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Major Marijuana Ruling Expected in California; Buying Back Guns; Should Teachers Be Armed?

Aired December 20, 2012 - 15:00   ET


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: And we roll on, top of the hour. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

A lot to get here, including that standoff over your taxes. So, here's what we are hearing now. There could be a vote on John Boehner's fiscal cliff plan, the so-called plan B, tonight, all of this as President Obama threatens to veto it.

Plus, the man expected to become secretary of state questions the department he could soon take over.

All of that was in a moment, but, first, this blizzard, this blizzard blowing out of the heartland, it is beginning to put a freeze on the rush to get home for the holidays. Look at this here. Here's the radar. This is a huge storm, a volatile storm, a deadly storm as well.

You have rain out front and then you have heavy, blowy snow extending right now from Missouri up to Michigan. But then there are the pictures. Look at this with me, car after car after car. This is why you need to think twice about driving should you be in the path of this storm.

This is Kansas City, no one going anywhere there. We do have reports here of at least one death in this chain collision crash. If you know it, this is I-35 near Fort Dodge, Iowa, 30 vehicles, 10 to 12 inches of blowing snow and near zero visibility.

Let me just say it again. Think twice if you have to get out of this and drive.

I have Karen Maginnis. She is standing by for us in the CNN Weather Center, but I want to talk travel and that situation first.

So, Ted Rowlands, let me go to you in Chicago. You have this part of the story. You are at O'Hare International Airport. Talk to me about flight cancellations. Where are we on that?

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Plenty of flight cancellations already here, Brooke.

And the main reason for that is the weather in other cities. You can see here in Chicago it's still raining and it's expected to still keep raining for a couple of hours before it turns to snow. And when it turns to snow, there is going to be major trouble here at O'Hare. At Midway Airport, Southwest Airlines has already canceled all of their flights after 5:00 local time. Just in a few hours at Midway, they have already proactively canceled their flights. The people that are standing in line here right now, they will likely be OK getting out of O'Hare, getting out of Chicago, because there is a window of a couple of hours.

You see a bunch of sailors who just arrived here. They just finished up their basic training and they are hoping to get home for the holidays. They have one more stop and then they will be on leave. They are hoping they don't spend the night here in Chicago before they divert around the country.

Bottom line here, Brooke, if you are coming to Chicago and you can move the flight up, do so. United and other carriers have waived the change fees. Try to get out as soon as possible.

BALDWIN: Here is hoping those sailors and the other good folks there can get home.

Ted Rowlands, as you await the snow in Chicago.


BALDWIN: Got some more video for you. This is from Nebraska. Listen here. What is that? Sparks flying after the winder storm knocks out power. This is Waterloo, Nebraska.

We're told tens of thousands in the state are without power. A photographer says he shot this video after pulling over to check out what he thought was the sky. In fact, it was power lines, power lines lighting up.

In other news here on this Thursday today, two Capitol Hill hearings and the House hearing just ended moments ago focusing on what happened, what happened back on September 11 this year, when those four Americans were killed at the consulate in Benghazi in Libya?

A report which we talked about, this report that was out just yesterday said that the State Department as a whole broke down because of -- and I'm quoting -- "systemic failures and leadership and management deficiencies" -- end quote.

But just this morning, Senator John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, also pointed his finger at Congress.


SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Congress has the power of the purse. We use it for any number of things. But it's our responsibility. And for years, we have asked our State Department to operate with increasingly lesser resources to conduct essential missions.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BALDWIN: A lot of eyes on Senator Kerry today, especially because is the front-runner to take over the post at the State Department after Secretary Hillary Clinton leaves.

Clinton, by the way, was supposed to testify today, but an injury is forcing her to postpone her testimony until next month. In the meantime, her department is trying to move past the report, as four of its staffers have been disciplined, among them, Assistant Secretary of Diplomatic Security Eric Boswell. He resigned. The others, we're told, are on administrative leave.

