Return to Transcripts main page


Lance Armstrong Expected to Come Clean; President Obama Addresses Debt Ceiling

Aired January 14, 2013 - 15:00   ET


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Top of the hour. I'm Brooke Baldwin live here in Los Angeles today.

And our breaking news, Lance Armstrong, he spent a decade fending off claims he used performance-enhancing drugs. But, in a matter of hours, he is expected to come clean in an interview with Oprah Winfrey, confessing to the doping that cost him his seven Tour de France titles.

We have also learned here, just in the last hour, that he has now apologized to his staff at LIVESTRONG. That happened around noon today, in Texas. Certainly a sign that this interview could be explosive because the question is, what is he apologizing for? Will he then be confessing with Oprah Winfrey? That's the big question. We're going to talk to Ed Lavandera. He's gathering some of the details. He will join us from Dallas in just a moment.

But I want to move on to Washington, surprise in D.C. here, President Obama taking multiple questions in this last formal news conference of his first term in office. Top of the agenda, the debt ceiling. The president says there is absolutely no room for negotiation, the ceiling has to be raised. One reporter pressed the president on that point. Here's what he said.


QUESTION: In the summer of 2011, you said that you wouldn't negotiate on the debt ceiling, and you did. Last year, you said that you wouldn't extend any of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, and you did. So as you say now that you're not going to negotiate on the debt ceiling this year, why should House Republicans take that seriously and think that if we get to the one minute to midnight scenario that you're not going to back down?

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, first of all, Julianna, let's take the example of this year and the fiscal cliff. I didn't say that I would not have any conversations at all about extending the Bush tax cuts. What I said was, we weren't going to extend Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. And we didn't.


BALDWIN: Joining me now, John King.

John King, welcome, welcome. Help me understand what exactly the president is saying. Is he saying he absolutely will not negotiate with Congress when it comes to the debt ceiling? And just to point out, I had Ben Stein on, an economist. He said, Brooke, saying not negotiating is a negotiating tactic. What do you make of that?


What the president is saying, though, is he's not going to repeat two years ago, where he did get involved in detailed negotiations and the president, in that same news conference, said, look, if the Republicans feel they have to have some package of spending cuts to go along with raising the debt ceiling, then let them put their own plan together and see if they can get the votes in Congress, but that he's not going to help them.

He also said he was not going to let the Republicans either put a gun to the head of the American people, or he was not going to let them attach a ransom, if you will. The president used some pretty tough language today and part of what he was saying is I won the election, and I have looked at the public opinion polling and I'm in a strong political position, the American people will blame you, not me, if we get to this point again. So let's pass an increase in the debt ceiling and then let's have a conversation about taxes and spending and a bigger deficit reduction package.

He does not want to connect the two, but, Brooke, during the president's press conference and after, Republicans are saying, sorry, Mr. President, we do want to connect the two, meaning a bigger package of cuts and the like. So we are at what we call gridlock, loggerheads, you pick the term.

BALDWIN: Let's throw another term out there. Heard you talking to Wolf, mentioning deficit, not when it comes to our nation's finances, but when it comes to this trust deficit in Washington. You have the Republicans, you have the president doing this, boom, and just how is this even going to play out over the next couple of weeks?

KING: Well, you have the debt ceiling, which is the current fight. And what you have is confrontation, not conversation. How is it going to play out? Again, the president believes he has the political high ground now and he believes he's -- he believes his position is right, that you don't want to negotiate over the debt ceiling, let's have a bigger conversation.

The Republicans, though, Brooke, and they still control the House of Representatives, they still have a decent chunk of votes, even though the Democrats control the Senate, they say no way, sir. And so you will have this fight over the debt ceiling, but it is about bigger issues. The debt ceiling has nothing to do with, say, immigration reform, has nothing to do with the coming proposals on gun control, has nothing to do with anything else the president might want to do in his second term, but guess what, it does affect the climate in Washington.

