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Obama Meeting with Cameron; IRS Targeted Conservative Group, Report Says; Ariel Castro's Brothers Speak Out; Obama and Cameron to Hold Press Conference

Aired May 13, 2013 - 11:00   ET



ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Ashleigh Banfield, reporting live, and right now, the president, President Obama, is meeting with the British prime minister, David Cameron, at the White House.

This is video that's just come in. It was shot right before they began their meeting.

They are expected to speak live in the East room. That's happening about 15 minute from now. The topics on their agenda, they're quite varied. They include the civil war in Syria all the way to the economy.

And we're also hearing that they will take questions from reporters as well. There is so much to ask of these very important world leaders and our special coverage is going to get under way live in just 10 minutes.

And as we wait for the start of that event, we've got other top stories that we're following closely at this hour because Republicans on Capitol Hill are really stepping up their attacks against the Obama administration, all over that IRS extra scrutiny of conservative groups.

A report by the inspector general indicates that agents with the IRS began targeting conservative groups who were applying for tax-exempt status, going back as early as March of 2010.

CNN has obtained a copy of the report which is due to be released this week. The House Republicans are urging President Barack Obama to condemn the IRS for targeting groups. The groups apparently had either the words "tea party" in their names, or "patriot," or other kinds of conservative labels, all of this on their applications.


SENATOR SUSAN COLLIN (R), MAINE: This is truly outrageous, and it contributes to the profound distrust that the American people have in government.

It is absolutely chilling that the IRS was singling out conservative groups for extra review. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BANFIELD: President Obama mentioned this controversy right before the start of his meeting with the visiting British prime minister -- as we mentioned, David Cameron sitting down with him -- and here's what he had to say just a few moments ago.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sir, any comment on the IRS?



BANFIELD: And as mentioned, the president and Prime Minister Cameron are expected to speak live with reporters and take a couple of questions, all of it just getting under way just a few moments from now.

We've got our teams scrambling. Everybody is getting ready, and that will be live for you. We're going to bring it to you just as soon as they begin actually speaking.

In the meantime, again, other major news that Detroit, a city that is dysfunctional and wasteful -- those are quotes -- after years of mismanagement and corruption, a very bleak assessment coming from the city's emergency manager in a report on his first 45 days in office. That report is due out today.

His name is Kevin Orr. And his report says that city will finish its current budget year with a $162 million cash flow shortfall. The details on how Orr plans to steer that major city out of its financial crisis expected to come in the coming months.

Again, that's Detroit, a major city on the verge of bankruptcy.

Also to tell you about a Mother's Day celebration suddenly becoming a mass crime scene in New Orleans, Gunfire erupting. Take a look at the video. Just remarkable, this all during a Mother's Day parade. Real chaos.

Police say shots rang out from different guns. Nineteen different people were wounded. Three different suspects were seen running from that scene of the crime.

The FBI says this was, quote, "strictly an act of street violence," end quote, and that there was no case of terrorism involved.

But again, Mother's Day parade.

We also have a very sad and tragic story, a Mother's Day story coming out of California. Crystal Walters is pleading for privacy the day after the arrest of her 12-year-old stepson in the death of her 8- year-old stepdaughter, Leila Fowler. That brother is now charged in the homicide of Leila. Leila was stabbed to death in April in the family's home, and the young boy initially told police that he had seen an intruder leaving the house, even gave a description. And now he, himself, 12-years-old, is under arrest.

I want to take you now to Cleveland where the nightmare on Seymour Avenue ended one week ago today, except for these two men, Pedro and Onil Castro. They are the brothers of the man accused of holding three young women captive for over a decade for nine-to-11 years.

In an exclusive interview with CNN, Onil and Pedro say their nightmare began the day that Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight were actually freed and rescued. All three Castro brothers were arrested together.

And, though Onil and Pedro were publicly cleared, they say they're being threatened, they're being harassed, all for crimes they say they knew nothing about, allegedly committed by a brother they knew nothing about at all and never want to know anything about again.

