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Armstrong Opens Up to Oprah; Desperate Plea from Sandy Victims; Interview with Bill Pascrell; Obama and Biden Meet on Gun Issue

Aired January 15, 2013 - 11:00   ET



ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, ANCHOR, "CNN NEWSROOM": Hello, everyone. I'm Ashleigh Banfield. Thank you for joining us today.

We begin with an admission, the admission, you might say, reports claiming that Lance Armstrong has come clean to Oprah Winfrey, admitting that his incredible run to seven Tour de France titles was, in fact, tainted, tainted by performance enhancing drugs.

Earlier this morning, Oprah appeared on "CBS This Morning" to talk about what she calls her greatest interview ever.

First, though, just how tough it was to get that interview in the first place.


OPRAH WINFREY, HOST, "OPRAH'S NEXT CHAPTER": Yes, I think the entire interview was difficult and may I just say that we had agreed before this moment, before the interview, we had agreed that the terms of the interview and what was included in the interview, specifically what was included in the interview, would be left for people to make their own judgments about and that I would not be discussing or he would not be discussing or confirming?

We agreed to that. And then by the time I left Austin and landed in Chicago, you all had already confirmed it, so I'm like how did you all do that? We agreed that we weren't going to say anything, so I'm sitting here now because it's already been confirmed.


BANFIELD: Wow. He looked nervous just sitting down with her and they hadn't even begun speaking.

But Oprah also spoke about just how emotional this interview got.


WINFREY: I would say there were a couple of times where he was emotional, but emotional doesn't begin to describe the intensity or the difficulty that I think that he experienced in talking about some of these things. I would say, you know, all the people who are wondering if he actually goes there and answers, to answer your question that you asked earlier, Charlie, I think -- Charlie and Nora and Gayle -- I think that you will come away, too, understanding that he brought it. He really did.


BANFIELD: He brought it.

Well, Oprah was then asked to characterize Lance Armstrong's demeanor. And I want to be very specific here. Demeanor, like contrition. Was he contrite?


WINFREY: I choose not to characterize. I would rather people make their own decisions about whether he was contrite or not. I thought that he was thoughtful. I thought that he was serious. I thought that he certainly had prepared himself for this moment.

I would say that he met the moment and, at the end of it, literally two-and-a-half hours, we both were pretty exhausted and I would say I was satisfied.


BANFIELD: Two-and-a-half hours worth and Oprah says she was satisfied, but what about everyone else not in that room?

I want to bring in Ed Lavandera who is currently at a bike shop in Austin that is partly owned by Lance Armstrong.

Ed, what is the reaction? I know it's early since the interview isn't out yet, just Oprah's version of what she felt, but what's the reaction?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, this is a place that is friendly to Lance Armstrong. This -- the Mellow Johnny's bike shop opened about five years here in the heart of Austin. His pictures are still on the wall. The seven yellow jerseys also adorn the wall, as well. No intension, I'm told, of bringing any of that down. Lance Armstrong is a partial owner here.

You know, I was talking to the general manager of the store, Craig Stanley, just a little while ago. He said, you know, they know the circle of support for Lance Armstrong has shrunk considerably, but he says that there's still a great number of people who support him.

You know, he told me an anecdote of a woman who bought a bike here a while ago and then, after the report had come out a few months ago, returned the bike and said, I refuse to give that guy, Lance Armstrong, any money.

But Craig Stanley says that, despite all of that, there is still some support and he still supports the friend that he's known since they were teenagers.


LAVANDERA: Have you told him have you lost faith in him? I mean, do you ...

CRAIG STANLEY, GENERAL MANAGER, MELLOW JOHNNY'S: No. There's still a lot there. You know, there's still a lot of things that he's done and accomplished outside of the seven Tours of France and, you know, everything right now is focused on that.

Which, when you take him, the person, and look at all the things that he's done, people he's inspired, people he's helped with cancer, there's a much bigger story and I think that part of the story will start to come around.

And a lot of people are sort of abandoning him really quickly and I think that was a rush to judgment because I've known the guy a long time and the story's not over and he's not finished.


LAVANDERA: So, at least one friend of Lance Armstrong. Lance Armstrong had a book called "Comeback 2.0." Craig Stanley, I think, waiting for the next one, "Comeback 3.0," is probably what's going to be needed here.


