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New Congress Sworn in; Interview with Former Congressman Steve LaTourette; Teens Accused of Rape

Aired January 4, 2013 - 07:00   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. I'm John Berman.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Happy Friday. Soledad is back Monday morning.

And our STARTING POINT here, getting down to business. The newly sworn-in Congress tackles the Superstorm Sandy aid relief bill today. Question is, will the vote tear Republicans apart again?

BERMAN: Then, the December jobs report just 90 minutes away. How will holiday hiring affect the numbers and what does this mean for the health of our economy?

BALDWIN: And we have some video you have to see here. Take a look at this. Teenagers trapped on the ice. You see that tree? They're clinging to life on the tree. We will have the rescue. You need to stick around to watch.

BERMAN: Among our guests this morning, former Ohio Congressman Steve Latourette, newly sworn in Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, Ohio attorney general Mike DeWine, and Tim Ferriss and Steve Rinella from the show, "Meat Eaters." I have one word for you.

BALDWIN: Squirrel.


BERMAN: It's true. We have squirrel.

It is Friday, January 4th. STARTING POINT begins right now.

Our STARTING POINT this morning, in just hours, the brand spanking new 113th Congress will vote on a nearly $10 billion aid package for super storm Sandy victims, this after the outrage over Speaker Boehner canceling the initial vote early this week. Athena Jones is live in our Washington bureau. Is it expected to be an easy one today, Athena?

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It looks like it will be passed. This first part is about $9.7 billion in borrowing authority for the national flood insurance program. FEMA said that program will run out of money as soon as next week. That's right around the corner, and so the House is expected to come in this morning and pass that. The Senate already voted for this larger version bill, and the House is broken into two pieces. So after the House votes the Senate is expected to approve that scaled-down part of it as well.

BERMAN: And then there is the other big money vote a few weeks from now.

JONES: Yes. January 15th they'll come back and look at $51 billion in a larger set of aid a little bit of controversy over that. And some House members saying a lot of pork in this bill, conservative groups saying that, and there could be a little bit of a closer look at that vote a couple of weeks from now. But this initial amount for flood insurance looks good to go.

BERMAN: Athena Jones in Washington, thank you very much.

BALDWIN: Staying in Washington, it was all in the family as senators took the oath of office for the 113th Congress. Some senators such as Kirsten Gillibrand of New York held their children as they raised their hand in front of Vice President Joe Biden there, swearing in. At one point, the vice president offered comfort to a child overwhelmed by the ceremony.



JOE BIDEN, (D) U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: It's I'm a Democrat. I know. But it's OK.



BALDWIN: That is the daughter of Ted Cruz, the freshman senator from Texas.

BERMAN: He was a one-man comedy act yesterday, the vice president. Love it.

BERMAN: It was great, great stuff from the vice president. And we're awaiting hopefully great stuff from you, Christine Romans, later this morning.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: We'll see in the jobs report half an hour away. We're expecting maybe I think 150,000 or so jobs created, close to the average growth for the year, you guys. The unemployment rate expected to remain unchanged at 7.7 percent. We'll watch for any annual revisions for 2012 in this report. The December reports will include revisions back five years on the jobless rate. So there will be so much awesome stuff to go through whether the jobless rate goes up or down. We'll look for reasons why, very carefully I assure you. The jobless rate dropped because 3,000 people left the job force, not necessarily because they got new jobs. So there will be a lot of slicing and dicing of these numbers. Stock futures flat in this report.

BERMAN: You're not excited or anything?

ROMANS: I can't wait. You know how many tables I get to go through?

BERMAN: Another big story this morning, she became known worldwide for the amazing triumph over the Taliban after they, of course, shot Malala in the head. New this morning, Malala Yousefzai has been discharged from the hospital. CNN international correspondent Matthew Chance is following developments from London. Matthew, what is the hospital saying this morning?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It was pretty good news. Malala Yousefzai, that 15-year-old girl who has been laying in a hospital for the past three months or so since she was shot in Pakistan by the Taliban seeming to make a pretty good recovery. This is a picture of her walking out of her hotel room speaking with nurses who have been giving medical care over the past several months.

A statement from the hospital saying "Malala is a strong young woman and worked hard with people caring for her to make excellent progress in her recovery." She will be staying at her parents' temporary home in Birmingham in England, where the hospital is located. They have been flown out from Pakistan. The father has been given a job in Birmingham for the next three years by the Pakistan government as the consulate. So they intend to stay there for the foreseeable future.

