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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Police Believe Dorner is Dead; State of the Union Address; "Banana Joe" Wins Best in Show; Interview With Sen. Rob Portman

Aired February 13, 2013 - 08:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: New overnight on STARTING POINT: charred human remains have been found. But are they of the suspected killer Christopher Dorner? Is he dead? The very latest on this developing story.

Then, President Obama delivers his State of the Union address. The mission he says is to boost the middle class.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Let's declare that in the wealthiest nation on Earth, no one who works full time should have to live in poverty.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: What do the Republicans and Tea Party members have to say about that? We'll get their response.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: The president also called for action on gun control. Attending the State of the Union were two parents who lost their daughter to gun violence. Does her mother, Cleopatra Pendleton, think the president went far enough? She is here for her first sit- down interview.

And speaking for the first time since his incredible announcement, Pope Benedict XVI addresses his followers this morning after telling them he's resigning.

O'BRIEN: It's Wednesday, February 13th -- a special edition of STARTING POINT coming to you live from Washington, D.C., this morning, gets under way right now.

(MUSIC)

O'BRIEN: Good morning.

From raising the minimum wage to gun control, we have a complete look this morning at the president's State of the Union address from last night. We're going to talk about that, with analysis as well, straight ahead.

First, though, we want to begin with developments in the manhunt for accused killer Christopher Dorner. New this morning: charred human remains have been found in a burned out cabin where police and a suspect believed to be Dorner were involved in one final shoot-out. While law enforcement seems confident that, in fact, they had killed the former police officer, it could be a while before there's a positive identification.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COMMANDER ANDREW SMITH, LOS ANGELES POLICE DEPT.: Recovering bodies out of burned buildings as you may know is very difficult and it's difficult to identify the remains of someone in a building, and that could take days or possibly even weeks to do a DNA analysis or forensic dental analysis depending on the condition of the body.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Police spent nearly a week searching for Dorner around Big Bear Lake.

Kyung Lah talks about the final hours of what became a desperate manhunt.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have shots fired, four to five shots fired.

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A hail of bullets, police radio captured the moment.

A cabin burning to the ground, and fugitive ex-cop Christopher Dorner believed inside.

After six days of combing through Big Bear, the first Dorner report came midday. "The L.A. Times" reports two maids cleaning a home were tied up. Their car stolen.

The first law enforcement to spot the suspect in the stolen car were two Fish and Wildlife officers.

PATRICK FOY, CALIFORNIA FISH AND WILDLIFE: First was a purple Nissan which he ultimately appeared to have been driving too fast, lost control of the vehicle, crashed it. Carjacked the second white pickup, and then was fleeing the scene which is when our warden noticed him. They were so close that he recognized his face.

LAH: Suspected cop killer Christopher Dorner. The suspect opened fire, 15 shots, hitting the patrol car, narrowly missing the officers. They chased the truck to this cabin.

As they began their approach, the man inside opened fire.

(GUNFIRE)

LAH: The gun fight captured by a local news reporter's cell phone.

(GUNFIRE) LAH: Radio calls from the officers.

Then the heart sinking call.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Officer down, officer down.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Copy. Officer down.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Medic ship (ph) in the air, medic in the air. Another officer down.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Another officer down.

SHERIFF JOHN MCMAHON, SAN BERNARDINO COUNTY: One of our deputies was injured. He's being treated here at Loma Linda. And, unfortunately, one of our deputies passed away as a result of his injuries.

JODI MILLER, SHERIFF SPOKESPERSON: All law enforcement agencies is a brotherhood. So this is a very difficult day for law enforcement.

LAH: Law enforcement closed down all roads in and out, searching cars leaving the mountain.

Back at the cabin, officers saw no one leave.

Then, this --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: More ammo going off --

CINDY BACHMAN, SHERIFF'S SPOKESWOMEN: The person that barricaded himself inside the cabin and engaged in gunfire with our deputies and other law enforcement officers is still inside there.

LAH: The cabin burned to the ground. The suspect believed still inside.

San Bernardino sheriff's department confident enough to drop the road blocks even as they wait for DNA identification. The LAPD's largest manhunt has come to an end.

Kyung Lah, CNN, Los Angeles.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BERMAN: After six days combing the mountains of Big Bear, California, new details emerging about how officers were able to finally spot Dorner and eventually surround him.

