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Boehner Says White House Deal Offer Not Serious; Small Businesses Brace For Fiscal Cliff; Supreme Court Weighs Gay Marriage; Terror Fight To Go On; Shooting at Casper College, Wyoming; War On Terror Will Go On; Real Rapist Gives Chilling Confession

Aired November 30, 2012 - 13:00   ET


DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: -- not take seriously for a number of reasons. First and foremost, it is the thing that they clash the most on philosophically which is whether or not to extend tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. The president made clear again today he is not backing down on that. House speaker John Boehner standing right here just moments ago made clear he simply doesn't think that this is going to work, and so there are a lot of other issues on the sidelines, but that right now is the number one issue. It has been for a while, but it was crystal clear in the last hour.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: So, Dana, we also heard him say that we are almost nowhere when it comes to these talks with the president. So, what happens next?

BASH: You know, we were trying to get his answer to that question. It's unclear what happens next. You could argue that the ball is in the Republicans' court because it was the administration that came here -- secretary -- the secretary of the treasury, Tim Geithner, came here yesterday and gave the Republicans their proposal. But if the Republicans are saying, you know, we're not even going to take that seriously -- in fact, I'm told by a Republican source that in private meeting with the Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell, when Tim Geithner handed him the proposal, he laughed and said this is not a serious proposal. That was in private.

So, you know, theoretically, the Republicans have to respond, but, you know, who knows what's going to happen? Now, historically, you know, this -- Suzanne, you have covered the White House, and you have covered a lot of these kinds of negotiations. Likely what could happen is that the speaker could back -- could get back on the phone with the president and that they could come up with another framework for moving forward. But right now, as the speaker said, at this moment, stalemate, which is not what the American people want to hear and certainly want what Wall Street wants to hear.

MALVEAUX: Dana, sort of in two levels, the public negotiations that we're watching and the private ones, I'm sure you'll be all on top of those private talks that are going on with your sources. We appreciate it. Let us know if there are any breakthroughs that are going to take place.

BASH: Will do. MALVEAUX: Thirty-two days and counting.

The fight over the fiscal cliff is having an effect on small businesses right now. Just as Congress, the people running those businesses, they're not agreeing on a solution, but Poppy Harlow, she's got the perspective from the folks who are suffering.


BOB BELLAGAMBA, CEO, CONCORDE WORLDWIDE: -- any company, any business did the method of accounting as the govern -- as our government does, we'd be in jail.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: If You sound like you've had it?

BELLAGAMBA: Yes, basically I have.

HARLOW (voice-over): Debt is a cancer. That's what Bob Bellagamba told me when we met him at his limousine company in Freehold, New Jersey.

BELLAGAMBA: So, here's the reservations, staffed 24 hours a day.

HARLOW: He started the business back in 1984. Today, he's got a staff of 75, 53 cars and one big question.

BELLAGAMBA: I just want Congress to tell me to come up with what the boundaries are so I know -- I know how to run my business. I know how to plan.

HARLOW: He has laid off four employees in the last six months. He says the business made it through the stock market crash of 1987, the savings and loan crisis, and 911 with no decline in revenue until the financial crisis of 2008 and now this.

(on camera): Could more layoffs be around the corner?

BELLAGAMBA: Absolutely. Depends what happens.

HARLOW (voice-over): Down the street, Charles Altiero is buying gold.

CHARLES ALTIERO, OWNER, FREEHOLD JEWELERS: A lot of people come in, they'll bring in just basic scrap.

HARLOW: He's a one man band in his jewelry shop and business is so- so.

(on camera): But the economy is supposed to be gradually getting better.

ALTIERO: That's what they tell us.

HARLOW: You don't buy it?

ALTIERO: I don't see it. HARLOW (voice-over): Like just about everyone, he wants to see Congress act to avoid the fiscal cliff and the tax hikes that come with it.

(on camera): What would tax increases mean for you in this business?

