Return to Transcripts main page


Wal Mart to Join Gun Control Meeting; Ferry Crash Injures Fifty; Jack Lew Nominated for Treasury Secretary; Arizona Sheriff Sends Volunteer Armed Guards to Schools; Clinton Back After Blood Clot Scare; How to Improve Your Credit Score

Aired January 9, 2013 - 11:00   ET



ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, ANCHOR, "CNN NEWSROOM": Hello, everyone. I'm Ashleigh Banfield. We are watching two developing stories right now.

Breaking news, first, Wal Mart has just decided to join in on those White House meetings with Joe Biden, White House meetings on gun control that they previously said they were too scheduled to be a part of. A change of tune there.

And then also on your right-hand side of the screen, a ferry crash. It happened at a dock this morning in lower Manhattan and at least 50 people at this point are reported hurt.

And we've got another deadline looming, as well, in our nation's capital. This one, though, having nothing to do with deficits or budgets or cliff. After Newtown, President Obama asked Vice President Biden to come up with concrete steps to curb gun violence and said, quote, "no later than January."

So, right now in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, which is right next door to the White House, Joe Biden is sitting down with gun violence victims and gun safety groups and our Dan Lothian is watching all of this closely.

This all seems to be unfolding fairly quickly, certainly by Washington standards, Dan, so do we know at this point where the Joe Biden group is heading in terms of policy or is it an open book?

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, to some extent, it is an open book and you are correct in that this is moving very quickly, and the president had pointed out early on that when he formed this group and had the vice president lead it, that he wanted to get some policy proposals by the end of this month. So, that's the reason that you're seeing this move very quickly.

But some of the things that the White House has been talking about are universal background checks. That's something that they believe that Congress could really push forward, reinstating the ban on assault weapons and then, finally, limiting high-capacity magazines.

These are things, they say, that can start getting into place as they seek these other options and that's what these meetings are all about, sitting down with all of the stakeholders, with those who have been impacted by gun violence and those who own guns to come up with some ideas that can prevent further gun violence.

BANFIELD: Now, Dan, obviously a lot of the buzz wasn't so much about today's meeting, as important as it is with the gun violence victims and the gun safety groups, but instead with the NRA and then the overture to Wal Mart, which is the world's largest retailer and by many accounts one of the largest sellers of guns and ammunition, this is warp speed in terms of movement.

The NRA said it was going to send someone to listen ...

LOTHIAN: Right. A rep.

BANFIELD: ... and Wal Mart said they would not because they were busy and they changed that. Characterize what's going on.

LOTHIAN: That's right. I mean, it's kind of interesting what happened with Wal Mart. I mean, essentially, they had pointed out that they had already had a meeting at the White House with the vice president and his group this week and I checked with the White House and they confirmed that, in fact, they had a phone meeting with them. So some sort of a phone conference call, but no face-to-face meeting.

And what Walmart was explaining is that the point people that they have who would be attending a meeting like this were busy at a meeting in Arkansas and that's why they could not make it.

But it was certainly a PR problem for them, a lot of raised eyebrows that they would not be sending one here.

And then they did that reversal, saying that, you know, they said it wasn't a diss, in their words at the White House, wasn't a, quote, "slight," but that they had a conflict in the scheduling.

Well, they reversed and are now sending someone to that meeting that will be taking place here at the White House.

BANFIELD: And then what about the president in all of this? It seemed by the very quickly made plans after the massacre in Newtown, the president had dispatched the vice president to collect this information, come up with proposals.

But does the president have a kit of proposals on his own and might he tip his hand during the State of the Union?

LOTHIAN: Well, he just might. I mean, remember, look back at that press conference that the president had back in mid-December after the shootings and he said that he wanted those policy proposals, that he would bring forth those proposals during his State of the Union and so that is something that the president just might do.

Jay Carney was asked about that yesterday during the briefing and he said that he did not want to get ahead of what the president might say during the State of the Union or during any other address that he might make. But this is certainly something that the president has pointed out that's very important. He wants to move on very quickly and he's trying to get as much input as possible.

And then you have the NRA and other groups who are saying, wait a minute. Step back a bit. Take a look at the entire picture, not just on gun control, but take a look at mental illness, take a look at these violent video games as well.

