Return to Transcripts main page


Iran Says Its Seized Another U.S. Drone; White House Rejects GOP's $2.2 trillion plan; Obama, Six Governor Talk, Fiscal Cliff Talks Hit A Wall; Washington Post: Petraeus Told Run For President; New Photo Could Affect Trayvon Martin Case

Aired December 4, 2012 - 10:00   ET


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Stories we're watching right now in the NEWSROOM.

Drone debate -- Iran says it has another U.S. unmanned aircraft and it says "We shall trample on the United States."

She was shot and killed by an NFL player before he turned the gun on himself. Now some are asking Kassandra Perkins, is she becoming the forgotten victim in this tragedy?

Plus, it's a newly released bloody picture of a man charged with killing an unarmed teenager. Why all sides in the Trayvon Martin case say this picture will help prove their case.

We've all heard the story. A New York cop buys a homeless man a pair of boots. Now we're learning more about the man who benefited from that random act of kindness. You won't believe it.

NEWSROOM starts now.

Good morning. Thank you so much for being with me. I'm Carol Costello. This morning, Iran is bragging. It claims it captured an American drone. The U.S. is denying it, but Iran has made that drone a star on state television.

According to Iran's state-run news agency, the drone was captured immediately after entering Iranian air space. This is how the drone is being shown on Iranian television.

Behind the aircraft is a map of the Persian Gulf with the words, quote, "We shall trample on the United States." The U.S. says all of its U.S. drones in the Middle East have been accounted for. The drone Iran says it has is a ScanEagle.

It's made by Boeing and it's used by the U.S. Navy Marines. Actually it's used by the Marines. CNN national security contributor Fran Townsend joins me now from New York. Fran is a member of both the CIA and Department of Homeland Security External Advisory Boards. Good morning, Fran.


COSTELLO: So when you look at the pictures on Iranian state TV, is this an American drone or not in your eyes?

TOWNSEND: Well, it's clearly an American-made drone, right? As you mentioned, it's made by the Boeing company, an American company that does in the aerospace defense sector, but, of course, the united states is not the only country that uses these drones.

For example, the United Arab Emirates right across the Persian Gulf from Iran also uses ScanEagles. It's not clear when the Iranian it's captured this. American officials say they have accounted for all of their unmanned aerial vehicle -- aerial vehicles in the Middle East or denying that this is theirs.

It's not clear when the Iranians seized this ScanEagle, who it belongs to, and by the way, as the pictures we have just shown demonstrate, this is a carefully orchestrated propaganda effort on the part of the Iranian regime.

COSTELLO: No doubt about that. "The Wall Street Journal" recently reported that the U.S. is using drones to spy on Iran's nuclear capabilities. Might this drone be part of that? What do you know about that side of the story?

TOWNSEND: You know, it's not clear. You remember in 2011 there was a drone seized that the United States later did confirm was a U.S. spy drone, and so clearly there's an ongoing intelligence effort targeting Iran's nuclear infrastructure.

By the way, again, not just by the United States, but by other allies around the world who are concerned about the nuclear infrastructure and Iran's desire to have a nuclear weapon which they deny.

So there's no question, the U.S. and others are collecting intelligence about this program. They're using drones to do it. You know, whether or not -- clearly whether or not it's been successful and how much the Iranians know about it is not at all clear to us.

COSTELLO: OK, so final question, if this is an American drone and Iran really did shoot it down or capture it, is it an act of war?

TOWNSEND: Look, given that we've been very aggressively targeting their infrastructure. There's a certain amount of this, Carol, before you ever get to the, is it an act of war sort of legal issue.

This is an ongoing skirmish. You know, we've seen activities against -- targeting Iranian nuclear scientists. We've also seen Iranian actions around the world against Israeli and western targets.

And so there's this ongoing sort of below the radar skirmish that's been continuing, and I put this in that category. The notion of shooting down drones or capturing drones is not going to lead us into war without further escalation I think.

COSTELLO: CNN national security contributor, Fran Townsend. Thanks so much for being with us this morning.

TOWNSEND: Thanks, Carol. COSTELLO: A select group of governors meeting in just a couple minutes at the White House with President Obama to discuss, what else, the fiscal cliff. States would be severely impacted because much of their revenue comes from the federal government.

CNN White House correspondent Dan Lothian is at the White House. So, Dan, who is trying to convince who?

