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Senate Committee Welcomes Kerry; Obama Announces New Nominees; Killing The Family, Shootout At Wal-Mart; Inside The Mind Of Kathryn Bigelow

Aired January 24, 2013 - 14:30   ET


WOLF BLITZER, HOST, CNN'S "THE SITUATION ROOM": Yes, well, John Kerry, if you remember back when he came back from Vietnam and he testified, that was one moment. Now he is about to be the next secretary of state that's quite another moment. All of us though remember in 2004 when he was the Democratic presidential nominee.

He got close and lost Ohio and the incumbent President George W. Bush was not elected president, but it was pretty close. Not that many votes in Ohio. He was close at that time. He has been a senator all of these years and now going to be the secretary of state.

I don't think there is any doubt the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and then the full Senate will confirm him and this should go relatively smoothly in the next few days.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: You said relatively smoothly. Do you think the confirmation is expected?

BLITZER: Yes, the confirmation is expected. It will be overwhelming. It maybe a handful of senators who vote against him if that, but he will be different next week when Chuck Hagel is the nominee for the defense secretary. That is going to be a lot more brutal as far as the Q&A is concerned given Hagel's controversial positions on some issues. Although I do suspect that Hagel eventually will be confirmed as well.

LEMON: Yes. Let's talk about the two key personnel moves that we are awaiting the announcement of right now at the White House, about to come from the White House. Tell us about that.

BLITZER: Mary Jo White, a former federal prosecutor in New York spent nine years as the U.S. attorney in New York. She is tough, very, very tough. The president is going to nominate her to head the SEC, the Securities and Exchange Commission.

So that's going to be a major, major responsibility. This lady is very forceful in going after wrong doers, if you will. Richard Cordrey who has been the director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau now as a recess appointment, he is going to be re-nominated for a full appointment by the president to this agency and tries to protect consumers.

It was controversial the first time. Let's see what happens now that the president has been re-elected. So the president is going to bring both Richard Cordrey and Mary Jo White before the cameras right now and make this announcement. Two very important positions as far as this Obama administration is concerned. Both of the positions do require Senate confirmation.

LEMON: What does this -- what does Mary Jo White do for diversity, you know, a lot of criticism lately, Wolf, about diversity in the administration.

BLITZER: Well, she is a woman obviously and there has been criticism that he isn't surrounding himself with enough women. All of us remember that front page picture in the "New York Times" when he was talking to a whole bunch of guys. So this will help a little bit.

There is going to be more women down the road I'm told by White House officials. Don't draw any final conclusions about the diversity makeup, the gender makeup, the racial makeup and that minority makeup or whatever of this second term Obama administration.

The president is going to be aggressive in getting the excellent people from all sorts of backgrounds in his inner circle. So I think let's see what he does over the next few weeks.

More cabinet positions, sub-cabinet position, senior positions in the White House, they are opening up even as we speak right now and the president I'm sure will have a wide range of people being brought in.

LEMON: Wolf, I know you have a show to put on, but stick around with me for this announcement from the White House. We are going to take a break and Wolf and I will be back on the other side.


LEMON: We are standing by at the White House. The White House expected to make two key staff announcements coming up very shortly from the president and as soon as that happens, we will bring it to you here on CNN. So don't go anywhere, but first this.

Well, one man was in the prime of his when an accident confined him to a wheelchair. Now he has turned his experience into a business that helps others and Dr. Sanjay Gupta has his story in this week's "Human Factor."


JANNE KOURI, SUFFERED SPINAL CORD INJURY: I was playing volleyball at the beach and dove in for a swim to cool off.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): What happened next would change Janne Kouri's life forever.

KOURI: I dove through waves and there was a sand bar behind the wave and I hit my head and instantly fractured my C5 and 6 vertebrae.

GUPTA: He spent two months in the ICU with nearly fatal complications. Eventually he recovered enough to start the rehab process. But the only program available for his specific needs was more than 2,000 miles away.

KOURI: It's shocking just to think I had to go to Kentucky to get the best rehab, which is obviously what anybody wants in this situation.

KOURI: So Kouri left everything behind and he moved to Louisville for the next year. He made some good progress, but for anyone with a spinal cord injury, rehab is a lifelong process. He started asking himself, what's next?

KOURI: Why don't we take what they are doing to get out of the hospital base center and take the community-based facility?

GUPTA: That's what he did. Immediately after returning to California, Kouri put his business savvy to good use and opened "Next Step Fitness," it's the first rehab gym outside of a hospital setting. Remember, Kouri is not just the president of this enterprise, he is also the client.

KOURI: I will stand now for about 45 seconds to a minute once somebody helps me up and walk with a walker for probably a couple hundred feet. So, you know, I definitely believe there is hope for me.

GUPTA: Training costs a lot. It's up to $1600 a month, but Kouri said that's less than what his training costs elsewhere. Scholarships for low income families are also available.

