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Armstrong Apologizes To Livestrong Staff; George H.W. Bush Leaves Hospital; Obama Urges Congress To Act on Debt Ceiling; Protesters Take On Gun Retailers

Aired January 14, 2013 - 14:00   ET


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: Base model ever made. The last time the Stingray name was used was back in 1976.

CNN NEWSROOM continues now with Brooke Baldwin.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Suzanne, thank you.

Good to see you all. I'm Brooke Baldwin, coming to you live from Los Angeles, some 3,000 miles away from the White House, where the president, today, is warning of an economic recession. Yep, I said the "r" word again. Another recession if Congress balks at raising the debt ceiling. That's right. Those two words, we're all using them again, "debt ceiling." And this time around, the president is telling House Republicans they can do it his way or own the blame. Here he was.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And Republicans in Congress have two choices here. They can act responsibly and pay America's bills, or they can act irresponsibly and put America through another economic crisis. But they will not collect a ransom in exchange for not crashing the American economy.


BALDWIN: Also need to tell you that the president did speak about his gun violence effort. He said the package put together by the vice president is on his desk today. And he will talk about it a little later on this week.

Want to bring in two people here, Ali Velshi with me from New York, and Gloria Borger there in our nation's capital. To you both, welcome.

Ali, it has been more than a year since that whole previous debt limit debacle.


BALDWIN: And I know you are saying, especially comparing this to what we just saw on New Year's Day with the fiscal cliff, this is going to be much, much worse, much bigger deal.

VELSHI: Yes. BALDWIN: Talk to me about what we're debating, or perhaps as the president puts it, not debating?

VELSHI: Right. So what we're debating or not debating is the idea that the debt ceiling in the United States is a very unusual tool. Only one other country has it. And it's because what used to happen is whenever the government needed to spend money, particularly when you're in a deficit, the Treasury of the United States would have to go out and issue bonds in order to get cash to pay for it. And that was just a cumbersome, awkward thing to do. So what they did was create this debt ceiling which meant the Treasury could borrow clumps of money. It could go out and issue bonds for chunks of money not related to every single law that was passed. It was just because it was cumbersome.

It is not a debt control or spending control measure. The president used an analogy today, he used many, to say this is kind of like eating at a restaurant, having your fill and not paying the bill. If you want to discuss not eating out at restaurants --

BALDWIN: Dine and dash.

VELSHI: Yes, dine and dash. And so this -- we have two problems. One is, we've got to understand the terms of this thing. This is about increasing the Treasury's ability to pay for things that have already been committed to by the government. The danger is, if you have this discussion about not paying it, those who lend you money seem to think you're not serious about this. Imagine having this conversation in your house with American Express on the line. You know, we weren't supposed to eat out that much last month, so we're only going to pay Amex $200 of the $500. This is the problem. If we do ruin our credit rating over this, borrowing costs for the government could get higher, that increases the deficit, and borrowing costs for individuals could get higher and the market could tank.

BALDWIN: Gloria Borger, I want to talk about this conversation that Ali was discussing and also just really the president's tone. I heard you earlier saying it's sort of the pre-outrage, right, coming from the president.


BALDWIN: Already today here, Gloria, it's harsh. And we heard him say Republicans, quote/unquote, "will not collect a ransom for not crashing," the president's word, "not crashing the economy." And here he is saying, sure, he will negotiate debt and deficit cuts, but only after Congress agrees to raise the debt ceiling. Take a listen.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm happy to have that conversation. What I will not do is to have that negotiation with a gun at the head of the American people.


BALDWIN: I know we're already getting reaction, Gloria, from some of the Republican leaders, including House Speaker John Boehner, not at all pleased with some of the language. What are the chances that they will raise the debt ceiling in the way the president suggests with basically zero negotiating there?

BORGER: I really can't -- I really can't say. You know, at this point, I want to throw up my hands, along with the rest of the American public, I would presume, because we just feel like we went through this. Didn't we just go through this around New Year's?

BALDWIN: We did.

BORGER: For the fiscal cliff.