ALTIERO: Well, on the gold buying end, it might be good. More people are going to need to sell their gold to pay their taxes.

HARLOW (voice-over): But he also knows it would hurt his customers' buying power. Altiero certainly doesn't want to pay more in taxes, but he is open to them. Bellagamba is adamant that's not the solution.

BELLAGAMBA: The right deal to me means you got to spend less.

HARLOW: Two small businesses in the same small town staring at the same fiscal cliff. Both with a message for Washington.

BELLAGAMBA: I would love for them to come here and just spend a day, spend a week just to know what small business goes through.

ALTIERO: Do your job. Make a decision.


HARLOW: Now, Suzanne, with the exception of just a few extra tax breaks, small businesses are pretty much taxed just like me and you, just like individuals. So, if we fall off that fiscal cliff, there is no doubt that their taxes are going to go up. But what might hurt them even more than increased taxes, the experts tell me, is less money in their customers' pockets because they're going to have less buying power, and so it's really two-fold for these businesses.

MALVEAUX: Sure. And do we have any idea of just how much their taxes would go up if this actually happens?

HARLOW: Right. So, if we fall off the cliff, and as you just heard from John Boehner, we're nowhere near a solution in Washington, so it's a very real possibility, the Tax Policy Center has made some estimates. So, what they're saying is if you're on the bottom quintile of individuals or small businesses, making about $20,000 a year, your taxes would go up about $590. Let's take the top quintile, the top 20 percent of individuals or small businesses making $108,000 or more. Their taxes would go up at least $13,000 a year. So, the higher end is going to pay a lot more, but it's going to hit the whole spectrum, Suzanne. And you know, what's interesting, that limo company owner, Bob, he --


HARLOW: -- told me, look, Poppy, if I'm running my business, working around the clock, and I'm not making much, 4 percent to 5 percent, and I could make the same selling my business and putting that money in a portfolio, then I'm just going to sell my business. If he does that, there goes 75 jobs. That's the big issue here. MALVEAUX: Yes. I mean, this affects so many people. This has to be avoided. I mean, you've got to -- they've got to come together and work this out because you're absolutely right, a lot of small businesses really just in a state of limbo at this point.


MALVEAUX: Poppy, thank you very much. Really appreciate it.

MALVEAUX: We're following a story, an explosion, at the Social Security administration building. This is Casa Grande, Arizona. That is halfway between Phoenix and Tucson. Casa Grande police, they say that this explosion, this blast, was caused by a device that detonated at the rear of the building. You see the black markings there outside, extensive damage to the doorway, to that car that is right outside of the building. There are actually several businesses that are also inside of this facility. Now, we've been told that everyone was evacuated. So far, we don't know if there are any injuries at the time. But we're obviously going to be staying on top of this to see if there are any other details that come along.

Here's what we're working on for this hour.

(voice-over): The Central park five. Teens who served prison time for a crime they did not commit. Why they confessed. A new documentary. We talk with Sarah Burns, who co-directed the film with her father, Ken Burns.

And "Thriller" turns 30. How the late Michael Jackson's masterpiece inspired generations. This is CNN NEWSROOM, and it's happening now.


MALVEAUX: The Supreme Court is considering whether or not to take up same-sex marriage. Justices are actually meeting today to decide if they're going to hear any of the 10 appeals that are pending. Now, a ruling by the high court could ultimately determine whether gays and lesbians have a constitutional right to marry.

I want to bring in Joe Johns to walk us through some of the options before the court. Joe, first of all, if they do wade into this issue, one of the cases that they could hear is the appeal of California's Prop 8, the ballot measure that bans same-sex marriage. What's at stake for that case?

