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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Details Released on Portland Gunman; 19 Days Till Fiscal Cliff; McAfee in Miami;12.12.12 Concert for Hurricane Relief a Success; Interview with James Lankford; Too Fat to be President?

Aired December 13, 2012 - 07:00   ET

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


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Welcome, everybody. Our "Starting Point" this morning, new information about the gunman who went on a rampage in a mall during the holiday season. The downward spiral in his final days and victims being remembered this morning.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Hung up on taxes and heading for the cliff. This morning, a warning from the fed chief the stalemate in Washington is already affecting your money.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR, "EARLY START": Royalty. We're talking about a Beatle, Eric Clapton, the Rolling Stones, The Who. Everyone on stage to help end the misery caused by hurricane Sandy.

O'BRIEN: It's Thursday, December 13th, and "STARTING POINT" begins right now.

Good morning. Welcome, everybody. Our "Starting Point" this morning is a look inside the mind of a 22-year-old sandwich shop clerk who went on a shooting rampage at a suburban Portland shopping mall. Here is what we know about the young man. His name is Jacob Tyler Roberts.

Friends say he was usually upbeat, sweet even. Suddenly quit his job, though, last week. His ex-girlfriend said that he announced he was going to move to Hawaii. He never followed through on that. Instead, police say he put a hockey mask on and then headed toward the Clackamas Town Center Mall on Tuesday afternoon. Ended up killing a dedicated hospice nurse and respected former radio executive. Critically wounded a 15-year-old girl before he finally committed suicide. It all brings us right to Dan Simon. He's live from suburban Portland this morning. What else do we know about Jacob Roberts?

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning, Soledad. His name surfaced less than 24 hours ago so it's still a bit early in the investigation. But the things that you would typically look at, his family life, you know, where he works, his relationships, haven't seen really any obvious signs. Investigators say they haven't found a criminal history, no violent past. So at this point things don't really add up. People have been trying to look at his Facebook page, see if there are any clues there. There is a piece of artwork on his Facebook page saying follow your dreams. The word canceled stamped over it. Could that suggest anything? At this point we don't know that. There are these reports that he was planning to move to Hawaii. He was telling friends that he inherited a bunch of money and had scheduled a flight to go there, but really no truth in that as best as we can tell. Everyone we have talked to seems genuinely shocked that this happened, including an ex-girlfriend who actually spoke to ABC. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HANNAH PATRICIA SANSBURN, EX-GIRLFRIEND OF JACOB ROBERTS: This was the last thing I would have ever expected, especially from him. He was just too sweet. Never mean to anybody. He had his plane ticket, he was ready to go, and then this happened and it just makes me think if Hawaii was even in the back of his mind.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SIMON: Well, of course a lot of attention on the victims. 45-year-old Steven Forsyth, a father of two. A respected executive in the Portland area. Coach of his kids little league team. Just a heart- breaking story. And 54-year-old Cindy Yuille, the mother and dedicated hospice nurse. Someone who knew her very well is also speaking out. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KELLY NICKERSON, FRIEND OF CINDY YUILLE: Cindy was an amazing hospice nurse. She spent her life helping other people transition to the end of life. And Cindy Yuille's family never got to say goodbye.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SIMON: Well, there's the 15-year-old girl in the hospital. She is recovering. She took a bullet wound right to the torso. It bruised her lung, but didn't touch any vital organs. Just months ago she also survived another ordeal when the van she was riding in was hit by a drunken driver. Just an incredible ordeal for her, but she seems to be doing well.

O'BRIEN: Oh, my goodness. Dan Simon with an update on the little bit we know about the shooter at this point. Thank you for the update.

Let's talk fiscal cliff for a moment. It's getting closer, but the deal still doesn't seem all that close. President Obama, congressional Republicans seem to be digging in on taxes. A new "Wall Street Journal"/NBC poll shows an overwhelming majority of Americans are siding with the president on this one, and Republicans polled, we see a big shift. A majority now favoring compromise. White House correspondent Brianna Keilar is following some of these negotiations for us. Nineteen days and counting. How is it feeling?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Right now it's not going well, at least that's what you get when you listen to House Speaker John Boehner talk about how conversations have been going with the president. They are talking, Soledad. The staff of both the White House and House Republicans are in touch, but Speaker Boehner said about his Sunday conversation with President Obama that it was cordial, and then he said about his Tuesday conversation with the president that it was deliberate and frank. So you -- it doesn't take too much to read between the lines there to show you that things are not going that well. They have exchanged another set of counteroffers to no avail, and still at this point there is this impasse over tax rates. The White House, President Obama saying that the income tax rate for earnings over a quarter million dollars must go up. Republicans saying no and accusing the president of not being specific about spending cuts and entitlement reforms, reform Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

O'BRIEN: So let me ask you a question about this report that we're hearing that the Obama administration might be looking at a Republican to succeed the Defense Secretary, Leon Panetta. Who is on that list at this point?