BALDWIN: Not too long ago.

BORGER: And here we are, before the president is inaugurated, we've got this new crisis. The president today said we can't lurch from crisis to crisis to crisis, and then he went on and talked about the crisis that we are in. And I think you have two parties with very different visions. The Republican said, you know what, we didn't win that fiscal cliff battle, we raised taxes, we didn't want to do it, now this has got to be all about spending cuts. And you have the president saying, no, it's going to be about raising the debt ceiling, then we can talk about some kind of grand bargain. But you have to get over the speed bump, Brooke, and I just, at this point, don't know how you do it.

BALDWIN: Hang on a second. You used two words -- Gloria Borger, you're saying "grand bargain"? Is that --


BALDWIN: Ali Velshi, let me ask you that. "Grand bargain," is that even -- could that be in our lexicon anymore?

VELSHI: Yes, I don't even know if puny bargain is a possibility. I mean Gloria knows the politics of this better than I do. The -- somebody asked the question at the press conference. The president says he's definitely not negotiating on this and he said -- but you've said that about increasing taxes, you said it about the last debt limit. I don't know where you go from here politically. I only know economically the market will act as an enforcer and interest rates will act as an enforcer if they don't get it right. But how you get any kind of deal, that's above my pay grade.

BORGER: And, Brooke, you know the --

BALDWIN: Gloria -- yes.

BORGER: The real problem here, I think, for the president is that he's got to deal with a House speaker who's got a lot of problems. This is a House speaker that upset his own Republican caucus during the fiscal cliff negotiations. He brought up a measure that did not have the majority support of his own party. And they have put their speaker on notice, you will not do that to us again. You have to make sure we're going to support something before you bring it up for a vote. And they've also said, we want a dollar for dollar increase.


BORGER: In other words, every dollar you increase the debt ceiling for, we want a dollar of spending cuts. Well, that's going to be very, very difficult to get through the Democratic side.

BALDWIN: We will keep this conversation going in the coming weeks. I also have economist Ben Stein. He'll be sitting right next to me here in L.A.

BORGER: Oh, good.

BALDWIN: We'll talk about real life repercussions of this whole thing.

Gloria Borger, Ali Velshi, thanks, guys.


BALDWIN: Today, today marks exactly one month since a gunman killed those 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. And a town hall meeting just this morning marked the somber occasion with a grassroots effort called the Sandy Hook Promise. The group's objective is this. They want to find the most appropriate way to honor the victims and to seek ways to prevent future massacres. Nelba Marquez-Greene and Nicole Hawkley both lost little ones that day.


NICOLE HOCKLEY, SON DYLAN DIED IN SANDY HOOK SHOOTING: It is a sad honor to be here today. It's been one month since I lost my son Dylan and 25 other families lost their loved ones. At times it feels like only yesterday, and at other times it feels as if many years have passed. I still find myself reaching for Dylan's hand to walk through a car -- parking lot or expecting him to crawl into bed beside me for early morning cuddles before we get ready for school. So hard to believe he's gone.

At the same time, I look at our community and what has been achieved in one month. A vacant school has been lovingly restored with great care and attention to welcome students back into a peaceful and safe environment. Many businesses and groups are promoting the love we have in Newtown, as well as fund-raising to help those in most need. Neighbors here and elsewhere are reaching out to each other to provide support, services, a listening ear, a shoulder to cry on.

I've had the honor to meet people from similar events in Aurora, Columbine, and Virginia Tech, and hope they can teach us ways to help heal our families and town. I do not want to be someone sharing my experience and consoling another parent next time. I do not want there to be a next time.

The Sandy Hook Promise is the start of our change. It's a promise we make for our community, but we need a nation of communities to join us in making and delivering on these promises if we are going to achieve true transformation. I don't know yet what these changes are. I come with no preconceived agenda. I do believe there is no quick fix single action, but instead a multitude of interlinked actions that are needed.

