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Celebs Join Gun Control Debate; Saturday Mail Will End August 5th; Obama Nominates Interior Secretary; Pregnant Prison Guard Charged

Aired February 6, 2013 - 14:00   ET


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: It's the end of an era for the Post Office, but we're asking, should one of America's worst run companies be privatized?

I'm Brooke Baldwin. The news is now.

So, at this point, who hasn't testified about guns?


CHRIS ROCK, ACTOR/COMEDIAN: When your dad says something, you listen.


BALDWIN: Celebs on the hot seat.

Plus, chilling new details about the bunker built for war.

And, who is Joe Arpaio enlisting to train posses of school guards? Yes, Steven Seagal.

Hi there. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Good to be with you. Top of the hour here.

Perhaps it means something that Hollywood stars and other celebrities are now jumping on the gun control bandwagon. Take a look with me. Recognize some of these faces? This was the scene just a short time ago on Capitol Hill. A celebrity backed group. They actually have a name for themselves. They call themselves "Demand a Plan." They took center stage in Washington today. Basically their message to Congress is this, act now, do something to reduce gun violence. Here's Tony Bennett.


TONY BENNETT, SINGER: I still haven't gotten over Connecticut. I'd like the assault weapons to go to war, not in our own country. And I'd like assault weapons eliminated.


BALDWIN: Joe Johns with me now from Capitol Hill. Joe Johns, our crime and justice correspondent.

Joe, what does it say about the current state of the gun debate post Sandy Hook that celebrities are now starting to jump on board?

JOE JOHNS, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: It's pretty interesting. All-star cast, right, but not for a Hollywood movies.


JOHNS: Chris Rock, Tony Bennett, Anna Deavere Smith, Amanda Peet, all at the Capitol, all at a news conference, headed up by the group started by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg known as Mayors Against Illegal Guns. Now, the overall tone was certainly serious, but Chris Rock was sort of able to loosen up the mood when he took the mike. Listen.


CHRIS ROCK, ACTOR/COMEDIAN: I am just here to support the president of the United States. The president of the United States is, you know, our boss. He's also, you know, the president and the first lady, are kind of like the mom and the dad of the country. And when your dad says something, you listen. And when you don't, it usually bites you in the ass later on. So I'm here to support the president. Thank you.


JOHNS: So, the point, of course, is to use the star power of these artists to try to put pressure on Congress to pass new gun laws. At the same time, increasing the visibility of the organization Mayors Against Illegal Guns. They're pushing for improving background checks on gun purchases, passing the recent proposal to make gun trafficking a crime. Also promoting proposals to get high capacity magazines off the streets, banning certain automatic -- semi-automatic, I should say, fire arms. So-called assault weapons.

Also, actress Amanda Peet brought up the issue of further mental health screening for people trying to buy guns. Listen.


AMANDA PEET, ACTRESS: Doing nothing will fail. Doing nothing has failed. To people who question the potential effectiveness and/or practicality of these measures, to the people who say it would have happened anyway or we won't catch everybody, I say doing nothing has failed.


JOHNS: I talked to Mark Glaze, the director of Mayors Against Illegal Guns. He was at the news conference. He said they want to show there's a broad coalition that cuts across all demographics. It wasn't just movie stars at this news conference, by the way. They also had a children's trauma surgeon, an Episcopal priest, and the daughter of Robert Kennedy and the son of Martin Luther King, both of whom assassinated with guns, Brooke.

BALDWIN: And we will see if any of this star power on Capitol Hill moves this issue any farther forward. Joe Johns. Thank you, Joe.

Just a heads up. Be sure to tune in, Tony Bennett will join Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM" on this topic, 4:00 p.m. Eastern, right here on CNN.

A heads up for you. You will not be getting mail on Saturdays for much longer. Did you hear the news today? The Postal Service is eliminating Saturday deliveries. That starts in August. It says stamped letters, bills are becoming passe.


PATRICK DONAHOE, U.S. POSTMASTER GENERAL: If we had the same volume of mail that we had many years ago, before people paid bills online, we wouldn't even be worried about this. People pay their bills online. It's simple. It's easy. It's free. You cannot be free.