It's a remarkable interview. Just listen to Onil Castro's answer to a question from my colleague, Martin Savidge.


MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What is your brother to you now?

ONIL CASTRO, ARIEL CASTRO'S BROTHER: A monster, hateful. I hope he rots in that jail.

I don't even want them to take his life like that. I want him to suffer in that jail to the last extent.

I don't care if they even feed him for what he has done to my life and my family's.

SAVIDGE: To the both of you now, he no longer exists.


O. CASTRO: Yeah.

SAVIDGE: He is gone?

O. CASTRO: He's goner.

SAVIDGE: Almost as if he were dead.

O. CASTRO: The monster is a goner.


BANFIELD: Martin Savidge had a chance to speak extensively with those two brothers, both of them surprising him by saying they want nothing to do with him ever again. And they were not able to speak with him even while they were being held in those holding cells and that the only thing they saw their brother do was walk past them to use a bathroom and flash them the peace sign.

Just really remarkable information. But then also the older brother, Pedro, was talking about the DeJesus family because they actually knew the DeJesus family.

Marty joins me live now from Cleveland. Martin, I have been watching with such interest the interview that you were able secure with these two men and it is so vast.

I'd like you to touch on that last aspect for me if you could, the fact that the Castro family was actually quite close to Gina DeJesus' family.

SAVIDGE: Right. And that's something that I had heard before, we had discussed before, but once we got into this interview and there was so much we wanted to talk about.

I had sort of lost track about that, and then it was Pedro that begins to allude to it. And it was like suddenly my mind snapped into recognition that that's right. These families knew one another. Pedro knew Felix. That's Gina's father.

And then it was like, oh, my gosh. That even makes this worse.



PEDRO CASTRO, A. CASTRO'S BROTHER: Felix, I knew him for a long time, and when I found out that Ariel had Gina, I just, I just broke down because it's shocking.

Ariel, we know this guy for a long time, Felix.

SAVIDGE: This is Gina's father.

P. CASTRO: Yeah, Felix DeJesus.

And you got his daughter? And you go like it's nothing. You even went to the Pedros. You had posters. You gave his mama a hug and you got his daughter captive?


SAVIDGE: Of course, they were horrified for all the girls, but Gina was the one that they personally had the connection to the family. And you heard Pedro, he was just -- he could not believe it. He could not believe it was his brother.

BANFIELD: And I know, Marty, we're going to hear a lot more of your interview, but just quickly if you could, it's critical here that these men still are associated, so many people still feel some kind of suspicion.

But did the police get clearance from the victim, themselves? Or do we know that? That these men had nothing to do with it from the mouths of the victims?

SAVIDGE: Right. And, you know, I cannot say for certain because authorities have been very tight lipped on exactly what the girls have said to them. We've seen in the initial police report.

But it has been reported that, yes, the girls said these men did not have anything to do with it, that they were specifically asked about the brothers.

And you would have to almost assume that because authorities did clear them completely and made that widely known at that arraignment that was held for their brother Ariel, that they had communicated with these women and the women had cleared those brothers.

So it seems, at least for now, the investigation in no way covers them.

BANFIELD: And so often, Marty, we don't get that opportunity, especially when there is murder victims. You don't get to hear that kind of thing, so that will be critical.

Marty Savidge reporting live, excellent -- just an excellent interview, and thank you for that.

We're going to play more of that interview, as I promised.

We're also going to take you live to the White House where, just minutes from now, the president and the British prime minister are going to be addressing the media. We have been told that they've been discussing global and regional concerns.

And when we come back, our Jake Tapper is going to lead our coverage live from Washington


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Jake Tapper.

Ashleigh Banfield will be back later this hour, but right now, we are waiting on President Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron to speak in the East Room. They are expected to come out in just a few minutes.

They've been meeting this morning at the White House. On their agenda, the increasing violence in Syria and the global economy. There's going to be a G-8 meeting in Northern Ireland. They're preparing for that.

