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Gun Control Debate; Interview With Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard; Interview With Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal

Aired January 24, 2013 - 15:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. It is the top of the hour. I'm Don Lemon. Brooke is off today.

The battle over gun control kicking into high gear. California Senator Dianne Feinstein stood near this wall of guns today flanked by police officers as she unveiled a tough bill that would ban assault weapons. The new bill would ban more than 100 specific models of firearms, semiautomatic weapons with detachable magazines and high- capacity magazines that use more than 10 rounds of ammunition.

The bill faces staunch opposition from the NRA and gun rights advocates like Suzanna Hupp's. Her parents were shot and killed at Luby's Cafeteria in Texas in 1991. Hupp was there and she regrets leaving her gun in the car. She talked about how parents are reacting to the recent shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SUZANNA GRATIA HUPP, DAUGHTER OF SHOOTING VICTIMS: Well, I think there is a normal reaction especially among us parents. You want to do something, something that will prevent this from happening in the future.

I just take a very different view of it. I look at it and wonder how can anybody not see that these things only happen where guns are not allowed. That seems so crystal-clear to me that we have created these killing zones that we call gun-free zones. It makes me very uncomfortable to have my children in them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: I want to bring in now one of bill's co-sponsors, Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal.

Welcome, sir. Thank you for coming on. Are you doing OK?

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: I am doing great. Thank you.

LEMON: What would you say to Hupp to try to convince her to support the proposed assault weapons ban? She lost her parents.

BLUMENTHAL: She did. And just by way of reassurance, we are not talking about taking guns away from anyone nor any disrespect for Second Amendment rights. I have enormous respect for the Constitution, which includes the Second Amendment and the court's interpretation of it, which provides an individual right to possess firearms. We are talking here about assault weapons, the kind of military-style AR-15s that were used, for example, in Newtown to massacre 20 children and six educators.

These weapons have really no purpose except to kill and maim human beings, plus the high-capacity magazines. And what I have been hearing from law enforcement -- and I'm a former attorney general for 20 years from the state of Connecticut, U.S. attorney, federal prosecutor -- over many, many years is that they're outgunned. Our police are outgunned by criminals, people with mental illness, domestic abusers who have these kinds of military-style assault weapons. That is all we are talking about here.

LEMON: Yes.

Well, Senator, listen, the NRA as I'm sure you are well very aware gearing up for a fight. The new cover of the NRA's official journal, it reads -- here it is right here -- it's "American Hunter." It reads, "Siege," "Siege" here, meaning under siege, meaning gun enthusiasts are under siege.

And there is an article inside that gun owners face an unprecedented assault on their rights. And it says: "Don't be fooled into thinking President Obama wants to ban fully automatic guns. This has absolutely nothing do to do with machine guns. The United States now has the most anti-gun president in its history. "

Senator, how are you going to fight the NRA?

BLUMENTHAL: The NRA unfortunately is marginalizing its involvement, which I regret that because I think we need voices on all sides of this debate, including responsible gun owners, NRA members who are telling me, you know, we need to do something about keeping guns away from people who are mentally deranged or criminals or felons or fugitives or domestic abusers or drug addicts, people who should not have those weapons.

And my hope is that background checks will be supported by members of the NRA, so that we can keep guns out of the hands of people who shouldn't have them, better background checks for firearms purchases, but also for ammunition purchases, and improving those background checks by making the database more complete through information that is submitted by the states.

I think there is the potential for real common ground here among responsible recreational shooters, as well as hunters and others who are responsible gun owners whose right to those guns is guaranteed, absolutely guaranteed by the Second Amendment.

LEMON: Senator Richard Blumenthal, thank you for your time, sir.

BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.

LEMON: An admission, phone records and voice-mails. Notre Dame star Manti Te'o lays it out and lays it on the table when it comes to the girlfriend hoax that is smearing his image.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MANTI TE'O, NOTRE DAME FOOTBALL PLAYER: My story, I felt, was a guy who in times of hardship and in times of trial really held strong to his faith, held strong to his family and I felt that that was my story.

KATIE COURIC, ABC NEWS: Even if that hardship was perhaps exaggerated?

TE'O: No. What I went through was real, the feelings, the pain, the sorrow. That was all real.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: And so Te'o, a runner-up for the Heisman Trophy, said that Ronaiah Tuiasosopo fooled him into believing his online girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, who he had never met in three years, died of cancer. So Ronaiah admitted the same thing that Diane O'Meara, the woman whose image he stole and used as Lennay -- listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DIANE O'MEARA, IDENTITY STOLEN: He reached out to me a day or two days before the story broke and relayed to me that he in fact was stalking my profile for five years, taking my photos, and he created this...