Paul Vercammen is live from Big Bear. And, Paul, the police were focusing on that resort for a long time. What can you tell us about how they finally managed to hone in on him?

PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, they had combed that neighborhood repeatedly. We were up there. We know they went down that street and it would be shocking to me that they didn't knock on the door, check out that house. What happened was two maids came in to clean this cabin and they, much to their surprise discovered Dorner and he's unmistakable in his look, six feet tall, 270 pounds, he tied them up, he took their car, headed down the road. That's where the Fish and Wildlife officers found him, and Dorner was using two school buses in a sense as a cover. He closely followed the bumper of one of the school buses.

Fish and Wildlife pursued from there and rear ahead, John. And that's where they got first contact with Dorner.

BERMAN: All right. Paul Vercammen out in Big Bear -- thank you for being with us this morning.

We want to bring in Terry Turchie. He led the task force to capture the Unabomber when he was with the FBI.

And, Terry, I should say, this ended in a somewhat different way here. Obviously, the law enforcement officials yesterday -- they knocked down the walls around the cabin, we're seeing reports of that and ultimately this cabin, you know, caught on fire. And there are charred remains inside that everyone suspects belong to Christopher Dorner.

So my question to you is, how do you know when it's time to stop negotiating and start really just going in aggressively?

TERRY TURCHIE, FMR. DEPTY ASST. DIRECTOR, COUNTERTERRORISM DIVISION, FBI: Well, certainly in this case, they already knew this man was very violent. He'd already been shooting. He was armed and there was not going to be much time lapse here. They were going to be prepared, get everybody there, get the SWAT team there. And when they had the right mix of resources, there was, if there were no hostages in there, they were going to be ready to go in pretty quickly.

And there was so much violence that preceded this the week before that we're talking about a person who was out of control, had lost control, and the police were going to be ready to act and act quickly. The reason being they weren't going to take any chances that he was going to get out of that cabin under any circumstances and be a public menace and kill more people, because he would have.

BERMAN: We have a map showing this area here and there was that truck, that burnt out truck found there last week. And then, all of a sudden, the sheriff's office started pulling resources out because they thought he might be near Big Bear.

So, you know, in retrospect, we don't want to second-guess here but do you think that may have been a decision that was unwise?

TURCHIE: Well, they pulled some resources out but they also left some there, and I think that it's really important that while it looked as though they were scaling down and pursuing other leads, they still had a presence there and knew how to operate there and they still were able to get resources back there quickly when all of this began. I mean, they had the air support, they had the medical support. It's tragic and our hearts go out to the officers who are major league heroes that bottled him up in that cabin and one ended up losing his life and the other hopefully is doing much better today. But this is the nature of what law enforcement is, and all of those people out there recognize that. I actually in watching this over the week have nothing but the highest praise for the LAPD and all of those agencies down there because kind of standing back.

And looking at how they got along, you could tell long before this happened that those agencies down there, federal, state and local, got together, were friends, had trained together, had worked together, and were committed to bringing this to the best end that they could. And it's a tough situation, and it's a particularly tough situation when it ends up in the wilderness. There is no worse place to operate than to be out in the middle of the wilderness and around every bend, every tree stump, every old abandoned piece of equipment -- you simply don't know what's there.

And looking back and my own experiences and seeing how they handled this and particularly going to the public through the media and trying to keep the public on top of this, I think they did a good job.

BERMAN: There was an enormous amount of coordination, that he's for sure.

Terry Turchie, thank you for joining us right now. And as you correctly point out, this was a tragedy that affected a great many lives.

Later this morning, we're going to talk to Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. We'll talk to him about how this affected his city and his police force that he is trying to lead.

O'BRIEN: And just few hours, President Obama will travel from here, in Washington, D.C., to North Carolina. He's going to start rallying for public support of the proposals he laid out last night in a State of the Union address.

A CNN/ORC poll found that 53 percent of Americans had a positive reaction to the speech, 24 percent who were watching the speech said they had a somewhat positive, 22 percent negative reaction.

Let's get right to CNN's Brianna Keilar. She's live at the White House for us this morning. Hey, Brianna. Good morning.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, Soledad.

President Obama had a message for Republicans. He said deficit reduction alone is not an economic plan. Even as he urged Congress to work together, we heard echoes of the campaign where he talked about people having a fair shot, and also a lot about investing in the middle class, in education, and energy and an increase in the minimum wage.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) OBAMA: We can say with renewed confidence that the state of our union is strong.