And the fact that he does not have a more trusting, even a private back-channel relationship with the key Republican leaders is one of the one of the reasons -- and they have responsibility too, I'm not putting it all on the president -- it a Washington crisis, if you will, a trust deficit. It is one of the reasons...


BALDWIN: ... Joe Biden and Mitch McConnell talking.

KING: So you have to have the vice president go to the Senate Republican leader, two guys -- they're not best of friends. Trust me. I know them both. They're not best of friends. But they do trust each other. Mitch McConnell knows if Joe Biden gives him his word, it is good. Joe Biden knows if Mitch McConnell gives him his word, it is good. We need more of that in Washington, not less.

BALDWIN: Let me ask you, since I have you, something else the president mentioned. He was asked, of course, about gun violence in this country. Here we are, one month since the horrendous shootings in Newtown, Connecticut. And we now know that he has the vice president's proposals on his desk. What should we be hearing about the proposals, John, later in the week?

KING: This is going to be a fascinating test of the president, Brooke, and what he wants to do and how much he's willing to spend of his own political capital to get it in the second term, because what he wants to do is some big things. Immigration reform, that means a fight with the Republican base. Gun control, that means a fight with the Republican base.

This debt ceiling and the other spending and tax issues, that means a fight with the Republican base. If you thought the election was going to bring kumbaya to Washington, today's press conference told you you're wrong. The president was fascinating in that press conference. He made crystal clear an assault weapons ban proposal is something he would like. But then he also several times said I don't know if the votes are there in Congress.

He's going to take some steps using executive power. He's going to ask the Congress to do some other things. The question is this. If he proposes an assault weapons ban, and then Congress -- he's a few votes shy in Congress, what will he do? Will he say, I tried? Or will he actually travel the country, will he demand the American people call their -- will he muscle and essentially stop other things to make it a priority like he did health care or will walk away from it? This will be one of the big fascinating tests of what are his top priorities in terms two.

BALDWIN: It will be fascinating. It will be huge. We will be following it right along with you, Mr. King. John King, thank you very much, for me, in Washington today.

KING: Thank you.

BALDWIN: As we pointed out, Newtown, Newtown, Connecticut, today, marks exactly one month since a gunman killed those 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School. And some of the people in town, they have banded together. You see the ribbons there on their lapels here.

They banded together in the aftermath to try to find a positive response to the tragedy. The result, this is what was unveiled this morning, it is called the Sandy Hook promise. Two mothers who lost their children that day read the group's mission statement. Here they were.


NELBA MARQUEZ-GREENE, MOTHER OF VICTIM: The Sandy Hook promise. Our hearts are broken. Our spirit is not. And it is with this knowledge that we are able to move forward with purpose and strength. This is a promise to support our own -- our families, our neighbors, our teachers, our community with dedication and love, as well as the material and financial needs they will require in the days ahead.

This is a promise to truly honor the lives lost by turning our tragedy into a moment of transformation. This is a promise to be open to all possibilities. There is no agenda other than to make our communities and our nation a safer, better place. This is a promise to have the conversations on all the issues, conversations where listening is as important as speaking, conversations where even those with the most opposing views can debate in goodwill.

NICOLE HOCKLEY, MOTHER OF VICTIM: This is a promise to turn the conversation into actions, things must change. This is the time. This is a promise we make to our precious children, because each child, every human life is filled with promise, and though we continue to be filled with unbearable pain, we choose love, belief, and hope, instead of anger.

This is a promise to do everything in our power to be remembered not as the town filled with grief and victims, but as the place where real change began. Our hearts are broken. Our spirit is not. This is our promise, the Sandy Hook promise.


BALDWIN: The Sandy Hook promise, two mothers standing strong, one month after losing their little ones in Newtown.

More is promised on the breaking news out of Texas. We're getting word that Lance Armstrong has just apologized to the staff at Livestrong.

Ed Lavandera joining me live from Dallas.