A source says among those relieved of duties is this woman. This is Charlene Lamb, deputy assistant secretary of diplomatic security. Beyond these changes in personnel, the State Department told lawmakers it is implementing all, all 29 of those recommendations made in that report.


THOMAS NIDES, U.S. DEPUTY SECRETARY OF STATE: The task force has already met to translate the recommendation into actual 60 specific action items. We have assigned every single one to the responsible bureau for immediate implementation and several will be completed by the end of this calendar year.


BALDWIN: And 60 items, he says, there. No one has been arrested yet for the attacks that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens, Sean Smith, Glen Doherty, or Ty Woods in Benghazi.

Twelve days and counting until we hit the fiscal cliff. And the House is nearing votes on Speaker John Boehner's so-called Plan B. This is his failsafe option that would prevent a tax increase for all but the richest of the rich. Talk to Democrats, and Democrats say the plan can't pass the Senate, so it's really just a huge dance, with Speaker Boehner being led by Tea Party Republicans.

That, let me just say, is what the Democrats are saying.

Our senior congressional correspondent there, Dana Bash, is reporting that Boehner opened the door today to more talks with the president on a broad taxation and spending cuts deal, but only after the vote in the House. Again, that's happening tonight. Talks broke down after Monday just as the two sides appeared to be lurching toward an agreement.

It's an honor given to very few Americans. Longtime Senator Daniel Inouye of Hawaii is lying in state at the Capitol Rotunda right now. He died on Monday at age 88. He represented Hawaii in Washington since it became a state. That was back in 1959. So, his half-century tenure makes him the second longest serving senator in U.S. history.

Senate Majority leader Harry Reid paid his respects.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: Although Senator Inouye was an unabashed progressive Democrat, he always put his country first and his party second.

Dan was a vibrant and vital presence in the Senate, and in death he will remain a legend. His last words on Earth, "Aloha."

And it is with a heavy heart that I and we bid aloha, goodbye, I love you, to a friend and legend of the Senate, Daniel Ken Inouye.


BALDWIN: As a Japanese-American soldier back in World War II, he lost his right arm in Italy and received the Medal of Honor. Only 31 people have ever lay in Capitol rotunda. The last was former President Gerald Ford nearly six years ago.


BALDWIN (voice-over): As the bin Laden movie hits theaters...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He is right in the inner circle.

BALDWIN: ... some senators livid over a scene about torture.

Plus, a case so shocking, it pushed President Obama to make a phone call. Inside an Army day care, workers who had no business watching children.

And should the government buy back guns to boost the economy? You will hear the case.



BALDWIN: Want to tell you this story about this woman, a woman who stopped a shooter at her Colorado Springs church with her gun.

Five years ago this month, ex-cop Jeanne Assam heard screams, heard rifle shots just outside her church. A glass door exploded. People hid. Someone yelled, "Jeanne, he is coming through the door."

Jeanne Assam joins me live from Denver.

Jeanne, welcome to you. Just take me back to that day. From what I heard from your story last night, you're in the church. People start ducking and hiding. What happened next?

JEANNE ASSAM, STOPPED GUNMAN AT HER CHURCH: The gunman had already shot and killed people outside. And that alerted me.

I heard the muffled pop-pop noises and even heard -- it even sounded like he had then come inside the church when he actually was not even inside yet. The gunshots were so loud from the AR-15. There were several hundred people in the hallway and shouting and screaming and saying, get down, he's got a gun.

And I couldn't see him through all the people and one of the other security team members was very tall. And he said, "Here he is -- there he is, Jeanne. He is coming through the doors right now."

I sprinted down the hall towards him. I had taken my gun out of the waistband of my jeans and I sprinted toward him. And all of a sudden everyone had found a place to hide, which was amazing. And then I took cover and then I just asked God to be with me. And I engaged him and was forced to kill him.

It ended very quickly. And it ended very quickly. From the time he entered the church to the time that I had killed him, it was probably about two minutes, two to three minutes. It was over.


BALDWIN: It's stunning how quickly things can happen. Things can escalate, lives can be lost.