And you've heard them talk about getting armed guards at all of the schools, as well, to protect the children.

So there is this conflict, those who are saying we need to have tougher gun laws and others who are saying, take a look at the more comprehensive view of this in order to find solutions.

BANFIELD: I'm glad you mentioned the armed guards protecting schools, et cetera. That was certainly something, Dan, that Sheriff Joe Arpaio mentioned down in Arizona, the Maricopa County sheriff, whom will be a guest in just moments.

So, Dan Lothian at the White House ...

LOTHIAN: Great segue.

BANFIELD: Yeah, how about that? Right? Thank you very much. Keep your eye on developments. That is fascinating what's happening and how quickly it's happening, as well.

But we also have other breaking news now, so I'm going to segue away for a moment to New York City with our live pictures.

Check out the front of that ferry. That damage caused a whole lot more damage to people inside. About 50 people were hurt when that ferry crashed down near Wall Street. One person actually critically injured.

Apparently, this was a very busy pier in lower Manhattan and our Alison Kosik rushed right to the scene. She's getting a handle on all of this.

And, Alison, I know this started to unfold about 9:00 this morning. That's a peak commute time. So what's the very latest? What were you able to find?

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Just to let everybody know who doesn't live in New York, there are lots of way people commute here into the city. You know, some people drive, some people take the train, and some people take the ferry.

This is a regular commute for a lot of people, especially in New Jersey. This is called the C Street Ferry. It is out -- this particular boat is out of Highlands, New Jersey. It's a private ferry system and it says it provides high-speed service. It can go up to 44-miles-per-hour. So, this was the 8:00 a.m. out of Highlands, New Jersey, expected to arrive here around 8:45. Around that time, one passenger told me that is when she remembers flying through the air and waking up to a woman shaking her, hoping that she's OK.

We did speak to many passengers, many people saying a very similar story, that this boat just suddenly just hit. Listen to some of what they had to say.


STEVE MANN, PASSENGER: It was a sudden crash. Everybody who was standing fell forward and people were in their seats got thrown forward.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Basically, it was, you know, 60-to-0. So I don't know how fast we were going, but, you know, what happens when people come into the dock, usually the boat slows down a little bit, people get up to get off the boat, and that was what the problem was.

When we hit the dock, everybody went flying. So that's why we had so many injuries. You know, people got thrown downstairs and that's where most people got hurt.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was actually sleeping. All of a sudden, we just hit, boom, and people were catapulting forward.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was standing up and I went backwards and hit chairs and then people landed on top of me. It was normal approach.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And then what happened?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just a sudden crash.


KOSIK: And you know something, Ashleigh, that a lot of commuters wind up doing and I see this when I ride the train and when people are on the ferry is, when you know you're getting close to your destination to get off and go ahead and get to work, a lot of people stand up.

But in this case, one passenger told me a lot of people were standing on this staircase there -- this is a two-level ferry -- and when that boat hit, everybody went tumbling down.

Now, the NTSB is sending a team to investigate. We hope to get more details.


BANFIELD: And obviously, this is probably way too early, but is there talk down at that location about this being a mechanical error or human error at this point?

KOSIK: Of course, those are all the questions everybody's asking. You know, these passengers did tell us, though, the captain came out right away and tried to help.

Certainly, the captain will be interviewed. We'll find out what he has to say.

BANFIELD: And then what about just the response? I was watching earlier. I have to admit, I was horrified when I saw helicopter pictures putting blankets over people because it appeared at one point as though there were fatalities.

But these were people who were just being blanketed for warmth. We've got to be very cautious to let you know those pictures show people who are injured and not killed.

KOSIK: Right. Right. So far we have heard no one was killed in this accident. We are not hearing that as of yet.

It is a chilly day here today in New York, so that could be the reason why you're seeing the blankets.

You know, one passenger told me he saw one man having CPR performed on him with a head gash. So he may have been the worst case, but, you know, each person was different.

One of the women I talked with, she walked off and was going to go see a doctor on her own, even though she was knocked unconscious for a bit.

BANFIELD: You can see there are so many first-responders who are on the scene and got there, obviously, very quickly down near the Wall Street location.

Alison Kosik, keep us updated, if you will. Sure appreciate that.

And we're going to give you the updates when Alison gets them and as we get them from the NTSB if they have them.