KEILAR (voice-over): In the first State of the Union address of his second term, President Obama unveiled a slate of new proposals aimed at improving the lives of the middle class, taking on everything -- from universal preschool education, to repairing the nation's aging infrastructure, to addressing the threat of climate change.

He urged Congress to put partisan differences aside on the issue of immigration and to stay focused on a plan to jump-start the nation's lethargic economy.

OBAMA: The American people have worked too hard for too long rebuilding from one crisis to see their elected officials cause another.

KEILAR: Renewing an unfulfilled promise from his first presidential campaign, Obama asked Congress to increase the federal minimum wage to $9 an hour.

OBAMA: Let's declare that in the wealthiest nation on Earth, no one who works full-time should have to live in poverty. Let's tie the minimum wage to the cost of living so that it finally becomes a wage you can live on.

KEILAR: In the moment of the night, the president called on Congress to vote for tougher gun legislation, stepped up background checks, and an assault weapons ban.

OBAMA: Gabby Giffords deserves a vote.

(APPLAUSE)

The families of Newtown deserve a vote.

(APPLAUSE)

The families of Aurora deserve a vote.

(APPLAUSE)

KEILAR: On national security, the president warned of the threats posed by enemy hackers, announcing new measures to increase information sharing, and adding long sought details on the case of the drawdown in Afghanistan, he announced plans to bring home nearly half the troops serving there by this time next year.

OBAMA: Another 34,000 American troops will come home from Afghanistan, this drawdown will continue. And by the end of next year, our war in Afghanistan will be over.

(APPLAUSE)

KEILAR: How will all of this be paid for? The president vowed.

OBAMA: Nothing I'm proposing tonight should increase our deficit by a single dime.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KEILAR: But White House officials are not putting a price tag on the president's proposals. They say the dollars and cents will be fleshed out when he releases his budget next month -- John and Soledad.

O'BRIEN: All right. Brianna, thank you.

BERMAN: It was Republican Senator Marco Rubio who gave the GOP response to the State of the Union address. He was criticizing big government and saying that the president's deficit reduction plan will not help the middle class.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: The tax increases and the deficit spending you propose will hurt middle class families. It will cost them their raises. It will cost them their benefits. It may even cost some of them their jobs. And it will hurt seniors because it does nothing to save Medicare and Social Security.

So, Mr. President, I don't oppose your plans because I want to protect the rich. I oppose your plans because I want to protect my neighbors -- hard-working, middle class Americans who don't need to us come up with a plan to grow the government. They need a plan to grow the middle class.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Now, in just a few minutes, we will have more Republican response with the very powerful Ohio Senator Rob Portman.

O'BRIEN: Zoraida Sambolin has a look at some of the other stories making news today. She's in New York for us.

Hey, Z. Good morning.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you. And new this morning, the conclave to decide who will succeed the president will be held as early as March 15th. I'm sorry, succeed the Pope -- excuse me.

This is Pope Benedict XVI celebrates what will likely be his last public mass today. That's -- today is Ash Wednesday. But before mass at St. Peter's Basilica, he greeted thousands of faithful in the square, take a look at that. He thanked them in several languages, and right off the bat addressed his decision to retire.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

POPE BENEDICT XVI, CATHOLIC CHURCH (through translator): I've done this in full freedom for the benefit of the church, but I have prayed for a long time, and I have examined before God my conscience, fully aware of the gravity and seriousness of such act.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: He also told followers he thought it would be inappropriate to stay on as Pope.

And we are hearing for the first time this morning from the mother of the now 6-year-old Alabama boy who was taken from a school bus and held in a bunker for a week. In an interview airing today on "The Dr. Phil Show", Jennifer Kirkland says her son absolutely did see police fatally hoot his kidnaper, identified as Jimmy Lee Dykes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. PHIL MCGRAW, TALK SHOW HOST: How did you feel when you heard that he might be crying or --

JENNIFER KIRKLAND, MOTHER OF ETHAN: I wanted to be there. I wanted to take his place.

DR. PHIL: Did he see Mr. Dykes shot and killed?

KIRKLAND: He absolutely did. He says the army came in and shot that man.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: Kirkland also says that her son has had trouble sleeping since the kidnapping.