BANFIELD: Well, Ed, it's -- I mean, look, notwithstanding what Lance Armstrong has done, no one would say that Livestrong wasn't an incredible addition to the cancer community in terms of raising awareness and funds.

But so much of what he did that was good was borne of what he did that was bad. Fruit of the poisonous tree, so to speak. So, what does he have to gain by making this admission?

LAVANDERA: Well, you know, that organization is going to great lengths to try to separate itself from Lance Armstrong and I think it realizes that for its long-term success and its long-term viability that it can't necessarily be connected to just one person, so that's why you saw Lance Armstrong essentially pushed out in November.

He went over there before the interview with Oprah Winfrey yesterday afternoon before he sat down. He went and spoke to the staff of the Livestrong Foundation and apologized to them for the stress that he has caused them over the last few years.

And Mark McKinnon, you might recognize him from the political world, a longtime political adviser here in the state of Texas, worked with George W. Bush, he sits on the board of Livestrong Foundation. He spoke with CNN this morning about how devastating this news and this confession is for everyone who works at that organization.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you feel somehow betrayed now?

MARK MCKINNON, LIVESTRONG BOARD MEMBER: Well, you know, I think about -- yes, I do and I think he's got a lot of apologies. I think he's got to crawl over a lot of broken glass and drag the sack cloth and -- but I think that the one thing that they can't take away from him, John, is his cancer survivorship.


LAVANDERA: So, Ashleigh, you know, a lot of people still applauding that cancer work, but, you know, I think the tone of this interview will go a long way in determining how people really in the end react to Lance Armstrong.

You know, Oprah Winfrey said, you know, he brought it, but what does that mean? Lance Armstrong has been incredibly defiant, aggressive in the way he's gone after the people who have criticized him and accused of using performance enhancing drugs over the years.

Will he be contrite? Because, if he goes with that other way, that could rub a lot of people the wrong way. This is someone who's been incredibly aggressive over the years in attacking the people who have gone after him.

BANFIELD: Yeah, defiant may be a euphemism. I'm looking at a list here at the lawsuits and this is just a partial list that he himself launched against his naysayers and those who accused him and he called them libelous, et cetera. So, yeah, this story is certainly not over.

Ed Lavandera, live for us in Texas, thank you.

We're going to have a lot more on exactly that, the legal aspects of Lance Armstrong's admission. About 20 minutes from now, we're going to raise that other question.

What about that admission and how does it also measure up to some of the other great apologies days gone by from presidents to preachers to athletes, as well.


FORMER PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: Indeed, I did have a relationship with Miss Lewinsky that was not appropriate. In fact, it was wrong.

JIMMY SWAGGART, EVANGELIST: I have sinned against you, my lord.

KOBE BRYANT, PROFESSIONAL BASKETBALL PLAYER: I'm so sorry that I had to put you through this and having to put our family through this.

TIGER WOODS, PROFESSIONAL GOLFER: I am deeply sorry for my I irresponsible and selfish behavior I engaged in.

MARK SANFORD (R), FORMER GOVERNOR, SOUTH CAROLINA: all I can say is that I apologize.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I did take a banned substance. And for that I'm very sorry.


BANFIELD: So, will Lance Armstrong rank among those? Will he, in fact, be an instant classic? We'll find out Thursday when that interview airs on Oprah's network.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They've sent two adjusters. They've sent engineers, but they're not sending money and that's what we need. We need the money to rebuild.


BANFIELD: A desperate plea for help from victims of Superstorm Sandy. Hundreds of homes are coming down in Staten Island, this week, in fact, all of them deemed uninhabitable after that terrible, terrible storm.

Today, in fact, Congress is going to take up the issue, preparing to vote on part two of the big Sandy relief package. You might remember earlier this month the House was only able to approve about $10 billion worth of that very big package, but today it is five times that amount and it's desperately needed, as we said.

So, joining me now to talk about the vote and the prospects for the vote and the need for that money is New Jersey Congressman Bill Pascrell.

Congressman, thank you so much for being with me. I just want to ask you right off the bat, when we had our initial vote and it went through for $9.7 billion of aid, what's still left on the table that's needed? What did that initial package leave out?

