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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Pope Benedict's Final Day; Clock Ticking Toward Deep Cuts; White House: "No Threat Was Intended"; Jack Lew Confirmed As Treasury Secretary; Brennan CIA Vote; Robber Points Gun At Woman, Child; Canadian Hockey Coach Get 15 Days In Jail; Show Stopper!; Steph Curry Pours In Career Best 54 Points; Monta Ellis' Ridiculous Buzzer Beater; Penn State Stuns Michigan; Brewers Italian Sausage Costume Found; Battle For Rights Of Transgender Girl

Aired February 28, 2013 - 07:30   ET

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


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: -- he began his retirement.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

POPE BENEDICT XVI (through translator): Personally, I would like to say that I will continue to serve you in prayer, in particular in the coming days, so that you may be touched by the Holy Spirit in the election of a new pope and I hope that the Lord will show you the right way.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: They're cardinals but that does not mean that they don't have big Twitter followings. A few of the cardinals have been tweeting about what they did with the pope this morning and the coming conclave.

Cardinal Ravasi of Italy, who is on the short list according to many people to be the next pope, tweeting that he'd be away for a few days. Since the cardinals are forbidden to communicate while the conclave is under way. Thanks to my followers for our road together. I will be away for a few days in friendship.

JOHN BERMAN, ANCHOR, CNN'S "EARLY START": It's like the best out of office reply. Sorry, electing the new pope. Be back next week.

O'BRIEN: Which might be me, see you next week. So here's a step-by- step look at what will happen today. Pope Benedict XVI's final day, at 10:45 Eastern, he'll depart the courtyard for the heliport, 11:00 his chopper will take off, 15 minutes later we're told he'll land in Castel Gandolfo, which is his temporary retirement home.

It's the summer retreat for popes for nearly 400 years. He'll greet the crowd from his window at 11:30 Eastern Time. Then at 2:00 Eastern, 8:00 p.m. local time the pope will officially begin his retirement. A lot could change for the church during the next pope's terms.

We want to get right to Sister Simone Campbell. She is the executive director of NETWORK and a member of the Sisters of Social Services. It's so nice to have you with us and great to see you again. What would you say in your mind is the pope's legacy, Pope Benedict XVI's legacy in a nutshell?

SISTER SIMONE CAMPBELL, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, NETWORK: I think there's two factors. One is his amazing teaching with regards to the economic challenges of our globalized world and really challenging the first world to be mindful of justice for everyone.

That everyone needs to have meaningful work that pays a living wage and where everyone has a right to food, shelter, clothing and health care. I think his stand on that has been significant and historic.

And quite frankly I think the other piece that he'll always be noted for is the fact that he acknowledged his limitations in aging and has resigned. I think it was a very courageous act on his part and I think that boldness hopefully will help open up some new opportunities in the church. Those are two of the things that I see as really historic.

O'BRIEN: What do you think is the likelihood that the new pope will do what you and I have talked about in the past. I know you've pushed hard for a changing role for women within the Catholic Church. How likely is that?

CAMPBELL: Well, I think actually it's probably slim to none, but I think what's going to happen is that as we embrace reality of our modern world, women are moving more into roles of leadership and, quite frankly, the church needs us there more than they ever have.

And so I think maybe it's going to happen just by doing. Often law follows practice, not leads practice. And in this instance, I think the practice is far ahead of the law and maybe we can tug the law along a little bit.

O'BRIEN: There's a woman named Teresa Puente and she was quoted in "News Day" and she said this, "What Catholics need most is a leader that will welcome everyone into the church and who will look at ways to examine whether the church doctrine makes sense in today's modern world. Birth control, gay marriage, women priests are just some of the issues some Catholics like myself."

She writes, "Would like the church to re-examine." And she said this the other day to "News Day." I remember I had this conversation with my mom a number of times about the role of the Catholic Church. I'm named after the Virgin Mary, my parents are very devout Catholics.