You killed him. And part of your story and the reason why we reached out to you, you were on the town hall last night on Piers Morgan's show and he asked your opinion on arming teachers at school, as an ex- police officer. And here's what you said.


PIERS MORGAN, HOST, "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT": What is your belief about the claim that many people that, that if the teachers had been armed at Sandy Hook, that they could have averted the disaster, and that civilians should be armed for that reason, to protect themselves from mass killings like this?

ASSAM: A teacher wants to be a teacher. He or she doesn't want to be a police officer. And I think it's -- and I hope people just really listen here, because I hear both sides of this argument. And I hear where you are coming from. And both arguments make sense to me.

So, in my opinion, to -- to tell a teacher that he or she needs to be armed is -- that is ridiculous. It just -- it doesn't make any sense. That is not their calling. Their calling is to be a teacher or to be a pilot. And when you have trained personnel in place, it is their job.


BALDWIN: So, Jeanne, you say arming teachers, you say is ridiculous. My question then would be under what circumstances -- and perhaps your answer is never -- but under what circumstances do you think should civilians arm themselves?

ASSAM: Well, I don't think we should ever take away the privilege of the civilian to be armed.

But the civilian does need to know that, just because they are armed, they are not going to automatically know what to do, like in my situation, when there's an active shooter.

BALDWIN: Because you had training. You're a former police officer.

ASSAM: I had training, correct.


In the wake of what we saw last Friday morning in Newtown, though, and parents across the country, they are sending their kids back to school, security and safety on the top of mind, would you suggest, should there be a gun, should there be someone trained to use it in school?

ASSAM: When I first moved to Colorado in 2001, I worked for -- I worked as a federal security officer here in Denver.

And we had line scans like they do at the airport. We had metal detectors. And then if somebody set the metal detector off, we would wand them. And this was at the day care center as well as the federal office building. And nobody minded, nobody was offended when we ran their bags through and ran their bodies through to check for weapons.

I think that that is a very good solution. And we could implement it quickly.


BALDWIN: But we have metal detectors in so many schools now. What about taking it a step further and having a police officer, maybe a member of the U.S. military looking for work at a school, someone at a school with a gun? Do you think that's a good idea?

ASSAM: Yes, I do.

It's -- we are living in those days where it's practical. And I think, for people who think that it's a little extreme, that's kind of a naive attitude. We really should have some trained armed personnel to be ready in case something goes wrong.

BALDWIN: I hate even having to ask these questions, but we see what happens time and time again and I just wanted -- we just want to get perspective.

ASSAM: Right.

BALDWIN: Jeanne Assam, thank you so much. We appreciate it for me today in Denver.

ASSAM: Thank you. You bet.

BALDWIN: Just into us here at CNN, we are now hearing the mother of the shooter in the Newtown massacre has been buried. Police in New Hampshire telling us Nancy Lanza was buried at an undisclosed location. We're told it was a private ceremony, family members only. Her son, Adam Lanza, not buried with her,not buried with her. No word on whether his body has even been released. Happening right now, Chris Christie, always known for his outspoken, blunt delivery, holding his very first town hall on the aftermath of super storm Sandy. We will listen in next.


BALDWIN: We just want to eavesdrop a little bit here on New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. This is actually his first town hall since super storm Sandy. He's in Belmar, New Jersey.

Let's just dip in.


GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: ... comfortable for the next long stretch, as we have figured out how to rebuild our state and get people back into their neighborhoods. That's the phase we are in now. And that's going to be the longest phase and the most difficult one, in part because it's not all under our control.

Those first two parts were under our control. And we could get what we needed to get done, but now we're going to have lots of partners that we're going to have to depend on to get to this next stage. The federal government is going to be a huge, I hope, partner.

They're still debating the recovery bill down on the floor of the Senate as we speak right now, a recovery bill where the president has asked for $60.4 billion for the state of New York and the state of New Jersey and small piece for the state of Connecticut to get us back to whole once again.

I'm counting on the fact that our congressional delegation and the leaders of Congress, while I know they are consumed with fighting and bickering with each other about the fiscal cliff and all these other things, don't forget that people are suffering.