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: For five years, he was doing that?

O'MEARA: He created this identity that wasn't me. It was this Lennay Kekua with my face on it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Te'o has said he had late-night calls with a woman he believed to be his girlfriend. But in a new twist, a lawyer for Ronaiah tells "The New York Daily News" it was Ronaiah who was on the other end of those calls faking her voice.

Sunny Hostin is "On the Case" here.

Sunny, let's start with the man behind the hoax and all of these names. My goodness.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: If the story wasn't confusing enough, the names.

Can Te'o take legal action against the man who orchestrated all of this?

SUNNY HOSTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: He certainly can. What's fascinating to me about this -- and let me say I am a Notre Dame alum and so I have been following this case very closely. He's not the first guy to have been duped by someone online. This happens oftentimes. People are talking about catfishing. Yes, absolutely. I think he could have some sort of claim against him.

How about the intentional infliction of emotional distress? I think what was crystal-clear at least in the excerpt we just showed with the interview with Katie Couric, he said those feelings were real, that sorrow and that distress. That was real. If someone intentionally puts you through something like that, absolutely you have legal recourse against them.

But the question is what is he really going to get? We are talking about a star football player who is likely to be drafted with a pretty big financial package. This guy, this scammer doesn't have anything. You can't really get blood from a stone. But certainly I think there are laws to protect people from these scam artists and from these hoaxes. Oftentimes, Don, they do seek legal redress and we see people suing online dating sites and we see people suing married men claiming to have been single. This is not uncharted territory really.

LEMON: You have people who are just constant -- just liars and they believe their own lies. I have been involved with that recently. How can you believe your own lies like that?

HOSTIN: Shocking.

LEMON: It is shocking.

Te'o admits though to lying, but only briefly. He says he stuck with the girlfriend story even after he knew it was a hoax. Can we expect any action to be taken against Te'o for lying?

HOSTIN: Listen, I think in today's world where we see such carnage and we see athletes, some of them behaving really badly, I think he is going to get a pass on this.

I think he was clearly -- assuming that this is true that he had no knowledge of this hoax, I think the public and I think the authorities are going to give him a pass on it. Right? Because he didn't assault anyone and he didn't harm anyone and he didn't kill anyone. He was the victim of this hoax.

The fact that he lied, probably from just sheer embarrassment. Who wants to admit that they were duped like this on such a scale? I suspect nothing is going to happen to him, but a lesson well learned if this is all true.

LEMON: Let it be a lesson to you, to everyone in the sound of our voice.

HOSTIN: Teachable moment.

LEMON: Yes. I haven't heard that one in a while. It's back. Thank you very much. We appreciate it, Sunny. HOSTIN: Thanks, Don.

(NEWS BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON: North Korea is at it again. This time, the North is promising nuclear tests, part of an all-out action targeting the U.S. I'm Don Lemon. Let's go.

(voice-over): Inside the military's about-face -- you are about to hear from one woman who has trained for every soldier's nightmare.

Plus, one of golf's good guys suddenly jumps into a political debate, but Phil Mickelson now says he regrets his comments about taxes.

And it's known as revenge porn. And police say more people are taking action against their exes. We are on the case.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Now I want to take you to Florida, where a pair of cold cases are drawing new attention. They involve two men who disappeared almost a decade ago under strangely similar circumstances.

I want you to watch this now from CNN's Randi Kaye.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RANDI KAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Marcia Williams hasn't seen her son in more than eight years.

(on camera): Do you have any hope your son is still alive?

MARCIA WILLIAMS, TERRENCE'S MOTHER: I don't believe that Terrence is alive. At this point I have to find out what happened to him.

KAYE (voice-over): What happened to Terrence Williams is anybody's guess. He was last seen outside this Naples, Florida, cemetery on January 11th, 2004, with this man, Sheriff's Deputy Steve Calkins.

(on camera): Investigators say Calkins' story about meeting Terrence Williams here at the cemetery just doesn't add up. At one point Calkins said he pulled Terrence Williams' car over because it was having problems. But when he called his friend in dispatch he reported the car had been abandoned. He never let on he'd had any contact with the driver, Terrence Williams.

