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Protesting Wal-Mart Gun Sales; Showdown Over Raising U.S. Debt Limit; Lance Armstrong Admits Cheating; Mia Farrow Visits Suffering Syrians;

Aired January 15, 2013 - 11:30   ET



UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER: I hope Wal-Mart will ultimately takes change. I hope so.


DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And 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.

One person who has been directly touched by gun violence, Lori Haas, and your daughter was shot during Virginia Tech.

You came here to send a message to Wal-Mart.

LORI HAAS, MOTHER OF VICTIM: Take assault weapons off your shelves. We want them to be a partner in making our communities safer. We want assault weapons designed for the military to kill as many people as quickly as possible off their shelves. Nationwide. We want them to be a partner in our effort to make our communities free from gun violence.

FEYERICK: It's interesting because back in 2004, Wal-Mart did agree to not sell these sorts of assault weapons, but then, in 2011, they thought it was good for business. What does that say?

HAAS: I find it offensive, the notion that we are allowing these into our communities. It's not safe. It's not acceptable. And the American people don't want it, poll after poll. And we deserve to give our citizens, whether they're in a movie theater, a school, a college campus, the opportunity to be free.

FEYERICK: Lori Haas, thank you so much. We appreciate it. Thank you.

And just to be clear on this, this particular Wal-Mart here just outside of Newtown, Ashleigh, they don't carry these military style assault weapons. But about 2,000 other store, 50 percent of all Wal- Mart stores, they do carry those weapons.

One woman who was here today, Ashleigh, was actually shot by the same shooter as Gabby Giffords and the bullet that entered her body, bought at Wal-Mart. ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Deb, so the small group behind you now, in the tape earlier, there were considerably who are people that were there and you mentioned 300,000 signatures. What about Wal- Mart's reaction? Has Wal-Mart decided to come out with a statement because of what's happening today?

FEYERICK: They're not making a statement about what's going on here. There is a lot of symbolism involved in all of this. Making sure that they capitalize on the political will that seems to be there on Capitol Hill in terms of trying to make change. But right now, Wal- Mart not saying anything, though CNN working on an interview with them.

BANFIELD: Well, good luck with that.

Deb Feyerick live for us -- thank you -- in Danbury, Connecticut.


BANFIELD: Raising the debt ceiling does not authorize us to spend more. All it does is say that America will pay its bills and we're not a dead-beat nation. Sounds simple when the president says it, doesn't it? But like so many other crises and standoffs from the past two years, raising the nation's debt ceiling is a zero-sum props. Somebody wins only if somebody else loses. We're speaking, of course, politically here, not financially. Economically it's hard to find any winners if the treasury can't close the budget gap that runs about $100 million every month.

My next guest worries about it a lot, even though he's on TV. Hal Sirkin, senior partner and managing director of the Boston Consulting Group and an author and columnist on business and commerce.

So a question off the top, this becomes tricky for people to understand, but essentially the debt ceiling, is it the kind of tool that anybody should be used in order to force people to be more austere in the way they spend in the future?

HAL SIRKIN, BOSTON CONSULTING GROUP & AUTHOR: Well, it's a way to do it, but it's a very dangerous way to do it because we start playing with everybody in our economy eye lives. So if we hit the debt ceiling and we don't have a bill that changes it, when we hit somewhere around $16.4 trillion worth of debt, the government will have to stop spending because of the debt limit. Because we take it a whole lot -- we spend a whole lot more money than we take in, the debt ceiling become a real issue that government has to stop spending about $100 billion a month. That means the government will have to lay off people and that will mean more unemployment and more pain for people. It also means the government won't be able to pay all of it bills and it may stop sending money to the businesses in the United States, some of whom could go bankruptcy because of it.


BANFIELD: Critics have, Hal -- sorry to interrupt, but a lot of the critics have said you can list out all of the things that won't get paid, like military and vendors and that kind of thing. But in the end, it has a massive ripple effect and can affect all of us. And yet, the House speaker said yesterday -- and I want to quote him word for word -- "The consequences of failing to increase the debt ceiling are real, but so, too, are the consequences of allowing our spending problem to go unresolved."

So I think a lot of people are tormented over this. They agree with both sides. Yes, we can't spend, and, no, we can't default, but who does big business se this?

SIRKIN: Big business is pretty clear on this. They do not want to. I've spoken to a lot of CEOs. They don't want to have the debt ceiling be the problem. They think that would be very bad for the economy and for everyone in the economy. They worry about interest rates going up and they worry about the impact on our deficit. Because when interest rates go up, that means the deficit will go up. So we make the problem worse by taking this route if we go down this pathway.

BANFIELD: I want to throw three terms at you that we've had to stomach out in America -- Debate over the fiscal cliff, the debate over the debt ceiling and the budget showdown. All three of these very serious. But which is the most serious.

