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Boehner Meets With House GOP; Entire House Invited To Libya Briefing; McAfee Seeks Asylum In Guatemala; Costas Clarifies Halftime Gun Remarks; A Year In Space; GOP, Dems Fight Over Fiscal Cliff

Aired December 5, 2012 - 10:00   ET


CAROL COSTELLO, ANCHOR: The next hour of CNN "NEWSROOM" starts right now.

A busy day in our nation's capital this morning, there are several events happening right now that we're keeping an eye on. First, to Capitol Hill where House Republican leaders met this morning with Speaker John Boehner.

Many Republicans unhappy with the way he offered the White House $800 billion in tax hikes during fiscal cliff negotiations. Congressman Boehner is holding a news conference that is scheduled to start any minute now. We're going to bring you his remarks live.

Also, later this hour, we could hear President Obama's response to Speaker Boehner's comments. He is meeting with business CEOs. The President is expected to continue to publicly push his plan to raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans. We'll bring you his remarks live -- well, 50 minutes from now.

A Senate panel is meeting right now to discuss response and recovery to Superstorm Sandy. This is a live look at that hearing. Senators from states hardest hit are expected to testify and demand more funds for the cleanup. This is the third of four hearings scheduled.

And in Houston, we're learning new details right now about a history making mission to the International Space Station. Scott Kelly, the American astronaut, will speak about his next launch. If all goes as planned, it will set the longest record for a space mission for an American. We'll tell you what he's saying.

NEWSROOM starts right now.

Good morning. Thank you so much for being with us. I'm Carol Costello. This should be interesting. Speaker John Boehner is meeting with House Republicans who are angry at his new pitch to raise 8$800 million in fiscal cliff negotiations.

We're expecting a news conference any minute now on that meeting. We'll bring it to you live. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi spoke about the cliff just a few minutes ago. Here's what she had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: I would hope that that would break the fall on the cliff, which is becoming more of a slope if they do that. But really, we do need to put a down payment, not just in revenues, which passing middle income tax cut means the end of holding them hostage.


COSTELLO: Senior congressional correspondent Dana Bash is on Capitol Hill. So what's happening now?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we have been talking to Republican lawmakers as they have been coming out of this meeting that the House Republican Conference had this morning and I should tell you any moment we're going to see the Speaker and the other members of the leadership.

I'll sit down when that happens. But what we've actually heard is what went on behind closed doors is not the kind of backlash that we've been hearing from conservatives outside the Congress and certainly groups that are very, very upset.

That the House Republican leadership sent a counteroffer to the President that includes $800 billion in new revenue. That's not to say that there are not many rank and file Republicans who are not happy about that because so many of them signed a pledge and don't believe in raising taxes.

But we talked to a number of House Republicans in the last few minutes saying that they are unified. That's the word I heard, multiple times, unified behind the House Speaker just in the process because they realize that the process has to continue.

And there is frustration that the President hasn't responded to that proposal yet. He's simply gone on television to do an interview yesterday.

COSTELLO: Yes, we'll see if he has something to say momentarily. I understand that lawmakers plan to leave Washington for the rest of the week. So why are they leaving when the fiscal cliff is 26 days away?

BASH: You know, it is an interesting decision. Look, we are in the lame duck Congress and so what the Republican leadership says is that they simply don't have a lot of legislation to put on the floor to keep members of Congress here.

However, you are right. The optics of Republicans leaving today, Wednesday, with two days left in the week with the fiscal cliff not too far away certainly may be questionable.

What they insist is that their members are going to go back home to their districts and talk to their constituents, talk to small business and small business leaders to try to maybe play the outside in-game that the President himself has been playing by trying to rally support for his side of this issue.

COSTELLO: Dana Bash, reporting live from Capitol Hill.

Also, right now, U.S. intelligence officials are briefing members of Congress on exactly what happened in Benghazi. Every single member of the House of Representatives, all 435 of them, all were invited.

Elise Labott is CNN's foreign affairs reporter. She is on Capitol Hill right now. So Elise, this is a multimedia presentation. So is it a power point on Benghazi?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS REPORTER: Well, Carol, the members are just starting to arrive right now. They will be meeting in this room right here, this auditorium. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi just arrived.

Basically, it's going to be very similar to the briefing that some of the members of the intelligence committees, armed services committee, the leadership, those classified briefings already took place with a very specific level of detail.

This briefing now is open to all members of the House. They won't go over as much classified material as in those other briefings, but we are expecting that they will be seeing this video, this surveillance video of the night of the attack in Benghazi at the consulate. Certainly there are other members in addition to those committee leaders that have a lot of questions.