And we're going to take a break. Be right back after this.


BANFIELD: Welcome back. Breaking news for you. This is cabinet week, or at least the big shuffle week anyway and we've got news to report on yet another shuffle just two days after the last two were announced.

Dan Lothian, gee, no rest for the weary. I just wrapped you up at the White House, so I'm glad you're still available. What's the news that's being broken here at CNN?

LOTHIAN: That's right. And this is at the Treasury Department. As you know, Timothy Geithner, has said that he would be leaving around inauguration time.

Now, my colleague, Gloria Borger, hearing from a source that President Obama will be nominating Chief of Staff Jack Lew to replace Timothy Geithner as treasury secretary and that that announcement is expected to come sometime this week.

Now, this had been widely expected, Jack Lew, who has worked in a couple of administrations as the budget chief. He also worked on Wall Street and we've done some reporting on concerns about his experience not only from those on Wall Street, but also some progressive groups.

Nonetheless, the president expected to nominate someone who he has talked about as a trusted confidante, someone who has worked very hard in trying to right the ailing economy.

According to this source, the president expected to nominate him to be the next treasury secretary and that announcement expected sometime this week.

BANFIELD: All right. Well, thank you for that, Dan. And nice quick work, I might add, as well.

And, by the way, for our audience who might not know a lot about Jack Lew, the White House chief of staff, there is actually a very extensive background on this man and he has been the leading contender for this job.

So, without further ado, have a listen to all of the things this man has done.


LOTHIAN: Jack Lew is a key Washington insider, but to people outside the Beltway, he's somewhat of an unknown.

The White House chief of staff poised to run the Treasury Department whose track record has garnered, in the president's own words, "complete trust."

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He has helped strengthen our economy and streamline the government at a time when we need to do everything we can to keep our recovery going.

LOTHIAN: But Lew's past, now under an intense microscope, is being scrutinized from Wall Street to Main Street.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think more than anything, Wall Street will likely view this as a doubling down of the current economic and fiscal policies from the Obama administration.

LOTHIAN: An extension of the administration's "get tough on Wall Street" approach that's left the president trying to mend relationships with CEOs.

That criticism is seemingly at odds with this entry in Lew's resume, 2006 to 2009, chief operating officer at Citigroup where bets were made against the housing market.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're concerned that Jack Lew's connection to Wall Street has harmed his vision for what makes America strong and that is a strong Main Street. And while his record is thin, his public record about what's necessary is not exhaustive.

LOHTIAN: Sharp questions being raised once again over testimony Lew delivered in his 2010 Senate confirmation hearing for White House budget chief where he appeared to downplay the impact of deregulation on the financial crisis.

JACK LEW, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: But I don't believe that deregulation was the -- you know, proximate cause.

LOTHIAN: And carefully framed his knowledge of the issue, raising eyebrows once again.

LOTHIAN: Senator, I -- as, when we discussed, I mentioned I don't consider myself an expert in some of these aspects of the financial industry. My experience in the financial industry has been as a manager, not as an investment adviser.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This disavowal of deregulation is what causes us very serious concerns for the possibility that he will be the chief financial architect and steward of America.

LOTHIAN: But Lew's supporters point to his extensive experience working in two administrations, helping to cut the 1997 balanced budget deal and Social Security legislation in 1983.

He's described as a tough negotiator capable of tackling the so-called "mini-cliffs" ahead and winning praise from one of the administration's biggest critics.

NEWT GINGRICH, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Jack Lew is very smart and I think that he understands a very great deal about government and about the financial markets, so I think it's a sound nomination.

LOTHIAN: A nomination, he says, that's likely to get through the Senate.

Dan Lothian, CNN, Washington.


BANFIELD: And Washington is a busy place. We started this program telling you about the breaking news of Joe Biden, the vice president, convening a number of different groups this week to talk about gun control.

But in Arizona, a controversial sheriff, the sheriff of Maricopa County, has his own plan to deal with gun control, particularly, to prevent school shootings.

Today, Sheriff Joe Arpaio is deploying a volunteer, armed set of posses to patrol and protect area schools and Sheriff Joe is kind enough to join us now live from Phoenix.

