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Te'o May Have Been "Catfishing" Victim; Kerry's Confirmation Hearing Begins; FBI Searches for Benghazi Suspects; Stricter Gun Measures to be Unveiled; Junior Seau's Family Sues NFL; Historic Same Sex Marriage Moment

Aired January 24, 2013 - 10:00   ET


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: The next hour of CNN NEWSROOM starts right now. Stories we're watching right now in the NEWSROOM, on the Hill and under the microscope, this hour, John Kerry faces lawmakers in his bid to become the next Secretary of State.

Snow and frigid temperatures are making for some unusual weather conditions and some pretty cool pictures but when will it end?

The marketing of Manti Te'o after that hoax turned his name into a punch line. We'll talk to an expert who specializes in the selling of athletes and their images.

Canadians take their maple leaf seriously after all. It's a national symbol so how did the wrong maple leaf wind up on the Canadian $20 bill? NEWSROOM starts now.

Good morning. Thank you so much for being with us. I'm Carol Costello. Happening right now, Senator John Kerry appears on the other side of a nomination hearing. This hour, he begins his bid to become the next Secretary of State. Both parties predict he will sail through an easy confirmation.

If so, he will succeed Hillary Clinton who served as the nation's top diplomat for the last four years. Clinton actually put her diplomacy to the test yesterday when she appeared on Capitol Hill to answer for the deaths of four Americans in Libya in a testimony that triggered both her emotions and her temper.

Clinton claimed full responsibility for the killings, which included the U.S. ambassador there, Christopher Stevens. These Americans died when terrorists laid (INAUDIBLE) to the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi and later an annex where some Americans have taken refuge.

So far no one has been arrested for the attack on September 11th. Zain Verjee is in London. Zain, I want to take the politics out of this and get the latest on the actual investigation.

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The bottom line, Carol, on the investigation is, no one's been arrested. There's really not a lot of information on the investigation. The U.S. is still looking for answers and rounding up suspect. Here's what we found.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) VERJEE (voice-over): Videos like this among the best leads the U.S. has to identifying suspects behind the killing of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans. It shows what authorities say is the aftermath of the attack.

A U.S. law enforcement official tells CNN investigators have identified at least 15 people they are taking a, quote, "serious look at." FBI Director Robert Mueller was recently in Tripoli.

A law enforcement official says M Mueller met with the prime minister, among others. FBI agents have had a difficult time working on site in Benghazi to analyze the crime scene because of security concerns.

The FBI is tapping into Facebook like this. People can fill out a form on the FBI's web site. Meanwhile, Libyan officials say they are frustrated because they don't control the area where the attack happened. Militants do.

And those militants are sympathetic with al Qaeda. Local leaders are not cooperating. Witnesses are also said to be afraid to talk and key police officers terrified of revenge attacks.


COSTELLO: So Zain, has diplomacy -- I mean, U.S. diplomacy overall changed since the Benghazi attack?

VERJEE: You know, it really has, Carol. I was speaking to experts who say the security arm at the State Department, which is known as DS, Diplomatic Security, has always tried to balance diplomacy on one hand and security on the other.

To the extent to which, how can you let officials go out and meet people? Since Benghazi, there's a lot less people-to-people contact and much more emphasis on security. The other thing, too, analysts say before 9/11, the diplomacy was focused on managing relations.

Now the U.S. is focused on changing the world, which basically means that in order for the U.S. to be safe and secure since 9/11, the U.S. is getting involved in so many places around the world.

Much more is expected of diplomats so the U.S. is getting involved in places like Mali, for example, Algeria, to make sure that there's good governance because good governance means jobs, stability, lower unemployment.

And less of a risk for militants that could grab a pool of people that are angry and unemployed and all that means is it's important to U.S. Security and therefore it's totally changed U.S. diplomacy.

COSTELLO: Zain Verjee, reporting live in London for us this morning.

One hour from now a new strict gun control will be unveiled and the latest push comes from Senator Dianne Feinstein, the California Democrat who authored the original ban back in the '90s. Sources tell us Miss Feinstein will have with her a Bushmaster, the military rifle used in the massacre from Sandy Hook Elementary. It would ban the sale, transfer, and importation of guns fitted with detachable magazines.