STEVE CALKINS, NAPLES, FLORIDA, SHERIFF'S DEPUTY: I got a "Homie" Cadillac on the side of the road here, signal 11, signal 52, nobody around. Maybe he's out there in the cemetery. He'll come back and his car will be gone.

KAYE (voice-over): But if the driver was not around, how then was Deputy Calkins able to run a background check, using Terrence's name and birthday.

UNIDENTIFIED DISPATCHER: Last name?

CALKINS: Williams, common spelling.

UNIDENTIFIED DISPATCHER: Date of birth?

CALKINS: 4-1-75. Black male.

KAYE: Yet just four days later, Calkins claims to remember nothing of the car or the driver. Listen to what he says when a sheriff's dispatcher calls him at home.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You towed a car from Vanderbilt and 111th Monday, a Cadillac. Do you remember it?

CALKINS: No.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you remember? She said it was near the cemetery.

CALKINS: Cemetery?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The people at the cemetery are telling her you put somebody in the back of your vehicle and arrested him and I don't show you arresting anybody.

CALKINS: I never arrested nobody.

WILLIAMS: Isn't that amazing? He's a seasoned veteran and he couldn't remember four days later?

KAYE (on camera): So you don't buy that?

WILLIAMS: No. It's not true. It's not true at all.

KAYE (voice-over): Eight days after Terrence vanished, Deputy Calkins was ordered to write a report. And it's in this report that a different story emerges. Deputy Calkins says he drove the 27-year-old father of four to this nearby Circle K where he says he thought Terrence worked. And it's that version of events that concerned investigators. Because just months earlier they'd heard the same story from Deputy Calkins about another missing man.

Twenty-three-year-old Felipe Santos vanished October 14, 2003 after Deputy Calkins responded to the scene of a minor accident involving Santos. He issued Santos a citation and put him in the back of his sheriff's car. Santos's brother, who was also at the scene, asked we hide his face out of fear for his own safety.

(on camera): Did deputy Calkins tell you where he was taking your brother?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (Through Translator): The officer never told us anything. Later we went to the jail and my brother wasn't there. KAYE (voice-over): When Calkins was questioned about Felipe Santos, an undocumented worker, he told investigators, he dropped Santos off at a Circle K. Sheriff's investigator Kevin O'Neill.

KEVIN O'NEILL, SHERIFF'S INVESTIGATOR: And we have no independent corroboration of anybody telling us that they saw Williams or Santos at one of these Circle K's. That's strictly Calkins' testimony. And I think we can add up where we can put his testimony at this point.

KAYE: O'Neill says neither of the missing men was ever scene on Circle K's security cameras. And there's more.

(on camera): About a month after Terrence Williams disappears, Steve Calkins gave a sworn statement during an interrogation. He told investigators he had called the Circle K where he says he dropped Terrence Williams off. He told investigators he made that call from his work-issued Nextel phone. But when investigators said they pulled his phone records and told him there was no record of a call to this Circle K from his cell phone he brushed it off saying simply -- quote -- "I don't know what to tell you."

(on camera): You've been doing this for a long time. You know when something doesn't smell right. Do you think that Deputy Calkins had anything to do with the disappearance and possible death of these two men?

O'NEILL: He's absolutely in the middle of the investigation. Everything I turn to points right back to Steve Calkins.

KAYE (voice-over): Months after Santos and Williams went missing, Deputy Calkins, a 16-year veteran, was fired for lying in connection with the investigation of Terrence Williams. Calkins hasn't been charged with a crime because no criminal evidence was ever found linking Calkins to the disappearances.

In the case of Terrence Williams, investigators say the deputy's car was searched and described as immaculate. Calkins's home was never searched because according to investigators they didn't have the evidence needed for a search warrant.

We wanted to ask Steve Calkins some questions but couldn't get past this woman.

(on camera): Hello?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes?

KAYE: Hi. Sorry to bother you. I'm Randi Kaye from CNN. I'm looking for Steve Calkins.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. You can get the camera out of our property please.

KAYE: He's not on your property?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Bye. KAYE: Is he here? Or is he --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Bye.

KAYE (voice-over): In 2006, Calkins did tell a local paper he didn't do anything wrong, blaming the coincidences of the missing men on very bad luck. He suggested maybe they ran away.

WILLIAMS: If Terrence was alive, Terrence would have had somebody to contact his mother. I know for sure that's one thing that he would do in a heartbeat. Call my mama.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KAYE: So many people are up in arms about this case, including actor Tyler Perry. He wants answers too. He held a press conference in Naples just a couple of weeks ago to try and bring more attention to the case. He has been there a few times already on this. He is offering $100,000, Don, to anyone who helps locate these men and who helps convict their killer.