People want to rebuild their homes. They want to rebuild their businesses. They want to rebuild their schools. They want to rebuild their state. And they get return to bickering as soon as they get done with the business that is the first responsibility of government, which is protecting the lives and property of its citizens.

So, listen, it's a lot of money. And I understand that they have to review it and discuss it and debate it. And (INAUDIBLE) because it's our money in the long run anyway, right? So we wanted to be careful about it.

But I can promise you that we were very careful about the requests we made. We didn't just throw a number up against the wall and saw it if stuck. We worked hard during those period of times to assess the damages and to make a reasonable request.

But we can't start spending money that we don't have, so part of the rebuilding is going to be dependent upon the federal government stepping up and doing the right thing. And in my mind, that's funding that $60.4 request the president has made. I'm happy that all the members of Congress of New Jersey are supportive and are working hard. And we need the Congress to pass that bill.

BALDWIN: Chris Christie talking there about money, talking about the money he has been asking for. Remember, he was at the White House not too long talking to the president. He's talked to members of Congress, Speaker John Boehner about the money that he says his state needs and many other states here in the wake of that horrendous super storm Sandy, Chris Christie at the forefront of that disaster really since day one.

Coming up next, shocking reports of abuse at an Army day care center. It's a case that prompted President Obama to make a very serious phone call.


BALDWIN: The superstore of marijuana shops fights to keep its doors open in a California federal courtroom today. And we are watching for the verdict, because this doesn't just affect people in California. This could have a huge impact, set major precedent for states trying to legalize marijuana right now, much like Colorado and Washington state did just last month.

Medicinal marijuana, it is legal in California, but the feds are trying to force these landlords to evict dispensaries such as this Harborside Health Center in Oakland, which the government says is at the center of the case because they say selling marijuana, reminder, is illegal.

CNN legal analyst Sunny Hostin "On the Case" with me today.

So, Sunny, we know a judge ruled earlier that the Oakland shop could say open because it was not violating state law, but we are talking federal government here, so run down the arguments from both sides.

SUNNY HOSTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: And that's the real issue. There is such a tension that still exists, Brooke, when it comes to marijuana, medical marijuana and the recreational use of marijuana.

And that's because under the federal laws, it really is still illegal to smoke marijuana, to possess it, especially to dispense it and sell it. However, the voters have spoken, as you mentioned, in Colorado and in Washington, saying recreational use of marijuana is OK.

In 1996, in California, they OKed, the voters did, the use of medical marijuana. And so you have this tension. Now, earlier this year, President Obama, speaking to Barbara Walters, I think sort of indicated a bit of a policy change, because he said that he had bigger fish to fry, right, in terms of resources for law enforcement.


HOSTIN: And we know now, given what happened in Connecticut, in Newtown, Connecticut, that, certainly, the administration has other law enforcement concerns that many people would say are more significant than this. And, so, the argument is, do we really want to use the capabilities to really hunker down on folks that are using it for medicinal purposes or even recreational purposes.

And then you have the others on the other side that are saying this is a gateway drug, potentially, and do we want our youth sort of being exposed to this drug, what really is a drug?

BALDWIN: So, play this out with me and I've read that this is the biggest dispensary on the planet.

So, if it is forced to close, what reverberations does that send out?

HOSTIN: You know, I think it sends a significant message because, as you mentioned, this is sort of the "Walmart of marijuana." This is the largest dispensary.

And the owner of the dispensary -- his name is Richard Lee. He sort of put Prop 19 on the ballot in California. He is sort of the leader of this medical marijuana movement.

And, so, if this particular "Walmart of marijuana" is shut down, I think it sends the message that the federal government isn't playing here and that the federal government is going to enforce federal law.

But, again, I'm not sure that that's going to be the case because I think our president was pretty clear in saying that there has been a shift in policy.

So, we'll watch it, but I think we may see states have to be left alone to do what the voters will.

BALDWIN: Sunny Hostin, thank you, "On the Case."