BALDWIN: Here is what's not changing. Packages will be delivered to your home on Sundays. Your post office hours are not being cut. And if you have P.O. boxes, mail will still be delivered to those P.O. boxes on Saturdays. Let's talk more about this. Athena Jones joins me from Washington. And, Athena, the post office, they're making this decision without Congress and the approval there. Is it legal?

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, that's the big question that we were all asking during the press conference and afterwards. The Postal Service says they believe the language in the current budget bill gives them the room to do this. Of course, that's a matter of some debate and it raises questions like, if you could do this before, why didn't you do it before if you're in such dire financial straits, especially since these savings wouldn't come until August?

This seems to be a way to try to put pressure on Congress to make some big changes to the limits and the requirements they put on the Postal Service. Chief among them, a 2006 bill that requires them to prefund health care benefits for future retirees to the tune of billions of dollars a year. They say this has put a lot of pressure on the Postal Service's bottom line. That in addition to people using the Internet to stay in touch and to pay their bills, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Well, on the bottom line point, we know that ending Saturday deliveries is supposed to save them something like $2 billion. When you look, though, big picture, I mean this comes after that record loss of nearly $16 billion. That was just last year. So, does this really help in terms of the overall hemorrhaging of money for the post office?

JONES: Well, you know, it's only 10 percent of the $20 billion short fall they expect to have later on. And so they seem to recognize that. That they were asked a bit about that. And they said that they're going to need Congress' approval to do some of these bigger things, to make changes, like I said, to that 2006 law. And, you know, they've already made several attempts to cut costs. They've reduced hours at post offices over the past couple of years. They've closed some post offices. They raised stamp prices for first class stamps just a week ago. That went into effect. And they've also consolidated distribution centers. And so they've done a lot of things around the edges but they say its saving a lot of money, but they're not able --

BALDWIN: Athena, I'm going to have to cut you off. Forgive me. We've got to go straight -- we've got to go straight to the president as he is selecting his -- who he would like to have head the Department of Interior. Here she is, to his right, if you're looking at him from our perspective, this is Sally Jewell. Let's eavesdrop.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: -- Department of the Interior is actually the department of America. Other members of my cabinet may not entirely agree with that statement, but you can see where he's coming from. The secretary of the interior is in charge of overseeing 500 million acres of public land, including places like Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon, and protecting our natural heritage for our children and our grandchildren and their children to come.

But the job also requires keeping an eye on America's future, and making smart decisions about how we create jobs and help businesses grow and put ourselves on a path towards energy independence. And that's not always an easy balancing act. But with enthusiasm and skill and dedication, that's exactly what Ken Salazar's done over the last four years.

We were just reminiscing a little bit. I've known Ken since we were both running for the Senate together and became the only two incoming Democrats in our Senate class. Pete Rouse (ph) remembers this. It was a lonely time. We actually lived in the same building when we first arrived in Washington. And, Ken, you'll recall, it was a little discouraging because basically everybody else who lived there was 20 or 25. So we were the two geriatrics in this building.

But I came to appreciate quickly, not just his friendship, which, you know, if you've got Ken Salazar as a friend, you've got a real friend. Not only did I come to appreciate his jump shot, he is surprisingly quick on the court, but also his patriotism and his belief that we've got a responsibility to care for the land with which we've been blessed.

And it's not surprising that Ken feels this way. After all, his ancestors were living here before the Mayflower set sail. As he explains it, and relevant as we are working to get immigration reform passed, his family did not cross the border. The border crossed them. And that's why when I needed somebody to lead interior, I didn't have to look very far.

Since being confirmed, Ken has cracked down on waste, he's improved the management of the department to make it work better for the American people, he's ushered in a new era of conservation for our land, our water and our wildlife. He's established seven new national parks, 10 new national wildlife refuges. He's opened more public land and water for safe and responsible energy production. Not just gas and oil, but also wind and solar, creating thousands of new jobs and nearly doubling our use of renewable energy in this country.