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think it's a little bit of both here. You have the President trying to sort of put pressure on them, if you will, these governors who then they in turn should put pressure on their lawmakers to get a deal done.

At the time the governors are here to let the President know there are some real consequences here if in fact this fiscal cliff scenario plays out. A third of states out there get their revenue from federal grants according to a Pew Report.

And that report also points out that states like Virginia, for example, would be heavily impacted. Why Virginia? Because it has a lot of military defense contractors. They're saying that they could be impacted to the tune of about $10 billion in economic activity falling.

In addition to that, 120,000 jobs lost. Take a look at a state like South Dakota, for example. A very small state, but 10 percent of its revenue depends on federal grants. So we're not talking about here just sort of these numbers in the sky.

But real numbers that impact states, and that's the message these governors will have for the President here, and also when they go up to Capitol Hill meeting with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker John Boehner -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Let's talk about the negotiations themselves. President Obama put out his plan. The Republicans rejected it. The Republicans put out a plan yesterday and the President rejected it. What should we make of this?

LOTHIAN: Well, right now it shows at least publicly both sides are fully entrenched in not wanting to budge on some very specific issues. The President is wanting taxes to go up on wealthy Americans those extensions only for middle class Americans.

Republicans saying no way at all, and beyond that while they might have some agreement on other issues, those remain the sticking points. I did hear from an administration official a short time ago who told me no update whatsoever.

When I asked whether or not there would be some counteroffer, I guess, the counteroffer from Republicans. So that remains the big sticking point, and it appears that until there's some movement on that, there really won't be an agreement.

COSTELLO: And before you go, I understand Speaker Boehner and the President were at a holiday reception and, well, what happened? LOTHIAN: Well, you know, as you know what happens every year is that lawmakers come here to the White House, as do other groups, and they get a chance to get their photo taken with the President, a quick hand shake.

Last night, they had a reception here at the White House and a Republican aide up on the hill confirms that Speaker Boehner did not have his photo taken with the President. Perhaps that's some indication of the current climate between the President and Speaker Boehner.

As you know, out on the talk shows Boehner has had very strong words for the President and even in some news conferences as well. So there's been that public posture of pushing very hard on the President, and apparently they're not getting along that well because they did not have a photo taken together last night at the reception.

COSTELLO: Interesting. Dan Lothian, reporting live for us from the White House.

Joining me now is Democratic Congressman Chris Van Hollen. He is the ranking member of the House Budget Committee. Welcome, Congressman.

REP. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D), MARYLAND: Good to be with you.

COSTELLO: Did you just hear what Dan said, that Speaker Boehner didn't have his picture taken at the White House Christmas reception with the President?

VAN HOLLEN: I did. Look, Carol, I wouldn't read too much into that. As you know, the speaker and the President get together a lot. I'm sure the speaker has had many occasions to have his picture taken with the President and vice versa. I really wouldn't read much into that particular fact.

COSTELLO: We'll take you at your word. How would you character the negotiations going on, ongoing, stalled, on life support?

VAN HOLLEN: Well, I think a mix of all three of those things. And the reason I say that is the President has been very clear in his proposal, both on the tax and revenue side as well as the spending side. I'm glad we finally got a piece of paper back from Speaker Boehner and the Republicans but when you look at it, there's a lot less than meets the eye.

I have it in my hand. They don't spell out in any detail how they propose to do the cuts, and with respect to revenue, they're far short, number one, of what's necessary for a balanced plan that includes revenue as well as cuts. And they don't spell out, once again, how they're going to achieve that revenue.

And the concern is that they'll get it ultimately by increasing the tax burden on middle class taxpayers while the President wants to focus on asking higher income taxpayers to pay a little more to reduce our deficit so others don't take an even bigger hit in the budget process. COSTELLO: Let's talk about that aspect of the President's plan. Raising the tax rate on the top 2 percent appears to be the administration's line in the sand. But isn't there a danger to drawing that line? Eventually the President will have to agree to more than he wants just to get it and what if the GOP holds out for that?

VAN HOLLEN: Well, Carol, I don't think the GOP position is sustainable with the American people for this reason. Let's think this through. They're saying that starting January they're going to make sure that nobody in the country, nobody, gets continued tax relief unless higher income individuals get a bonus tax break on their income above $250,000.