KOURI: The goal is to open these community-based facilities across the country to make sure that people with any type of physical disability have access.

GUPTA: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN reporting.


LEMON: And make sure you watch Dr. Sanjay Gupta's show this weekend, Saturday and Sunday here on CNN.

We are awaiting that announcement at the White House right now. I want to go back to Wolf Blitzer. Wolf, the president expects to nominate Mary Jo White as chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Today he is also going to re-nominate Richard Cordrey's to lead the commission -- the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau because he was previously appointed to the post during a recess appointment. That was a bit of a controversy there, right?

BLITZER: Yes, a bunch of Republicans don't even like this bureau, this agency. That's why his confirmation was held up. It was a recess appointment that President Bush did too. You are limited in what you can do.

This is going to be a full appointment assuming the Senate goes ahead and confirms him. We will see what happens in the confirmation process as far as Richard Cordrey is concerned. He is highly respected.

Mary Jo White in New York spent a lot of time prosecuting terrorists in New York including bombers from the World Trade Center. So she is very tough going after a white collar criminal and other criminals as well.

I assume the reaction will be pretty favorable as far as the SEC is concerned. She is being nominated to take over. You make a good point, Don, the president bringing a woman into a very, very sensitive and important position right now. Here they come.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Over the last four years, I talked about how shared prosperity from Wall Street to Main Street depends on smart common sense regulations that protect the vast majority of Americans from the irresponsible actions of a few.

That's why we passed tough reforms to protect consumers in our financial system from the kinds of abuse that nearly brought the economy to its knees. Today there are rules to help families. Responsible families buy a home or send their child to college without worrying about being tricked out of their life savings.

There are rules to make sure that financial firms, which do right thing, are not undermined by those that don't do the right thing. There are rules to end taxpayer-funded Wall Street bailouts once and for all.

But, it's not enough to change the law. We also need cops on the beat to enforce the law. That's why today I am nominating Mary Jo White to lead the Securities and Exchange Commission and Richard Cordray to continue leading the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

This guy is bothering me here. As a young girl, Mary Jo White was a big fan of the "Hardy Boys." I was too, by the way. As an adult she hasbuilt a career the "Hardy Boys" could only dream of. Over a decade as a U.S. attorney in New York, she helped prosecute white collar criminals and money launderers.

In the 90s, she brought down John Gotti, the head of the Gambino crime syndicate and she brought to justice the terrorists responsible for bombing the World Trade Center and American embassies in Africa.

So I'd say that's a pretty good run. You don't want to mess with Mary Jo. As one former SEC chairman said, Mary Jo does not intimidate easily. That's important because she has a big job ahead of her.

The SEC played a in protecting our financial system in the worst of the financial crisis, but there is much more work to be done to cleat the task of reforming Wall Street and making sure that American investors are better informed and protected going forward.

We need to keep going after irresponsible behavior in the financial industry so that taxpayers don't pay the price. I am absolutely confident that Mary Jo has the experience and resolve to tackle these complex issues and protect the American people in a way that is smart and in a way that is fair.

I want to thank Elise Walters who has done an outstanding job holding down the fort as chairwoman. I expect the Senate to confirm Mary Jo as soon as possible so she can get to work.

My second nominee is a familiar face. A year and a half ago, I nominated Richard Cordray to lead the watchdog agency we created to give Americans the information they need to make a sound financial choices and protect them from unscrupulous lenders and debt collectors.

As a former attorney general of Ohio with a long record of working with Democrats and Republicans on behalf of the American people, nobody questioned Richards's qualifications. He was not allowed an up or down vote in Senate. As a consequence, I took action to appoint him on my own.

Over the last year, Richard has proved to be a champion of American consumers. Thanks to his leadership, we made it tougher for families to be tricked into mortgages they can't afford. We've set clear rules so that responsible lenders know how to operate fairly.

We've launched a know-before-you-owe campaign to help parents and students make smart decisions about paying for college. We've cracked down on credit card companies that charged hidden fees and forced those companies to make them right.

And through it all, Richard has earned a reputation as a straight shooter and someone who is willing to bring every voice to the table in order to do what's right for consumers and the economy. Now, Richard's appointment runs out at the end of the year. He can't stay on the job unless the Senate finally gives him the vote he deserves.

Financial institutions have plenty of lobbyists looking out for their interest. The American people need Richard to keep standing up for them. There is absolutely no excuse for the Senate to wait any longer to confirm him.

I want to thank Mary Jo, Richard and their families once again for agreeing to serve. I would like to invite them to say a few words starting with Mary Jo.

MARY JO WHITE, NOMINEE FOR SEC CHAIRWOMAN: Thank you, Mr. President, for the confidence you have placed in me and the faith you have shown in me by nominating me to be the next chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission. I am deeply, deeply honored.