But reporters are anxious to ask President Obama about two big controversies here at home, the response and the White House actions involving the attacks at U.S. interests and the diplomatic posts and CIA annex in Benghazi, Libya, and reports that the IRS targeted tea party and other conservative groups.

Chief political analyst Gloria Borger is here with me in Washington, and chief White House correspondent Jessica Yellin is, of course, at the White House.

Gloria, I want to start with you. Democrats might dismiss this IRS controversy and the Benghazi controversy as politics as usual.

But whatever you think of the controversies, they really could play a significant role in preventing anything from happening in the coming term.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. Well, I mean, right now, the White House credibility is really under assault and there are some Democrats also, Jake, asking questions about Benghazi and about the IRS targeting.

And I think that, if you look at the presidents agenda, which includes huge issues, he's already been disappointed on gun control. There's talk about going back at that. Immigration reform, I mean, this is something that was going to be bipartisan.

And I think the question now is how does all of this play into that, and does the president become so weakened in Republican's minds that they don't feel a sense of urgency at all to cooperate with him?

TAPPER: And one thing we're expecting -- you and I were talking before during the commercials and one thing you and I are both expecting is for President Obama to put a lot of distance between himself and this IRS controversy.

BORGER: Right. His spokesman, Jay Carney, tried to do that on Friday but I think hearing the outrage of the President of the United States on this would be important for the American people. I mean, this is an issue that goes to the heart of whether or not you trust your government or not. This is a president who has asked the government to do an awful lot of things, including healthcare reform, policing the borders, so he has to kind of right that and say, "This is outrageous. We will get to the bottom of it."

TAPPER: In fact, one of the few Republican senators who has shown a willingness to work with President Obama, Republican Susan Collins of Maine, over the weekend on "STATE OF THE UNION" with Candy Crowley had some comments to make about the IRS scandal. Let's take quick listen.


SEN. SUSAN COLLINS, (R) MAINE: This is truly outrageous and it contributes to the profound distrust that the American people have in government. It is absolutely chilling that the IRS was singling out conservative groups for extra review and I think that it's very disappointing that the president hasn't personally condemned this and spoken out.

(END VIDEO CLIP) TAPPER: And, of course, Gloria, we were told over the weekend, Jay Carney the White House press secretary put out a statement saying that the president believes the government should be staffed with, quote, "the very highest public servants with the highest levels of integrity," and that, quote, "based on media reports, the president is concerned that the conduct of a small number of IRS employees may have fallen short of that standard."

That's a preview of "Get ready, the president's going to say something."

BORGER: Right. I mean, I'm not sure incompetence in government is actually news, but there has to be a way to make sure -- particularly at the IRS -- that you're not targeting people who don't deserve to be targeting. I mean, it's outrageous.

TAPPER: Right now in the East Room, our own senior White House correspondent Jessica Yellin is there. Jessica, President Obama has got to have been prepared not only for a comment, a quesiton, about the IRS scandal but of course about Benghazi and the question about how much -- how forthcoming the White House was after the attack. Jessica.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Jake. You know, usually at these events, the president takes two questions on his side and the visiting foreign dignitary takes two questions on his or her side. Today, it's only one question each. So a little unusual.

It would seem that, while we can't know for sure, but it does seem that there is more of a limit on how many topics we're allowed to cover here today or we're going to get the opportunity to cover. But I wouldn't be surprised if the president gets a question in many parts, maybe. We're hoping it touches on the IRS, on Benghazi, perhaps on Syria and whether the president is changing exactly what his standard for action there is or clarifying where his boundaries are.

Look, the challenge for the president here and questions for the White House are on a host of issues right now. They seem to be in a defensive posture answering questions rather than driving the agenda, and many Americans have questions right now. If they have been confused about Benghazi, if they have been confused about Syria, places far away, a lot of confusion, areas where we expect violence, we expect unrest.