And they're saying that unless higher income individuals get that extra break, then they're going to risk the whole economy in going over the fiscal cliff. I don't think that's sustainable. I don't think people fully understand, what the President is saying is 100 percent of American families.

And small businesses get continued tax relief on their first $250,000 in income, and on the income above that amount, higher income people would be paying the same rates they did during the Clinton administration, which is four more cents on the dollar.

And, again, I don't think that's at all unreasonable. The President talked about this at length during the presidential campaign, and I believe -- I think people like Tom Cole, a conservative Republican in Oklahoma had it right when he warned his colleagues they would look totally obstructionist if they allowed that to happen.

COSTELLO: Congressman, also included in the President's plan was that $200 billion in new stimulus measures. Mention the word stimulus to Republicans, and, well, they're not too happy with that word. So why do that? Why deliberately like -- it seems like it was a deliberate poke in the side.

VAN HOLLEN: No, Carol. This has been part of the President's jobs initiative. He submitted this plan to the Congress almost a year and a half ago now. It calls for greater investment in our national infrastructure, in our roads and bridges, in our broadband infrastructure.

This has always been a bipartisan effort, at least it used to be, and what the President is saying is with continued high unemployment in the construction industry and with the unmet construction needs, we should move forward with that piece. That's one example of what's in the President's proposal.

He has said we should look at extending the payroll tax cut for another year. You get much more economic bang for your buck on that than many of these other measures. So the President is focused on trying to make sure we continue to grow a very fragile economy and create jobs at the same time that we begin to tackle our long-term deficit problem. COSTELLO: OK, last question, because there is some feeling out there that there's this big Democratic plan to allow the country to go off the fiscal cliff to get what the Democratic Party wants.

VAN HOLLEN: No. Carol, I can assure you that the President is very determined to try to prevent us from going over the fiscal cliff because the reality is that would mean immediately $5 trillion in new revenue. It would mean these across the board cuts. It would not be good for the economy.

What the President is trying to do is two things. Number one, boost job creation and put us on a sustainable path to reducing our long- term deficit. That's why he combines things like this additional infrastructure investment and jobs with a plan.

That asks higher income individuals to pay a little bit more combined with the more than $1 trillion in cuts that we have to continue to implement over the next ten years and additional cuts he's proposed.

COSTELLO: Congressman Van Hollen, thank you so much for joining us this morning.

VAN HOLLEN: Thank you. Thank you, Carol.

COSTELLO: A recorded conversation between a Fox News contributor and General David Petraeus shows the network's Petraues chairman to run for president. "The Washington Post" uncovered the audio tape and posted it online today.

The interview was recorded in Afghanistan in the spring of 2011 when Petraeus was a commander of U.S. forces there. In that same interview the Fox News contributor says she was passing along a message from Fox News chairman Roger Ailes.

She told Petraeus he should turn down a potential offer to become CIA director and accept a position no lower than Joint Chiefs of Staff. And if that position wasn't available, he should run for president. Listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I know you're not running for president, but at some point when you go to New York next, you may want to just chat with Roger and Rupert Murdoch for that matter.

GEN. DAVID PATRAEUS (RET.), FMR. CIA DIRECTOR: Well, Rupert is -- look, what I had told people is that, you know, I truly want to continue to serve my country if it is in the -- you know, quite significantly meaningful position and there's all of about two of those in the world. You all really have to shut your mouths --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm only reporting this back to Roger and that's --

(END VIDEO CLIP) COSTELLO: In a phone interview, Roger Ailes told "The Washington Post" he was joking, trying to shake up the Republican primary. He also said the fox news contributor was, quote, way out of line.

During the interview Petraeus mentioned he thought he was speaking off the record. The interview was before Petraeus' affair came to light with his biographer, Paula Broadwell.

A high-definition image comes to light in a high-profile case. Attorneys for George Zimmerman post a picture their client bloodied from the night Trayvon Martin was killed.


COSTELLO: A new image linked to the night of Trayvon Martin's killing is surfacing. Attorneys for George Zimmerman have posted a photo of Zimmerman online. The attorneys say it was taken by police the night Martin was killed.

Zimmerman, as you know, has been charged with a second-degree murder in that February death. Martin was unarmed. Zimmerman says he shot the teenager in self-defense. George Howell has been covering the case for us. So why is this picture coming out now?