COSTELLO: So who decided to hold this meeting? Is it public relations stunt for the benefit of the American people? I know I'm being cynical here or is it from all of the criticism from the lawmakers about what happened in Benghazi?

LABOTT: No, Carol. This is a routine intelligence briefing. Members receive intelligence briefings regularly. Obviously, the headline isn't Benghazi today and these members wanted to have their opportunity to ask questions of director of the National Intelligence Director, James Clapper, Patrick Kennedy, the undersecretary for Management who is in charge of security in U.S. diplomatic.

And some others, they wanted the opportunity to ask the same kind of questions that were asked of some of these men when they had their classified briefings.

COSTELLO: Elise Labott reporting live from Capitol Hill.

There's a new twist in the strange case of John McAfee. The American software mogul left Belize and he's now in Guatemala where he says he will seek asylum. The eccentric millionaire spoke exclusively with CNN Espanol in Guatemala City.


JOHN MCAFEE, U.S. TECH MULTI-MILLIONAIRE: No one has blamed me for the murder. I have not been charged. I am not a suspect. They merely want to question me about the murder. I am not concerned. I have not been charged with a crime. There is no basis for oh extradition. (END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: Police in Belize do not dispute McAfee's claim. They say they only want to question him in connection with his neighbor's death following a dispute between the two and that he is not a suspect. Guatemalan officials decline to say whether he will be granted asylum in this country.

NBC's sportscaster, Bob Costas now explaining exactly what he meant to say about guns during half time on Sunday night football. Costas was speaking about the weekend murder/suicide of a Kansas City Chief's playing. In case you missed it, here's part of Costas' commentary.


BOB COSTAS, NBC SPORTS JOURNALIST: Hand guns do not enhance our safety. They exacerbate our flaws, tempt us to escalate arguments and bait us into embracing confrontation rather than avoiding it.

In the coming days, Jovan Belcher's actions and their possibly connection to football will be analyzed. Who knows? But this is what I believe. If Jovan Belcher did not own a gun, he and Kasandra would both be alive today.


COSTELLO: Now that commentary ignited a Twitter fire storm with some critics saying Costas picked the wrong time and place to talk about gun control. Other critics blasting him for trying to takeaway their second amendment right, now the blogosphere is lining up with calls for Costas to be fired.

Conservative columnist Lars Larson said this, quote, "NBC should show Bob Costas the door," and there's a Facebook page, fire Bob Costas for his un-American comments on gun control.

HLN sports reporter Joe Carter is here to talk about all of this. Took a couple of days, but Bob Costas did come out and defend himself.

JOE CARTER, HLN SPORTS REPORTER: Yes, he did, and he did to a great extent with Dan Patrick. Basically, he said why he chose to do this, why he chose to extensively quote Jason Whitlock's article, extensively quote his article was because during these type of things, these tragedies and every time it falls, the discussion is, well, that really puts things in perspective.

You really want perspective, here's an article that really puts things in perspective. He said his biggest mistake from doing that during the half-time show is he did not allow enough time. He broke his broadcasting rule, that 90 seconds did not warrant enough time to fully flush out such a heavy-handed topic.

So he said he made a mistake to leave too much out there for misinterpretation, miscommunication. He said, wait a minute, I don't want to repeal the second amendment. I believe people should have a right to bear arms. He said I think there needs to be an open topic about gun control.

That the mentality of gun control needs to change, that the idea that people grab their house and their keys and their guns, anybody can access semi-automatic guns so easily.

That conversation about gun culture, football culture, domestic violence, all needs to be openly discussed in the right forum then he was asked to respond about the number of criticisms and backlash event where people said that NBC should fire Bob Costas and this was his response on the Dan Patrick show.


COSTAS (via telephone): Someone compared this us a fireable offense to situations in which people have made blatantly racial comments or comments that had a place whatsoever. Some people don't agree with it or they don't agree with what they think I was saying and therefore, it would be OK if I was booted off the air.


CARTER: Now, not everyone disagrees with Bob Costas. Michael Bloomberg tweeted about this situation and was in very much support of Bob Costas. He says, "A frank discussion about gun laws and gun violence is a discussion we need to have. Thanks Bob Costas for speaking up."

So there is someone who is applauding his efforts for starting the conversation about gun control. One point that he did make, which I thought was very resonating with me during that interview with Dan Patrick.

He said Tony Dungey, when he was head coach of the Indianapolis coach, during a training camp meeting, he asked his players, which was there was about 80 of them in the room because they make cuts, "How many of you in this room own a gun?" 65 hands went up. That's when Bob Costas said the discussion needs to begin. Why do 65 NFL football players own guns?