REPRESENTATIVE BILL PASCRELL (D), NEW JERSEY: We need $50 billion more. Don't forget, Ashleigh, that vote which took place in the former Congress, that vote pertained only to flood insurance which the Congress had to do anyway because this pertains to any storm.

So, we have a $17 billion package by the chairman of the appropriations committee, Mr. Rogers of Kentucky, who's put a great bill together to begin with as a huge first step, but the most important part of the day will be Rodney Frelinghuysen, New Jersey's amendment to Mr. Rogers' amendment.

That is, we need to have another $30 billion to reach what the president calls very significant in relief and also the three governors who've done a great job on this storm.

BANFIELD: So, I'm glad you brought up the fact that that was the old Congress and now we have the new Congress. What a difference ...

PASCRELL: That's correct. BANFIELD: ... a week or two can make.

But I want to play for our audience, if they missed it, something that you said during that initial debate with old Congress and then I want to ask you about it. Have a look.



PASCRELL: This is a total, total disaster in helping those people that we are purposely saying today and pontificating about, we're helping them. Isn't that wonderful?

What's our jobs? We're not doing anybody any favors. That's why we were sent here. Try it once in a while, democracy. You may like it.


BANFIELD: Well, that was pretty good stuff, I have to say. Great watching and an impassioned plea, as well, and yet still 67 percent of your compatriots, albeit Republicans, still voted no to that package.

Do you have a lot of faith that this enormous, new portion of the package is going to pass?

PASCRELL: We've been working through yesterday and last night, Ashleigh, through the rules committee where 90 amendments, many done to distract us from what we should be doing, our jobs.

Our responsibility is to help those in deep need, regardless whether it happens in Florida, whether it happens on the Plains of the West, whether it happens in mid-Jersey, the Gulf. We've always been there. These are three donor states, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut and we're always the first to respond.

Many of these Republicans who voted the way they did that you saw two weeks ago were always there when they voted for relief for other parts of the country or their own country.

One of the leading opponents of what we're trying to do applied for a personal SBA loan in South Carolina when a storm hit his district. And I am telling you right now that this is a very critical vote for America.

We're either will have one rule for one place and another rule for another or we're going to do what we are -- when we raised our hands and got sworn in on January the 3rd. This is what this is all about.

BANFIELD: Congressman, I think a lot of people watching shake their heads and think, when fellow Americans are in need after emergency, I can't imagine it could be political, but in fact it is political and there are a lot of critics who say, we're all for aid. What we are not for is pork.

And there's this long list that I could over everything. I'll just highlight a couple of things that do stand out for the critics -- money for fisheries in Alaska, watershed restoration ...

PASCRELL: Those things have been taken out.

BANFIELD: OK, good. The watershed restoration in response to wildfires in Colorado, $20 million, that still in there?

PASCRELL: That's not pork. There were folks that had major problems in their own areas. They put it into this bill. That's been now taken out. That was in the original Senate bill in the past Senate. There is not pork and we have oversight. Ashleigh, we have oversight in this legislation ...

BANFIELD: What about this, sir? You know, when you say it's not pork, I see $50 million for national park service historic preservation activities. That has nothing to do with ...

PASCRELL: Many of our parks were affected by the emergency. Who's going to pay for the repairs? Who's going to pay for the repairs on a roof on a federal building in Washington?

BANFIELD: But are those repairs or is that historic preservation? It says historic preservation, not repairs.

PASCRELL: Well, we have to have a building in order to do the more universal job of what preservation is all about.

But that's all been taken out. There are no earmarks in this legislation that is before the House today.

BANFIELD: And then what about this $2 billion -- pardon me to interrupting, but $2 billion in community development block grants, funds reserved for activities related to the mitigation of future disasters.

Not suggesting that that's not a great thing, but it's not emergency relief to look at future disasters.

PASCRELL: Let me give you an example. I think it's a good question that you've asked, if I could just get a minute to respond to it.

You take town of Moonachie in Bergen County in my district, the ninth district in New Jersey. It experienced the same problems as the town next to it, Little Ferry. The Hackensack River from the surge came over the berm which needs to be changed because it can happen tomorrow morning, again, God forbid. Wiped out both towns. Wiped out Moonachie. When I say wiped out, wiped out.