It would also ban the importation of assault weapons and large capacity magazines and high-capacity magazines that hold more than ten rounds.

Dana Bash is live in Washington. Let's talk about Dianne Feinstein's props first. She's going to be holding a Bushmaster?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm not sure if she'll be holding it. She might. She will have more than one assault weapon and she's going to have them on display. There you see the Bushmaster ar-15. That was, of course, the kind of weapon used in the Newtown shootings.

But the reason she is going to do this, I'm told, is to show specifically her fellow Democrat, of which there are half a dozen or more that want to do little if anything to change the assault weapon laws, that you don't need these kinds of guns in the average of ordinary people.

That is likely the argument she is going to make again, it's going to be aimed at her fellow Democrats resistant to this. But she is going to have a lot of different people with her to make this argument.

This is the unveiling of the premier key legislation she promised to put out at the beginning of congress right after Newtown. So we are expecting to have quite a show when she comes up in about an hour.

COSTELLO: OK, just so people understand, I'm looking at what is supposed to be in her bill. There's the word importation in there. Is she going to introduce a bill that bans assault weapons in this country or importation into the country?

BASH: She is going to -- in fact a habit here, ban the sale, transfer, importation and manufacturing of 120 specifically named firearms and she also will include semiautomatic rifles and magazines that hold more than ten rounds.

In D.C., the gun laws are very strict and she'll be in the United States capitol which is in D.C. So I'm told that she and her office worked very hard and jumped through many, many hoops coordinating with the D.C. Police Department and capitol police to make sure that she is doing everything by our books.

Because you remember our friend David Gregory brought in an assault weapons to make a point with the NRA executive director and seemed to have been in a little bit of hot water with the D.C. government that.

That is something that Dianne Feinstein and her folks have tried pretty diligently to make this point by illustrating and having the visuals of these assault weapons at her press conference. COSTELLO: All right, Dana Bash, stick around. We're going to head over to the Senate right now because Senator John Kerry's confirmation process for secretary is about to get under way. Senator Bob Menendez is introducing and making jokes with the crowd. Hillary Clinton will introduce John Kerry before the testimony begins.

So let's listen in for just a bit.


SEN. ROBERT MENENDEZ (D), NEW JERSEY: So you are clearly making history, once again. Yours is a big chair to fill and I will do my best today to live up to your example. I've watched your lead on the committee with an equally deep and abiding commitment to get to the heart of the matter, always probative, always open to debate, always ready to mitigate disagreements, always looking for truths and uncovering the facts and then publicly speaking truth to power solely on the best interests of the nation.

As chairman you have already built strong relationships with leaders around the world which will help you seamlessly in the role of Secretary of State. You will need no introduction to the world's military and political leaders and will begin on day one with an understanding of the nuance approach necessary to effectively act on the multinational stage.

When Vice President Biden sat in this chair, he said on more than one occasion, good international relationships are always predicated on strong interpersonal relationships. I think we can all agree that you have set the highest standard for developing those relationships throughout your career and as Secretary of State you will continue to strengthen those relationships on behalf of the presidents and the furtherance of American foreign policy.

I'll have some questions later on policies and your views, including how you explain to world leaders how you could have been rooting for the Boston Red Sox instead of what the world knows as the New York Yankees as the team of the world.

But let me say, Mr. Chairman, it's been a pleasure working with you and continuing to work with you for the issues that you champion over the years, fighting global terrorism, preventing the spread of biological weapons, fighting for human rights against HIV/AIDS around the world.

If your new role, should you be confirmed, and I know you will, your portfolio will be greatly expanded from securing our embassies and protecting our overseas personnel and through cooperation where possible and isolation where necessary as in the case of Iran. Of course, it goes without saying that you have truly been a world leader in one of the most consequential issues of our time, climate change0.

It heartens me to know that you will be our voice to the world. Whatever challenges we face, in my view, the state department could not be in better hands. When it comes to world affairs, I know we agree it's critical that the United States remain fully engaged, that we project not only the power of our military strength when necessary, but the wisdom of our Democratic ideals as we adjust to the through we will face.