COSTELLO: Well, they would say for protection, right?

CARTER: Sure, but why?

COSTELLO: These are the kind of things that need to be discussed in our country right now. There's nothing wrong with discussing gun control. So hopefully CNN and other organizations will do just that. Joe Carter, thanks very much.

An American astronaut has a lot of work to do. Scott Kelly is preparing for a mission that will see him and a cosmonaut spends a year in space at the International Space Station.

NASA is holding a news conference right now about the mission you're looking at it. Kelly is expected to talk soon, but first let's hear from John Zarrella. He joins us live. Good morning, John. JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Carol. That's right. You're listening right now. You're looking at the joint press conference that NASA was carrying out in Houston and Moscow because it will, as you mentioned, be American Scott Kelly and the Russian Mikhail Cornienko who will be barking 2015 on this year-long mission.

And this is a huge, huge first step. You can't underestimate it. If eventually there is going to be long duration flights to an asteroid or on to Mars, you not only have to have an understanding of the technical issues that you might face, but what the body will go through over a course of year or two years in space.

There just isn't enough of a baseline of information right now. So this is going to be hugely important because, for instance, blood pressure goes down when you're on a long duration mission. You lose a lot of body mass and bone mass and muscle mass. The eyes change.

There's an eye loss issue. Eyesight loss issue that astronauts are facing coming back even from the duration of space flights they are doing now on the International Space Station so a lot you have to understand about how the body is affected by weightlessness and also behavioral issues.

If you and I go on this two-year mission, are we going to get along after the first year or 18 months? They have to understand how all of those things work out before they can undertake any kind of a mission like that.

So big first step now planning and working on this joint mission that will take place in 2015 and as you mentioned, we expect to hear from Kelly and Korienko shortly about the mission itself starts to wind down -- Carol.

COSTELLO: I would have a problem handling the boredom. I know they do a lot of work and research. But, still, you're up there with the same people day after day after day. You can't go outside and run around or anything. To me, I would be stir crazy.

ZARRELLA: Well, and that is the issue. Don't forget, you're not going on one of these deep space missions, you're not going in a space shuttle around a station. You're going in a pretty confined space in a capsule that's going to hold four or five people at the most.

And it's going to be very confined with a treadmill in the spacecraft as they work out on, but not a lot of space to move around. It's going to be crammed. I don't know, a year in one of those kind of -- in a capsule heading to mars or an asteroid, that takes a pretty special people to do that.

COSTELLO: And do they get to talk to their families much?

ZARRELLA: Yes. There's regular -- communications is not -- that's one of the things that is pretty easy. Communication will be easy, although on a deep space mission, remember, the time lapse is going to be, for instance, if you're sitting on Mars talking to earth. You're talking about 23 to 24 minutes, but takes for that signal to get to earth and then another 20 minutes for your response to get back to Mars. So -- it takes some time.

COSTELLO: OK, so we're still waiting for Scott Kelly to speak. When he does, we'll get back to you. John Zarrella, thank you so much.

Now we got to head to Capitol Hill because House Speaker John Boehner is just about to speak. He just met with House Republicans about the fiscal cliff and his latest offer to President Obama. Dana Bash is monitoring this news conference. Good morning, Dana. Is he coming out?

BASH: We think so. We were just told about 3 minutes ago that he'll be out in 2 minutes. So he should be here momentarily, but just to recap what you and I talked about earlier in the hour.

You know, one of the things that we were watching for inside this meeting as whether the Speaker and other members of the leadership have any blow back from the rank and file for putting together a counter proposal that does have $800 billion in new revenue.

And multiple Republican congressmen coming out, Republican congressman from all points on the political spectrum told us that the conference seems to be pretty unified hype the Speaker when it comes to the process that they understand that they are going to have to make some concessions and at the end of the day the key thing is to keep the discussions going.

One thing that we did hear is a little inside baseball but certainly ruffling feathers here is that a few of the conservative -- most conservative members of Congress were removed from key committees. And we're told that two of those members who were removed actually stood up and complained.

You know, these are members who were on important committees, like the budget committee and financial services and this is not just upsetting people internally, but mostly upsetting conservatives outside of Congress.

Because they saw this happen pretty much on the same day that the Republican leadership got behind a proposal with $800 billion in new tax revenue so it's the one-two punch for conservatives outside.

COSTELLO: Well, it certainly seems that John Boehner's rank in file to -- here he comes, Dana.


REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: Good morning, everyone. You know, this week we made a good faith offer to avert the fiscal crisis and that offer included significant spending cuts and reforms and it included additional revenue.