KEILAR: Yes, that's right. This is former Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel, a Republican. So this is pretty interesting. We know, according to sources knowledgeable of the situation, that President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden have met with Hagel and he's, of course, is someone who's familiar to the president. Yes, he's a Republican but some Republican may actually take issue with this nomination because in 2008 he actually sort of switched sides, if you will, a little bit and endorsed President Obama. He also traveled with him to Iraq and Afghanistan. So they have that relationship as well as the Vice President's relationship with Hagel in the Senate.

It's sort of fascinating, though, because Bob Gates, as you know, was a Republican. And so if he were to be nominated, if Hagel were to be nominated, two out of three of the president's defense secretaries would be Republican. So pretty fascinating stuff. I will tell you, though, the administration says no decisions have been made yet on this, but some sources saying this is almost a done deal and that Hagel is the front runner.

O'BRIEN: Interesting. Brianna Keilar, thanks. Appreciate it.

John Berman has a look at some of the other stories making news this fine morning. Good morning.

BERMAN: Good morning, great to see you. So, it might be tumbling out of control. U.S. officials say North Korea may not have full control of that satellite it put into orbit. This satellite was carried aboard that long-range rocket launched yesterday. This is a video from North Korean T.V. claiming to be from the control room in North Korea as the rocket blasted off. U.S. officials say ground control has yet to send a key radio signal to the satellite. This may indicate a potential problem.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is set to testify next week about the terror attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. She'll appear before the House and Senate Foreign Affairs Committees. A report by a State Department review board on the attack that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans is expected to be released before Clinton testifies. She testifies one week from today.

A lockdown has been lifted this morning on the campus of California State University at Fullerton. That's near Los Angeles. The campus went on high alert yesterday after suspects in an armed robbery at a nearby store abandoned their getaway vehicle near the school. Police say five suspects were involved. Three were arrested. The campus took precautions while police searched for the other two suspects.

Computer security tycoon John McAfee is back in the U.S. this morning. Mcafee says Guatemalan authorities refused his request for asylum and kicked him out of their country. They placed him on a flight to Miami. Right after his flight arrived in the U.S., McAfee thought he might be facing more legal trouble here at home.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN MACAFEE, COMPUTER SECURITY TYCOON: They said is John McAfee on the plane? Please come forward. There were a whole bunch of officers. I thought, gee, this is continuing. And they said we're here to help you, sir. Please come with us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: More twists and turns to the strange story. McAfee said he is willing to talk to authorities from Belize about the death of his neighbor but he said he will do the talking right here in the U.S.

O'BRIEN: Could he be extradited to Belize?

BERMAN: It's unclear. It's unclear. It's a messy situation. McAfee talking all the time.

Rocking for relief. One of the greatest gatherings in musical talent ever on stage last night for a very worthy cause. The 12-12-12 concert for Sandy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILLY JOEL, MUSICIAN (singing): Turn the power down while Staten Island drowned but we went right on with the show.

(ENV VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: That is Long Island's own Billy Joel sounding awesome.

O'BRIEN: He sounds so good, doesn't he?

BERMAN: Doesn't he sound great? That's a rewrite of his iconic song "Miami 2017." This show also featured another local boy, you may recognize him. That's Bruce Springsteen, the boss, from the Jersey shore. He was there with the E Street Band. Paul McCartney also there. He was filling in for the late Kurt Cobain. He performed a new song that he wrote with Nirvana. A lot of people thought that was a strange combination but you see him on stage. Also there the Rolling Stones, The Who, Eric Clapton, everyone. There are estimates this reached two billion people and the show had already raised more than $30 million just in ticket sales. This is all for Hurricane Sandy storm relief.

O'BRIEN: And they said they're going to give that money out, that $32 million out in weeks and months, not in the years that you see sometimes it takes for money to hand out.