And, new tales of horror from the disabled Carnival cruise ship that, right now, is slowly being pulled back to the states from the Gulf of Mexico. Passengers say the toilets are overflowing and they are running out of food. If all goes well, the ship is expected to arrive in Mobile, Alabama, on Thursday. We're going to have a live report coming up from Mobile at the bottom of the hour.

And Banana Joe is the Best in Show. The affenpinscher took home the crown of the 137 Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. And Banana Joe is going out on top: Westminster was his final competition. He apparently got his name because he looks like a little monkey dog.

And you know, Soledad, I told you we'd get a little information for you on him. So, he is a fun-loving, but sometimes, mischievous little dog, very intelligent, very good with kids if you train your kids because he's so small.

O'BRIEN: If you train your kids.

(LAUGHTER)

BERMAN: If you train your kids?

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: There's a couple of hints in there, train your kids, and he's mischievous. All that is go to the pound, get a dog.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, I know. He is the personality of a terrier. That's (INAUDIBLE). So, good luck with that.

(LAUGHTER)

O'BRIEN: Yes, exactly. Thank you, Z.

SAMBOLIN: You're welcome.

O'BRIEN: So, a sip of water, or the attempt at a sip of water, kind of turns into an Internet phenomenon. We are talking about Senator Marco Rubio's water break earlier. It has become a trending moment from the "State of the Union" address. We'll have more on that straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. President Obama calling on politicians on both sides of the aisle to work together to get it done, work to compromise on a host of issues from the economy to immigration to guns as well. Here's what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: The American people don't expect government to solve every problem. They don't expect those of us in this chamber to agree on every issue. But they do expect us to put the nation's interests before party.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Senator Rob Portman is a Republican from Ohio. It's nice to have with you us, sir. What did you make of that speech last night?

SEN. ROB PORTMAN, (R) OHIO: Well, it's kind of mixed, you know? He laid out a lot of new federal spending programs after saying he wanted to work with Republicans on the deficit, and he wasn't going to increase spending by a single dime. He laid out, as I counted them, ten new federal spending programs. So it was sort of more of the same in that sense. I was most encouraged about what he said about entitlement reform and tax reform.

BERMAN: Why?

PORTMAN: Well, because I think as president, his role is to explain to the American people what's really going on. You know, we're awash in red ink. The entitlement programs, as important as they are, are not sustainable in their current form. These (ph) are going to be tough. Political decisions to be made. And at one point in the speech, again, despite I think doing a lot of the old "tax and spend" of the last four years, at one point in the speech, he said, "We need to reform our entitlement programs and it's not going to be easy."

And that's what the American people need to hear from him. You know, folks are tired of hearing this notion that somehow everything is fine. They know the economy is not doing well, and somehow it's OK to have a $16 1/2 going on $17 trillion debt. O'BRIEN: Many people have looked at immigration as sort of the next easier thing to do, because there seems to be a lot of consensus. Do you think, though, in fact, that entitlement reform could be right after that? As you say, it can be the third rail, and we certainly saw, in an election year, it's like the fifth rail. I mean, no one wants to tackle it. It becomes very ugly and very fast.

PORTMAN: Well, look, we have to address it. If we don't, those programs will not be sustainable in their current form and that's the reality. The president knows that. If you look at what the Congressional Budget Office told us just last week -- which is a nonpartisan group in Congress that gives us, you know, the scoring, how much things are going to cost -- they said these programs will over the next ten years double in their cost.

And look, they've said you can't cash it with income taxes. In other words, you can't tax enough to catch up to these programs. So for the sake of our seniors and for the sake of their kids and grandkids, we've got to figure out how to preserve and save these programs. And we need the president's, you know, help in doing so. And so that was the most positive thing I heard him say.

I'm going to be talking to Jack Lew about that today, because he's at the finance committee for his confirmation hearings. I suspect Jack Lew had something to do with getting that into the speech last night. And I hope he'll take that on his treasury secretary.

BERMAN: What about closing tax loopholes? You know, you worked very hard for the Mitt Romney campaign. It's something that Mitt Romney campaigned on. He said he was going to reform the tax code, close some loopholes, which would raise revenue. President Obama discussed this yesterday. Is that something you could support again?

PORTMAN: Absolutely. I mean, Republicans have been out there talking about pro-growth tax reform for a long time. By the way, the president talked about it three States of the Union ago, so he's talked about it, too. The fact is he hasn't presented a single proposal, and every time we've tried to move forward with tax reform, the president has raised concern.