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Right, Suzanne, first -- the first word is if, and so you have to reiterate that we don't know if that decision to take up this case is going to come today or even this term. It could and it might, and there's speculation that it will, but if the Supreme Court is anything right now, it's unpredictable. And on the Proposition 8 case, there's a specific question, can a state referendum abolish same-sex marriage after the courts have already ruled that it's legal? Remember, that statewide vote to ban gay marriage was in response to courts in California legalizing same- sex marriage. So, assuming the Supreme Court sticks to this specific issue, it would have big implications for, say, California, but wouldn't necessarily be a sweeping ruling that would impact same-sex marriage all over the country.

MALVEAUX: And so, Joe, talk a little bit about these cases that are challenging the federal defense of marriage act, known as Doma. This is, essentially, the law that defines marriage between a man and a woman where there are some federal issues involved. What would be the implications if the Supreme Court actually ruled on this?

JOHNS: Right, right. Doma, the Defense of Marriage Act, this -- these cases, essentially, have to do with federal benefits and whether couples in states where same-sex marriage is legal are eligible for federal tax benefits, Social Security, it goes on and on. The question here is whether it's OK for the federal government to try to regulate marriage, because throughout history marriage has been regulated by the states, --


JOHNS: -- so the Supreme Court could look at the narrow question of federal power or broaden it out. It's really up to them to sort of determine the scope of the case.

MALVEAUX: Let's talk about those specific states because we have voters in Maryland, Maine, Washington state that have approved same- sex marriage in the elections early this month, and you have nine states and D.C. where same-sex marriage is legal.


MALVEAUX: So, how does the Supreme Court -- if it gets involved, how does that impact folks in those states that said, look, we think this is proper and right?

JOHNS: Well, the Supreme Court historically has preferred to follow the country on a lot of issues and big issues. So, take desegregation of public schools, that was Brown versus the Board of Education, or interracial marriage, that was a case called --


JOHNS: -- Loving versus Virginia. They were very slow to move on some of these as they watched the states move in one direction. And after the -- a lot of the states have moved in one direction, that's when the Supreme Court finally moved.

In this case, you've got something like 41 states that in one form or another have said no to same-sex marriage, so there's a question as to whether the country is ready. So, that's another reason that we're sort of looking at this and saying, we'll see.

MALVEAUX: And I wonder if the court takes into account the shifting views on all of this. I want you to check this out, this poll -- the CNN National Exit Poll in November's election, 49 percent saying that same-sex marriage should be legal in their state compared to 46 percent who said it should not. The public pretty much divided on this, but seems to be swaying towards approval. Do they look at these kinds of things? JOHNS: Polls? Not so much, I don't think. But, again, it's the question of where the country is moving and where the law is moving more than anything else. I would imagine if the Supreme Court were to take a poll, it would be a poll of the states and their legislatures to try to see what kinds of laws have moved in one direction or another direction. But as far as the public opinion polls, you know and I know, Suzanne, they can change pretty rapidly and sometimes they do.

MALVEAUX: All right. Thank you, Joe, I appreciate it. We'll be following that case very closely.

The United States might be winding down the war in Afghanistan, but the Pentagon says there is no plan to stop the fight against terror.


MALVEAUX: We're following. This is out of Casper, Wyoming. This is Casper College in Wyoming. According to a spokesperson for the college, there's been a shooting that has taken place there on campus. The campus on lockdown. There are a couple of elements we have here. We're looking at a Google map of where exactly this is. We understand there's also a campus website that is -- has an alert that is posted. An emergency alert that says all classes and activities are canceled until further notice. They are updating as they go. They say campus offices are open. Campus travel is permitted.

But what is happening here is that police have responded to an incident. A shooter that was on campus. We are told from the spokesperson, they believe that this shooter is now dead, deceased, but that before the shooter was killed, they managed to at least shoot one victim, a male student, at the college. We actually don't know the condition of that student, whether or not that is a fatal injury.

But we do know, according to the spokesperson here, Richard Frigitta (ph), at the college, that the shooter has been killed and that there is at least one victim that has been injured from this shooting that took place earlier. The emergency alert at the college saying that classes and activities are canceled until further notice. That there is at least, to some -- to some degree, a lockdown that is taking place on this campus.

