Return to Transcripts main page


Sources: Background Check Deal Coming; "Guns on Fire"; North Korea May Launch "Multiple Missiles"; Cuba Returns Parents, Abducted Kids; Two in Critical Condition after Stabbing; Obama's Plan to Cut Social Security

Aired April 10, 2013 - 09:00   ET



CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Happening now in THE NEWSROOM:

Back home.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Our grandchildren are safe. We had an opportunity to talk with them before they left Cuba.

COSTELLO: Two boys kidnapped, taken to Cuba, now back in Florida. Their parents now booked in jail, tracked down by CNN in Havana.

PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: As soon as we got there and started filming, I saw Josh Hakken get out of boat.

COSTELLO: Also, missile threats, U.S. satellites laser-focused on North Korea this hour. The warnings and a threat, a launch could be imminent.

Plus, "Guns Under Fire". At issue: background checks. And new hope this morning that a deal could be near.

And Lohan steps out.

LINDSAY LOHAN, ACTRESS: I'm happiest when I'm working and the healthiest.

COSTELLO: Going on Letterman, calling rehab a blessing. Then, Dave gets ugly.

DAVID LETTERMAN, COMEDIAN: Do you drink too much?

LOHAN: We've discussed this in the past.

LETTERMAN: Did we, really? When did we discuss? I'm the one who's having the blackout.


You're live in CNN NEWSROOM.



COSTELLO: Good morning. I'm Carol Costello. Thank you for being with me.

A CNN special this morning, "Guns Under Fire." All day, we're focusing on background checks, their impacts and the arguments for and against them -- a subject that's right on target, because, yes, there has been a breakthrough in the Senate on that very same background checks.

A bipartisan deal will make it to the floor of the Senate, maybe as soon as Thursday.

Our chief congressional Dana Bash is on it.

So, Dana, what exactly is in this deal?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Carol, you know, background checks right now were only required at licensed firearms dealers. And so, what this would do is expand that requirement to include two new areas, gun shows and Internet sales.

So, it's important to know that this falls short of the universal background checks for all private sales that the president and other Democrats are calling for, but in talking to gun control advocates, they are still saying that this is a big breakthrough, because it does expand current law and most importantly it would require the seller to keep a record of the sale on the background checks.

Now, that really is the key here for gun control advocates, because a lot of Republicans especially say they are for background checks, refuse to accept keeping a record, even if it's a paper record. And that's because they say they fear that it eventually will go into a national registry and it will threaten civil liberties.

But law enforcement sources say this is critical in keeping records because it's the only way they can make sure background checks are enforceable. Now, this is a deal between two key senators, both of whom have very strong ratings from the NRA, a Democrat and a Republican, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania. We expect them to announce that in just two hours from now, then the next step, of course, is that they're going to have the find that magic number, 60 votes, because anything that this controversial will have to get past somebody in the Senate trying to block it.

COSTELLO: OK. So -- and you're talking about filibuster. I mean, has the threat of the filibuster faded completely? Or are we still in danger, or could debate start as soon as tomorrow?

BASH: The short answer -- the short-term answer is yes, he debate is expected to start tomorrow. They -- the Senate will need to vote to start debate. There are still people who are got vote no, but it doesn't look like they have the 60 votes to do that.

So, we do expect there to be a vote, and the debate will begin tomorrow.

When you talk about the idea of filibuster, there is no question that as we see this debate go through -- which is going to be, Carol, probably about two weeks -- and you're going to see votes on amendment after amendment, probably all of them are going to require 60-vote threshold. That's kind of just the way it works. And then, at the end of the day, once the Senate is ready to vote on whatever package they come up with through all of these amendment votes, then that is also likely to require 60 votes.

So, you know, the terrible filibuster is sort of used in different ways, but I think anything that you see that will be voted on is very likely to need a 60-vote threshold. And when it comes to the particular deal that we just talked about on background checks, I'm told that this could actually be maybe the First Amendment that they vote on, as soon as tomorrow or maybe early next week.

COSTELLO: All right. We'll see. Dana Bash, thanks so much.

So, all this talk about expanding background checks, what's wrong with the background checks already on the books.

CNN's Chris Cuomo explores that side of the story.



MIKE MARINELLO, GUN STORE OWNER: Mike, what can I do for you?