And frankly it was the balanced approach that congress has been asking for. Now we need a response from the White House. We can't sit here and negotiate with ourselves.

Our targets and framework are things that we can all agree on and it's exactly how we approached our discussions in the Biden group, my discussions at the White House a year and a half ago and, for that matter, in the joint select committee.

And if the President doesn't agree with our proposal and our outline, I think he's got an obligation to send one to the congress and a plan that can pass both Chambers of Congress. If you look at the plans that the White House has talked about thus far, they couldn't pass either House of the Congress.

We're ready and eager to talk to the President and to work with him to make sure that the American people aren't disadvantaged by what's happening here in Washington.

REP. ERIC CANTOR (R), HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: Good morning. I think at this point most folks in the country and certainly in this town know where both sides are on taxes. But to the Speaker's point, we have not had any discussion in any specifics with this President about the real problem, which is spending.

We have got to do something about the spending. An obsession to raise taxes is not going to solve the problem. What will solve the problem is doing something about the entitlements, taking on the wasted spending in Washington.

We can't just keep borrowing money and raising taxes and expect the problems to go away. That is our point to the President. As the Speaker said, we want to sit down with the President. We want to talk specifics.

We put an offer on the table now. He is out of hand rejected that. Where are the specifics? Where are the discussions? Nothing is going on. Meanwhile, the people of this country are the ones that suffer. We ask the President, be specific with the spending so we can stop the wasteful spending in Washington and address the problem.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As we continue to try to solve the fiscal economy, today we will have small family-owned businesses in there, talking about ways that we can --


COSTELLO: All right, we're going to pull away from this. I have a question of you, Dana Bash. Dana, are you there? She can't hear me. Well, I wanted to ask her about these $800 billion in tax revenue. I want to make it clear to all of you that do not mean an increase in taxes on the wealthiest Americans.

That means closing loopholes and cutting other things to raise that $800 billion in tax revenue that the Republicans are talking about. We're going to hear much more about this on the other side of the break. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COSTELLO: Just moments ago, John Boehner spoke to reporters and said he made an offer. Part of the negotiations to avoid that fiscal cliff, he made that offer to President Obama that includes $800 billion in tax revenue. He wants to overhaul the entire tax code, close loopholes, things like that. He's waiting for a response from the President. Listen to what he said.


BOEHNER: You know, this week we made a got faith offer to avert the fiscal crisis and that offer included significant spending cuts and reforms and it included additional revenue. And, frankly, it was the balanced approach that the President has been asking for. Now we need a response from the white house. We can't sit here and negotiate with ourselves.


COSTELLO: OK, let's talk about that response from the White House. Dan Lothian has been covering that story for us this morning. Will the President be forthcoming?

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: They did get that offer and the response from the White House was, quote, "magic beans and fairy dust." That's how he feels about that. It's a nonstarter as far as the President is concerned.

You heard him repeat that in the Bloomberg television interview. There is no deal unless taxes go up on wealthiest Americans. That's the message that you will hear from the President as he visits at the roundtable and also take questions.

Trying to make the case, we're told, by a White House official that Americans, middle class Americans want to see some certainty. They want to know that their taxes are not going up at the end of the year. The President also will be putting pressure on these business leaders to support his approach.

COSTELLO: Something a little strange, Republican lawmakers dealing directly with President Obama. You never hear them say we want to sit down with Democratic lawmakers and hammer out a deal. Why is that?

LOTHIAN: That's right. You know, at this point, it appears that the Democrats and president are on the same page. There is sort of this strain within Republicans, especially between those in the House and the Senate over the right approach.

They do want to sit down and meet directly with the President and the last indications we got is that there's nothing going on in terms of negotiations while the White House says that the conversations continue.

GOP aides say saying that there's no phone calls, e-mailing, nothing between them. I think it's a little hard to see how you move this ball forward if the two sides are not negotiating face-to-face. We'll see if the ball can get moved. COSTELLO: Who needs Twitter or Facebook or a telephone call when you have television because that's how they seem to be --

LOTHIAN: You can just walk down the street, right?

COSTELLO: Right exactly. Dan Lothian reporting live from the White House. We'll be right back.


COSTELLO: Just about 10 minutes ago, Republican House Speaker John Boehner reached out to President Obama on television before reporters and said he wanted a counteroffer to the Republican's offer to avoid the fiscal cliff. That offer includes an $800 billion in tax revenue, but does not include any tax increase on the wealthiest Americans.

Also, our own Dana Bash, our congressional correspondent asked John Boehner why Republicans met today to talk about the fiscal cliff and then are going to go home after the meeting and await for the President's response. Here's what Mr. Boehner said.