He's helped to forge what is probably the strongest working relationship with tribal leaders that the federal government has seen in modern times. And when the unexpected has happened, like the Gulf oil spill, or Hurricane Sandy, he's been on the ground making sure that people get help right away and we deal with these challenges as professionally as possible. So I really like Ken Salazar if you haven't gotten the point.

Ken is now ready to head back to Colorado and spend more time with Hope and his family. And so, in addition to just saying thank you, Ken, for the extraordinary work that you've done, Ken is also going to have the opportunity to introduce his successor. And I am extraordinarily proud today to nominate another strong and capable leader to take the reins at interior, and that is Miss Sally Jewell.

In high school, Sally's aptitude test showed she had a knack for mechanical reasoning and spatial ability. We checked. We do thorough vetting before nominations. Of course, her recommended professions after she took these tests were to be a nurse or a teacher, as like all the other girls in her class. And it wasn't until she was an undergraduate at the University of Washington, studying to be a dentist, when Sally realized her boyfriend's homework was more interesting than hers and she decided to become an engineer.

And after graduation, Sally went on to work in the oil fields of Oklahoma and Colorado. Later she brought her experience in the energy sector to banking, where she spent 19 years determining what makes companies succeed and fail. And, most recently, as the CEO of REI, a position that she's held for the last eight years.

Sally has helped turn a stalling outdoor retailer into one of America's most successful and environmentally conscious companies. Last year, REI donated almost $4 million to protect trails and parks and 20 percent of the electricity used in their stores comes from renewable sources. So even as Sally spent the majority of her career outside of Washington, where I might add the majority of our interior is located, she is an expert on the energy and climate issues that are going to shape our future.

She's committed to building our nation to nation relationship with Indian country. She knows the link between conservation and good jobs. She knows that there's no contradiction between being good stewards of the land, and our economic progress. That, in fact, those two things need to go hand and hand. She's shown that a company with more than $1 billion in sales can do the right thing for our planet.

Sally's broad expertise and set of values I know are going to serve her well as she takes on these new challenges. She's got a wonderful and supportive family who I understand enjoy the great outdoors, just like she does. So they've got a vested interest in making sure that the Department of Interior is doing the right thing. And when Sally's confirmed, I'm willing to bet that she will be the first secretary of the interior who frequently hikes Mailbox Peak in her native Washington state, and who once spent a month climbing mountains in Antarctica, which is just not something I think of doing, because it seems like it would be cold. And I was born in Hawaii.

So, for Sally, the toughest part of this job will probably be sitting behind a desk. I suspect she'll want to get out of the office quite a bit. But, again, I want to thank Ken Salazar and the entire Salazar family for their extraordinary service, their extraordinary friendship. The Department of Interior is stronger, this country is stronger, our natural resources are in a better place because of his extraordinary service. I could not be more thrilled with the work that Sally, I know, is going to do in following that path that Ken has carved. I expect the Senate to confirm her as quickly as possible.

And with that, I'd like to invite both of them to say a few words starting with my dear friend Ken Salazar.


Is it the same one I have?

OBAMA: No, that's Sally's. Just didn't want to get them mixed up.

SALAZAR: Let me just first of all say to President Obama that I am humbled and honored beyond imagination to have been a part of the President Obama dream team for the United States of America. His presidency is historic. His team in the White House is historic. And the team at the Department of Interior are historic. And for that, I will ever be eternally grateful to you, my wonderful friend, Mr. President.

OBAMA: Thank you. Thank you.

SALAZAR: So, with your leadership and support, and this wonderful team that we have here, we have, in fact, changed way that the Department of Interior does business. We have seized the opportunity together with our other colleagues on the cabinet, and under the president's leadership and your stellar staff here at the White House, to put the nation on a path towards energy independence. Today, the largest solar projects in the history of the world are coming up out of the deserts of the public lands of the United States and our foreign oil imports are at the lowest that they have been since 1995.