The hospital does say, though, John, that she will be going back into the ward wards at the end of this month, beginning of next month to have reconstructive surgery on her skull. So a recovery, but still the start of a long process.

BERMAN: Matthew Chance in London. The pictures of her, she looks beautiful. She looks great.

BALDWIN: It's incredible. Exactly what I was thinking, given everything that happened. Matthew Chance, thank you.

BERMAN: Still some difficult rehab ahead, no doubt. She's up to it.

Other top stories this morning, American troops are in Turkey right now to help that country defend its border with Syria. They will operate Patriot air defense missile batteries and had to shoot down any Syrian ballistic missiles. The Assad regime has launched Scud missiles near the border with Turkey as its civil war against rebels has intensified.

BALDWIN: President Obama wants to you take part in his re-election celebration. The presidential inaugural committee just releasing some new details of the 2013 inauguration.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In Washington, D.C., one of many locations, participating in the national day of service.


BALDWIN: The committee has leased this new video here about events you can participate in on this national day of service during the inaugural weekend. It is a tradition the Obamas started back in 2009. Also Supreme Court Justice Sonja Sotomayor will make history, becoming the first Latina to take part in a swearing in ceremony. She is scheduled to administer the oath of office for Vice President Joe Biden on January 20.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is raring to go, according to a State Department spokesperson. Clinton is scheduled to return to work next week after a slew of medical problems. Her spokeswoman says Secretary Clinton intends to testify on the deadly terrorist attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi and says they are working out a date with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

BALDWIN: A big step for the children of Sandy Hook elementary in Newtown, Connecticut. They boarded the buses early yesterday morning, and returned to class for the very first time since the mass shooting in Newtown just a couple of weeks ago. Their new school building is a few miles away in nearby Monroe, Connecticut.

Also we have learned former congresswoman Gabby Giffords may visit Newtown today. The state's lieutenant governor told CNN late last night this visit is planned, not confirmed, though. Giffords barely survived an assassination attempt two years ago when meeting when constituents in Tucson, Arizona.

BERMAN: Heavy snow this morning, west Texas seeing the brunt of it, especially in the region around El Paso. Conditions got so intense that large portions of the Interstate 10 between El Paso and Ft. Stockton to the east were closed overnight.


BERMAN: So it was a dead tree in an icy lake a real life saver for a couple of Arizona teenagers. They literally had to hang on no dear life. Check that out. They were in the tree for four hours in 20- degree weather after the ice around them started cracking. So later the boys thanked the firefighter who's got out and they promised never to do this again.


CHRISTIAN VAN ALLER, RESCUED BY FIREFIGHTERS: Dear firefighters, thank you so much for helping me and my friends be able to get safely back to the ground. We're really sorry about making you come out and do this. We shouldn't have walked on the ice in the first place.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I regret my choices deeply. Thank you for sacrificing to save us.


BERMAN: I kind of feel like there is a mother out there who says you will thank those firefighters.

BALDWIN: You will stand in front of the whole fire department, son, and read this apology.

BERMAN: A third boy who made it to shore called for help from his cell phone.

BALDWIN: We laugh because they are OK.

BERMAN: The boys will never do that again.

Still ahead on STARTING POINT, will the new Congress be able to get anything done, or will it be business as usual? Former Congressman Steve LaTourette, who was a member of one of the most unproductive sessions of Congress, is next.

BALDWIN: And it's going to cost a lot more to run the Super Bowl ads like this one form The price of ads has hit a record high. STARTING POINT back after this.


BALDWIN: Welcome back to STARTING POINT. It's 12 minutes past the hour. Today Congress gets to work after spending yesterday swearing in and electing a speaker and taking photos. The House is set to vote on part one of the sandy relief package today.

BERMAN: But with the debt ceiling and deep spending cuts looming and a budget crisis coming up, will Congress get more done than its predecessor? Steve LaTourette is now the President of Republican Main Street Partnership, it's a Republican advocacy group. Until yesterday at known he was a Republican member of Congress from Ohio. You get the sense he's glad to be gone.


BERMAN: Former Congressman, we're glad to see you this morning.

STEVE LATOURETTE, FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: Nice to see you. I didn't think this is what retirement looked like, though.

BERMAN: I have to start out by asking, yesterday a rather interesting day on the House floor. Former colleagues re-elected Speaker Boehner as speaker of the House. There were a number of members, more than 10, who either didn't vote or voted against him. What do you make of the statement they were delivering? What do you think they were saying?

