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Obama Names New Chief Of Staff; Court Throws Out Obama Recess Appointments; Anti-Abortion Activities March In D.C.; Anti-Abortion Activists March In D.C.; Republicans Plot Party's Future; Teacher Accused of Molesting Kids

Aired January 25, 2013 - 13:00   ET


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Suzanne Malveaux. President Obama putting together a new team for a new term in office. Just the last hour, the president named close adviser Denis McDonough to be his new chief of staff. Well, McDonough most recently served on the president's national security team. President Obama talked about their long history of working together.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have been counting on Denis for nearly a decade. Since I first came to Washington when he helped set up my Senate office along with Pete Rouse, you know, he was able to show me where the restrooms were, you know, how you passed a bill. I should point out that even then, Denis had gray hair. I've been trying to watch up to him. But at that time, I relied on his intellect and his good judgment and that has continued ever since.


MALVEAUX: I want to bring in our Chief Political Correspondent Candy Crowley, anchor of "CNN'S STATE OF THE UNION." Candy, good to see you. You know, this is a guy who you and I have dealt with for years in his various roles as the deputy national security adviser, all the briefings that he holds behind the scenes. One of the things the president said was like this guy is not about a lot of fanfare but he gets the job done. How important is that, do you think, when he's got Republican opposition?

CANDY CROWLEY, ANCHOR, "CNN STATE OF THE UNION": Well, it's important. And a lot to be made of the fact that McDonough is a national security guy. I mean, he's been on the foreign policy side. And that's true. And that is certainly a different choice for a chief of staff when the economy remains issue number one. The fact of the matter is, though, Jacob Lew who is now moving from chief of staff over to the treasury department and Joe Biden are perfectly capable of managing Capitol Hill and what needs to be done next in terms of bills and the budget and all of that kind of stuff.

I think what makes McDonough choice so interesting is I think it's a legacy choice. This is a man who has been at the president's side since the president's --

MALVEAUX: Yes. CROWLEY: -- national career started as a freshman senator. He was there through the election. He has been at the White House all this time. This is a man whose loyalties to the president and who will protect the president which is really the number one job of chief of staff. I mean, as, you know, others. But I think it's a very interesting choice and someone that the president trusts fully because now the president is putting together what will be these final years of the Obama era and this is a man that he trusts to protect the Obama era.

And, Candy, people might not know this. But, you know, when the president gets that 3:00 a.m. Call that everybody talked about, Hillary Clinton included, it is the -- it's the chief of staff who is picking up the phone and he will hear McDonough's voice, Denis' voice, in any kind of crisis situation, any kind of update that's -- anything taking place in the country and in the world. What do you think is important in terms of the relationship between these two men?

CROWLEY: Well, the thing -- that the president trusts him and that he trusts the president and that everybody knows that. That makes McDonough very important to the folks who want to get a message to the president. It makes him very important to the president, again, who trusts him. But, again, those 3:00 a.m. phone calls are generally about what? Crises overseas. Some sort of -- and that's his area of expertise.

So, in a lot of ways, despite that lack of domestic policy, that's taken care of, I think. I think this is -- this is a choice where he can say, look, this has happened and I want to remind you of the following six things. This is man who speaks with authority to the president about foreign policy issues and that's what those 3:00 a.m. phone calls are about. He also takes care of the staff and guess what? The staff loves him, for the most part. So, that's also helpful.

MALVEAUX: He's had gray hair for a long time, but he started off with it.

CROWLEY: He's about to see what gray is really like.

MALVEAUX: Oh, yes. Candy, good to see you.

CROWLEY: Thanks, Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Everything the president sees and hears, of course, goes through the chief of staff. Our Athena Jones, she's got more on the job and the man chosen by the president to fill this powerful position.


ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Denis McDonough has been a trusted adviser to President Obama, counseling him on foreign policy issues during the 2008 campaign and later as deputy chief security adviser. He was in the situation room during the historic raid that killed Osama Bin Laden. DENIS MCDONOUGH, DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: It was quite a team effort over the course of this. The president obviously leading that team.