If we don't do anything about that, we are simply opening the door for this happening again. I think that is money used wisely to cut the expenditures for the next disaster that happens and hopefully will stop that water from coming over the berm which wiped out two towns.

BANFIELD: I hear you. Moonachie actually developed live during this program and we watched the emergency rescues taking place, real time.

PASCRELL: Oh, those first-responders, they did a great job. BANFIELD: And you know something? I don't dispute and I think a lot of people won't dispute that that is money well spent. But I think what some people dispute is that it's not money well spent in this bill.

This is supposed to be for emergency relief. It needs to be passed now. And, when you look at future programs, notwithstanding their merits, they belong somewhere else.

PASCRELL: I think all the money that's in the bills now, including the base bill, Mr. Rogers, and Mr. Frelinghuysen's amendment to Mr. Rogers' bill, deal directly with Sandy, number one.

Number two, this is money that has been documented if not by Governor Christie, Governor Cuomo, wherever the governors are in the three or four states that have been really impacted by this.

I can assure you looking line for line through the legislation that this is money needed in the funnel right now in order to get help to our citizens.

Do you know, Ashleigh, that in some area, this was a more devastating storm than Katrina. We lost many lives in Katrina and that's unacceptable. You can't make comparisons there.

But we had many -- three times of amount of outages of electricity and power in the area in the Sandy storm. We had many, many more dislocations. This was a devastating storm. You might not need pictures. You should go there and take a look at it, regardless of whether it was New York or New Jersey.

BANFIELD: I'll be honest with you. I don't have to go there. I lived through it and my neighbor lost half of his house and it's still sitting there with the porch chopped off and a Santa hanging from the debris.

But can I just switch gears for a moment, Congressman? And I wanted to ask you about the other big top story today which is this proposal, a package proposal that's coming from the vice president after more than a weeklong task force.

What are your thoughts about the possibilities that any or some or possibly all of these proposals might actually make it through Congress?

PASCRELL: I can't say this about many politicians and many folks who work for the public sector government, but I know if the vice president introduces something, he's looked through it very carefully. Always does his homework. I've known Biden to do his homework all the time.

I support efforts to stop gun violence, to reduce it as much as we can. We have a responsibility. You know, the deaths in Connecticut, the deaths in Colorado, and you can go back 15, 16 years, those deaths, I don't know if they could have been avoided if we had these laws, but I know it would have been a lot less easy for people to get assault weapons which we banned in New Jersey. We have it so that the magazines, you don't need this many bullets in on the to kill and go hunting. I support hunting. I know many of my friends belong to the NRA.

BANFIELD: But what about the rest of Congress? I think the bigger question -- I think everybody is against gun violence. I think nobody supports gun violence. It's how to mitigate gun violence that everyone has a different philosophy about.

PASCRELL: Health care is very important, too.

BANFIELD: My question to you is what are the chances in this current brand new Congress that we're so excited about that you might actually be able to pass something like an assault weapons ban, again, or a ban on high-capacity magazines? What are the chances honestly?

PASCRELL: Well, I can't tell you in terms of prognosticating what's going to happen, but I'm going to work my damnedest to make sure that this package of legislation goes through.

Is it going to be as it is, as presented? Nothing ever is. But I think a major portion of it, dealing with checks before, dealing with the assault -- number of assault weapons -- not all of them -- a number of assault weapons and, number three, the magazines that are not necessary.

I mean, look, Gaby Giffords is a perfect example. This guy was loading up again. This should not be allowed. Let people hunt. Let people own guns. Let them have their antiques. But protect the public. Protect our children. Why not?

BANFIELD: Good luck to you and your fellow congressmen as you tackle just the first two, as we've discussed, of many more difficult conversations in the House. Congressman Bill Pascrell, thank you so much for being with us today.

PASCRELL: Ashleigh, thank you. Thanks for having me.

BANFIELD: A pleasure.


BANFIELD: One month after the Newtown massacre, President Obama's making good on his promise to support broad, new ways to curb gun violence.

And based on a brand new national poll by the Pew Research Center, he has the support of a majority of Americans on a number of different gun proposals, including bans on assault weapons, semi-automatic weapons, high-capacity clips and online ammunition sales.