She was like the church doesn't change. The point of the church is not to catch up to modern times. The point of the church is to bring everybody along with them. It sounds like you could lose a lot of Catholics in that very tension, Sister.

CAMPBELL: Well, I do think that's been a tension in our church since Vatican 2, but what we know is that the church has changed dramatically over time. It's just that our lifetimes are shorter so we haven't seen as much of the change. But with the Vatican 2, our big renewal program was really returning to our roots of faith, which is to embody the gospel in the modern world. And what happened as a reaction, the pendulum swung back and people were pretty afraid of -- some of our leaders were afraid of the modern world.

And I think the biggest gift would be if the new pope has an enjoyment of the modern world, enjoys the challenge of pluralistic society and understands the great opportunity to live the gospel with people who are struggling.

It would be a great opportunity that could be exercised I think in a way that brings us all together. We keep saying at NETWORK, we're for the 100 percent. Well, Jesus definitely was for the 100 percent and so is the church.

O'BRIEN: Sister Campbell, nice to have you with us this morning. Always great to see you, thank you for being with us.

CAMPBELL: Thank you so much.

O'BRIEN: You bet. She does not seem very optimistic, Monsignor, as much as she points out she'd really, really like that. Do you agree with her, that the new pope embracing sort of major change or even minor change?

MONSIGNOR RICK HILGARTNER, U.S. CONFERENCE OF CATHOLIC BISHOPS: Well, I think one of the questions is we tend to look at this with our American perspective and our American mindset and that's our perspective. And it's legitimate and it's right.

But there are issues that are facing the church in other parts of the world that might not resonate with what we in the United States think. The role of women is one of those questions. And it's certainly a significant factor.

Currently in the Catholic Church in the United States, nearly 50 percent of administrative positions at the local, national and diocese level are held by women like Sister Simone.

So the place of women in the Catholic Church in the United States is significant. Those numbers might not resonate in the same way in other parts of the world.

O'BRIEN: It will be interesting to see what happens. Coming up at 10:00 a.m. Eastern, there's going to be a special coverage of the pope's last day. Chris Cuomo and Erin Burnett will be here in New York and Christiane Amanpour will join them live from Rome with an interview with Cardinal Timothy Dolan. That's our special reporting that begins at 10:00 a.m. Eastern on the pope's last day.

The other developing story we're covering this morning, those massive across-the-board spending cuts are now set to kick in tomorrow. President Obama has summoned top congressional leaders to a White House tomorrow morning. But at this point it looks like nothing will prevent the fiscal hammer from coming down. CNN's Brianna Keilar reports that the cuts have the White House at odds with prominent journalist, Bob Woodward.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After a week of touting the dire consequences around the forced spending cuts would have, President Obama softened his tone Wednesday night in a speech to top business executives.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: This is not a cliff, but it is a tumble downward. It's conceivable that in the first week, the first two weeks, the first three weeks, first month a lot of people may not notice the full impact of the sequester. But this is going to be a big hit on the economy.

KEILAR: Republicans have said these predictions are nothing but scare tactics.

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MINORITY LEADER: It's time they got of the campaign trail and started working with us to govern for a change.

KEILAR: The president reiterated the charge of partisanship ahead of an 11th hour meeting on Friday with congressional leaders.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: The issue is political and the question is whether or not we are going to see a willingness on the part of all parties to compromise in a meaningful way.

KEILAR: All the while, the Obama White House is engaged in a war of words with legendary "Washington Post" reporter Bob Woodward over the origin of the forced spending cuts.

In a controversial op-ed last week, Woodward wrote "The final deal reached between Vice President Biden and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in 2011 included an agreement that there would be no tax increases in "The Sequester."

Woodward criticized the president's handling of negotiations writing, "So when the president asks that a substitute for "The Sequester" include not just spending cuts but also new revenue, he is moving the goal posts."

On CNN's "SITUATION ROOM" Wednesday, Woodward claimed he received a veiled threat in an e-mail from a senior White House aide.

BOB WOODWARD, "WASHINGTON POST": It was said very clearly you will regret doing this.