If confirmed by the Senate, I look forward to committing all of my energies to working with my fellow commissioners and the extremely dedicated and talented men and women of the staff of the SEC to fulfill the agency's mission to protect investors and ensure the strength, efficiency and transparency of our capital markets.

The SEC long a vital force for the markets has a lot of long and important work ahead of it. I welcome the opportunity to lead those efforts and to build on the work of Chairman Mary Shapiro and Elise Walter who I am honored is present today.

Finally and most importantly, I want to thank my husband, John White, who is here today on what is our 43rd wedding anniversary.


WHITE: Today, for his strong support of me in seeking to engage in this very significant and challenging public service. Thank you very much.


RICHARD CORDRAY, NOMINEE, CONSUMER FINANCIAL PROTECTION BUREAU: Thank you, Mr. President for the confidence you placed in me and our team with at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

We understand our mission is to stand on the side of consumers, our mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, sons and daughters, and see that they are treated fairly. For more than a year, we have been focused on making consumer finance markets work better for the American people.

We approach this work with open minds, open ears, and great determination. We all thank you and the Congress for the opportunity and the honor to serve our country in this important way. Thank you.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, I just want to thank again, Mary Jo and Richard, for their willingness to serve. These are people with proven track records. They are going to look out for the American people, for American consumers, and make sure our market place works better and more transparently and more efficiently and effectively.

Again, I would urge the Senate to confirm both as quickly as possible and I want to express congratulations to the Whites for their anniversary. If I had known, we would have maybe rolled out a cake or something. Have fun.

WHITE: Thank you.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: I hope you enjoy it.

LEMON: That is nice, Wolf, 43rd wedding anniversary happening on the day that Mary Jo White is nominated. Wolf, it all went off without a hitch except for the fly. The theme of the day seemed to be protecting the American people.

BLITZER: And these are two really important jobs that the president has nominated these two individuals for. As I said before, Richard Cordray is highly respected for the former attorney general of Ohio. It's just a whole bunch of Republicans in the last session of Congress, the 112th Congress didn't like this agency.

They vowed to hold up the confirmation of anyone who was put forward because they disagreed with the nature of the position. We will see if that changes in the new Senate. The president is hoping that will it and we will see if the Republicans in the Senate, the new Senate, have agreed to do so.

I don't think there's any real serious position to Mary Jo White. She may be short as you saw there, but she is tough, very, very tough. You don't want to get on her bad side. If you are going to be taking over the SEC as she is likely doing, assuming she is confirmed.

And I assume she will be because she was so highly respected as a U.S. attorney in New York with a wide range of cases she was engaged in, she probably will be very, very thorough, shall we say, at the SEC and big companies are going to be on notice and individuals. Don't mess with her.

LEMON: Yes, the president said she is not easily intimidated. Wolf Blitzer, I know you have a show in just over an hour. Thank you for taking the time. We'll see you then. Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you.

LEMON: A 15-year-old boy accused of killing his entire family in cold blood and police say his next target was a Wal-Mart. Michelle Sigona has details next for us.


LEMON: I want you to listen to this very bizarre story. A New Mexico teenager accused of killing five members of his family allegedly wanted to kill more people at a Wal-Mart and die in the shootout with police.

Investigators say 15-year-old Nehemiah Griego shot his mother, his 9- year-old brother and even his younger sister in their beds. Then he hid in a closet until his father came home from the night shift at the homeless shelter and shot him to death too. Listen to the reason outlined by the sheriff.


SHERIFF DAN HOUSTON, SAN BERNALILLO COUNTY, NEW MEXICO: The motive is articulated by the suspect was purely that he was frustrated with his mother.


LEMON: The boy's uncle disputes the sheriff's version of what happened.


ERIC GRIEGO, UNCLE OF TEEN ACCUSED OF KILLING FAMILY: Everything, every last bit of what has been said was taken from what I would consider a coerced confession from a 15-year-old boy in the middle of the night without a lawyer and without an adult present. It has been systematically released by the sheriff and often inaccurately.

(END VIDEO CLIP) LEMON: So help us out here, Michelle Sigona is an investigative reporter. Michelle, you talked with investigators in this case. What did they say to you?

MICHELLE SIGONA, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: Well, they are still piecing a lot of the timeline together. What I can tell you is that after those murders took place around 6:00 on Saturday morning, what we do know is that Nehemiah did leave his house and I also confirmed with the church that he went to the church for a period of time.

There is surveillance of him that I'm told at the Cavalry Church in New Mexico did turn over to investigators and from that point, he contacted his 12-year-old girlfriend. The 12-year-old girlfriend contacted her grandmother who came to the church and he spent a significant amount of time with his girlfriend throughout the day, throughout Saturday, the day after the murder.