I'm proud, Mr. President, of you and your team, because of your leadership on conservation for America. From your support in the signing of the historic 2009 Public Lands Act, to the launch of America's Great Outdoors, together we have ushered in a 21st century conservation agenda and preserved the crown jewels of our nation, from the crown of the continent in Montana, to the Florida everglades, to the Statue of Liberty. I'm proud of our historic work and perhaps more proud of this than almost anything else, for the nation's first Americans, from resolving the long-standing conflicts like Cobel (ph), to delivering clean drinking water to places like the Navajo nation, you have given credibility, Mr. President, to the proposition that the nation's first Americans too will share in the American dream. Mr. President, my parents pushed their eight children to become first generation college graduates and taught us that anything was possible in this nation of ours. As your secretary of interior, you have given to me the opportunity to prove them right and to achieve that American dream. And for that, Hope, my wife, and my entire family will be eternally grateful to you.

Today, Mr. President, I'm also proud to stand with you here as you announce your selection of an outstanding person to be your nominee for secretary of interior. Sally Jewell knows firsthand the extricable link between conservation and the economy. Sally was a key contributor to you and to your entire team in the creation of the America's Great Outdoors agenda. She's been a champion of the Land and Water Conservation Fund and so many other conservation issues of our time. I also know that her successful business record and experience as an oil and gas engineer will serve her well as she implements your all of the above energy agenda, which has been such a keystone to you over the last four years, and I'm sure you will have more to say about that very soon.

So, Mr. President, I believe that as you have done with all the decisions that you have made since I have been working with you on your team, this is a stellar decision and you've chosen somebody who will be a stellar, outstanding secretary of the interior, Sally Jewell.

SALLY JEWELL, INTERIOR SECRETARY NOMINEE: Well, thank you, Mr. President, for your kind words and for the confidence you're placing in me with this nomination.

I have a great job at REI today, but there's no role that compares when the call to serve my country as secretary of the Department of Interior. I'm humbled and I'm energized by this opportunity and I look forward to getting to know members of the Senate as they consider my nomination in the coming weeks.

Thank you, Secretary Salazar, for the opportunities you've given to people across this country to engage with the Department of Interior, sharing their hopes and their dreams for our public lands, our resources, our people, especially our first people, our history and our culture. I look forward to working with the dedicated employees at interior who worked so hard to care for our land and our resources every day. I'm going to do my best to fill those big boots of yours, but I think I might get lost in your hat.

Thank you, Warren, my husband of nearly 35 years, my two children, Peter and Ann, for their love and their support on this career journey. I'm excited to take this new challenge. Thank you so much.

OBAMA: You're going to be great.

JEWELL: Thank you.

(END LIVE SPEECH COVERAGE) BALDWIN: Sally Jewell. She says she's excited. Thanking Secretary Salazar, outgoing Secretary Salazar. She is the president's pick for the next secretary of Department of Interior. Briefly, she has an oil energy background, which, of course, the White House hopes proves helpful in the Senate confirmation hearings from Washington. From Seattle, originally. And apparently enjoys hiking the mountains of Antarctica. So we'll follow the Senate confirmation hearings there for her.

Coming up next, a shocking story. A federal guard accused of having sex with an inmate who, by the way, is convicted of killing police officers. By the way, she's eight months pregnant.

Plus, a former employee files a lawsuit against Oprah Winfrey's network involving sex discrimination.


BALDWIN: Oprah is known for her devoted female following. But now her own TV network, OWN, is accused of discriminating against a pregnant employee. Carolyn Hommel, she's a former senior director, she filed suit claiming her duties were reassigned after she took time off for her pregnancy and then the position was eliminated. Neither Winfrey nor OWN has commented on the lawsuit.

And talking about looking for love in all the wrong places here. Listen to this one. A federal corrections officer is being charged for having sex with a convicted cop killer. This is according to a source close to this investigation. And the accused, Nancy Gonzales, is apparently carrying some serious evidence against her, aka here her -- she's eight months pregnant allegedly with the inmate's baby. CNN's Susan Candiotti live in New York on the story.

Susan, talk about an odd coupling.

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Brooke, it is a strange couple, no matter how you look at it. A former New York federal prison guard is now eight months pregnant by an inmate she was guarding. Prosecutors say Nancy Gonzales is charged with sexually abusing an inmate. She allegedly had sex with him at least three times in a room near his cell.