SIRKIN: The debt ceiling could do damage to our country for decades to come if we hit it and don't correct the problem in terms of what we can spend. This is the most dangerous thing. This is almost a nuclear option. This is really playing with very dangerous things. And one little mistake could be devastating to our country.

BANFIELD: And yet you still come on, day after day, and smile with me on television.

Thank you. Always good to see you.

SIRKIN: I enjoy it.

BANFIELD: I look forward to our conversation.

By the way, I just want to remind you, if you're doing the math, and you're playing along, the treasury says it might come up short in its payments as soon as February 15th. That would be one month from today.


BANFIELD: From legend to liar. Can I just show you, right of the bat, what the cover of the "New York post" says today? That's the bracelet you know, but look very closely. It doesn't say Livestrong. It says "lie strong." Wow. According to reports, Lance Armstrong now finally admitting to using performance-enhancing drugs during his reign as the king of cycling. This comes in an interview with Oprah Winfrey, an interview scheduled to be Thursday and Friday in two parts. It's 2.5 hours long. It's scheduled to run on network, the Oprah Winfrey Network. Remember, Lance Armstrong didn't just deny doping for the last decade, some people just call him a flat out bully. A bully to anyone who would dare to try to get the truth out of him. He used expensive lawyers to launch lawsuits and he threatened those who got in his way.

Just take a listen to this 60 minutes interview with Travis Tygart.


SCOTT PELLEY, 60 MINUTES CORRESPONDENT: Was Lance Armstrong personally involved in intimidating these other riders to keep them quiet?

TRAVIS TYGART, CEO, USADA: He was. It was tough. They were scared of the repercussions of them simply telling the truth.

PELLEY: What could Lance Armstrong do to them?

TYGART: Incinerate them.


BANFIELD: Defense attorney, Paul Callan, joining me now to talk more about this.

We don't have any admission on camera. We don't have the interview yet. But all of the legal fallout, not the withstanding the lawsuits he's launched but the money he's taken in prizes and in payouts and winnings, et cetera. Start from there.

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL CONTRIBUTOR: If I were Lance Armstrong's lawyer, and very hypothetically here, I'd be worried about several things. I'd be worried about civil lawsuits.

BANFIELD: Millions and millions.

CALLAN: For instance, the U.S. Postal Team, $30 million the government spent on that team. They could say that team lost its awards because of illegal doping done by Lance Armstrong. They could sue to get their money back. There was a whistleblower suit brought by one member of the team. The money that gets paid to him ultimately they could go after Lance Armstrong. And lots of other potential civil lawsuits. But here's what I would worry about most, criminal exposure. He testified under oath in a deposition in Texas in a civil case. If he admits now that he was using drugs and doing blood doping --


BANFIELD: I think I have a bit of that testimony. I want to play a specific piece of that. Do I have that sound bite? Let's play it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have never taken any performance enhancing drug in connection with your cycling career?

LANCE ARMSTRONG, CYCLIST: Correct. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And that would include any substance that's ever been banned? Is that fair to say?



BANFIELD: That sounds a lot like perjury. However, there is this thing called a statute of limitations.

CALLAN: That's right. And it's three years in Texas. Three years is gone. But here's what I would worry about with respect to exposure in other areas. The Justice Department had an ongoing investigation in 2010 and dropped in 2011. You don't want to make the Justice Department angry.

BANFIELD: You don't want to lie to the Justice Department.

CALLAN: You don't want to lie to the federal government.

BANFIELD: That's lying to federal investigators. You can go to prison for that.

CALLAN: Absolutely. But Lance away strong didn't probably speak to them directly. But there's something called wire fraud, which is kind of one of the things they come after you when they can't get on you anything else.

Here's how wire fraud works. If you make a false or fraudulent statement in an effort to defraud somebody else by selling a product, for instance, that can be wire fraud. If, hypothetically, Lance Armstrong was out hawking his book, of which he has several in circulation.

BANFIELD: Television can be considered wire fraud.

CALLAN: Absolutely, because television signals go over the wires. And if he made a false statement publicly to sell a product, that could be wire fraud. But I'm not saying it happened. All I'm saying is that's something I'd worry about as one of his lawyers.

BANFIELD: So after the two interviews air on OWN, you have to come back and we have to parse it, specifically with what he says in these so-called admissions, because I think there will be a lot to the wording and Oprah said he became prepared, which means he may have come with specific language perhaps to immunize himself.

CALLAN: And other thing, the feds may just want to walk away from it even if it they have a case.

BANFIELD: You never know. And I have whole litany of cases that I'd love to go over, but I'm out of time. We'll have to go over some of the civil issues at another time.

Paul Callan, thank you.

CALLAN: Always nice to be with you.

BANFIELD: Back after this.


BANFIELD: They care cold, hungry, and many have no shoes. There are thousands of Syrian children who, with their parents, or with relatives, have fled the deadly assault that's been unleashed by their government for nearly two years now. They live in places like these, makeshift refugee camps and countries that encircle Syria. And actress and UNICEF goodwill ambassador, Mia Farrow, is with some of them in neighboring Lebanon.