There is no doubt you will be tested in your new role as secretary nor is there any doubt that you will pass any test with honors as you always have. Before I recognize Senator Corker, let me thank you on behalf of the committee for all you have done in your illustrious career here in the Senate.

And in anticipation of your confirmation by the full Senate, I wish you good luck and god speed to the many journeys ahead and we look forward to having a close working relationship with you as the next Secretary of State. Let me now recognize Senator Corker for his comments.


COSTELLO: We're going to break away and dip in at some point during the hearings and show you the most interesting stuff.

A new development about the late football star Junior Seau, his family has filed a lawsuit against the NFL and against the helmet-maker Riddell. The suit claims that a brain disease came about from violent hits he sustained while he played in the NFL. Tests determined that Seau had the brain disease that can only be diagnosed after death.

CNN legal contributor, Paul Callan is here. Paul, welcome.

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL CONTRIBUTOR: Good morning, Carol. We know that more than 1500 players are suing the NFL, alleging that the league hit the dangers of concussions from them. What's different about this Seau family suit?

I don't know that there's anything different about the particulars that they are claiming in the lawsuit but the one thing that is different is that is he such a popular player. He was an all pro. He played for San Diego for a long time.

He was really a beloved linebacker and I think that ultimately having a name like his name attached to this litigation is going to help a lot in getting the public to take these lawsuits very, very seriously.

You know, I keep wondering about these lawsuits because you hear from NFL players who say even after doctors say they've had concussions that want to get back on the field, how difficult will it be for these players to be successful?

Well, the NFL is raising a couple of arguments to defend against these suits. They are saying -- and I think this is an interesting one. They are saying, you all signed a collective bargaining agreement and in that agreement you waived your right to sue us because we have dealt with these issues in the collective bargaining agreement.

They are also going to defend these cases by saying, you can't prove that playing football in the NFL caused the injury. Most of these players played in college and high school. How do you isolate and say a particular hit in the NFL was the cause?

And then, of course, the big argument that they raised, if you're playing professional football, you know what you're getting yourself into. You assumed the risk of this profession and chose voluntarily to play a very different sport and now you can't sue us for that. And that sort of resonates with a lot of people that love to watch football, that these guys know what they are getting themselves into.

COSTELLO: And the NFL has been doing things along the way to prove that they are doing something about it. Can that work both ways when a lawsuit finally gets to court?

CALLAN: Well, it can, Carol. I think you see the lawyers are being somewhat clever about this, particularly in Junior Seau's lawsuit. The NFL studies were fraud due lent studies, studies meant to lure people into thinking that players were safe when the NFL, in fact knew that the players were not safe and to compare to another lawsuit that everybody thought nobody could win, the tobacco companies.

People smoke cigarettes voluntarily. Eventually the tobacco companies got hit for billions of dollars. Lawyers use the same theory that they are doing in this case, that internal studies clearly demonstrated dangers and lied about those dangers publicly.

They are saying the NFL did the same thing. They knew and should have warned the players and they didn't because they wanted to make money running these teams.

COSTELLO: Paul, thanks so much.

CALLAN: Thank you, Carol.

COSTELLO: The helmet maker Riddell says, we are confident in the integrity of our products and our ability to successfully defend our products against challenges. >

Some people say President Obama's inaugural speech made history with the gay and lesbian community, but others say it's just lip service. So what do they want the president to do now?


COSTELLO: Senator John Kerry's confirmation hearings have begun. When Hillary Clinton begins speaking, we'll take you back to the Senate live.

It was a historic moment. The first U.S. president to support same- sex marriage in his inaugural address and set the stage for his second-term goals on the controversial issues.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law, for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well. (END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: The critics say he's not really helping gays and lesbians, it's just lip service. Conservative Ben Shapiro, the editor-at-large for Breitbart News wrote, quote, "even as he stoked the flames of the culture war by suggesting that America isn't truly equal under law until same-sex marriage is embraced, he refuses to federalize the issue."