LATOURETTE: It is not horribly unusual. It's the fourth time it's happened in my time here in Washington. The first one with Newt Gingrich and then Nancy Pelosi lost some of her members, and Jim Trafficant from Ohio famously voted for Dennis Hastert. If you look at what happened, all of those revolutionaries, not many of them are left in Congress. So it's really not a good way to start your career.

BALDWIN: You talk about how you weren't expecting retirement to look like this, congressman. Let me point out this fun tweet from a writer for "The Washington Post," quote, "Steve LaTourette unbound has been one of the fascinating subplots of the fiscal cliff fight." Words we've heard from you in the past couple days, "chuckleheads, sleep deprived octogenarians." Now that you're off the job, anything else you would like to get off your chest? LATOURETTE: Well, I think, listen, I wish the new Congress well, and they really have to come to a couple of conclusions. Either you're going to work to get things done or make bumper stickers and feed red meat to the base on the right and the left. And I really wish these new folks well, but yesterday not a good sign that's going to happen.

BALDWIN: Why do you say that?

LATOURETTE: Well, 12 people, either 9 or 12 didn't vote for the speaker. That vote is a no brainer. It's all about whether or not your party will control the agenda in the House of Representatives. And what these chuckleheads think Nancy Pelosi being speaker of the House is better for the Republican Party? I don't think so.

And so they have to come to terms with why are they here? If they are just here to vote no, we could train a monkey to vote no. If they are here to legislate, then they need to be serious about legislating and find common ground and not say and not say it's 100 percent or nothing. That really isn't how the system is built.

BERMAN: I'd like to know who exactly are you talking about here? Who is driving the train in terms of Congress, because after the fiscal cliff vote, Amy Kremer, who is with a pretty prominent Tea Party group, she sent out a tweet and said "I'm extremely disgusted in what happened in the House tonight. There will be consequences." What do you make of that?

LATOURETTE: What I make of that is that's ridiculous, because once the die was cast and the Senate had 89 votes for the fiscal cliff package, which was pretty good on the tax side. This is what I'm talking about. The president won reelection, everybody knew taxes were going up. Boehner's job was to keep it from going up on as few people as he could. He did that. But he also achieved things that he could never achieve even with George W. Bush in the White House, and that is a permanent fix to alternative fix of minimum tax, a permanent fix to the estate tax, things we have been arguing 18 years.

The bad part of the fiscal cliff deal from a Republican perspective is that it didn't do anything on spending. The vote that we had to make was do we sort of say, oh, let's shoot the hostage and have taxes go up on every American, or do we take this and live to fight another day? And there's some people who just don't quite get that.

BALDWIN: Let me ask you about some of the freshmen in Congress. We had a man, big smile on his face, Joaquin Castro, freshman congressman from Texas, who talked a little bit about how this might be intimidating at first. This is what he told us.


REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO, (R) TEXAS: It's a little bit daunting and I think this freshman class that's coming in, about 70 new members, Democrats and Republicans, have learned a lot over from what happened the last few weeks with the fiscal cliff debacle. And I think you have a lot of folks coming in committed to doing a better job quite frankly and making a real effort in earnest to come up with an agreement, to compromise and being reasonable lawmakers.


BALDWIN: We were talking to him, overwhelmed by the optimism, which is refreshing to hear, been newly sworn in. Do you think the optimism lasts? How long does it last? What do you think?

LATOURETTE: I mean, they will knock that right out of him in the first couple months.

BALDWIN: That quickly? Congressman!

LATOURETTE: I think they will.

And the other thing is this mess that has been left them really is not fair to them in that there is one building as you know, the Rayburn Office Building. It takes some people to find out where their offices are and the bathrooms. So it's really not appropriate or fair this mess has been dropped in their lap. Boy, if that was his statement yesterday, god bless him, and I hope he's able to make the change that others aren't able to make.

BALDWIN: He can't bring a fresh perspective and find that compromise?

LATOURETTE: You are with other 334 high school class presidents. A lot of A-type personalities in the congress. And it's very difficult for one voice to push through. If he has 60 or 70 of his friends willing to make a go of it and can change some of the other chuckleheads who have done nothing but stand in the way of progress, maybe he can get something done.

BERMAN: Congressman, one of the things Speaker Boehner said of late is that he's done with one-on-one negotiations with the president. He's no longer going to try the back channel deal, private meetings. Is nah a good idea, or should he keep that option open?

LATOURETTE: I think he should keep the option open, but because he is a good friend of mine, I know where the frustration comes from. It started a year ago August on the debt limit thing. John would go down and at the risk of his own career, put 800 billion of new revenues on the table, which is remarkable for a speaker. The president has never, to my understand, offered anything significant on entitlement spending side, and you can't make a deal that way.