Ed, there has been some speculation, you know, maybe this was a partial confession. Do we know now think that there will be a full admission to doping, given what happened today?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Just -- there have been reports over the last week or so that suggested that is what will happen and based on what we're now learning has transpired here or there in Austin, Texas, this afternoon, surely seems to suggest that's the way all of this is headed, which wouldn't be of great surprise to many people. But just heard from someone at the Livestrong Foundation who was there today and the description of what happened came to me like this. "Lance came to the Livestrong Foundation's headquarters today for a private conversation with our staff and offered a sincere and heartfelt apology for the stress they have endured because of him, and urged them to keep up their great work fighting for people affected by cancer."

We pressed to try to get any details, if part of this talk today including Lance Armstrong admitting to using performance-enhancing drugs to the staff there. The people that we have talked just have refused to answer those parts of the question, saying it was a private meeting and exactly how far Lance went in speaking with the staff there isn't exactly clear at that point, or even if he decided to bring it up.

But all of this, as you mentioned, Brooke, is just as Lance Armstrong, if he's not already doing it, about to sit down with Oprah Winfrey for this wide-ranging interview, which is supposed to air on Thursday night -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: Right, right. Of course, the questions you point out, will he confess? I actually spoke with an attorney here, a legal analyst with, Lisa Bloom. I asked her, here he spent years and years of denying using any performance-enhancing drugs under oath. Is this a really good idea to confess? Here is what she told me.


LISA BLOOM, ATTORNEY: 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 are a lot of legal ramifications to it. Potential perjury charges because he testified in front of a jury under oath that he did not do it.

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 happened to her. It has happened to people who have lied under oath.


BALDWIN: So, again, Ed Lavandera, back to you, any moment now Lance Armstrong could be sitting down with Oprah Winfrey. What do we know about the interview? How long is it supposed to last? Are there parameters?

LAVANDERA: From the reports I have read, it could be anywhere from 90 minutes to two hours. Obviously, the brunt of it will air Thursday night. I would imagine, often as the case in high-profile interviews like this, whoever is doing them releases snippets of the interview to build up promotion for the interview as well.

I want to go one of the things you're saying. I have read several reports about any potential perjury reports and the statute of limitations on that might have passed, which could explain why he's open to...

BALDWIN: Able to do this.

LAVANDERA: ... discussing this -- yes, exactly to some degree. You're right to hit on these points. There are other legal issues that Lance Armstrong is facing. There are various companies want to sue him for the amount -- for bonuses he was paid for his winnings of the Tour de France as well as a federal whistle-blower lawsuit that Floyd Landis, a former teammate, has filed and whether or not they defrauded the U.S. Postal Service, which was one of the main sponsors for many of Lance Armstrong's races.

There is a great deal -- many legal issues that obviously Lance Armstrong has to deal with and consider as he prepares to sit down and answer these questions. And so to that extent, it will be interesting to see just how revealing he is and how much he's willing to confess about the way he won these seven titles and essentially made a name for himself in the sport of cycling.

BALDWIN: Stunning. Interview happening any moment now with Oprah Winfrey. We will all, I suppose, have to wait, wait and see what and how and if he confesses. Ed Lavandera. Thank you, Ed.

Coming up next, as "Argo" wins huge at the Golden Globes in Los Angeles, Iran now says it will make a movie telling the story of what really happened in Tehran with those American hostages. Hala Gorani has the scoop. She's next.


BALDWIN: One of the darlings of the Golden Globes last night, "Argo," awarded best drama, star Been Affleck also winning best director. This film is based upon this declassified true story of the CIA's rescue of U.S. diplomats during the Iranian hostage crisis.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: You have 72 hours to get them out.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: You have a visitor.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: You're asking us to trust you with our lives.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: This is what I do and I have never left anyone behind.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: They know who they are, and they know they're hiding out.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: They will be taken, probably not alive.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: We're responsible for these people.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Going to make a difference when there is a gun to our heads.