Now at that point what I know and what I have confirmed is that the grandmother took Nehemiah back to the church where he spent some time. He was supposed to play drums that evening in the church choir. He didn't.

He did attend the service for a small portion of time and spent other time on campus. Before then going to one of the pastors and confiding that his family members were dead.

LEMON: Let's talk more about the family here. As I said earlier, the uncle disputes the sheriff's version of what happened. Relatives of this boy are struggling to understand why this happened. I want to you listen to the uncle once again, Michelle.


GRIEGO: He has no history of crime. He has no history of involvement by family community services. He had no shooting animals or abusing had brothers. It wasn't there.


LEMON: So what have you been able to piece together about the boy and his family?

SIGONA: The uncle is exactly right on those points. The sheriff's office said they have not responded to the house for any types of incidents. I did confirm with the Child Abuse and Family Services yesterday that he does not have a past criminal history.

So what we know is that he is one of ten children. I can tell you that five of those children are the biological children of Sarah and Greg. Within the house at that time, Nehemiah and his brother and his other two sisters were living in the house. They came from a wonderful family.

The father was involved in gangs. He was a past convict who turned his around and had a place in the back yard where he would bring in prisoners who would get out of jail and didn't have a place to go to help rehabilitate them, did so much with the church, the entire family.

I mean, Greg, the father who was murdered in this case was such a large part of that organization and really helped so many people. It's hard to tell where things went wrong. As the sheriff mentioned, the fight with mom could possibly be a motive.

There is something deeper within the hour. I did speak with the district attorney's office in this case. Here's what I can tell you. Here's what he is facing. Five counts of murder and three counts of child abuse resulting in murder.

The grand jury will hear this case within ten business days and go from there. That's where we are right now with this crime and this case. And of course, he is innocent until proven guilty.

LEMON: Fifteen years old. Michelle Sigona, thank you very much.

SIGONA: Such a tragedy.

LEMON: It certainly is. Tonight "AC 360" brings you more on the story at 8:00 Eastern.

It's been called a film to define a decade. "Zero Dark Thirty," the thriller about the hunt for Osama Bin Laden. The film getting critical acclaim and criticism for the display of military tactics, controversy similar to the 2009 film, "The Hurt Locker" about the U.S. bomb disposal unit in Iraq.

The person behind both films, Director Katherine Bigelow, edgy thrillers, her bread and butter, "Blue Steel." Here's Bigelow on CBS this morning.


KATHRYN BIGELOW, DIRECTOR, "ZERO DARK THIRTY": I do feel gratified to be part of a community that has made films about tough subjects, accident especially war. Apocalypse now and deer hunter, these are strong films and subjects and it's a strong community that is extremely creative.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Were you hurt you were not nominated. Many people felt it was a snub and injustice to the work you did. I'm wondering how you felt.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the fact the picture was nominated for best picture.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It stands to reason the director would be nominated in the best picture.

BIGELOW: I think it's gratifying the film is being appreciated and honored and the audiences are embracing. To be honest, it was only a couple of years ago that standing on the stage with the "Hurt Locker." That might have something to do with it.

(END VIDEO CLIP) LEMON: Radhika Jones, the executive editor of "Time" magazine is here. In this week's cover story, you look at Bigelow's career and look at Jamie Lee Curtis who said this. She is not a cold woman. She's not a machine, but there is a machine-like execution to what she does. You interviewed Kathryn Bigelow. Would you agree? What was your experience of her?

RADHIKA JONES, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, "TIME": I think Jamie Lee Curtis is talking about her at work. When I spoke to her about "The Hurt Locker" and our editor wrote this week's cover story spoke to her, she is very elegant and gracious and she is a team player and very, very focused on the job she has to get done. She is not unlike the protagonist of "Zero Dark 30."

LEMON: Let's talk about her relationship with Director James Cameron who has been described as intense. Golden Globe Post Amy Poeler even joking that Bigelow understood torture because she spent three years married to Cameron. So behind the scenes, what do we know about this relationship?

JONES: It was a short marriage. It was three years long and a very long time ago. I know that the two are still friendly and supportive of each other's work and very much in touch.

LEMON: That's it. That's all you will say about that?

JONES: You can ask Kathryn Bigelow.

Bigelow comes across as a private or shy woman compared to many of the Hollywood heavy weights. Tell us something we may not know about her. She lived in a bank vault in New York City.

She has an amazing city as a visual artist. She was brought up in California and moved to New York in the 70s. She was making art and interacted with a number of pivotal figures.

You see in the films that she makes that very visual quality that kind of -- that very special aesthetic. You know, she is very focused on film as a visual medium and she wants to it memorable and I think anyone who've seen "Zero Dark 30" in particular, the raid scene at the end of the film, you see the artist in her there.

LEMON: Indeed. Thank you, Radhika Jones. We appreciate you joining us.

JONES: Thank you.