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Stop the Forced Cuts; U.S.-Russia Adoption Battle; High Court Hears Penciled Plea; Alec Baldwin Accused of Racism

Aired February 19, 2013 - 11:30   ET


MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The parent company Sparks Network that owns other faith-based dating sites like, they have been cooperating with police. They said that they helped them in tracking him down with their warrants and affidavits.

It took them about two months to get him because he had so many different names on the Christian mingle site. This man was booked this past week. He pled out -- he pled not guilty and was let free on a $500,000 bond -- John.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: He -- that's right. He is free right now on bail. They're investigating to see just how widespread this may be.

Miguel Marquez, thanks very much.


BERMAN: This just in to CNN. NASA says it has lost communications with the International Space Station. NASA said the station is perfectly safe and that this is not an unprecedented event. Officials say communication was lost around 9:45 Eastern Time this morning. They are trying to reestablish communication.

Some new information about how Adam Lanza's possible motive in the Newtown, Connecticut, elementary school shooting. A source tells CNN that Lanza was, quote, "obsessed with mass murders."

Earlier CBS News reported that Lanza was driven by a desire to outdo Anders Breivik. That's Breivik on the right right there. He's the Norwegian man who killed 77 people back in 2011. Twenty-six people died, you'll remember, in the Newtown shooting.

After 148 years the state of Mississippi has finally ratified the 13th Amendment. That's the big one that abolished slavery. You may have seen it in the film "Lincoln." It was of course the focus of that film. The film led one man to question why Mississippi had not signed on. Well, it turns out that Mississippi's legislature did sign on in 1995, but did not file the proper paperwork. Now thankfully that's been all cleared up.

So as you may have just seen here live on CNN, President Obama is calling on Congress to soften or sidestep somehow or head-off the next fiscal deadline. Washington calls it the sequester. That's a word that doesn't mean much to human beings like us. What they are are forced spending cuts, machete-like swipes across budgets of most federal agencies and departments.

You'll recall the fiscal cliff agreement at the end of 2012 put off the cuts until March which is now just 11 days away. It is coming. Medicare and Medicaid, Social Security, troops and veterans, all that money is pretty much safe, but $85 billion will have to come out of somewhere. Other programs in 2013 alone. Among them, education, law enforcement, weather forecasting, food inspections, aviation safety. You know, lines at the airport could get much, much longer. The president says there has to be a better way.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Now if Congress allows this meat cleaver approach to take place, it will jeopardize our military readiness, it will eviscerate job-creating investments in education and energy and medical research. It won't consider whether we're cutting some bloated program that has outlived its usefulness or a vital service that Americans depend on every single day.

It doesn't make those dissensions. Emergency responders, like the ones who are here today, their able to help communities respond to and recover from disasters will be degraded.


BERMAN: Now some Republicans, especially in the Tea Party, including Senator Rand Paul, say that forced cuts are a pittance and even deeper cuts are needed. Others fear the impact of the deep cuts on the military.

I'm joined now on the phone by the Republican chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Buck McKeon.

And, Congressman, you heard Rand Paul say that these cuts are a pittance. Do you agree then that sweeping cuts are better than no cuts at all?

REP. BUCK MCKEON (R), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN (via phone) : Well, I -- we have a problem. There's no question. We have a spending problem and worse, we're spending more money than we're taking in. So we're borrowing 43 cents for every dollar that we spend.

That's a given. Everybody but the president and a few Democrats say that we do have a spending problem. The problem is even though Defense accounts for 17, 18 percent of our spending, they've taken half of the savings out of the military. The troops that are over there fighting to protect our freedoms around the world are being cut. The things that they need are being cut.

We've already cut $487 billion out of Defense and the sequestration that's set to start March 1st will cut another $500 billion out of Defense. That's the first time I've heard the president even mentioned Defense. He's the commander-in-chief, he should take responsibility to make sure that the military have the things that they need to be able to carry out their mission and return home safely.

BERMAN: Defense would be cut by some 13 percent if this goes through. Where then would you tell your colleagues that they need to find the savings?

MCKEON: No, no. No, no.

BERMAN: If you don't think Defense should cut.

MCKEON: Defense has been cut by 5-0, 50, 5-0 percent. Fifty. They account for 17 percent of the overall spending, but they've taken 50 percent of the savings out of Defense.

BERMAN: Whatever the math then, sir, again, if you would like to save Defense spending, what then would you tell your colleagues about where they should find the savings?