And the fiscal cliff is a reflection of that. Taxes have wen taken care of. They raised $60 billion a year. Have you heard anything about $60 billion recently about anything else? Oh, that's right, sandy if they spend $60 billion on sandy, raise $60 billion on taxes by sticking it to rich people, how about the $16 trillion debt? What do we do about that?

BERMAN: Steve LaTourette, the smile on your face a lot different than what we've seen the past few months. Good luck.

BALDWIN: Thank you so much.

LATOURETTE: Thank you.

BERMAN: Ahead on STARTING POINT, a hit movie on the box office drawing the ire of Washington. Now a group of senators taking action against "Zero Dark Thirty."

BALDWIN: Also, we're staying on this story, those high school football players accused of sexually assaulting a 16-year-old. This morning, hear from the attorney for one of the young men and why he says this whole thing is a witch hunt.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to STARTING POINT. I'm Christine Romans, Minding your business. U.S. stocks basically unchanged this morning ahead of the big December jobs report. The NASDAQ, Dow, and S&P all fell yesterday after a big rally early why err in the week. European markets this morning are lower, oil prices are falling. The catalyst today, minutes from the Federal Reserve last meeting show division in the fed over the bond buying program. Some saying it should end that before the end of the year, sooner than first thought.

So could we be seeing a bond bubble bursting this year? That's what 40 percent of investment and money managers surveyed by CNN Money say. They think interest rates will begin to rise this year and another 30 percent say the shift will start next year, both sooner than the fed's own projections. Investors have been pouring money into treasuries pushing interest rates close to zero. Last year investors added more than $90 billion in the bond market and pulled out $150 billion in stocks.

The Chevy Volt was billed by some as savior of Detroit, and now sales of the electric car are really cranking up. General Motors says Chevy Volt sales tripled in 2012. GM also became the first American carmaker to sell more than 1 million vehicles with a 30 mile per gallon fuel rating.

Super Bowl ads cost $4 million for 30 seconds. That's a new record. A CBS spokesman told CNN Money that the spots are going for more than that. Confirmed buyers this year are PepsiCo, Audi, Go Daddy, Hyundai, Sketchers. CBS will broadcast the Super Bowl on February 3 from New Orleans, and playoffs begin this week.

BERMAN: That record will hold exactly --

ROMANS: Until next year. Something I say every year. A new record for super bowl ads.

BERMAN: It will be fun to see those ad while the Patriots are running up there. Very good.

BALDWIN: Coming up next on STARTING POINT, this is a case that has really shocked the whole nation. You have these high school football players accused of sexually assaulting a 16-year-old girl at this party, multiple parties they are saying, and no one stopped them. Next, hear from an attorney from one of the accused players. You're watching STARTING POINT.


BERMAN: Welcome back to STARTING POINT, everyone. This is a disturbing story we've been following closely, an accusation against two high school football player who's allegedly raped a 16-year-old girl at a party.

BALDWIN: This happened in the small town in Ohio of Steubenville. Police say no one stopped it, but instead pulled out their cell phones, took videos, took pictures, wrote crude tweets about the alleged assault. A while ago, I spoke with Walter Madison, a defense attorney for one of the accused teens, Malik Richmond.


BALDWIN: I want to begin with your client. He is 16-year-old Malik Richmond, who, as I mentioned, is a juvenile, but has been identified by a judge in court. You yourself have identified him, so that's why we're moving forward and using his name. There are so many sides to this story. What is your side?

WALTER MADISON, ATTORNEY FOR MALIK RICHMOND: At this particular point, his right to a fair trial, anyone's right to a fair trial is being hijacked. We live in a country with the greatest legal system in the world, and only great because the system actually works. But if it were to work properly, individuals who are concerned must participate.

And one of the main concerns this matter, by special interest groups all over the world, tried in the court of public opinion. And in a court of law, there are rules that would exclude such information and evidence as being inadmissible, inflammatory, misleading and misconception, and, therefore, not relevant.

BALDWIN: That's precisely why we have you on this morning. We want to make sure we're getting your side here. Let's get to some specifics. We're talking about this young woman, you said previously, I'm quoting you, "The victim voluntarily got herself intoxicated and voluntarily got into his vehicle." Are you suggesting this young woman, this victim, consented to this?

MADISON: What I'm suggesting is that there is a question of consent. And that's what the courts are for and the legal process, to ferret out those issues and litigate them.