As soon as we find out more information, we're going to bring that to you. But it looks like the shooter has been killed and at least one victim of that shooting now being treated.

The United States says it may be winding down on the war in Afghanistan, but the Pentagon says there is no plan to stop the fight against terror. CNN's Suzanne Kelly, he's in Washington.

And tell us what this means. You -- we understand that the U.S. war on terror is not going to be fought forever in Afghanistan, but certainly there is a much larger policy that is in place. Give us a sense of what you've learned.

SUZANNE KELLY, CNN INTELLIGENCE CORRESPONDENT: Right. Well, the Pentagon's top lawyer basically talking at Oxford University is just warning people that just because you're seeing the U.S. pull forces out of Afghanistan doesn't, by any mean, mean that the reason why they went in, which is to go after al Qaeda in the first place, has softened at all.

And, Suzanne, you know that there are still -- it's been the administration's consistent statement that al Qaeda core has really been degraded. However, there's still a significant threat from its affiliates. AQIM, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb operating in North Africa, as well as al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula operating in Yemen.

And because Jeh Johnson says this is an unconventional war where you don't have your normal enemy and surrender procedures that you would like wars in the past, that you're going to continue to see a lot of those controversial tools used in this war. One of those, of course, as we know, is the use of drones, particularly in going after these affiliate members, and another the use of detention. And that raises significant issues in the U.S.

MALVEAUX: Suzanne, we know that at least this whole idea on war on terror was something that President Bush really pushed and pushed and pushed. President Obama not so much, being a lot more specific about who it is that we're going after, specifically al Qaeda and where they are in various countries. What are we learning in terms of details here? Because this is not this kind of broad idea that we saw that was promoted under the president -- the former President Bush?

KELLY: You're right. And there have been more specifics in terms of who they're going after. And I think they're really trying to get that message out that al Qaeda core, which operated in Pakistan, is no longer a threat, but these affiliates are. And so you're seeing them defend the measures that they're using against them, with those drones and the detention.

But 12 years in, Suzanne, it's a great question. What does this war end and how do you know it's over? And Johnson address that too, saying that basically there will come what he calls a tipping point at some point where the U.S. believes that they're no longer able, these al Qaeda affiliates, to organize and launch missions that would attack United States interests around the world. That's going to be the point where this then changes to something of a counter-terrorism effort where individuals are targeted. And that was really interesting because it's very -- that's probably the most difficult question to answer right now, when does the war against al Qaeda end?

MALVEAUX: And, Suzanne, what does this look like when you talk about this war on terror? When we look into the future, this unconventional war on terror and against al Qaeda, how does it look differently than the past?

KELLY: You know, it doesn't necessarily look differently. It's more of a legal issue now. The use of drones is going to continue. The administration has shown no signs whatsoever of lightening up on that. In fact, drone strikes have been increasing. You know, also the detention issue. You know, you have people who have been held who you believe are dangerous threats, but they haven't been charged with anything. They haven't been tried with anything. I think you're going to see that continue. And this was really sort of a defense of the status quo more than telling us how it's going to be all resolved.

MALVEAUX: All right, Suzanne Kelly, thank you very much. We appreciate it.

KELLY: A pleasure.

MALVEAUX: Five teens put in prison for a crime they did not commit. Their compelling story is told in the new documentary "The Central Park Five." One of the film's directors, Sarah Burns, the daughter of director Ken Burns, she's going to join us live in just moments.


MALVEAUX: New York's mayor at the time, New York City's mayor, called it the crime of the century. The brutal rape and beating of a woman who was jogging in Central Park back in 1989. The victim was a 28- year-old investment banker. And her courageous battle for survival made front page news around the world.