MCKEON: Excuse me.

BERMAN: Congressman McKeon, Chairman, I don't know if you can hear me, I was asking then if the savings aren't going to be found in Defense, where should the savings be found?

MCKEON: Out of the long-term forced spending, the savings that are on auto pilot. That's where we should be looking at and that's not even included in the president's discussion so far. That's the most part of where the -- where the deficit comes from. If you take rid of all -- get rid of all discretionary spending, all of the spending the president is talking about, and all Defense spend, we'll still be running a deficit of a half trillion dollars a year.

It comes out of the mandatory side that the super committee was supposed to address and nobody has been able to do that yet. If you eliminate all discretionary spending we'll still have a huge deficit, and that has to be part of the problem.

BERMAN: With these spending cuts to Defense and other programs right now, the CBO projects we're talking about 750,000 fewer jobs.

MCKEON: Correct.

BERMAN: How concerned are you that this could hurt our job recovery?

MCKEON: There's no question of that. We held hearings over a year ago that showed -- we had five hearings that show how devastating these cuts would be to the military. And then we held one that showed how devastating it would be to our economy. And if they -- the economists said it will push us right into another recession.

It's more than 700, it's two million jobs. And it's something that -- that the president should have been much more involved in. You know, this waiting until the last minute to solve all these crisis is not a good way to run things.

BERMAN: Congressman Buck McKeon, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, we appreciate your being with us today. MCKEON: Thank you, John.

BERMAN: A key Republican House chairman right there and the Democratic president of the United States agreeing something needs to be done, however they don't agree on what needs to be done. There in lies the problem.

Meanwhile other news right now. A Russian boy adopted by American parents has died in Texas. Moscow blames inhuman abuse. We'll have more on this story coming up right after this.


BERMAN: Turning now to an issue of intense friction between the United States and Russia. The adoption of Russian children by Americans. Authorities in Texas are investigating what's described as the suspicious death of a 3-year-old boy adopted from Russia. Russia's Foreign Ministry blames the death last month on inhuman abuse.

David Mattingly is following these developments for us.

And, David, lay out the details.

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, what we know about this boy and his adoptive parents is really not much today, but we do know that the boy and his brother were both adopted and living in the same house in Ector County, Texas. Officials there say that the boy was found unresponsive and that his mother called 911. That happened on January 21st. That was just days after his third birthday.

BERMAN: What are Texas and U.S. government officials saying about this case?

MATTINGLY: Well, Texas officials are looking into this because they are compelled to investigate any death of a young child that is not natural or is unknown. So there was an automatic investigation that was triggered here. They do call it suspicious. They could hurry this up, but under normal circumstances we may not have the results of that autopsy until sometime in March.

In the meantime, the U.S. government, the State Department says they always take cases of child welfare very seriously, including those cases of children adopted abroad. And they've offered to facilitate any sort of communication between Russian officials and officials investigating this in Texas.

BERMAN: This is a politically loaded issue. The American adoption of Russian children and it's not the first time that Russia has accused Americans of abusing children adopted from Russia, is it, David?

MATTINGLY: Russians say that since the 1990s there have been 19 Russian children adopted who have died while in the care of U.S. parents. That alone is enough to cause a problem. But on top of that, it was really inflamed back in 2010 when a U.S. mother actually flew her adopted son back to Russia alone on a one-way ticket, sending him back to Russia because he had had some violent behavior that was causing problems in the home. That situation really inflamed this and actually forced some official action.

BERMAN: All right. Our thanks to David Mattingly here, following this case for us.

Here with us to talk more about the little boy's death and the dispute between the United States and Russia over adoptions, in Atlanta television judge, author and former chief presiding judge at the Fulton County, Georgia, juvenile court, Glenda Hatchett, and here with me in New York, CNN legal contributor Paul Callan.

Paul, I want to start with you. Bring us up to speed here. Remind our viewers what's going on here between Russia and the United States. Because this is about more than just one kid in Texas.

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, you know, the backdrop really is a diplomatic dispute between the United States and the Soviet Union. The United States had enacted legislation -- human rights legislation which basically said that Russians accused of human rights violations would have trouble getting visas to the United States.

Russia responded by cutting off the adoption program which was very successful. I mean, thousands of poverty stricken Russian kids were adopted and brought to the United States. And Russia cut that program off to punish us for accusing Russia of human rights violations.