Mr. Obama met yesterday with his vice president, Joe Biden, to go over a whole load of proposals that were put together by a task force led by the vice president and they include up to 19 different steps that the president could take through executive action to bypass powerful opposition in Congress. And our Dan Lothian joins us live now at the White House. So, Dan, if you could just layout the difference between what the president can do using executive action versus what he could do using administrative action.

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Right. And, you know, the president and both the vice president have talked about things that they can do legislatively, but if they can't do it that way, they can move things a lot quicker by the president acting on his own.

And, so, first of all, let's talk about legislative actions, some of the things that you pointed out, a ban on high-capacity ammunition clips which allows a lot of bullets to be fired very quickly; universal background checks; tightening up laws on so-called "straw purchases."

That is where someone with a clean record is able to go in and purchase a record for someone with a less than stellar record. Also, they've been discussing issues around mental health.

Those are some of the things that legislatively, we believe, are part of this package that the president is currently looking at.

But again, the president also has talked about using executive orders to move things along very quickly and that is sort of shaping up to be somewhat of a more murky issue as to specifically what the president wants to do.

But one of the things that we expect is that the president wants to enforce existing laws, so laws that are already on the books, use executive orders to enforce them.

Another thing that the president pointing out is gathering data to track guns used by criminals.

Of course, when you start talking about using executive orders, this is always very controversial. We've already heard from some groups who are pushing back. They're concerned that this kind of power in the president's hands will only jeopardize their Second Amendment rights.

BANFIELD: And I can only assume with the assault weapons ban, which a lot of people are talking about and we've had it in place before -- it expired after 10 years -- that that could be something that's pushed extremely toughly through the administrative process, but not through the executive order process.

LOTHIAN: That is correct. This assault weapons ban that many members of Congress have talked about pushing through. The president himself and the vice president have said that this is something that they support, as well.

Last week, at the end of last week, it seemed that they were sort of pulling back from that a bit because, when the vice president laid out some of the top things on the list, that was not something that was on there, but the White House saying that, in fact, is something the president and vice president still very much support. But the NRA, raising doubts about whether or not it can actually pass Congress.

BANFIELD: All right, Dan Lothian, live at the White House with a lot to parse through over the coming days, thank you for that.

And then, far from the White House and far from Capitol Hill, New York state is on the verge of passing some tough gun control measures that would expand a ban on assault weapons that we were just talking about.

Last night, the state senate passed a series of measures containing new regulations and it now goes to the state assembly. Approval would make New York the first state to react to school shootings in Newtown.

And still with this topic, right now, not far away from Newtown, gun control advocates are marching. They're on the march to a nearby Walmart and they want to demand that the country's largest retailer stop selling assault weapons.

They plan to present a letter of protest that the organizer says is signed by 250,000 people, in fact. And among the protesters, some of the survivors of gun violence. This is happening in Danbury. It is not far from Newtown, about a 20 minute drive.

Deb Feyerick is there, currently, right now. I can see the people behind you. Give me an update on what's happening, Deb.

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we can tell you, Ashleigh, that just a couple moments ago, that those people, a small group but a determined group, they were able to deliver 300,000 -- close to 300,000 signatures to the manager here at the Walmart.

You know, I asked whether, in fact, Walmart is planning on changing any of its policy when it comes to selling these military-style assault weapons and he said that's a question you have to take up with corporate headquarters.

But the people here really felt they made a difference and I spoke to some women personally touched by gun violence.


FEYERICK: How were you involved in the protest today?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, I'm here because I'm concerned about the state of affairs in the world and I support the efforts to ban assault weapons and also in the efforts to get Walmart to stop selling assault weapons.

FEYERICK: Is this the first time you've been involved in this kind of action?


FEYERICK: And so giving the store manager that box filled with petitions, what was that like for you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It feels great to take action, to be involved. I'm a Sandy Hook resident, but more than that, I'm a world citizen and it feels good to take action.

FEYERICK: Do you think Walmart ultimately will have to make change?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I hope that Walmart will ultimately take change. I hope so.



FEYERICK: And, Ashleigh, there were a number of people here who had never taken part in any sort of a protest before, but they felt very strongly about it.