I love Newtown and I love Sandy Hook. My family chose to live here and we stand by our choice. One tragedy cannot undermine this town's spirit and love. It was already strong before December 14th, and if we could flash forward and look at Newtown in one year, three years, or several years after that, I know we will see a community that's even stronger and more beautiful than it was previously. A place that is helping to lead change and modeling the way a community should be. I'm proud to be part of this town and I'm proud to stand before you to stand for my son Dylan and pledge my enduring support to this promise.

NELBA MARQUEZ-GREENE, DAUGHTER ANA DIED IN SANDY HOOK SHOOTING: I am Ana's mom. On Friday, December 14th, I put two children on the bus and only one came home. I pray that no mother, father, grandparent or caregiver of children ever have to go through this pain. In our home, our faith, our family and our friends have helped carry us through this unbearable pain. We know that Jesus, our good shepherd, walks with us and carries us in our moments of pain. He has promised us comfort and healing and rest. And though we are walking through the valley of the shadow of death, we will not fear darkness or evil or hate. We are choosing love. In this way we are honoring Ana's life and the legacy of love and faith. Love wins. Love wins in Newtown. And may love win in America.


BALDWIN: Those two mothers there, one month ago today.

And this whole national debate over gun control is reaching critical mass this week. You have the mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, also Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley today. They began this two-day summit in Baltimore on how to reduce gun violence in America. Their specific recommendations are expected tomorrow. Mayor Bloomberg, who co-chairs the group Mayors Against Illegal Guns, said Congress has to limit access to assault weapons.


MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, NEW YORK CITY: Is limiting the availability of military-style weapons and high capacity magazines with more than 10 rounds. These guns and equipment are not designed for sport or home defense. They are designed to kill large numbers of people quickly. That's the only purpose they have. They belong on the battlefield.


BALDWIN: Now, keep in mind, getting an assault weapons ban through Congress could be extraordinarily difficult. So gun control advocates are going after retailers, especially huge ones like Wal-Mart. Senator Chuck Schumer saying just yesterday, tried to shame Wal-Mart into halting gun sales.


SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: It's hard to believe that Wal- Mart, the nation's largest retailer, is being so irresponsible on this issue. And I would hope that people would think twice about going to Wal-Mart if they persist in this attitude.


BALDWIN: Let me go to George Howell.

I know, George, you've been following this part of the story and so a protest is planned in Newtown at a Wal-Mart tomorrow.


BALDWIN: What do organizers expect out of that?

HOWELL: Well, Brooke, you know, first of all, when you hear these mothers from the Sandy Hook Promise, you can tell that there's a great deal of sadness around this issue. But you also find frustration. People are fed up. They're tired of waiting on legislators, they're tired of waiting on the president. They want to take action. They want to put pressure on retailers like Wal-Mart. So you find this group,, they've created a petition. They've garnered some 250,000 signatures and tomorrow they plan to protest, Brooke, in front of a Wal-Mart there in Newtown, to hand that -- those signatures over and to make the point, they say that, you know, people shouldn't go to a store where you can buy diapers, where you can buy baby food and also be able to buy semi-automatic rifles.

BALDWIN: So, we know, on gun issues, and going through Congress, we know the vice president now has given his proposals to the president.

HOWELL: Right.

BALDWIN: We should be getting details on that later in the week. But here's the but. You know, we don't really know what will get through Congress. That's the big sort of question. But how much of a difference, George, could grassroots groups like this one really make here?

HOWELL: Well, you know, when you look at the number of signatures, it is a significant number of people who signed on to this. And there's a new Gallup poll also that makes the point. Some 38 percent of Americans now disapprove of the current gun laws. That is up pretty substantially from 25 percent just a year ago. So you can tell that the pressure of these grassroots efforts, it's making an impact.

We haven't heard from Wal-Mart yet on this particular petition or the other grassroots efforts, but the company did, Brooke, give a statement to our Gary Tuchman just a month ago. Listen to what they had to say.


DAVID TOVAR, DIR. OF COMMUNICATIONS, WAL-MART: All of our decisions are based on, you know, what our customers want, and the law. And, of course, if the law were to change, you know, we'd follow the law. One of our sayings at Wal-Mart is, you know, the customer is number one. That's who we focus on. That's who we listen to. They guide our decisions.