BERMAN: So, Judge Hatchett, then what's your case on this -- you know, what's your take on the Texas side of this case and what do you think is really going on there?

GLENDA HATCHETT, TV JUDGE, AUTHOR: John, I have seen too many of these cases in my courtroom. But the process is that it's simply, just very succinctly, the Texas officials will investigate it as you just heard. And that is a lot involved in that because, I mean, these are very serious allegations against these parents that this child was abused.

There's another layer on top of this, John, because it -- it involves a Russian adoption, and so the State Department will also be monitoring this very, very carefully given the tense relationship now between the two countries and this matter of adoptions that they have now restricted. So we -- this is going to be a complicated case. It's going to be very, very closely watched and could be, I think, spun for some political reasons which would be very unfortunate.

BLITZER: Paul, that's a great point there. The State Department has to be watching this very closely.

HATCHETT: Very closely.

CALLAN: Yes, they are watching it very closely and the real tragedy is I think anybody in a big city in the United States, certainly in New York, knows somebody who's probably adopted a Russian child.


CALLAN: And it's an important program, it's important for the kids. You know, I was listening earlier to the talk, you know, by the Russians about how bad the program is in the United States. You know, statistical analysis in this area, there aren't a lot of really reliable statistics on adopted children, but I think it's clear that in the United States, at least, we treat our adopted kids very, very well.

And if -- and I'm sure Judge Hatchett would probably tell you that --

HATCHETT: That's true.

CALLAN: -- you don't see too many cases involving Russian kids in Texas courts.

HATCHETT: No. We do not.

CALLAN: There may be domestic problems, but not adopted kids in these foreign programs.

HATCHETT: Right. And I think it's -- I'm sorry. I think it's very important to know that this has been a large source of adoptions in this country. I mean, it is the third largest -- I mean, Russia behind only China and Ethiopia, number three is Russia. So to your point, Paul, I mean, we've had so many successful adoptions, and this is going to -- it's going to impact the --

BERMAN: And I think everyone agrees. Whatever the international issues may be, everyone wants to this case investigated fully.

HATCHETT: Absolutely.

BERMAN: And find out the truth of what happened in Texas.

HATCHETT: Absolutely.

BERMAN: Don't go away, Paul. Don't go away, Glenda.

Up next, a persistent prisoner, a guy who's followed -- filed case after case after case, he's now caught the attention of the highest court in the land.


BERMAN: So a few exceptions the Supreme Court gets to pick and choose its cases. It turns away far more than it hears. But just last hour, the justices heard a case that arrived on their doorsteps in the form of a handwritten plea. A handwritten plea. And it came from an inmate here, the federal prison in Louisburg, Pennsylvania.

Kim Millbrook claims the guards sexually assaulted him in 2010. Now lower courts barely gave the case a second thought. The government said, they said, has sovereign immunity, end of story. Except it wasn't end of story. The government itself, the U.S. solicitor general, gave the Supreme Court a reason to get involved. And that's why I turn to my lawyers, CNN contributor Paul Callan, and in Atlanta, TV judge and best-selling author, Glenda Hatchett.

Paul, I got to say, this is a truly fascinating case. Complicated but fascinating. This comes from a hand written letter dealing with the issue of sovereign immunity. So explain to me what sovereign immunity is and why the high court was persuaded to hear this case.

CALLAN: Well, it's remarkable because, you know, the Supreme Court gets about 10,000 applications from people who want the Supreme Court to hear their cases. Most of them are submitted by very smart, high- paid lawyers. They get this handwritten application from the plaintiff in this case, a guy named Kim Millbrook, and they take his case.

And it's an interesting case because the case involves he was sexually abused, he claims, in prison by prison guards. When he sued his case is thrown out of court on the grounds of sovereign immunity which means you can't sue the government. And that sort of doctrine has been around for a long time because the thought is it's just going to increase the price of taxes and maybe we should keep government inexpensive. So you can't sue the government.

In this case, the Obama administration said, you know something, if they intentionally did this to him, then he should be able to sue the government. So even the Justice Department is taking his side before the Supreme Court.

BERMAN: And the Supreme Court clearly deciding it wants a piece of this action. It wants to consider this.

CALLAN: They are. And they've decided to take a look at it. And I think they're trying to establish two things, that there's justice available for all in this country, even people who don't have the money to hire a lawyer and have to do a handwritten petition. Hasn't been done since a case called "Gideon versus Wainwright" which happened a long time ago which gave poor people the right to have appointed counsel in criminal cases.