ROMANS: A Billy Joel rewrite of "Miami 2017" was really well done.

BERMAN: He sounded great. Because you know, I've heard his voice, there have been years that were not so good, but man, he was killing it.

ROMANS: He is a national treasure.

O'BRIEN: And a Long Islander.

Moving on, on STARTING POINT this morning, new polls showing three- quarters of Americans would be okay with raising taxes on the wealthy to sort out the fiscal cliff mess. So why is it feeling like maybe we're even further from a deal than ever before? We'll talk about that.

And there's business news.

ROMANS: Oh, there is. A massive cyber attack on 30 U.S. banks to steal millions of your dollars? The scary new details that may affect your bank account next.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(BRUCE SPTRINGSTEEN SINGING)

(ERND VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: Welcome back to starting point. I'm Christine Romans. Minding your business. Stock futures flat ahead of the opening bell after a mixed close yesterday. Investors eyeing Washington's fiscal cliff talks. And of course retail sales data due at 8:30AM eastern time. It's an investment landscape full of uncertainties and fed chief Ben Bernanke is being crystal clear. The fed will keep interest rates low, very low, near zero, until the jobless rate falls to 6.5 percent. They're going to eye an inflation rate target of 2.5 percent. They're not going to change anything until inflation is up above there. The fed downgraded its forecast for U.S. growth next year. Now 2.3 to 3 percent and they expect the jobless rate to stay about where it is right now. Ben Bernanke said the fed does not have enough tools to offset the fiscal cliff, so a warning from the fed that the fiscal cliff is already hurting household confidence and business spending.

Meantime security firm McAfee releasing a report about plans for a massive cyber attack on 30 U.S. banks. Cyber criminals banding together around the world for "project blitzkrieg" targeting millions of dollars in consumers' bank accounts. McAfee says the hackers plan to use malware lying dormant already in the U.S. financial system. Here are a few of the banks at risk. Citibank, Wachovia, Wells Fargo. Other financial institutions like e-trade and Paypal also targeted. The attack could happen as early as the spring. No response yet from the banks we've contacted or the government, which monitors cyber warfare, cyber crime. O'BRIEN: So we have till spring to work it out?

ROMANS: Well, the FDIC ensures your deposits up to $250,000.

O'BRIEN: I would rather just have my money stay in my account.

Republicans in the house have been warned Santa Claus might find them at the Capitol for Christmas if they can't get a deal on the fiscal cliff done before then.

BERMAN: With coal.

O'BRIEN: With coal all around, because they can't get a deal done on the fiscal cliff. We want to talk this morning to Congressman James Lankford. He's a Republican from the state of Oklahoma. Nice to have you with us, sir. We appreciate your time.

REP. JAMES LANKFORD (R), OKLAHOMA: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: You have in all seriousness been warned not to make plans for Christmas. What do you think is the likelihood, in fact, that a deal would be done before Christmas, number one? And what exactly are they telling you to do or not do?

LANKFORD: At this point we've been told by Eric Cantor and Speaker Boehner just to hold the schedule through the rest of the year. That's the same thing that we heard about a month and a half ago. Right after the election, it was hang on to the calendar and we'll watch and see how all this unfolds. So all of us committed; obviously Americans work through the holidays a lot. And so as members of the House and the Senate, we'll continue to do that as well.

O'BRIEN: How will it work logistically? You're done today, right? Today is the last working day. You're off for tomorrow. Do you go anyway and everybody's just on call, meaning you'd be brought back to do some kind of a vote? How does that work?

LANKFORD: We are -- Americans lose track of the fact sometimes that all of our work is not here in Washington. We also have work back in our districts at work and so I'll be flying back home late tonight. I'll be back in my district office tomorrow because there are things that are back in my district that also have to be taken care of. And I'll fly back early next week and get started back here, because obviously the fiscal cliff is a major part of it.

But right now, as members of the House, we really don't have a lot we can push on. We can throw out alternatives and options and such, but Speaker Boehner is our lead negotiator and we trust him as the one who's got to be in the room to make the deal.

O'BRIEN: There's been very little leaked, exactly the details of some of those conversations. But we do know from Politico, at least, which is reporting that Speaker Boehner has told the president that he would consider more than the $800 billion in new tax revenues that have been on the table if in fact the president were willing to do deeper entitlement cuts. Is that the kind of thing that you would support? LANKFORD: Well, I'd have to see all the details of the deal on it. What we're struggling with right now is this is very obviously a spending-driven crisis. In 2012 -- most Americans don't know, in 2012, we received in the federal government the third highest amount of federal revenue ever in the history of the nation. So while there's this conversation about we need more revenue, we actually are receiving more revenue than ever.