CUOMO: I'm looking for home protection shotgun.

MARINELLO: OK. I'm going to bring you down to the shotgun section.

CUOMO (voice-over): Seems simple. But there is more to it than you might think.

Every purchase from a licensed dealer requires a federal background check.

(on camera): Are you under indictment? No. Have you ever been convicted of any felony? No.

(voice-over): Twenty-seven personal questions, including criminal and mental health history, all requiring government confirmation. Add potential state and city laws, thousands across the country, and it could feel like an obstacle course.

MARINELLO: There is a background check for the rifle. And if you live in a city, there's a rifle and shotgun card. Then, if you have a pistol, there is a pistol license.

CUOMO: But this pales in comparison to the pain the nation felt on December 14th in Newtown, Connecticut. The most vulnerable victimized by dangerous weapons in the wrong, sick hands.

CNN's latest poll shows people want it to stop.

Calls to do something, resulting in demands for expanded background checks, despite the fact that they wouldn't have stopped the Newtown shooter.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We know that background checks can work, but the problem is loopholes in the current law lent so many people avoid background checks all together.

CUOMO: Gun control advocates want all gun sales, not just those by dealers, subject to background checks.

COLIN GODDARD, BRADY CENTER TO PREVENT GUN VIOLENCE: This background check law that we're talking about is enforcing the law.

CUOMO: Colin Goddard works for the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence. He is a gun violence victim, shot four times at Virginia Tech six years ago.

GODDARD: How are you supposed to know if someone has a felony record? How are you supposed to know if someone's got a restraining order, or someone's got a dangerous mental illness without doing a background check? You're supposed to look at them really hard?

CUOMO: Gun rights advocates fear checking all sales could lead to a national gun registry and maybe confiscation. The larger concern, making it harder to buy a gun lawfully may not stop massacres and handgun violence.

Before owning this Long Island gun store, owner Mike Marinello was a police officer for 11 years.

(on camera): In your experience as a cop, did that hold true?

MARINELLO: In 11 years, I never had a legal pistol licensee uses firearm in a crime.

CUOMO (voice-over): Gun control advocates say the nearly 2 million people who've been denied guns is proof of effectiveness.

DAVID KEENE, NRA PRESIDENT: Most of those people, in turns out, were not on prohibitive list. Most of them were false positives, or name looked like somebody else. There was records in there that were incomplete.

The first thing you to have do is take the system you have and get it fixed, and make it work.

CUOMO: Mike says the big issue isn't the law, but enforcement.

MARINELLO: If somebody comes in, and they're hell-bent on buying a gun, we let them fill out the form and they fail. And in a perfect world, Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms will go arrest that person.

CUOMO (on camera): That's the big catch, right?

MARINELLO: Current laws on the books would make this state the safest in the Union if they were enforced.

CUOMO (voice-over): In my case --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This transaction is a proceed.

CUOMO: -- the system worked. After 25 minutes of completing forms and waiting for approval, I had my shotgun.

(on camera): Thank you very much.


COSTELLO: Chris Cuomo joins us now.

And, Chris, you mentioned the fear of the national gun registry. Take a look this new CNN/ORC poll. Two out of three people say if the government ever had a list of gun owners, they would use that list to take away guns from people, which is also something the NRA believes.


WAYNE LAPIERRE, CEO AND EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT, NRA: There is only two reasons to have a federal list of gun owners, to tax 'em or take 'em. That's the only reason. And anyone who says that's excessive, President Obama says you're an absolutist.


COSTELLO: And many gun control advocates say that's ridiculous.

And, Chris, how are people -- why are people making the leap between background checks and taking away guns?

CUOMO: Well, you know, there's an old expression -- just because you are paranoid doesn't mean people are coming after you.

You know, Carol, you look at certain municipalities, and already, they've made illegal certain weapons and you're forced to get rid of them. Well, what's the difference between taking it and forcing me to get rid of it? That's the rational.

But it's also coming from something else, Carol. This issue has become a political football. And when it becomes emotions and politics, things get distorted. Of course, checking all sales would be helpful in knowing who has weapons, of course, that's something we should put in place if done right.

Now, that winds up becoming sophisticated because you have to remember, background checks at the end of the day only deal with people who want to get a weapon lawfully. And so many crimes are done with illegally obtained weapons.