HOWELL: So, Brooke, again, this group doesn't want Wal-Mart to sell assault weapons.

But I want to make one distinction. Wal-Mart does not sell assault rifles. They do sell semi-automatic weapons. Some consider those semi- automatic weapons to be a part of assault weapons. And they say that Wal-Mart promised to stop doing that back in 2004. They want to see that promise kept.

BALDWIN: OK. George Howell, thank you.

HOWELL: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Want to get to some breaking news here that we're hearing at CNN about Lance Armstrong. We are now getting word that he just apologized to the Livestrong staff. Keep in mind, this is happening on the very day Lance Armstrong is sitting down with a one on one interview with Oprah Winfrey. We're gathering the facts. They're next.


BALDWIN: Back to that breaking news here about Lance Armstrong today. We are getting word he has just apologized to the staff of the "Livestrong" organization. This happening on the day he is sitting down with Oprah Winfrey. He's chosen that one and only interview to discuss things.

What he will be discussing we do not know. But Ed Lavandera, let me go straight to you. You're the one here in Dallas with some of this information on what was this meeting with "Livestrong? Was this a face to face, what did he say?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the headquarters for the "Livestrong" Foundation is in Austin, Texas, not terribly far from where Lance Armstrong lives. It was just a head of this interview we were told by a representative there with "Livestrong Foundation" that Lance Armstrong came over to the headquarters, about midday today, and offered his apology to the staff there.

So you can take that to mean what we probably, I think the world expects now at this point, suggesting that Lance Armstrong is apologizing for perhaps lying about using performance enhancing drugs over the last 12, 13, 14, 15 years that he was in racing and winning the seven Tour De France titles as well so kind of a significant moment there.

I don't have a lot of details as to exactly what was said or how it was said or what the mood was in the room. We'll continue working on all of that, but all of this in anticipation of the interview which we suspect will be taking place in here in the next couple of hours at his home in the Austin, Texas area with Oprah Winfrey this afternoon.

BALDWIN: OK, so before I move off you, Ed, you said you're getting some of the information. Do we have any reaction from "Livestrong" once Lance Armstrong was basically apologizing? How did they react to that?

LAVANDERA: That's what we're trying to figure out now. We just -- so far just to confirm that Lance Armstrong had actually gone to the headquarters there in person and delivered that message to the staff, but exactly how it was said and how it was received, which I think is the very important part of all this, and the very telling part of all of this, we're still trying to figure it out.

BALDWIN: OK, Ed Lavandera, thank you for your reporting. We'll let you make more phone calls and get on that. I want to continue the discussion about Lance Armstrong because for over a decade, he has been denying it.


LANCE ARMSTRONG, CYCLIST: I've said it for seven years. I've said it for longer than seven years. I have never doped. I can say it again, I said it for seven years, it doesn't help. Why would I then enter into a sport and dope myself up and risk my life again? That's crazy. I would never do that. That's -- no. No way.


BALDWIN: Well, tonight, Lance Armstrong is expected to confess to the doping that cost him his seven Tour De France titles. In just a couple of hours, as Ed Lavandera mentioned, he'll be sitting down with Oprah Winfrey, saying he is ready to speak candidly.

We also heard this hour, as Ed was reporting, he went to the Austin headquarters for "Livestrong" to apologize. After years and years of denials under oath, question we're asking here is could coming clean now see Armstrong thrown behind bars for perjury.

Attorney and legal analyst for, Lisa Bloom is here with me in L.A. Lisa, welcome.


BALDWIN: Wow. We don't know. I mean, hearing Ed Lavandera's reporting, the fact he went personally and apologizing, you can sort of read between the lines, but we don't know definitively whether he's saying yes, I did it.

BLOOM: Right. So if he did it, legally wrong, but morally right to confess. Let me explain. Now any lawyer is going to say, do not confess. Do not go on Oprah and say that you doped all these years after you lied about it? Why, because there have a lot of legal ramifications, potential perjury charges because he testified in front of a jury under oath that he did not dope.