JONES: Now, the president is poised to name McDonough chief of staff. The person responsible for helping make his second-term goals a reality. It's a key role that requires the right fit as captured by the popular T.V. show "The West Wing."




SHEEN: Is he smarter than you?

GROENER: Yes, sir.

SHEEN: Would you trust him with your life?

GROENER: Yes, sir.

SHEEN: That's your chief of staff.


JONES: The 43-year-old McDonough grew up in Minnesota, one of 11 children in what he's described as a proud, catholic family. He's kept a low profile in the administration but won fans in the president's inner circle as a man of integrity.

Former Obama aide, Melody Barnes, was chief domestic policy advisor.

MELODY BARNES, FORMER SENIOR WHITE HOUSE ADVISOR: Denis traveled extensively with the president. When you spend day in and day out with someone in a high stakes very stressful set of circumstances, you get to know them well. I think they think very similarly but, at the same time, they are very straightforward and honest with each other. Denis isn't afraid to challenge the president.

JONES: Barnes said that while McDonough is known for his foreign policy chops, he'll be ready to handle Democrat domestic issues. And as experience as a one-time aide to senate Democratic leader, Tom Daschle, means he knows how Capitol Hill works. Something that will be crucial in the coming fiscal fights.

(on camera): The expected announcement comes as the president is being criticized for a lack of diversity among top staffers. His nominees for secretary of state, defense, treasury, and CIA director are all men.

Athena Jones, CNN, the White House.

(END VIDEOTAPE) MALVEAUX: We just learned a federal appeals court has struck down President Obama recess appointments to a key agency. Now, the president named three people to the National Relations Board during Congress's winter holiday break. That happened a year ago. They were deputy labor secretary, Sharon Block; union lawyer, Richard Griffin; and attorney Terrence Flynn.

Today, a three-judge federal panel said those appointments are invalid because the Senate was only in recess and technically in session. The ruling could invalidate hundreds of decisions that the labor board has made over the last year. I want to bring in our legal contributor, Paul Callan, to talk about what does this mean? First of all, for the three that were appointed and then, secondly, for some of the decisions that they have made.

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, this is a very important decision. This court, it's called the D.C. circuit which has jurisdiction over all federal agencies, is often a thorn in the side of the president. It's also a very prestigious federal court. Many Supreme Court justices come from the court, including Justice Roberts, Justice Scalia, Justice Ginsburg came from that court. So, it's got a lot of prestige and power.

But their decision, I think, really is a surprise decision here. What they did was they looked at the Constitution and they said that the founding fathers defined recess in a certain way. And during a recess of the Congress, the president has the right to make interim appointments. They looked at what happened when these members of the National Labors Relation Board were appointed and they said, you know something? Congress wasn't in recess. They had re-upped the session for a little bit because they came back to do extra work --


CALLAN: -- and they were only down for a couple days and these appointments were then made. And they said, that doesn't fit the Constitution's definition of a recess, so they threw out the appointments. They also throw it out on other grounds. It's a long decision. It's about a 30 to 40-page opinion.

MALVEAUX: Yes, we saw -- I think it was about 47 pages or so --

CALLAN: Forty-seven pages (inaudible.)

MALVEAUX: -- is the print out at least.


MALVEAUX: So, I guess bottom line is that the Senate was going in and out for a couple of days to do some business. They'd leave, they'd come back, it was not an official recess. Could this actually go to the Supreme Court, Paul?

CALLAN: Oh, I think there's a very strong likelihood that it will. This is a decision of a three-judge panel of the D.C. circuit. Now, what can happen is they can ask that the entire D.C. circuit, which consists of a larger number of judges, they can hear it, all of the judges can hear it. But if they stand by this decision, the judges on the D.C. circuit, then it would go to the U.S. Supreme Court. And, frankly, it's hard to say how the U.S. Supreme Court might rule on this.

Remember, Justice Roberts came out of the D.C. circuit. Many people think that the D.C. circuit is fairly conservative and is at odds often with the president. So -- and this is an important issue of constitutional law. It's balance of power. You know, they -- the president likes to make appointments when Congress is in recess because he doesn't have to get the vote of the Senate.