So the point becomes this: Do you want the check? Yes. How do we do it? We have to figure it out. Politicians don't talk much about that. But there's a bigger point, Carol, that's being lost in the discussion. That's very troubling, to victims of crime, and even people who cover crimes. And that is, when you look at massacres we want to stop, especially when we look at those faces from Newtown, let's not forget, that mother of that shooter got those guns legally and rightfully. His mental illness, propelled his madness.

Where is the discussion about the mental illness? Where is it in this bill? Where is the political enthusiasm behind making it so that we have a better mental health system? It's not there.

All of these crimes that happened with guns, how do we enforce those crimes? How long do those people go to jail? Do they just get out? Because that does the most to deter crime is punishing crime.

Where is that in the discussion?

The concern is checks matter, Carol, but not the only way to stop gun violence. They're probably not even at the top of the list.

COSTELLO: All right. Chris Cuomo, many thanks to you.

And in just 20 minutes, CNN's exclusive interview with Gabby Giffords and her husband. Hear why Giffords says it doesn't bother her to hear gunshots, even though, as you know, she was shot in the head.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

COSTELLO: All right, let's talk North Korea. The situation with North Korea getting more tense. In just the past hour, there is a new intelligence out there that North Korea could be planning multiple missile launches at any moment. That's on top of expectations Pyongyang plans to test fire two mobile missiles from its east coast.

And its neighbors are taking notice. Japan now has positioned two anti-missile batteries in the heart of Tokyo. In the meantime, South Korea officially accuses North Korea of orchestrating cyber attacks last month that crippled major banks and broadcasters. And the Pentagon is preparing for what the North might do next.

So, let's bring in Barbara Star. She's at the Pentagon.

Tell us more about these missile launches.


You know, there was a lot of thinking that the missile launches we were waiting for, those two mobile missiles would have happened overnight our time, that did not happen. Now, a waiting game on that.

But U.S. officials say there is other intelligence showing the North Koreans might be up to more than those two missile launches, that imagery is showing, satellite imagery, that they might be moving around other missile launches, other types of missiles and may be planning to have a barrage of missile firings. Look, these are not intercontinental. That's something the U.S. could predict, watch for. A tactic they have used before to have a barrage of missiles.

So, now, a very interesting question for U.S. intelligence is how much are the North Koreans really planning to do? They are masters of deception. The U.S. has very little solid intelligence, waiting and watching -- Carol.

COSTELLO: All right. Barbara Starr reporting live from the Pentagon.

Now, let's turn to some big overnight developments in the arrest of that Florida couple accused of snatching their young sons and fleeing to Cuba. This is new video from the Hillsborough County jail.

Josh and Sharyn Hakken are now locked up and waiting to make their first court appearance. Of course, that could come at any time. In fact, as you can see in our exclusive video, it was a CNN crew that first found the family, hunkering down inside their sailboat at a Havana, Cuba, marina.

So, let's get the latest now from CNN's Patrick Oppmann.

Patrick, you approached this couple, you spoke to them. How did they react at first?

OPPMANN: You know, for fugitives, they didn't seem to be taking great pains to hide their identities. Joshua Hakken admittedly was on their boat, they fled from Florida. Their son Cole was playing on the deck of the ship.

Let's go to sound from yesterday, right after CNN discovered the Hakkens were hiding out in Havana.


OPPMANN: We're outside the marina Hemingway, where there's a lot more security than when we were here earlier. Then we were just able to drive in and immediately start looking for the Hakken's boat. Back up in the area here and dozens of boats from the United States, none that matched the description from the United States. The last boat, we saw the Salty, it really stood out because it's a much smaller boat and it's really beaten up.

As soon as we got there and started filming, I saw Josh Hakken get out of boat. He asked me who I was, I said an American reporter. He confirmed who he was, and then immediately got back into the boat.

Cuban authorities came on immediately. Some of them packing pistols and told us that we need to leave. But we were able to convince them before they kick us out o allow me to go up without a camera and speak with Josh Hakken, get a very close eye on.

They let us go up to the boat. He wouldn't speak to me. But his wife confirmed, that both their sons --


OPPMANN: Carol, we're getting some rare praise this morning from U.S. diplomats in Havana for the Cuban government's actions. They're saying the Cuban government immediately contacted the United States, worked with the United States to bring this case to quick resolution. They are praising the Cubans efforts to keep children out of danger.