So the third highest number that we've ever received, ever, in the history of the nation. While paychecks are going down, federal revenue continues to go up. But we're spending a trillion dollars a year more than we did just five years ago. So we're very focused to say we're not just going to solve the fiscal cliff but actually solve the fiscal crisis itself and that is the debt and deficit spending. We've got to find a way to solve that.

O'BRIEN: There's a couple interesting new polls I want to run by you. NBC poll, NBC/"Wall Street Journal", the question was "Would you accept tax increases on incomes higher than $250,000 to avoid the fiscal cliff?" Democrats, 89 percent said yes. Republicans, 61 percent said yes. Independents, 69 percent said yes. So the sentiment certainly feels, even within the Republican Party, to go for that.

The question was, "Do you want GOP leaders to compromise in the current budget debate?" Republicans overwhelmingly -- back in April, while 38 percent were saying they'd compromise, that number is now 59 percent. Stick to positions, you know, back in April, more than half -- well over half said -- yes, stick to your positions. Now that number has dropped dramatically to 37 percent.

How do you read the tea leaves when it comes to these kinds of polls?

LANKFORD: A couple things on that. It doesn't surprise me that the majority of Americans would say raise taxes but do that on someone else. So look at this upper bracket. They identify this 2 percent and say raise it on them and not on us. So that's not surprising.

But the other dynamic is I think a lot of Americans are beginning to understand what we're facing in this fiscal cliff. It's three things that are hitting at the exact same time. The Affordable Care Act taxes, they kick in January the 1st. And then also all rate increases from the last lame duck, they took every rate and they did it two years. So this is not a matter of if Republicans simply say no, we're going to vote no on everything. Well, really what we're voting is "yes" then on every single tax rate going up. And so that's the trap that ran.

And the third part is trying to reduce spending. Last year during the budget agreements that we had, we agreed as the House, the Senate, and the president, that we would find a way to able cut another $1.2 trillion in spending. So that's still on the table right now. If it's not done, there's across-the-board spending cuts and I think a lot of Americans see that and say that's the wrong way to do it. So yes I think all Americans are engaging in that. O'BRIEN: You know what's interesting though? There's an interesting poll that comes out of Bloomberg and the question is about a mandate. And I thought this was interesting. "Obama's re-election", the question goes, "gives him a mandate to raise taxes on those making $250,000 plus?" And the answer was yes -- 65 percent of people polled said yes, in fact, they do believe that he has a mandate there.

With that polling, how does that make you change how you see your position as you go into the negotiation along with the fact, right, that everybody's taxes are going up anyway at the end of this year? No matter what happens, you could do absolutely nothing, we're all going to have our taxes raised.

LANKFORD: That's correct. And so our challenge is this: we're not trying to solve the fiscal cliff; we're trying to solve the debt and the deficit. That's the bigger issue. The president's proposal was let's raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans, which raises about $80 billion. Well, that still leaves us $920 billion to go to get through this deficit. So the president's proposal is not serious to actually solving the problem.

In their last proposal the president put out was raise $80 billion a year in additional taxes and then it was also give us unlimited authority to continue to raise the debt ceiling and take sequestration cuts and postpone it another year. We're just saying that's not serious; we've got to deal with it right now. The crisis is real, but it's real not just in fiscal cliff. It's real in the amount of debt that we're increasing every single day, so let's deal with the real issue.

O'BRIEN: Do you have leverage on this? If our taxes are going up at the end of the year, right, no matter what you do, regardless of whether you go home to Oklahoma, you stay, taxes are going up on everybody. And I'm sure that nobody wants to be holding the bag on raising taxes on the middle class. That's an excellent way to be unelected next time around. Do you have leverage to do all those things that you want to do?

LANKFORD: Our leverage is only the American people because, again, you quoted some of the polls about tax increases. You can also look at all the polls and they say they really do want this balanced approach. It wasn't long ago the president was saying he wanted a 3:1 deal and now it's $1.6 trillion in tax increases and $600 billion in spending cuts and those spending cuts will happen in some future year, not currently. And that doesn't sound like a 3:1 deal at all. Now it sounds like $3 in tax increases to $1 of spending cuts and that's exactly opposite of what he campaigned on.

