left there for quite a while.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Quite a while.

O'BRIEN: You were protesting. You've been protesting the sequestration, which puts potentially huge cuts in a lot of the services and also the funding that goes to patients that have AIDS and in some cases would pay for their medications. So what's the connection between being naked and this important issue?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, so I think that a lot of people may wonder why we got naked, but I think that the important number to remember is 62,000 people will die. People with AIDS will die if these budget cuts go through, calling it sequestration, calling it the fiscal cliff really shrouds, using that literally.

O'BRIEN: Clothes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The issue that what we're actually talking about is cutting life-saving services for people. So at $689 million to global health programs, it's $538 million to programs that serve people with AIDS here in the United States.

And the thing to remember is that we actually know now -- this is new science that we can end the AIDS pandemic in the next 30 years. How exciting is that?

O'BRIEN: But also how depressing is it when you look at this information that comes from the CDC that says more than half of the young people in the United States who are infected with HIV are not aware of it, people 13 to 24, 13 to 24 accounts for 26 percent of all the new HIV infections. I mean, those are people who should know better. We've had 30 years of medical research on this.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. But we actually can end AIDS by getting a small cohort of people around the world on to treatment. We have a small window of time because what happens is in the past for every new person we were getting on to treatment there were two new HIV infections.

So the rate of HIV infections was always outpacing the number of people we could get on to treatment. When people are on treatment it's almost impossible for them to spread the HIV virus.

So with the tools we have right now, with the distribution of condoms and HIV prevention efforts and with getting people onto treatment, we can see the end of AIDS so that you don't have to repeat statistics like that in the next 30 years.

But if these budget cuts go through then unfortunately, we're going to be back here 30 years later and we're going to be talking about why are these scary statistics that are coming from the CDC.

O'BRIEN: These budget cuts -- potential looming budget cuts have a lot of hands, not just Republican fingers on them. So why just target Speaker Boehner who is in the GOP as opposed to targeting the Democrats, who I think many people would say are equally responsible for the sequestration and slide down the fiscal cliff.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, for me, right now, I know since President Barack Obama has been in office has an uphill battle and Speaker of the House Boehner try to get some of the problems straightened out.

O'BRIEN: You blame him personally?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I blame the Republicans.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's important to remember that yesterday we were naked and advocates who were outside marching around and they actually started their march at the Democratic National Committee as a stand in. We couldn't really march that fall in the freezing cold rain for people who are sick from the White House over to Boehner's office.

But the Democratic National Committee is where we started the march. We absolutely know that it's very possible that Democrats will sell us out and will put through -- they're talking about swapping out cuts to Medicaid. Medicaid has been struggling for so many years.

I think it's important to remember that people with AIDS have been stripped naked by budget cuts for really a decade, actually decades. These are not new cuts. Medicaid in New York State has been struggling, borrowing from other states, from the government.

O'BRIEN: You're really worried about what's going to happen as we go over this cliff. I want to thank you all for coming in. I really want to thank you for keeping your clothes on. I was a little concerned today if everybody did a strip --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We thought about it.

O'BRIEN: Cold studio, too, some people are saying, yes, yes. Thank you for being with us. I appreciate your time.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you for the cheers.

O'BRIEN: Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, Ambassador Susan Rice heads back to Capitol Hill today. Can she convince any of the Republican critics of her explanation for the Benghazi attack?

And a legend in the music world, Dionne Warwick will join us up ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Morning. Welcome, everybody. Our STARTING POINT this morning, not satisfied. The U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, will return to the plate today after striking out, essentially, with Republicans on Capitol Hill over Benghazi. Will she have better luck today?

Are you feeling lucky yourself? People are already dreaming about how they are going to spend half a billion dollars. That's a little less than that really after taxes. Record Powerball drawing tonight -- live in Times Square. Talking to some of those folks who are dreaming big this morning.