You know, we're learning some more details this morning as well. Cuban authorities telling CNN that this couple first came to their attention because of the boat they came in frankly wasn't seaworthy. Everyone in this family was lucky to survive such a dangerous crossing, high seas, shark-infested waters in a boat that they really shouldn't have been out on the water on -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Just a really strange and sad sorry. We hope the kids are going to be OK.

Patrick Oppmann, reporting live this morning.

Two people remain in critical condition after a stabbing on a college campus in Texas, actually a series of stabbings. In all, 14 people stabbed Tuesday at Lone Star College, outside of Houston. School has reopened this morning. Dylan quick, a 20-year-old student, has now been arrested. And police say he's been admitted to fantasizing about killing people.

Ed Lavandera is on campus with the latest.

Good morning, Ed.


We're just receiving a couple bits of information, that Dylan Quick will make his first court appearance tomorrow here in Harris County, which is the county where Houston is located. And we've also received his mugshot from the Harris County Sheriff's Department. This was -- he was taken into custody yesterday shortly after this attack, where investigators accused him of stabbing more than a dozen people here on this campus.

And it all came to a quick end, because of three students.


LAVANDERA (voice-over): Investigators say Dylan Quick unleashed a rapid and frightening attack on 14 people as he walked through a hallway of the Lone Star College campus ion Cypress, Texas.

Cassie Foe says it was surreal to watch the horrific scene unfold. She was in a classroom when she heard students screaming.

(on camera): How in the world does someone stab 14 people?

CASSIE FOE, WITNESS TO STABBING: He used his backpack as a shield and he gets close to the person, kind of bumps into them, and then stabs them at the same time. LAVANDERA: So, it should be that quick?

FOE: So, it's that quick. Just in and out and down the other way.

LAVANDERA: So, this guy is walking and he's just leaving this trail of pain behind him, right?

FOE: Basically, he's just stabbing anyone in his way. There was no pattern, there was no method. It was completely random.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Fourteen people were wounded in the surprising assault. Four had to be airlifted to hospitals. For many, it was all over before they could figure out what had happened.

The wounds were gruesome. A piece of a blade broke off in one victim's cheek. Others were stabbed in the throat and face.

As students ran from the chaos, a group of three students went after the attacker. One of them was Steven Maida.

STEVE MAIDA, CHASED AND TACKLED SUSPECT: The next thing was there's a guy stabbing girls in the face. I was like, all right, got to go in there, I got to go help, and see what I can do.

LAVANDERA: Maida says he and two other students started chasing Dylan Quick through the buildings and finally caught up with him outside by a parking lot.

MAIDA: I jumped back on him, and I didn't want to take a chance, so I put him on his stomach, and put his hands behind his back and that's when the cop came and put the cuffs on him and started searching him

LAVANDERA (on camera): And when you guys got on top of him, what did you say?

MAIDA: He's just like, I give up, right away, I give up. I was on top of him and just like, why did you do this? What made you want to stab these girls?

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Maida said he didn't get an answer. But investigators say Dylan Quick says he's had fantasies of stabbing people since he was in elementary school and had planned this attack for sometime. Investigators also say Dylan Quick used a razor-type knife and has been charged with three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.


LAVANDERA: And as I mentioned, Dylan Quick will make his first court appearance tomorrow here in the Houston area. And as far as we understand, Carol, there's still two of those victims that are still in critical condition this morning.

COSTELLO: Ed Lavandera, reporting live for us this morning.

The FBI has now confirmed it is looking into the secret recording to the strategy session at Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's office. The tape obtained by "Mother Jones" revealed the Kentucky Republican was considering attacking then-potential candidate Ashley Judd over religious views and battle with depression.


MCCONNELL CAMPAIGN STRATEGIST: Jesse can go in chapter and verse from her autobiography about, you know, she's suffered some suicidal tendencies. She was hospitalized for 42 days when she had a mental breakdown in the '90s.


COSTELLO: A campaign manager tells CNN was in a private closed conference room. McConnell claims they were bugged and blames a left- wing group in Kentucky called Progress Kentucky, which has already smeared the senator's wife.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: As I indicated, last week they were attacking my wife's ethnicity. And apparently also bugging my headquarters. Much like Nixon and Watergate, that's what the political left does these days.