We're going back to the same basic thing and saying where did those spending cuts go? We need to deal with the spending issues.

O'BRIEN: Congressman James Lankford is a Republican from Oklahoma. Nice to have you with us, sir. We appreciate your time this morning.

LANKFORD: Thank you. O'BRIEN: Ahead this morning on STARTING PONT is weight an issue when it comes to the White House? No, I don't think so. He doesn't like to talk about it but Governor Chris Christie is talking about whether he's too fat to be president.

Also, without it, lots of iPhone users were literally lost. This morning we'll tell you why Google Maps is making a comeback. Our STARTING POINT team is headed in to talk about that and much. We're back right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: Welcome back. A look at some of the top stories this morning. More than 800,000 mini-vans and SUVs recalled by Honda over an ignition system defect. It affects 318,000 Odyssey mini-vans made in 2003 and 2004, 259,000 Pilot SUVs also made in 2003 and 2004 and 230,000 Acura MDX SUVs made from 2003 to 2006. Here's the problem. Honda says the defect lets owners remove keys from the ignition before putting the vehicle in park. This can cause the vehicles to roll away. This actually caused several crashes and at least two reported injuries. Sounds dangerous. Glad they're taking care of it.

Check out this picture. The first section of the giant spire that will sit atop 1 World Trade Center here in New York City is now in place. We saw it go up yesterday morning. It now made it. Seventeen more sections will follow. The spire will eventually stand 408 feet tall and make the building the tallest in the western hemisphere.

O'BRIEN: All right, thank you. Our team this morning: Deepak Chopra is with us. He is the author of a new book called, "Super Brain." A little bit later this morning, we're going to be talking about "Super Brain," because of some fascinating things that your brain can and cannot do. Will Cain is with us as well.

WILL CAIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It's hard for Deepak and I to get together on that book.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: Nice to have you both with us. We know that Roland Martin is going to be joining us in just a few moments.

So here's a man who has been called bombastic. He's usually, I think it's fair to say, brutally blunt, but he never likes to talk about his weight. Chris Christie, though, finally answering a question that was put to him by Barbara Walters. Could his weight be an issue if he decided to run for the White House? Here's how he answered it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE, ( R) NEW JERSEY: If I could figure that out, I'd fix it.

BARBARA WALTERS, CBS NEWS HOST: Do you try to diet?

CHRISTIE: Barbara, I've had -- I've had more diets and lost and gained back more weight in my lifetime than I care to count.

WALTERS: There are people who say that you couldn't be president because you're so heavy. What do you say to them?

CHRISTIE: That's ridiculous. I mean that's ridiculous. People watched me for the last number of weeks in hurricane Sandy doing 18- hour days so I don't really think that would be a problem.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: I agree with him in that. I don't care. I literally do not care the size of my presidential candidate.

DEEPAK CHOPRA, AUTHOR "SUPER BRAIN": Would you care about the health?

O'BRIEN: I would, but I suppose there are some people who are unhealthy and look like they're physically in good shape. Yes, I would hope he would be taking care of himself.

BERMAN: He has proven he has the stamina to do the job but I agree with Deepak, it's a fair question to ask. That's why candidates always release their health records.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: He is overweight. There's no question about that.

CHOPRA: But he is likely to have high triglycerides, cholesterol, risk factors for multiple --

O'BRIEN: I don't care about the cholesterol and triglycerides of my presidential candidates. Some of them smoke, some of them have heart disease, some of them are really, really old.

CHOPRA: In the day and age we're living in, I think it's responsibility to have good health in a leader. People respond to that kind of --

CAIN: I don't think he minds talking about it, by the way. I think he handles it with a great amount of charm. He answers it directly. You know, we've often said that these physical characteristics have a great bearing on who gets to be president. We've talked about it with height. But the last -- George W. Bush and Barack Obama have won elections when they were the shorter candidate, define what our popular notion was. A heavy president, at least as far as politics is concerned, can very likely win the presidency. Regarding his health, his ability to remain in office, I'll let Deepak sort that out.

O'BRIEN: Good to know we're starting off agreeing this morning.

Still ahead on STARTING POINT the war in Syria taken to a whole new level by the Assad regime. The dangerous new weapons that are now in play. We'll take a look at that.

And a serious scare for Justin Bieber. Details on a reported plot to kill him. That's ahead. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)