MALVEAUX: Right, right.

CALLAN: And the Senate resents it and this court is saying, hey, the founding fathers were clear on what this means and we think that didn't follow what the founding fathers want. They quote Alexander Hamilton in the decision and the first attorney general of the United States. Lawyers will love this decision. It's filled with constitutional history.

MALVEAUX: Lawyers will love it. I'm not sure if regular folks are going to love this. Bottom line, Paul, how would it actually impact ordinary folks here? Because you do have -- I mean, this is a labor board, and these are decisions that would impact people on a daily basis.

CALLAN: Well, yes, and it -- by the way, it wouldn't only effect the National Labor Relations Board. We'd have to go back and see how many appointments were made during similar kinds of recesses of Congress. But the NLRB is a very, very important agency. It decides collective -- whether collective bargaining agreements will be upheld. It decides whether workers have certain rights in the workplace.


CALLAN: You know, over the past year, we've heard about, you know, workers discussing personal things on Facebook getting fired and NLRB has handed down decisions in that area. This is the board that regulates workers in America so this is very important. And if you invalidate all of their decisions for the last year, that's going to be a very, very disruptive and important decision. So, we've got to watch this one really closely, Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: And we know the White House is appealing -- in the process of appealing the decision as we speak. Thank you very much, Paul.

Anti-abortion groups from around the country, they are now marching on Washington today. They're protesting the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion. Well, right now, they are gathering on the national mall. They are about to march to the Supreme Court. You're seeing live pictures there. And we've seen a couple of folks that are familiar faces. Former presidential candidate, Rick Santorum, he spoke just moments ago to that crowd. We're going to have a live report of the event in just a couple minutes. But first, here's what we're working on for this hour.

(voice-over): A Los Angeles teacher is arrested for allegedly molesting children. This just a year after another teacher was found guilty of abusing more than 20 kids at a nearby school.

And Manti Te'o lied about seeing his fake girlfriend but he says he was duped and guess what? He's not alone. A look at how players on the Washington Redskins were also cat fished.

Plus, how eating fruits and veggies can help reduce the risk of getting breast cancer. This is CNN NEWSROOM and it's happening now.


MALVEAUX: One of the most personal and divisive issues in the country, of course abortion. Well, this hour, anti-abortion protesters, they are marching in Washington. They are marking the 40th anniversary of the country's landmark abortion ruling. The Roe v. Wade decision resulted from a case filed by Norma McCorvey, known in court papers simply as Jane Roe. The case was against Dallas County District Attorney Henry Wade. In a seven to two decision, the Supreme Court affirmed a woman's right to an abortion. The ruling was based on the 14th Amendment right to privacy.

Athena Jones, she's joining us live from D.C. Set the scene for us. You've got a lot of folks behind you.

JONES That's true, Suzanne. They just finished the rally here and they are preparing to walk to the Supreme Court building. I'm joined by part of the group, anti-abortion opponents -- or anti-abortion protesters.

Tell me why it's so important for you to be here. This is --

ROBIN, PRO-LIFE ACTIVIST: I'm Robin. We're from Winslow, Illinois. This is my daughter, Lexy (ph). We are from -- Lexy was born to an addictive mother and the mother -- birth mother actually aborted a child before Lexy and after Lexy. So we are very blessed that there is adoption. So I have my child because of that choice.

JONES: But you want to see an end to abortion completely. All kinds.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All kinds. Doesn't matter. It's still a baby.

JONES: And so this is a group they've been organizing here, this protest since the year after Roe v. Wade was passed. The first anniversary. They've been gathering on The Mall by the thousands to march to the Supreme Court. Their ultimate goal is to have Roe v. Wade overturned.

This is a time when many polls show that lots of people support keeping Roe v. Wade in place, but still many other people believe that there should be at least some restrictions on abortions. Folks here mostly go along with the mantra of the group's founder, the March for Life Group's founder, which is no exception, no compromise. They don't want to see abortion at any point and for any reason.