COSTELLO: Actress Ashley Judd released a statement of her own saying, "We expected nothing less from Mitch McConnell and his camp than to take a personal struggle such as depression, which many Americans cope with on a daily basis and turn it into a laughing matter," end quote.

Coming up on THE NEWSROOM: Jay-Z changes his tune. He's cashing out once sports investment and going all in for another.


COSTELLO: Twenty-two minutes past the hour. Time to check our top stories.

A winter-like storm hammering parts of South Dakota and it's only going to get worse. Ice-covered trees and telephone poles have toppled, and left many without power. Now, temperatures are dropping, snow is falling, up to 20 inches to be on the ground by this time tomorrow.

Recording star Jay-Z is cashing out a small stake in the Brooklyn Nets of the NBA so he can expand his new sports agency to basketball. That's according to Yahoo! Sports. Jay-Z owns less than 1 percent of the team, but NBA rules forbids sports agencies from having any ownership.

The Navy says it has now grounded its Blue Angels aerobatic team for the rest of the year. The Blue Angels being pulled from all scheduled air shows because of the federal government's forced spending cuts. The Pentagon is taking the biggest hit in the cuts, and the Defense Department wants military readiness could also be impacted.

From Washington to Hollywood, it seems everybody is weighing in on President Obama's proposed budget. It's true. The president will unveil the plan later today to the delight of comedians everywhere.


CONAN O'BRIEN, COMEDIAN: President Obama is working hard. He's pushing his new budget plan, President Obama, and the Obama administration's new budget plan, I don't know if you know this, but it calls for saving billions of dollars by selling off federal properties. Did you know that? Yes.

So, folks, get ready for the Washington monument, brought to you by Cialis.


COSTELLO: That is so wrong. But at least someone is having a good time with it, right?

But in Washington, budgets are no laughing matter. The president's presenting his budget proposal today as I said, which includes plans to slash $25 billion in what the president calls wasteful spending.

CNN White House correspondent Brianna Keilar is in Washington with all the details.


Yes, that was pretty funny, but this is going to be some serious stuff we see when President Obama officially unveils his budget in the Rose Garden at 11:00 a.m. And this isn't something, Carol, as you know, that is going to be enacted. But it's really his now official opening salvo in a new round of discussions about deficit reduction that he will be having with Republicans.

His message will be: deficit reduction is important, but not at the expense of investing in things like education, job training, infrastructure, which are some of the new areas of spending in this new budget. One thing in there, though, that is getting a lot of headlines, is something called chained CPI.

You say what is that? Well, that's just a fancy way to talk about adjusting the cost of living increase for Social Security beneficiaries, so reducing the increase that Social Security beneficiaries would see over time. Republicans like this, generally speaking, Democrats do not.

So, take a look how this will affect seniors in a real way over time. This is a chart we have of seniors who are 65 right now, you can see as they were to get significantly older than 65, 80, 85, 90, 95. They'd be seeing less in Social Security benefits than they would if the math was the way it is right now.

Democrats, as I mentioned, Carol, don't like this. Although there are tax increases, $580 billion in tax increases over 10 years that Republicans don't like and Democrats are fans of. So, a little bit for everybody to hate in this budget, I guess, you could say.

COSTELLO: Yes, we'll wait for the fireworks later on.

Brianna Keilar, many thanks to you.

Still ahead in THE NEWSROOM: CNN's exclusive interview with Gabrielle Giffords. Why he says it doesn't bother her to hear gunshots, despite what happened to her.


COSTELLO: Back to our special coverage, "Guns Under Fire". We're focusing on background checks, their impact in the arguments for and against them.

One huge supporter of background checks is former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, as you know, was shot in the head at a mass shooting in Tucson two years ago. Dana Bash, our chief congressional correspondent, visited with Gabby and her husband Mark.

And it's a fascinating interview.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, thanks, Carol. She is obviously a fascinating woman and she still has a lot of trouble speaking. But former congresswoman has made considerable progress, especially in the last three months.

And, Carol, those around her tell us they think it's because she is reengaged in public policy and politics.


BASH: The Sandy Hook shooting in December spurred Gabby Giffords and husband Mark Kelly to take a stand.