WOLF BLITZER, HOST, CNN'S "THE SITUATION ROOM": Who sent that e-mail to you?

WOODWARD: Well, I'm not going to say.

BLITZER: Was it a senior person at the White House? WOODWARD: A very senior person. And just as a -- I mean it makes me very uncomfortable to have the White House telling reporters you're going to regret doing something that you believe in.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KEILAR: A White House official says Woodward misinterpreted that e- mail and that he responded to it in a friendly manner. That official saying, quote, "Of course, no threat was intended, as Mr. Woodward noted, the e-mail from the aide was sent to apologize for voices being raised in their previous conversation. The note suggested that Mr. Woodward would regret the observation he made regarding "The Sequester" because that observation was inaccurate, nothing more" -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Yes, when you look at the specifics of that e-mail, he doesn't just say you'll regret doing this, which is what Bob Woodward is claiming. He says I think you will regret staking out that claim, which takes a little bit of the teeth out of what's being implied as a veiled threat. Brianna Keilar, thanks. Appreciate the update for us.

RYAN LIZZA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Look, as a fellow journalist, I worship Bob Woodward and what he does, but on this very narrow debate about whether he was threatened in any way --

O'BRIEN: Words he never used. He didn't say threatened. He has implied a veiled threat.

LIZZA: I think the actual language is a lot less dramatic. I mean, every journalist working in Washington can show you e-mails, the two of you I know have the same thing that I do -- after every piece and you develop a tough skin about these things.

All of us have received far worse than you will regret staking out that claim. I think what he was being told is you're wrong about this and you're going to be embarrassed by saying it.

Which is standard operating procedure from the White House, to give you pause and make you feel a little uncomfortable about saying something they disagree with.

MATT MILLER, COLUMNIST, "WASHINGTON POST": But Woodward is pretty -- I mean, he's a damn good reporter and so the idea that he would get his back up because someone is saying that you're reporting on what the real origins were, were wrong, he decided to make that a story. I think that's not a big surprise.

BERMAN: He's in this fight now. I mean, he's definitely part of this story, has been for the last week.

LIZZA: Look, I always like to take the side of a journalist in a spat with the White House or any official so my sympathies are with Woodward. I do think there's something to be said for pushing back against this culture of all of us constantly getting attacked and yelled at and, you know --

O'BRIEN: It's part of the gig, though, right?

LIZZA: It's part of the gig but there is something -- what he did exposing it is good and I think it's good the public knows --

O'BRIEN: But I think you do need to see the real verbatim of the e- mail and the tone as opposed to pulling a line and not only for a journalist but for anybody when we're discussing what they're talking about. Let's see the whole thing.

All right, also this morning, the White House says that they have nothing to do with the release of hundreds of immigrant detainees across the country. That came to light this week.

A spokesman said the decision was made by career officials at Immigrations and Customs Enforcement without input from the White House. Immigration officials had linked the mass releases to the looming budget cuts.

John Berman has a look at some other stories making news for us.

BERMAN: Thanks, Soledad. So coming soon to a dollar bill near you, this scribbled signature, if you can really even call it a signature, it's I guess what you would call it the mark that Jack Lew leaves on official documents.

The full Senate confirmed Lew as treasury secretary. One of his first tasks may be to change that signature. You'll remember the president made fun about it when he nominated him.

Now the White House is waiting for John Brennan to be confirmed as the next CIA director. There's a delay. The Senate Intelligence Committee just postponed a vote on his nomination. It was scheduled for today. It will now take place next Tuesday, we're told.

A terrifying night for a motel clerk in Florida and her son, an armed robber smashes through a locked glass door, charges the counter, points a gun at the woman's head and forces her to give him money. Her young son was working on his homework saw the whole thing. Thankfully no one was hurt. Police are hoping to identify the gunman even though his face was covered.

We just learned a peewee hockey coach in Canada is going to jail for 15 days for really one of the most unsportsmanlike acts you will ever see. That was it. The 48-year-old Martin Trembley was caught on tape tripping a 13-year-old opposing player during a postgame handshake.