BALDWIN: Let me stop you on the perjury charge. What if he does confess that happens? He is convicted of perjury, could he go to jail?

BLOOM: Yes, he could. Look at Marion Jones. It's happened to her. It happened to people who lied under oath. It's happened in a lot of cases. People lie in their oath, they go to jail so certainly could.

He's had contracts with sponsors, which I am sure had the morals clause that you can't break the law and specifically for athletes usually includes a clause you can't dope, right? So he signed that. Would he have to pay back millions of dollars?

BALDWIN: Yes, what if Nike comes knocking and says, all right, you wronged us?

BLOOM: And there was a paper in the U.K. that he sued for libel because they said a few years ago that he was doping. He won a judgment.

BALDWIN: Thousands of thousands of dollars.

BLOOM: That's right. Now they would likely ask for that money back with interest and with attorneys' fees. So this is a big mess for him legally. But even though as an attorney, if he were my client, I would tell him, don't do it.

I have to say, as a human being, I think confession is good for the soul. If he really did do it, I would advise him to get his attorneys behind the scenes at least trying to make deals to soften the blow for him legally, to minimize his liability.

But probably good for the soul as a human being to come clean, you know, go forward with your life, right? Wouldn't we have more respect for him?

BALDWIN: Of course, we would have more respect for him. I guess, I'm just thinking about this attorney of Lance Armstrong's now, probably a little nervous, a little nervous.

BLOOM: Well, I'm sure his attorney said don't do it, but you know what, it is the client's decision. If he wants to go forward and go on Oprah and come clean, I would tell him, as an attorney myself who represents a lot of people in high profile situations where they messed up. If you are going to confess, fully confess this time.

BALDWIN: What does that mean?

BLOOM: Don't do it piecemeal. Don't say, OK, I doped once or I doped three times 10 years ago.

BALDWIN: Own the whole thing?

BLOOM: Put the whole thing out there, once and for all, don't do it little by little. That's how people tend to do it. You think of your kids, parents out there, if they make a mistake, maybe they'll admit to a little of it and next day a little bit later. Look at John Edwards. He admitted a little bit at a time, and so the press really had a field day with him. BALDWIN: Back to jail time, as you mentioned Marion Jones, how much time could you be talking?

BLOOM: Well, perjury is usually I'd say about six months, maybe a couple of years is the maximum, but he doesn't have any prior criminal convictions. I think what he really needs to be concerned about, though, is the monetary. I mean, of course, going to prison for even a few months is a big deal, but the monetary implications --

BALDWIN: If he had so many sponsors, Nike is huge. What could they -- give me a possible scenario.

BLOOM: They could sue him for the return of millions of dollars.

BALDWIN: Millions.

BLOOM: That they paid him. And generally the statute of limitations, the time you have to sue in a fraud case only starts ticking when you discover the fraud. So all of these years he lied, allegedly, and said I didn't do it, I didn't do it, saw the tape on Larry King. And now if he's going to come out and say I did do it, I would say the clock starts tick today on those fraud claims.

BALDWIN: Lisa Bloom, what an interview to be a fly on that wall, right, between Lance Armstrong and Oprah Winfrey.

BLOOM: If anybody can get it out of him, it will be Oprah.

BALDWIN: All right, Lisa Bloom, thank you so much, legal analyst. We'll have much more on our breaking story, of course, at the top of the hour.

But, coming up next, some news, some good news here on the condition of George H.W. Bush, who, as you know, has been in the hospital for nearly two months now. Stay right here.


BALDWIN: Developing as I speak, CNN has confirmed that former President George H.W. Bush left the hospital today, this after nearly two months of treatment for bronchitis, and other issues.

In fact, at one point in time, the 88-year-old spent time in the intensive care unit in the hospital. In a statement, the president thanked the doctors and the nurses at Methodist Hospital in Houston.

A prominent governor declares a health emergency and supplies of the flu vaccine suddenly very tough to find.