BERMAN: Judge Hatchett, let me ask you this quickly. He is what is called a frequent filer, this man, Kim Millbrook, is. He files cases again and again and again, by himself, usually written by hand, he's done it in every prison every jail he's been in.

How much does this tie up the legal system? As a judge how much do you have to see things like this?

HATCHETT: Well, it does. It does. But everybody is entitled to their day in court. And it is his legal right to do this. But I agree with Paul. I mean, I'm just so fascinated by this case and I am delighted, actually, that the solicitor has weighed in on this, because I think this may well be a landmark decision by the Supreme Court involving this issue of sovereign immunity.

I think -- I think we're going to be hearing a lot about this case going forward. But because he frequently files, I mean, you know, he has the right to do that and the process should go on.

BERMAN: OK. And again, they're hearing that case just today. We will update you when we hear more of that.

Just ahead, Alec Baldwin's run-in with a "New York Post" photographer. The paper calling it a racist tirade. Paul and Judge Hatchett will pick up this case coming up next.


BERMAN: Alec Baldwin is certainly no stranger to controversy, especially when it comes to the media. So now the actor is accused of aiming a racial slur at an African-American photographer who works for "The New York Post." He also allegedly grabbed the reporter from the paper and said he would choke her to death.

Baldwin denies using any racial slurs -- denies most of this. He calls this, quote, "One of the most outrageous things I have heard in my life."

Baldwin also says the photographer in question repeatedly bumped him, trying to bait him. I should point out the photographer is a former New York City police detective.

Paul Callan and Glenda Hatchett are back with me. Both sides in this case have filed harassment claims.

Judge, who's got the better case.

HATCHETT: Actually I think the -- the photographer has a better case in this situation because the reporter was there so he has a witness. I mean, the things that he said to this guy really are outrageous. This is a guy who was on the New York Police Department force for some 15 years. And this just is out of hand. And Baldwin is, as you said in the lead of this, is no stranger to this.

The -- as I understand it from the most recent reports, the police are not going to pursue any criminal charges against either of them since both of them filed charges. But I think he has a great civil case here against Baldwin.

BERMAN: Now the reporter does say she got the whole thing on tape. This is a celebrity story. So TMZ is involved here.


BERMAN: TMZ, which has heard the tape, they say -- they say the tape backs up Baldwin's claim that he never used a racial slur.

HATCHETT: Interesting. Interesting.

BERMAN: And that he never actually said he would choke the reporter.

Paul, is this all that matters here? What the tape says?

CALLAN: Well, you know, that's why I was going to have to agree with the good judge but I think I'd have to jump in on Alec Baldwin's side here because first of all they're both from "The New York Post." Now far be it for me to say that a tabloid like "The Post" might try to provoke somebody into getting a good picture. But it happens all the time with respect to these celebrities. They get followed by the paparazzi. The paparazzi harassed them mercifulessly and then they get the good picture.

And I think that's probably what happened with Alec Baldwin. You know, if you look at Baldwin's politics he's -- he doesn't have a reputation as someone who's being racist, who's anti-African-American. So I find it kind of hard to believe that Baldwin would have done that. And he also knows everything he says gets reported. So I've got to think Baldwin is going to win this in the end. And there's a tape, the cops haven't lodged charges. You know what that means. They don't have a case.

HATCHETT: Interesting. I didn't know about the tapes. So that will be interesting to watch this. Paul is maybe right.

BERMAN: The tape would be very interesting --

CALLAN: So maybe -- maybe you'll join the defense team with me, Judge.

HATCHETT: All right. All right.


Give me a call.

CALLAN: We'll both defend Baldwin, OK?

BERMAN: Well, both of you would be interested to hear, guys, neither Alec Baldwin nor "The New York Post," no shrinking violets here. So one thing is sure as this case goes on, it will remain interesting.

HATCHETT: Fireworks.

BERMAN: All right, Paul, great to see you. Judge Hatchett, thanks for being with us.


HATCHETT: Thank you.

BERMAN: Thank you, everyone, for watching. "NEWSROOM INTERNATIONAL" comes up next.


MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: She is. I'm Michael Holmes.

MALVEAUX: This hour we're taking you around the world in 60 minutes. We'll begin in South Africa. This is an amazing story. Everybody is talking about this.