BALDWIN: I love that movie. But it's also up for a couple of Oscars.

But in Iran, response to the film not been so great. Iran's state-run broadcaster Press TV writing this, let me quote them: "The Iranophobic American movie attempts to describe Iranians as overemotional, irrational, insane, and diabolical while at the same time the CIA agents are represented as heroically patriotic."

So, given that, Iran decided to hit back. A film called "The General's Staff" now in the works to tell their side of the story.

CNN international's Hala Gorani joins me now with more on this.

Iran says their version based on eyewitness accounts. How do the two differ, Hala Gorani?

HALA GORANI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is unclear whether it will be a remake about this particular event, depicted in "Argo," which is the story of six American hostages who found refuge at the Canadian ambassador's residence in Tehran in 1979, or a parallel event, because what we're understanding there from the semi-official Iranian news agency is that this is going to be about the release of 20 American hostages who were delivered to the United States by the revolutionaries.

So this is not the same number. As I said, six were in the Canadian ambassador's residence in Tehran. It could be one of those parallel events where very early on, Brooke, in that 444-day crisis, a group of Americans including one American with a medical condition, was handed back to the United States.

But what Iran is saying, and you read that quote there from the government, is saying, look, we are going to take control of the message here, we are going to tell our own story, the way we know it happened, based on eyewitness accounts in Iran. Nothing to do with "Argo" that had non-sympathetic Iranian characters throughout and that abrogated the eventually.


GORANI: Not in production yet, though, Brooke. So, we will have to wait and see.

BALDWIN: Yes, not in production yet. So, how much of this will really be spent in propaganda coming from Tehran?

GORANI: Listen, it's just a question of essentially seeing what the final product is. But you can -- based on the entity within the Iranian government that is going to produce this and provide the funding, you can imagine that they want to control the message of what actually happened in 1979, including some of the things they say the United States has historically presented inaccurately, essentially, that some of those hostages were treated extremely poorly. We're going to have to wait and see. But it is interesting because if you have "Argo" on the one hand being one version of events and then the Iranian production, another version of at least -- at the very least a similar time period, even if it is not that particular story of fabricating a fake movie in Tehran in order to get the six American hostages out, it going to be interesting.

Remember which movie won best foreign film at the Oscars last year? It was an Iranian film, not produced by the government, necessarily, but Iranian film these days is doing very well. You will remember "A Separate" perhaps that won that best foreign film at the Oscars.


BALDWIN: Did you see "Argo"?

GORANI: I did. Yes.


GORANI: I did. And as a journalist, I immediately went back home and fact-checked every single thing that was presented in the film. And, look, hey, it is a Hollywood movie. It is not meant to be a documentary. There were some inaccuracies.

BALDWIN: It is a film.

GORANI: Even the British were a little bit upset because in the movie, it was -- there was a sequence of events that presented the British ambassador as having rejected the U.S. hostages and not wanting to shelter them and the British ambassador at the time who was assigned to Tehran was angered by that. Then you have that final scene of the chase on the tarmac, none of that happened.

It is a Hollywood film that is based on a true story. I really actually look forward to seeing the Iranian version.

BALDWIN: I just know I walked out of there after not being able to breathe for two hours, so in suspense, even knowing the end, and just thinking, my goodness, if this was declassified under President Clinton, what the heck other stories are out that we just not even know about yet, right?

GORANI: And this happened under President Carter which I think he could have used perhaps politically at the time, but not been able to talk about in any detail.

BALDWIN: Amazing.


BALDWIN: Hala Gorani, thank you.


BALDWIN: He changed the face of the Internet before he could even get his driver's license. But did the legal pitfalls of the online world drive Aaron Swartz to suicide? We're going to talk live to a friend, former attorney, when we come back.