This happened back in July. The video went viral online. Trembley pleaded guilty to assault. The judge likened the tripping to a cowardly sucker punch on an unsuspecting victim, 15 days for that guy.

LIZZA: I've never known a Canadian to do something so inappropriate.

O'BRIEN: On a hockey game. That is terrible, 15 days, that sounds fair.

All right, coming up we're going to talk to the parents of a 6-year- old girl whose having this legal battle over the right to use the restroom. They say it's all about a fight for equality because their 6-year-old was born a boy. That's ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. A splendid shooting performance set by the NBA records ablaze last night for the Mecca for basketball. John Berman is wishing he's doing this story because he really is the guy who's all about that. Tell me about it.

JARED GREENBERG, "BLEACHER REPORT": Well, Soledad and John, if you had to pick one night to stay up late and watch the NBA, last night was it. Nobody has had a better game than we saw last night in New York so far this season. I know it's early in the morning, but do you have a taste for some hot curry?

Steph Curry, that is. The all star snub posted the NBA's highest scoring total this season, pouring in 54 points, including 11 three- pointers. That's tied for the second most threes in a game in NBA history.

Curry scored the third-most points ever by an opponent at the world's most famous arena. Here's the real stunner, it wasn't enough. Curry's warriors got upended by Carmelo Anthony and the New York Knicks.

Wild finish in Houston, game tied, final seconds. Monta Ellis gets the feed, sends up a prayer maybe this one was heard all the way at the Vatican. Ellis off balance and getting the friendly roll on the road. Milwaukee beats Houston at the buzzer.

No one saw this coming. Penn State hadn't won a big ten conference game in more than a year. Wednesday the Nittany Lions not only earned their first "w" they did it against the fourth-ranked team in the country.

Michigan stunned by Penn State. And just think, March and it's madness doesn't arrive until tomorrow. Bracket season is nearly here and it will be as unpredictable as ever.

Nobody likes 2-week-old sausage unless that particular sausage is part of a famous in-game race during Milwaukee Brewer games. That's Guido, the Italian sausage. He's wearing jersey number 3.

He went missing a couple weeks back during a beer tasting event and was seen in pictures bar hopping around town. The 7-foot $3,000 sausage was dropped off last night at a local bar, of course, anonymously.

Right now on "Bleacher Report," the staff reminds us that it is always football season, so log on and check out the post-Combine mock NFL draft. Find out who your team is targeting right now on bleacherreport.com. It's kind of like flat Stanley, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: There's so many questions about that sausage story, first of all, $3,000 for that costume? Secondly, how was it lost? Thirdly, anonymous guy drops it off at a bar? Wow. GREENBERG: Listen, they love their sausage in Milwaukee.

O'BRIEN: And that's your answer for me. Thanks, Jared, appreciate it.

Still ahead this morning, we're going to talk to a 6-year-old girl and her parents who are now fighting with their school district and their school because they won't let her use the girls' room.

This little girl was born medically a boy. That's ahead. We're back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: A battle is now brewing between the parents of a 6-year-old transgender girl and the Colorado School District that says she can no longer use the girls' bathroom at her elementary school for fear of upsetting parents of other kids.

Coy Mathis was born a boy, but at 18 months old her parents say they knew that she identified as female and in December of 2011, Coy officially began presenting herself as a girl and they say there was no problem at all at school.

But this past December, Coy's parents received a call from the school district saying that Coy could no longer use the girls restroom only the boys bathroom or the gender neutral restroom, which I guess, is in the nurse's office.

Now the transgender legal defense and education fund has filed an official complaint and 6-year-old Coy has been removed from school and is being homeschooled while they try to resolve the issue.

Coy and her parents, Kathryn and Jeremy Mathis are with me this morning. It's nice to have you. Thanks for talking with us. Hi there, Coy, good morning. Why don't you walk me through when this became a problem? It sounds like it became an issue. The bathroom issue came up in first grade. What exactly happened?