Arwa Damon travels with Farrow.


ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The refugees in the makeshift camp in Lebanon's Bekka Valley hail from all over Syria, telling the same stories of horror that we have been hearing for the last two years.

The newest arrivals, Youssif (ph) and his family. They spent their first night in safety, sleeping on cardboard, on the icy ground. His eldest son, 17-year-old Abbas, was killed by a shell in front of their home.

"I couldn't let the rest be slaughtered as well," he says. "We're stuck in the middle."

Now they, too, like the other families, face the indignities of life here. Young and old alike ask the same questions -- why is it so hard to send shoes, jackets, blankets, better tents?

Questions that UNICEF goodwill ambassador, Mia Farrow, has heard repeatedly, and struggled with during her visit to refugee camps across Lebanon.

MIA FARROW, ACTRESS & UNICEF GOODWILL AMBASSADOR: People feel strangled in terms of a political solution. But we're not strangled or paralyzed when it comes to helping the humanitarian crisis, which is truly urgent.

DAMON: 10-year-old Mohammed tells us he's cold at night.

"We only have two blankets and a sponge mattress," he says, for their family of seven.

He's so traumatized that he doesn't remember the details of how they fled, just that he was terrified and crying.

40-year-old Abdullah Hussein (ph) took a stray bullet and shrapnel to the leg, caught in the cross fire close to his home in Aleppo.

"All sides are shooting at each other," he says. "I just wanted to save my children. I swear to you, we had a good life there. We had nothing to do with this side or the other."

He says he's been twice to register with UNHCR, but was told to come back later. It's a frustration echoed by many of the families here.

UNHCR says it's registering the majority of refugees who apply, an estimated 1500 people a day. But like other international aid organizations, it, too, is facing massive funding shortages.

FARROW: These people fled terrible violence and find themselves here in a pile of mud with nothing, zero, nothing. And we call ourselves an international community. Well, now it's time to prove we are a community.

DAMON: Despite the misery around them, some of the children still giggle when they see pictures of themselves. These are the vulnerable, Farrow says, and this is the hour of need.


DAMON: They most certainly, as you can see, Ashleigh, in desperate need. UNHCR, for example, says it only has around 30 percent of the funding it needs to meet the refugees' requirements just here in Lebanon, not to mention the crises unfolding in the other Syrian neighboring countries.

BANFIELD: Arwa, live for us in neighboring Lebanon. You've done incredible work inside and outside of Syria. Our thanks go to you for highlighting the story.

I want to, Arwa, to your reporting, the United Nations says since the Syrian broke out two years now, more than 60,000 have been killed.


BANFIELD: So we brought you a story earlier on in Danbury, Connecticut, a march on a local Wal-Mart there, a Wal-Mart that does not sell assault weapons. And there was a petition that was delivered to that store. I asked our reporter, Deb Feyerick, in fact, if Wal- Mart had a response and she had not been given one yet.

But a producer with NEWSROOM was able to get the statement just in the last few minutes. I want to read it in part to you. It says this, "During the past few weeks we've been very engaged on this issue. We've been speaking with the administration, with Congress, sports groups, Mayor Bloomberg's office, and others, and we recognize there are a lot of views on this topic and many ideas being considered. This is an issue we take seriously. And we have taken a number of steps above and beyond what the law requires to help ensure we are being responsible."

Also want to make sure that you know, at the top of the statement, they said that, "We have been purposeful about striking the right balance between serving our customers that are hunters and sportsmen and ensuring that we sell firearms in the most responsible manner possible." And I just want to thank Corey Lundberg, director of national media relations, for responding to our request so quickly for this statement.

Again, that's after having received a petition with about 300 -- over 300 names that Deb Feyerick reported out of the town of Danbury, Connecticut, not far from Newtown, Connecticut. It's very close by, in fact, where the shooting happened.

The town of Stratford, Connecticut, has also voted -- I can report to you -- to rename a school for Victoria Soto, who was one of the victims of the Newtown shooting. She was the first grade teacher from Sandy Hook who died trying to save the children in her classroom. Soto lived in Stratford. And the vote to rename Honeyspot School ended up being a unanimous vote. Honeyspot School will be called Victoria Soto School.

I'm going to hand the helm over to my colleague, Suzanne Malveaux, with NEWSROOM INTERNATIONAL. Have a good day.



Oprah Winfrey says disgraced cyclist, Lance Armstrong, lied for more than a decade about doping. Oprah said she was memorized by some of the answers Armstrong gave about the cheating that won him seven Tour de France titles. He's now stripped of the titles. They sat down for a 2.5 hour interview yesterday in Austin, Texas. Oprah brought 112 questions to ask him and she says it's the biggest interview of her career. She says, however, it was not easy. Here's what she told CBS this morning.