LEMON: Has that offer any attention? Are police getting any tips?

KAYE: Yes, they are, actually.

I spoke with the Collier County Sheriff's Department just this afternoon, and they told me they have 10 new tips. Four of them are still active, which is good news, so they are still working those.

But what is so bizarre is that Detective Calkins still lives nearby the sheriff's department living quietly in Naples as they continue to investigate him and try to pin this on him and he hasn't made any public statements since we filed the story.

LEMON: Wow. Very interesting. Thank you very much, Randi Kaye.

Want to get you something just in to CNN and it involves airplanes. This is Dulles Airport, Washington, D.C. and this is according to the airport authority. Here's what we're learning. We are learning that United Flight 951 -- this is from Brussels -- it may have clipped the wing of another empty aircraft parked at the gate next to the one it was taxiing into, and here's what we are being told, that passengers disembarked at the gate as normal.

But when the airport authority arrived, the planes were not touching, so they can't confirm a clip here. No reports of any injuries and no hazards found. Initially, there was no damage seen, but airline and the FAA they are investigating. But again they believe that two airplanes may have touched and the wings may have clipped each other. No injuries and this airplane was coming in from Brussels. It may have clipped the wing of an empty aircraft that was taxiing into the next gate over.

So, we will continue to check on that for you here on CNN.

Up next, the Defense Department lifting the ban on women serving in combat units. Up next, we will speak with Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard. She's one of the first female vets to serve in Congress. I will get her take. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: It's a military action many women troops have been longing to see. Today, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, signed the order lifting the ban on women serving in direct combat units.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEON PANETTA, U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: And if they are willing to put their lives on the line, then we ought to recognize that they deserve a chance to serve in any capacity they want.

GEN. MARTIN DEMPSEY, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF CHAIRMAN: By eliminating the direct combat exclusion provision, the burden used to be on -- the burden used to be that we would say, why should a woman serve in a particular specialty?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Joining me now is an Iraq war veteran who still serves as a military police captain for the National Guard, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii.

Tulsi, I have to say, in full disclosure, we have become fast friends. And so I just want to tell our viewers that you're a wonderful person.

We all know women as medics, mechanics and other support roles have been fighting in combat zones, despite what policy says. What's your reaction to what the Pentagon did today?

REP. TULSI GABBARD (D), HAWAII: First of all, Don, just want to say aloha to you and to all of your viewers.

And it's special for me to be able to share this moment today with you and with everyone, because it really is a significant moment for us, but also for history and for our country for all the women who are currently serving overseas and putting their lives on the line every day, for the 1.8 million women who have worn the uniform at time or another and those who have put their lives on the line literally for generations, going back in the history of our country.

With this move today, it really is an official recognition by the president and by the Department of Defense for all these women who have already been serving in these combat roles.

LEMON: Yes. Let's talk about specifics here, really the reality of it, and talk about the strength and all of that and the conditions on war zones.

As you know, some elite units have stringent physical requirements. Like, to be a Navy SEAL, you have to be able to do 50 pushups in two minutes. Do you think the military should adjust those qualifications for women?

GABBARD: No, I don't.

I think that if there is a good reason to have very high requirements in a physical realm for some of these jobs, they shouldn't change those just for women because there are incredible women out there who are ready and champing at the bit, not only to meet those standards, but exceed them.

And I will tell you about a good friend of mine who I went through the military police school with, Captain Diana Lay (ph). She did 100 pushups in two minutes. And she is a great example of one of our many fine women warriors that we have out there.

LEMON: OK. Men and women are different. We know that, Tulsi. How should the military handle pregnancy, for example, for women in combat units? Should a combat unit leader be able to direct a woman member not to get pregnant?

GABBARD: Well, look, I think that the point here is both men and women are professionals. They care very much about the mission. They are there because they are there to serve our country.

Looking at someone in a deployed setting, it's not in their best interest to get pregnant overseas, but if it happens, it happens. And we take care of each other. The point really is that we have a highly trained and highly skilled and very motivated force. And by opening these doors to women, we will only be stronger because of the unique capabilities that women bring to the table.

LEMON: Representative Tulsi Gabbard, thank you very much.

Golfer Phil Mickelson wants a mulligan on some comments he made about his income taxes, but his remarks are sparking a new debate about taxes and the wealthy. We are going to take about it. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)