JEREMY MATHIS, FATHER OF 6-YEAR-OLD TRANSGENDER GIRL: I got a phone call from the principal one evening and he wanted to set up a meeting to discuss future options for Coy's use of the restroom. In preparation of that meeting we asked questions about the policies.

We were told that there were no written policies and that the options would be for Coy to use the boys restroom or the staff bathroom or the nurse's bathroom for the sick children, which were both on the opposite end of the building, which would set Coy up for stigmatize her being the only one having to go to a different bathroom.

So we weren't OK with that, so we contacted Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund, and our attorney, Michael Silverman, tried to reach out to the school district to work something out. But they were set in their decision so we decided it was safest for Coy that we home school her for the time being until all this is resolved. O'BRIEN: So, Kathryn, did they tell you that specific people had been complaining? Was there some sort of big issue that precipitated this conversation with the principal and ultimately the school district?

KATHRYN MATHIS, MOTHER OF 6-YEAR-OLD TRANSGENDER GIRL: We actually have no idea what caused them to go from being so accepting to her to completely change and start discriminating against her. We never had any issues with other classmates or any parents at all.

O'BRIEN: So, the district attorney has sort of laid out their position and this is what W. Kelly Dude who's the Colorado district attorney has said -- I'm certain you can appreciate that as Coy grows older and his male genitals develop along with the rest of his body at least some parents and students are likely to become uncomfortable with his continued use of the girls' restroom. So, that seems to be the position they're taking. What do you make of that?

KATHRYN MATHIS: Well, I mean, the immediate problem with that is we're not in middle school yet. We're not in high school yet and they're punishing a 6-year-old for something that hasn't happened and may not happen.

Her body development is none of their business. That is up to her and her doctors in the future. That's not something that we're at right now. And right now, we need to be protecting a 6-year-old, not a middle scholar or a high schooler.

O'BRIEN: Jeremy, you guys have pointed to the Colorado anti- discrimination act as feeling fairly confident that your daughter is being discriminated against under the very provisions of this act. I'll read a little bit so people can understand part of it.

It says this -- places of public accommodation may not deny any person participation, entry, or services based on the person's sexual orientation including transgender status.

Do you feel secure that that provision right there is going to be enough to let you win, if you will, legally? Because I think the school district would say here's what we've done.

We've given you another option. This does not say that a transgender child gets to use the bathroom of the gender that they identify with. There's actually nothing about, you know, specific restrooms in this.

JEREMY MATHIS: Absolutely. I believe that the wording of the law is very solid, and I believe that they're in direct violation of it. They are, in fact, discriminating, which the law itself is called the anti-discrimination act.

And I know that they state that they have been accommodating, but what they are doing is discriminating, forcing her to use a separate bathroom from all the rest of the kids or forcing a little girl to go in the boys' room and that's not OK.

O'BRIEN: So, Coy is being schooled at home now. And, Coy, I don't know, are you feeling up today to chat? I know you're sick. I've got a lot of kids, I was going to ask her how she was doing in the home schooling and if she misses her kids back at school. She's yawning. I'm boring her with my questions.

JEREMY MATHIS: Can you look at the camera? They are asking if you miss your kids at school. She loves her teacher and misses her dearly.

O'BRIEN: Thank you. Listen, I've had a lot of 6-year-olds, so sometimes they don't think chatters. We appreciate your time. We wish you the best of luck in resolving this with your school and hopefully she can get back to her friends.

It's a really interesting, interesting case. Thank you for talking with us this morning. We appreciate it, Jeremy and Kathy Mathis and 6-year-old Coy with us this morning.

Ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, continued coverage of the pope's final day. So, who has the best chance of being the next pope? We'll put that question to the monsignor on our panel this morning and we'll talk with Christiane Amanpour about that.

And then less than a day until $85 billion in spending cuts kick in, is there a deal going on behind closed doors? We'll talk to Congressman Javier Pacera that's ahead.

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