Thanks so much for being my guest. I do appreciate it. SHERIFF JOE ARPAIO, SHERIFF, MARICOPA COUNTY: Thank you.

BANFIELD: I know you're taking it on the chin, a lot of critics saying, are you kidding me? Whoa! More guns! Lord! Aren't we going beyond that?

I don't want to get into the specifics of the Second Amendment with you because that's what everyone's talking about, but I do want to ask you if you think these people are safe?

ARPAIO: If the posse is safe ...


ARPAIO: Of course, they are. They're well-trained.

BANFIELD: The backgrounds of the posse.

ARPAIO: They're well-trained, 100 hours training in guns. We proved our record. We just finished patrolling the malls again. Nineteen years, we've been doing it, protecting the public. Everybody seems to like that program, so why not transition into patrolling the school areas?

BANFIELD: Well, perhaps because some of the critics say a lot of the members of this volunteer posse, notwithstanding the training that you've just outlined, some of them have criminal backgrounds. I think that makes a lot of people nervous.

ARPAIO: Wait a minute, 2 out of 10,000? We have people in law enforcement, including my agency, to have problems. That's just a cop-out. That's ridiculous. They don't really understand what they're talking about.

This posse is well-trained. They're covered liability-wise. They have the authority to enforce the law once I mobilize them and that's what we're going to do.

We don't just talk. We're out there right away. There's a lot of talk going on on task force and everything else. We don't talk. We do it. And that's what we started on Monday.

BANFIELD: Well, can I ask you this? What exactly are they being trained to look for? Because in so many of the incidents -- not all -- but in so many of the incidents, suspected gunmen have actually appeared as students and many times they have been students themselves who exact their vengeance once inside the schools and these posses are not going inside the schools.

ARPAIO: They're not going in unless a serious situation occurs.

This is a deterrence. I want everyone to know if you think you're going on school grounds and in the school, you've got a problem with our sheriff's posse people out front to take action or to keep people from going on the school grounds. This is a prevention program.

BANFIELD: Well, and I respect that notion, and I think a lot of people agree with you.

The only contention I would put to you, sir, is that Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold knew that there were armed men inside Columbine High School. That did not deter them one bit. And, my lord, I'm just looking at the statistic here, I think there were 12 students and teachers shot and themselves, as well.

I could name so many different instances where there were armed people present, perhaps the most significant, Fort Hood. You don't get more armed than Fort Hood and, yet, the number of deaths in Fort Hood, 13 people killed there.

So, I'm just not clear that I understand the notion that having an armed posse will stop madmen from being able to empty chambers of dozens and dozens of bullets before even anybody can get there to help.

ARPAIO: Well, you know, you can go into all the different scenarios. I can do that, too. We don't have the time.

But the fact is we're going to try to stop any of these bad guys from getting into the school, not when they're already in there.

So, that's just the eyes and ears of deterrence. Let everybody know that we are out there, especially the bad guys, and we'll take whatever action we deem necessary.

BANFIELD: Sheriff Joe, what do you think about what the president and the vice president are up to today, starting a series of meetings with groups and leaders and people across this country to try to come to terms with the problem of gun deaths and violence in this country?

What's your opinion? What do you think's going to happen?

ARPAIO: Well, it's good that they're talking about it. I spent 30 years with the federal government as a top federal law enforcement official.

You know, you hear talk, talk, talk. All the politicians are talking now as to what happened in Connecticut, but let's stop talking and let's get something done about it.

BANFIELD: Does that mean that you're appreciative -- I mean, listen, nothing gets done before you talk about it first.

So, are you appreciative of these meetings? Do you think the president and the vice president are doing the right thing?

ARPAIO: Well, yeah, they want to talk about it. They've been talking about immigration for all these years. Let's hope that something is finally done. I'm all for it.

But, you know, I'm not talking about it. We're doing it. So, you don't want to keep talking, all these task force and wait two years to do something about it.

BANFIELD: All right. Sheriff Joe Arpaio, thanks for taking time to speak with me. I appreciate it.

ARPAIO: Thank you.

BANFIELD: And I should also mention to our viewers that the sheriff is going to hold a news conference a bit later on today. It's 4:00 Eastern time. Plans to roll out his plan and how he's going to negotiate these posses and what their behavior will be in Arizona.

Back after this quick break.