Also making headlines, the suspects in the case. Five black and Latino teenagers who were eventually convicted, even though none of them did it. Police got them to confess after turning them against each other during hours of interrogations. The case is recounted in a new documentary by filmmaker Ken Burns called "The Central Park Five." Take a look.


RAYMOND SANTANA (ph): Hardikin (ph) sat down and he said, look, Ray (ph), I know you didn't do anything wrong, but the other guys right now, they're in other precincts and they're saying that you did it.

KEVIN RICHARDSON (ph): And you're telling me, well, you're not saying nothing, but these guys put your name in it.

SANTANA: And I'm like, I didn't do anything. And he's like, well, this is why I'm here to help you because I know you didn't do anything. You're a good kid. You know, this isn't you.

He pulls out this picture of Kevin Richardson and he goes, do you know this kid? I'm like, no, I don't know him. And he goes, you see the scratch under his eye? That came from the woman. We know he did it. He's going down.

RICHARDSON: At this point I'm like, you know, like I don't know these guys that's there, so I'm just going to make up something and include these guys' names.

SANTANA: OK. If, you know, if you're going to do it to me, then I'm going to do it to you.

(END VIDEO CLIP) MALVEAUX: A serial rapist confessed to the crime 13 years after the attack. His DNA matched. And the five teens' convictions, they were vacated.

Joining us from New York, Sarah Burns. She is co-director of the movie and author of the book that inspired it. And Sarah also happens to be the daughter of Ken Burns.

Sarah, so good to see you, and so glad that you brought this story, again, to light. I remember it very well. This was something that a lot of people were just captivated by. It was a very painful time, a chapter in our lives, I think, especially when it came to race relations. Explain to our viewers how it was that you had these guys who confessed. There was no physical evidence. They confessed. They were not guilty. And yet a lot of people in the community were quick to simply accept that they were guilty.

SARAH BURNS, CO-DIRECTOR, "THE CENTRAL PARK FIVE": Right. I mean the only evidence that was presented against them were these statements that they had given. And they ultimately gave these videotape statements which proved to be very convincing.

But the problem was, as you said, there was no evidence. The DNA tests were negative. And I think that the fact that people were so quick to believe that they had done it, this story the police had concocted and provided to the press had a lot to do with the time. As you said, the city was very different in those days and people were afraid. The crime rates were higher and it seemed like a scary place. And I think that people were particularly afraid of minority teenage boys in particular. And so these kids who were 14, 15, and 16 somehow seemed like exactly the thing that people feared, and it made sense to them even though there was no evidence.

MALVEAUX: Why did they confess? I mean, you do such an extraordinary job in this documentary for them to explain how it is they got into all of this. Why did they say they did something that they didn't do?

BURNS: Yes, it's -- when I first started researching this story, it was the first thing I had to look at because I needed to understand for myself how it could happen, because it's irrational. It doesn't make sense. And it's easy for us to sit back and say, well, I would never admit to something I didn't do. But the dynamics that happened in that interrogation room are so intense and there's such a huge power differential between the defectives and these terrified young men, and what happens is, a little bit what you saw in the clip, where they're sort of played against each other, and they're made to believe that they can be witnesses and that they'll be able to go home if they just tell the police what they want to hear. And ultimately they believed that. They were also naive about the system. I mean none of them had been arrested before or had any contact with the police, and so they didn't know that they should be invoking their rights, that they should be asking for a lawyer or not agreeing to make these statements.

MALVEAUX: And, Sarah, I want to play a clip for our viewers here. You actually captured the man who attacked the jogger, who nearly died, confessing on camera. Let's listen in. Let's watch.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) the treatment, and, you know, were I dragged her in. She just kept moaning, you know, and stop hitting (INAUDIBLE) my head. She was in pain and all that, you know. She was bleeding. I can't explain to you what happened after I left that park that night, but I can guarantee you that there was no way these kids saw this woman (ph) or have an idea of where she was coming from. I'm the one that did this.