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: Athena, we have seen some familiar faces. Rick Santorum, one of the former presidential candidates. Obviously it's a hot political issue as well. Do they believe that it's a winning issue for 2016?

JONES: Well, it's interesting what you just mentioned. I mean we also heard from Senator Rand Paul. This is an issue that they know appeals to a certain part of their base. I can tell you that we know that some Republican candidates for Senate said some questionable things about abortion. A candidate from Missouri and from Indiana. And so it certainly is something that turned off a lot of people. And so it's certainly a hot button issue. And this group of people who came out here, they believe it is a winner for them and that's why they came and spoke and that's why thousands of people are still gathering each year and right now heading -- heading, as you see, towards the Supreme Court.


MALVEAUX: All right, Athena, thank you.

It turns out many people don't know what Roe versus Wade was all about 40 years after the decision. A poll by the Pew Research Center finds that only six in 10 Americans know the decision dealt with abortion. Twenty percent say they don't know. The rest thought it dealt with desegregation, the death penalty or environmental protection. The number is even smaller for those under age 30. Only 44 percent could say that the case actually dealt with abortion.

The Republican Party is holding its winter meeting in Charlotte. They are coming up with some plans to refocus the party, reach out to minorities as well. And one Republican told the party, it is time for change. The future of the GOP up next.


GOV. BOBBY JINDAL (R), LOUISIANA: We've got to stop being the stupid party. And I'm serious. It's time for a new Republican Party that talks like adults. It's time for us to articulate our plans and our visions for America in real terms.



MALVEAUX: We have real challenges and we did get whipped. That is how former Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour sums up the state of the Republican Party. At the RNC winter meeting in Charlotte, leaders say they're coming up with plans to refocus the party and reach out to minorities. One Republican who might be running in 2016 had some blunt criticism.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GOV. BOBBY JINDAL (R), LOUISIANA: We've got to stop being the stupid party. And I'm serious. It's time for a new Republican Party that talks like adults. It's time for us to articulate our plans and our visions for America in real terms. It's no secret we had a number of Republicans that damaged the brand this year with offensive and bizarre comments. I'm here to say, we've had enough of that.


MALVEAUX: Joining us to talk about where the party goes from here, CNN contributor, Republican strategist Alex Castellanos.

Hey, Alex. Good to see you.


MALVEAUX: What do you think of what Jindal said? I mean is that a good idea? Stupid party?

CASTELLANOS: Well, yes, especially when that's exactly what you've been doing.

Look, before you can change, you've got to acknowledge you've got some problems. And, look, our computer crashed. It's time to reboot. We just lost an election to a president that's way left of the country, to a president whose got a failing economy and we lost because we didn't have anything to say other than no. We didn't offer any kind of vision forward for the country or for anybody in it. And that was the big lesson I think of this election. Republicans are taking it to heart. Jindal is, I think, doing a great job leading us forward.

MALVEAUX: What do you say yes to now, Alex? If you keep saying no, what are the things that are going to be concrete that the Republicans are going to say, OK, you know, we're giving on this?

CASTELLANOS: You know, it's all -- it's not necessarily about giving, it's about leading. For example, you heard Bobby Jindal say, look, we're the party of growth. They're the party of growing government. We're the party of growing the economy. They want to grow the economy they say top down from Washington. We want to grow the economy bottom up where you live, where you work, where you invest. We're not the party of austerity, we're the party of more, of economic growth. That's a big change from what you've been hearing from Republicans in Washington.

MALVEAUX: And we understand that the RNC chair, Reince Priebus, re- elected to another two-year term. And he's now appointed this task force to come up with ways that Republicans can reach out to minorities. What needs to happen concretely here?

CASTELLANOS: Well, concretely, Democrats have a strategy for getting minority votes. And that's identity politics. You know, you're a victim and government's here to help. You get more from government from the Democratic Party. Republicans need an alternative to that, but it doesn't need to be identity politics. We need to become what we once were which is the party for everybody. The party of more for everyone.