BANFIELD: All right. 'Tis the hour for breaking news, it turns out. We have another breaking story to bring to you and that is involving the secretary of state, Hillary Clinton.

It's been a month, in fact, more than a month, since we have heard from her because of that blood clot that she suffered after an injury, a fainting injury and an illness, and she was hospitalized and now she's back at work.

And guess what? We can actually see her back at work. She's actually at something called a flag ceremony with the U.S. ambassador to Ireland whose name is Dan Rooney and I believe they might actually not only just be taking pictures, but talking.

Let's listen in, if we can. Oh, these are pictures that have come to us. Let's listen.


HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: I really missed you all. I wouldn't be saying that -- I know, I wouldn't say that under normal circumstances.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, as you know, Ambassador Rooney knows a thing or two about contact sports.

CLINTON: Yes. That's why I now have a helmet, as you saw.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm sure he wishes it was a Steelers helmet. How does it feel to be back? Are you frustrated to be cooped up? Not out?

CLINTON: No, you know, Matt, I am thrilled to be back. I am also incredibly grateful to this fabulous team that I have here at the State Department who never missed a beat for the time that I was away and we are focused on continuing our work, finishing up everything that we can and helping Senator Kerry with his transition.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So things -- you're ready? You're back in the swing of things ...

CLINTON: I am back.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... even though it's closing down your operation? CLINTON: Yeah. You know, it's obviously somewhat bittersweet because I've had the most extraordinary experience and I've worked with just an amazing team of people.

But I'm very much looking forward to doing everything we can these last few weeks to resolve and finish up wherever possible and then to have a very smooth, seamless transition to Senator Kerry to continue work.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And then retire?

CLINTON: Well, I don't know if that's the word I would use, but certainly stepping off the very fast track for a little while.


CLINTON: Thanks, pat. Great to see you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Great to see you.

CLINTON: Thank you all.


BANFIELD: Well, it's very nice to see. It's great to see that she's looking healthy and feeling healthy. I think there were a lot of people whose thoughts who were with the secretary of state.

Just to recap, thrilled to be back, talking about the helmet that she got from her staff as a Christmas present, obviously because she had fallen and hit her head.

And then also saying that she's focused on finishing her role as secretary of state and passing that baton over to Senator John Kerry who's officially going to be the nominee and undergoing those Senate confirmation hearings before any kind of final decision can be made.

So, good to see Hillary Clinton.

So, this can be something that's sort of embarrassing and you might even hide this from your friends and family, but don't worry because if you do have a low credit score, all hope is not lost. Christine Romans is here. We promised this on Monday.


BANFIELD: Because 2013, 'tis the season or 'tis the year to improve your credit score because, lord, you've got to take advantage of these incredible interest rates, if you can.

How does one do this? How does one actually go about improving?

ROMANS: I always say this about your credit score. Boring is better.

And, you know, you hear about people who pay this money for credit monitoring or to get their credit score alerts and who do all of these fancy things to try to run up their debt and then pay it down quickly.

Boring is better. And you know, FICO, studied high achievers -- those are the credit-score people -- they studied high achievers, people with 785 and higher credit scores and they found a lot of similarities, boring similarities among those people.

BANFIELD: I like the idea of being boring, but sometimes I wonder if boring is enough because, if you're trying to speed the process along and get that loan, don't you have to be sort of aggressive?

ROMANS: No, no. Let's talk about what the ideal borrower looks like, the common attributes.

You keep your balances low and time is important here. Keep your balances low. Don't max out credit cards. That's really a bad idea. Make consistent on-time payments.

The ideal borrower has four loans and/or credit cards, keeps a low balance on some of them, pays them on time, every time.

I'm going to say this. The quickest, most sure way to have a high credit score is to pay your bills on time, every time and be absolutely boring and predictable in that.

That's what the credit score is, right? It's a score that tells the banks how likely you are to pay your bills on time, every time.

BANFIELD: So, I'm going to harp away on this, honestly, because I still don't understand how you can do this in a timely fashion because, if boring is better, you would think it's going to take you a certain number of payments in order to become that perfect ...

ROMANS: Right.

BANFIELD: You know what? Hold one second.


BANFIELD: I'm just hearing about Joe Biden. Let's go live to some of Joe Biden's comments.