BALDWIN: Aaron Swartz, he's not a household name, but what he's done in his lifetime, you can arguably say impacts everyone with a computer. He helped popularize RSS, and, later became a digital activist. He also helped spearhead the push that ended SOPA, remember that, the Stop Online Piracy Act which critics said was too restrictive?

Just this past Friday night, Aaron Swartz hanged himself at the age of 26. Friends said he did suffer from depression. But his partner and family also blame an outside force for pushing him over the edge the U.S. attorney in Massachusetts, and a justice system, they say, that is -- quote, unquote -- "rife with intimidation."

Swartz was facing a reported 35 years for allegedly stealing more than 18 million pages of documents from a server at MIT. Federal prosecutors say these photos here show Swartz breaking into the school's computer closet. His guilt may never be known. But it was well known that Swartz believed in the power of the Internet and that everyone should have access to it.


AARON SWARTZ, INTERNET ADVOCATE: You have one person in one station deciding what gets put over the airwaves. When you have a distributed network like the Internet, everybody can be a server. There is no distinction between the broadcaster and the receiver. Every computer does both. You can take your home laptop and run a server off of it that can distribute movies and music and Web pages and e-mail in the same way that the biggest computers at Google can.


BALDWIN: I want to bring in a friend and former attorney of Aaron Swartz, Harvard law professor Lawrence Lessig.

Professor, welcome. I'm sorry for the loss of your friend, but we wanted to bring you on to just help us understand who Aaron Swartz was. From everything I have read, he was an Internet prodigy, very bright young man with an incredible future ahead of him, but also a young man who allegedly broke the law. Why do you think he did this?

LAWRENCE LESSIG, HARVARD LAW SCHOOL: Well, we have to be clear about what he was charged with doing. MIT captured images of him leaving a server location where he had allegedly downloaded millions of academic journal articles.

These were, you know, articles like from "The Harvard Law Review" or articles from "Psychiatry Review," articles that, you know, anybody at the university had access to. According to the computer experts that looked at what he did, he had simply set up a routine for downloading that material. But because his download was inconsistent with the terms of service for JSTOR -- that was the site which he downloaded the material for -- the federal government said he had committed a felony. So they charged him with 13 counts of this indictment, which they said they would not settle unless he agreed he was a felon and he served time in a federal jail. And my view is that's radically disproportionate to what he had done. In a world where...

BALDWIN: You're not the only one.


BALDWIN: Forgive me, but I just want to jump in because you're not the only one that feels that way, right? It was also family, family members of his who say that the prosecutors here when you talk about this huge indictment, were way too hard on him. If I may, I just wanted to quote you, your blog. Swartz was -- quote -- "driven to the edge by what a decent society would only call bullying. I get wrong, but I also get proportionality. If you don't get both, you don't deserve to have the power of the United States government behind you."

But, professor Lessig, hackers, hackers can't be allowed to access and release any digital property they choose. What about trying to deter others?

LESSIG: Yes. There is a big difference, I think, between breaking into government servers and releasing the Social Security database or breaking into government servers and releasing the names of agents who depend upon secrecy for their lives and downloading from JSTOR, a private nonprofit company, academic journal articles which are doing nothing more than spreading the information that the authors of that article wanted spread.

If you can't tell the difference between those activities, then I would also say you don't deserve to be a federal prosecutor. The point here is that the government was trying to make an example of him. They were trying to say, look, you violate our extremely overbroad computer laws, and we're going to send you to jail. OK, I get what they were trying to do. But they need to get that their extreme behavior pushed him over the edge.

And, you know, when that kind of bullying leads to somebody doing something tragic, typically, the government says you should be responsible for the tragedy too. I think just like MIT has taken responsibility, and said they have appointed somebody, a really respected professor to review all this...


LESSIG: Yes, that's right. I think that the U.S. attorney in Boston should do the same thing. She should say, I want to know whether what was done here was really consistent with the values and principles of the United States government.

BALDWIN: Harvard law professor Lawrence Lessig, thank you.

And we will be right back.