MALVEAUX: Alex, do you really believe that, that the Democrats --


MALVEAUX: That that is the bottom line message is that you're all victims? That's that how they appeal to African-Americans and Latinos? Are you serious?

CASTELLANOS: Yes. Yes. That government is here to help to take care of you.

MALVEAUX: Why so? Why do you believe that?

CASTELLANOS: Look, the president has said it. He sees a larger role for government in a more complex --

MALVEAUX: The president has never said that people are victims, Alex.

CASTELLANOS: Listen to me (ph).

MALVEAUX: I mean he says that there's a role for government. He certainly doesn't say that people are victims because they're Democrats.

CASTELLANOS: He says -- no, he doesn't always say it in those words. He just lives it in what he proposes and what he imposes on the American people. But that's exactly what he does. This is the old nanny state big government taking care of you poor little people because you can't take care of yourself on your own in this complex world.

Look, that's a perfectly respectable idea about what government's role is. It's not the Republican's idea of what the government's role is. You know, Jindal made the point that we shouldn't be the party about managing government. Our job as Republicans is to say, America's about a lot more than just what happens in Washington. Let's talk about how we can become a country of growth and opportunity again. And, again, grow this economy bottom up, not top down politically and artificially from Washington.

If what Obama was proposing was such a great idea, this should be the most prosperous economy in the world. $16 trillion of debt trying to grow the economy top down from Washington. It hasn't worked. Republicans -- you've heard Jindal for the first time today say, we're going to do something new. We're going to turn that model on its head, grow the economy bottom up. That's how Republicans get young people, women, immigrants, everybody.

MALVEAUX: Alex, one of the things, and Mitt Romney got into trouble with, is that it really did sound like he was being degrading to African-Americans, Latinos and people who essentially supported the president by saying the kinds of things that you just said in terms of being a victim and being taken care of. I mean how does the Republican Party -- what is the message here in terms of, we are inclusive and we are going to provide for your life so that it is a better life without sounding so condescending?

CASTELLANOS: Well, Suzanne, I'll disagree. I don't think that's what I just said. I think that is, in fact, the president's approach to government, that in a complex world, you know, he targets these folks. This is the story of Julia (ph), cradle to grave, government's here to give you stuff and help you.

The Republican approach, I think, is completely different. And that is, it doesn't -- you know, we're not the party of big business. We're not the party of big Wall Street. We're the party of everybody. Economic growth for everybody. Everybody gets to play by the same rules. You're not favored just because you're on Wall Street and you're not excluded just because you have a different last name or because you come from the other side of the tracks.

MALVEAUX: All right.

CASTELLANOS: And I think you're seeing a very inclusive Republican Party now.

MALVEAUX: All right. Alex, thanks. We'll see if this starts to work.


MALVEAUX: If there's more of an attraction to various groups within the party. Thank you, Alex. Appreciate it.

CASTELLANOS: A new generation.

MALVEAUX: All right.

Fourth grade teacher, a soccer coach, now behind bars, accused of molesting kids. Now the school is handling these accusations. Plus, why it took almost a year now to press charges.


MALVEAUX: This is a disturbing story out of California. A fourth grade teacher is in custody on charges he molested at least a dozen students. Robert Pimentel has pleaded not guilty. He is being held on $12 million bail. Casey Wian is live in Los Angeles.

Casey, I understand that there could even be more cases against this teacher of alleged abuse. What are we learning?

CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, according to the Los Angeles Police Department, Suzanne, there could be as many as 20 juvenile victims and one adult. As far as the charges that Mr. Pimentel is facing, we're talking 15 charges specifically involving 12 children, all juveniles, at De La Torre Elementary School. Parents here very upset that this investigation took so long. This teacher was removed from the school last year, but the charges were not brought until this week.

Another aspect of this case that has a lot of people scratching their heads, the former principal of this school, according to the Los Angeles Unified School District, did not do enough to report the allegations and suspicions of abuse by this teacher. Not only in this case, but in a case years ago at another school where both of them worked.

Adding to the sort of mystery about this story and the outrage by some parents and taxpayers is the fact that both the principal and the teacher, who is now in custody, retired before they could be fired.