So here's the question: If you really want to grow the economy, let's do the things that are pro-growth, that are going to get the private sector going to create more middle class jobs and better jobs. His own jobs council has told him tax reform is part of that, and yet the president seems intent on sort of picking out one loophole after another and holding those up -- which, by the way, don't come close to paying for the programs that he's laid out -- without talking about this need to do comprehensive tax reform that increases economic growth by broadening the base attack, simplifying the code, and lowering the rates, not tax cuts but tax neutral, revenue neutral tax reform.

O'BRIEN: Many times we look at, really, almost every address -- excuse me -- to see if there's an olive branch or sort of a club being presented. How would you read what was presented last night? I mean, I saw very -- the moment of the clapping when there was, you know, "They deserve a vote, they deserve a vote, they deserve a vote." You could see -- I thought Speaker Boehner seemed a little conflicted about whether to stand and clap when everybody else was clapping, and then he kind of stopped and then he sat because there's a lot behind that.

PORTMAN: Yes. I think the president was ambivalent last night as to whether he wants to govern or continue to be, you know, a successful politician. The campaign is behind us. We need to turn the page. So there was plenty of club last night. There were plenty of straw men that he threw out.

One that I thought was particularly concerning is when he said, "You Republicans believe that deficit reduction is by itself the only economic growth plan." Of course no Republican believes that. We're all for pro-growth tax reform, regulatory relief, getting health care costs down and energy plan and so on. And then, on the other hand --

O'BRIEN: -- that was a particular jab.

BERMAN: He didn't say Republicans. He said deficit reduction alone is not an economic growth plan.

PORTMAN: Yes. I think it was directed at Republicans. I'm sure Republicans felt that. Look, I think it was a mix, and at other points, the president did extend an olive branch. I think it's interesting when the president talked about immigration reform, and when he said that we need to do something to ensure we have high-tech workers here to grow middle class jobs, everybody stood up.

And I think that was an example where, again, his own job council has talked about that. If the president wants to find common ground, he can. I think the same is true with regard to entitlements. If the president is willing to provide the necessary political cover, frankly, to Democrats to do the right thing, many of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle believe we must address this problem.

They know we have to do tax reform, and by the way, they work well together. Then I think we're going to make great progress over the next three and a half years.

O'BRIEN: Senator Rob Portman, nice to have you with us this morning.

PORTMAN: Thanks, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: We appreciate it. You bet.

BERMAN: All right. So, from an awkward sip of water, really, the most famous sip of water now in history to a fist bump, we're going to tell you the top trending moments from the "State of the Union." That's coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. Trending this morning, thanks to the State of the Union, we know that President Obama is a big fan of the fist bump, but it seems the gesture has evolved to now the exploding fist bump. Yes, right there. My eight-year-old boys do that, too.

That's what happened when he was greeting the Illinois Senator Mark Kirk last night on his way up to the podium, exploding fist bump. Republican Senator returned the favor to him, and they moved on.

BERMAN: Of course, Senator Kirk from Illinois just recovering from a stroke. A year longer recovery from the stroke. So, that is very --

O'BRIEN: Look at that. A little silver lining for bipartisanship.

BERMAN: Yes. This is a silver watery lining right now. This is the Mark Rubio sip-up that's being hash-tagged #Watergate. I've also heard "Zero Dark Thirsty." I've heard "Aqualung". I mean, it's all out there.

Senator Rubio, he reached for a tiny bottle of water during the Republican response to the president's State of the Union address. You know, it was such an innocent, innocent, small gesture, but you knew it was going to go viral the minute he did it. A lot of people are giving props to Poland Spring for some pretty amazing product --

O'BRIEN: Yes. He's been talking about this morning. He said, listen, I was thirsty. I had just delivered the rebuttal, an 18- minute long rebuttal in Spanish, you know? And I'm in the middle of another speech. I need a sip of water.

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: You know, God has a funny way of reminding us we're human.

O'BRIEN: Yes, absolutely.

A major development also to talk about this morning. Police have found charred remains after a standoff in the woods in California, but are those remains those of killer, accused killer, Christopher Dorner? We're going to talk this morning with Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa straight ahead.

BERMAN: And families desperate to see their loved ones that have been trapped on a cruise ship. Next, one mother terrified for her young daughter, stuck in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)