Obama's speech, then, was sound and fury. Joining us now is Rea Carey, the executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. You're here for your big conference and I just wanted to ask you when you were listening to President Obama's inaugural address and heard the remarks, did you spike the football?

REA CAREY, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, GAY AND LESBIAN TASK FORCE: I honestly cried. I was sitting on the steps of the capitol with my 11-year-old daughter and to hear the president inauguration after inauguration waiting to be seen was a powerful moment for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

COSTELLO: We're going to have to break away for just a second. Here's Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.


HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: I was very honored when john asked me to take part in this because John is the right choice because John is the right choice, to carry forward the Obama administration's foreign policy and I urge his speedy confirmation.

As we've heard from both the chairman and ranking member, as we just heard from Senator Warren, he will bring about a leadership that is exemplary. He has acted as the young returning veteran from Vietnam who appeared before this committee through the time that he served with such distinction as its chairman.

He's been a valued partner to this administration and to me personally. He has fought for our diplomats and development experts. He understands the value of investing in America's global leadership. And as we work to implement the Accountability Review Boards recommendations, he's committed to doing whatever it takes to prevent another attack and protect our people and posts around the world.

Now, working together we've achieved a great deal, but the State Department and USAID have a lot of unfinished business from Afghanistan to proliferation to climate change and so much. We need to continue to ramp up economics as a tool for advancing America interests and jobs, pressing forward with unleashing the potential of the world's women and girls.

Keep champion the kind of smart power that leads to innovation and partnerships with government and people alike to promote peace and stability. John has built strong relationships with leaders here around the world and has experience in representing our country in fragile and unpredictable circumstances. He was in Pakistan and Afghanistan a few years ago and we were consulting over the phone. He played an instrumental role in working with President Karzai at that time to accept the results of the election and to move forward. I had to call Harry Reid and ask Harry not to schedule any votes so John could see that mission through. But that's what he does.

He's a determined and effective representative of the United States, has been as a senator, will be as secretary. Let me close by saying that leading our diplomats and development experts is a great honor and every day, as I testified yesterday, I've seen firsthand their skill, their bravery, unwavering commitment to our country.

I've been proud to call them colleagues and to serve as Secretary of State and I'm very pleased that john will be given the chance, subject to confirmation, to continue the work of a lifetime on behalf of our country. Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, Madam Secretary. Senator McCain?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I'm pleased to be here with Senator Warren and Secretary Clinton to introduce and speak, say a few words about my friend, Senator Kerry to the committee.

Obviously the nominee doesn't need to be introduced to the committee on which he has served for over a quarter of a century and as its chairman for the last four years, I can dispense of the nominee record.


COSTELLO: All right, we're going to jump away again. When John Kerry gives his introductory remarks to the committee, we'll go back. We're going to take a quick break. We'll be back with much more.


COSTELLO: All right, we want to dip in once again. You see Senator John Kerry there. He's about to start his confirmation hearings. Right now, Senator John McCain, a Republican is singing John Kerry praises. Let's listen.


MCCAIN: -- in 1991, then Senate Majority Leader Mitchell and Majority Leader Dole appointed a select committee in which John and Senator Bob Smith chaired and I was appointed member as well.

Members of that committee had passionate and conflicting views on the subject of whether or not Vietnam still kept American POWS. the subject was controversial and provoked a strong passions of many Americans, not the least of which were the families of the missing.

Most Americans who cared about this issue were people of goodwill and honesty but there were a few con artists who for various reasons promoted all kinds of conspiracy theories. On many occasions, our public hearings became a circus.

Behind the scenes, arguments became as heated and as personal as any I've ever experienced. Getting information about POW MIA from the intelligence committee was difficult and getting information from the Vietnamese, even more so.

It wasn't a pleasant experience, to say the least. But through it all, John led the committee with fairness to all sides, with persistence in the pursuit of the truth and with an absolute unshakeable resolve that all members could accept.

Really, no matter how contentious that at times crazy things got, john would believe that he would get the committee to see reason and provide an answer accepted by most veterans and Americans who cared about the issue, and he did.

He got all of the members to agree to an exhaustive and investigative report that concluded there was credible evidence that Americans remain in captivity in Vietnam.