The father of her baby, according to a law enforcement official, Ronell Wilson, a convicted cop kill, behind bars for killing two New York police officers in 2003, shooting them in the back of their heads in a car during a gun buy. Prosecutors say they have Miss Gonzales on video in a room with the defendant, and in phone calls admitting to the tryst. In court papers she's quoted allegedly telling another inmate, here it is, "I took a chance because I was so vulnerable and wanted to be loved and now I am carrying his child." And that she, quote, "kind of got sucked into his world and felt like, well, why not give him a child as far as giving him some kind of hope."

Now, Wilson was on death row, but his sentence was overturned because of a statement made by prosecutors to the jury. The government is arguing to retry the penalty phase. Now, for Miss Gonzales, eight months pregnant, she could face up to 15 years in prison if found guilty. Her lawyer is defending her.


ANTHONY RICCO, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: People find love in the strangest places. And people get together in the most difficult circumstances. We live in a society where these events happen. These types of cases are unusual, but they're not uncommon.


BALDWIN: OK. So, Susan, this guy, apparently if he was sentenced, why does he want to father a baby here?

CANDIOTTI: Well, that is the question, isn't it? You know, it's possible that maybe Wilson thought about wanting to -- wanting to leave a legacy behind. But he left a note to someone. He wrote, actually, a letter to another inmate. He said, quote, "I just need a baby before these pigz try to take my life. I need to have something behinde." Now, currently he is serving a life sentence. Miss Gonzales is out on bond. And court papers, get this, suggest that she was also involved with yet another inmate.


BALDWIN: Wow. OK. I'm just going to leave it there.

Susan Candiotti, thank you.

CANDIOTTI: Probably --

BALDWIN: And now -- yes, probably best.

Turn on your television. At any given moment, what you see is profoundly different from shows of years past. Gone are "The Happy Days," "The Brady Bunch," "Laverne and Shirley." Here now we have the housewives, Honey Boo Boo. So is that what we have become in America? Are we airing who we truly are? Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): Sunday, Monday happy days.

BALDWIN (voice-over): "Happy Days," "I Love Lucy," "Leave It To Beaver." Classic images of American life that became synonymous with a country.

DESI ARNAZ (singing): Heaven. I'm in heaven.

BALDWIN: But fast-forward 40 or 50 years and what we're watching now paints a very different picture.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mama. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mommy's going to have another baby.

BALDWIN: From "Swiss Family Robinson" to "The Hunger Games." And "The Real Housewives" are now more this than this.

BARBARA BILLINGSLEY, ACTRESS, "LEAVE IT TO BEAVER": Beaver, you made the football team. Do you think you're going to get a letter?

BALDWIN (on camera): And don't assume you'll find a more reserved America at the bookstore. Last year's best-seller, so-called mommy porn, "50 Shades of Grey."

Name a -- it can be a book, TV show or movie, that you think most epitomizes America right now.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: "Sex and the City."



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: "American Gangster."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can't wait to go to the pageant with glitzy, because we're going to win it all.

BALDWIN: Did America take a wrong turn after "Happy Days"?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE, ACTOR, "FAMILY GUY" (singing): But where are those good old-fashioned values of which we used to rely.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The golden age of television sitcoms did not reflect the way American society really was. What it reflected to some extent is the way America thought it should be.

BALDWIN (voice-over): So, what is the reality of America today?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: "Zero Dark Thirty."




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It would be "Homeland."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: An American prison of war had been turned.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What Showtime does reflect is this latent paranoia that most of us feel, having lived through September 11th.

BALDWIN: We also got the message that America still equals family.





UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's got to be "Modern Family."


BALDWIN: It may just look a little different these days.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): The circle of life.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's happened really is television has caught up to human reality.

BALDWIN: Perhaps so, but some of us believe the real America is still to be found in a house in 1950s Milwaukee.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: "Happy Days," it was a fun time, there was a sense of community. There was an innocence about "Happy Days," you know.