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Carol, look, it's a new image but not really new. We have seen this image before. It was released in the first round of discovery as a black and white image so not nearly as impressive. I think we even have a side by side where you can look at the difference here.

You see George Zimmerman here black and white, but when you look at that high resolution digital image, you can tell this is -- it's a powerful image. You can tell exactly how badly he was injured. You can tell that there was a fight.

Now, the thing that we're looking at here, we know his attorney pushed for that image initially. He wanted to get this high resolution digital image. First he got the black and white. Then he got a color printout, but that's no comparison to what we're seeing here, and that's why the attorney says it's important to get it out.

COSTELLO: So there's been a lot of reaction to this photo. So give us some of the highlights.

HOWELL: Sure. Really, when you look at this story, there are three sides. First of all, let's talk about Trayvon Martin and his attorney, Ben Crump. When you hear from Ben Crump, Crump says, look, had George Zimmerman not gotten out of his car, there would be no interaction here.

But then when you hear from Prosecutor Cory, you know, what does this image mean to her? Well, this is an image that the state released clearly, and her case has always been this happened because George Zimmerman profiled Trayvon Martin.

So that's where they stand on it. But when you hear from defense attorney Mark O'Mara representing George Zimmerman, he says this image is important. He spoke to -- on Anderson Cooper last night. Take a listen to what he had to say.


MARK O'MARA, GEORGE ZIMMERMAN'S ATTORNEY: It's frustrating because this type of evidence should have came out day one and quite honestly would have gone a long way to quelling all of the anger against George that was sort of prove pounded by some of the Trayvon Martin family handlers who just turned this into much more han it ever was in the beginning.


HOWELL: Carol, really, that was the thing. Initially when this case first came to light, the question was, was there a scuffle? Well, clearly there was a scuffle, we've seen images. We've seen this latest image. I don't think that's really the question anymore. You know, now it comes down to how will this image play in court?

COSTELLO: Trial begins?

HOWELL: June 10th. That's when we'll see what happens.

COSTELLO: George Howell, thanks so much.

Talk back question for you today, is Cory Booker's food stamp challenge helpful for a pointless exercise? I'll be right back.


COSTELLO: Now is your chance to talk back on one of the stories of the day. Cory Booker, the hero mayor of Newark. He invites Superstorm Sandy victims into his home and rushes to aid a pedestrian hit by a car.

Heroism so out of the norm, it's been lampooned by Booker himself and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Gov, sit tight, I got this. Governor, stand back! I got this, I got this.



COSTELLO: Well, now, Booker says he will honor a challenge he said to one of his million plus Twitter followers to live on food stamps for one week to see how the other half lives. Although it's fair to ask as the mayor of Newark, doesn't he already know?

The snap challenge means eating on just $4.32 a day. He says he's doing it to, quote, raise awareness and understanding of food insecurity, reduce the stigma of S.N.A.T. participation, and amplify compassion for individuals and communities in need of assistance.

The Democratic mayor seems to be itching to prove them wrong. I'm not saying booker is insincere. I'm just wondering what living for just a week in someone else's shoes really proves. It's not like the food stamp challenge hasn't been done before.

The mayors of Philadelphia and Phoenix, even super chef Mario Batali have done it. What will it tell us that we don't already know? The talk back question today, is Cory Booker's food stamp challenge helpful or a pointless exercise? Your responses later this hour.

Just 28 days remain for President Obama and Congress to work out a high stakes deal to avoid that fiscal cliff. Can they do it, will they do it. Our political panel tackles that next.


COSTELLO: Good morning and thank you for being with us today. I'm Carol Costello. It's just about 30 minutes past the hour. Time to take a look at our top stories.

It didn't take long for the U.S. to respond to Iran's claim it captured one of our drones. A U.S. defense official saying all Navy drones are accounted for in the region. Iran is showing the drone on state TV with the words we shall trample on the United States. >

A federal judge blocks a California law banning the use of conversion therapy. His ruling provides to three providers who want the law overturned. The therapy is aimed at changing a minor's sexual orientation from gay to straight.

Oracle is paying dividends to shareholders at the end of the month instead of January. If the country falls off the fiscal cliff, dividends could be taxed as much as $39 percent next year. Right now the same investments have taxes only 15 percent.