Well, the IRS is a different kind of issue, Jake. It's an issue that most Americans understand. It hits close to home, and when we hear that there are targets be the IRS, that's something that a lot of people feel intuitively they get, and the president needs to address that head-on today and explain what the administration is doing. The IRS is an independent body, but the president needs to explain how concerned he is or how they intend to respond once this IG report comes out, Jake.

TAPPER: And I want to go to Capitol Hill right now to our chief congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, who has some news about this IRS scandal. Dana?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right -- proof that it is a bipartisan outrage when it comes to reaction, Jake. But Democratic Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, a very important committee which, of course, has jurisdiction over the IRS and treasury in general, just released a statement saying that he is going to wait for the full audit to come out of the IRS later this week, but regardless, he said that the IRS should prepare for a full investigation of this matter. A full investigation of this matter.

So, there you have, again, not just Republicans who run the House, but now Democrats who run the Senate, being very specific that they, too, are going to look into this, that you can expect them not just to be gathering documents and data, but holding public hearings to find out what exactly happened. Was this a shortcut the IRS is saying, a way to make it easier to get information about these groups? Or was it political? Those are the questions that we're definitely continued to be answered, again, in a bipartisan way here, Jake.

TAPPER: We're waiting for President Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron to come out to the East Room to take some questions from reporters. We're going to take a quick break and then when we come back, we will have those comments from the president. .


TAPPER: Welcome back. We're waiting for President Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron to come to the East Room of the White House and talk to reporters. They're expected to come out in just a few minutes. They've been meeting at the White House on their agenda, the increasing violence in Syria, and the global economy. There is a G-8 world power meeting in Northern Ireland coming up that they're preparing for.

But reporters of course are anxious to ask about two big controversies playing here at home, the attacks in Benghazi and how the White House responded, and reports that the IRS targeted Tea Party and other conservative groups.

I am joined here by chief political analyst Gloria Borger. She's here with me in Washington. Chief White House correspondnet Jessica Yellin's at the White House. And chief congressional correspondent Dana Bash is on Capitol Hill.

I want to start with you, Gloria. One of the things that's interesting about this whole Benghazi back and forth is, specifically, this back and forth, this debate between the CIA and the State Department. The State Department, their explanation for why that part of the talking points was edited out, saying that the CIA had warned the State Department about attacks in Benghazi if 2012.

BORGER: Right.

TAPPER: They said they didn't want that in there.

BORGER: They thought they were getting run over, OK. This kind of lifts the veil on what goes on in government as in private business, for example. So the State Department said, "Wait a minute. These talking points say that we were warned and didn't do anything about it? Hold on."

And I believe that what you saw when you saw the Victoria Newlan from the State Department saying this didn't sit well with her leadership, that meant that, you know what, you're not going to put us out there as the scapegoat here. And so what you wound up with as it went through all these iterations are talking points that turned into mush, or were absolutely untrue at the very end.

TAPPER: One of the points that Jessica's been -- made clear to us internally and also in her reports, Jessica, is the fact that people say, well, where did it come from the idea that this was the fault of this video, this anti-Muslim video that it turns out Benghazi, as far as we know, had nothing to do with?

And Jessica, you made out the point. That was in the CIA drafted talking points, all 12 iterations; the CIA was always putting that out there. Jessica.

YELLIN: That's right, Jake. I mean the argument you'll hear coming from both this building and it's reflected in those talking points is that that's the guidance they were getting from the intelligence community. And so the initial assessment that this was sparked by the video, a spontaneous demonstration as opposed to an organized terrorist attack, is based on information officials say they were getting from their intelligence officials.

You know, for members of the administration, that's an important distinction and an important point to make because they say that's what they were initially being hammered about, that they were trying to make the make the point that it seems like this was people on the ground taking advantage of a weakness at that moment and charging the embassy -- charging the consulate at that point. And that's how folks from David Petraeus' CIA were assessing it.

It turns out they came up with something different in the end. But their argument is they couldn't know that at the time, in real time, because they were just basing their views on what their best intelligence told them at the time. We know from history our best intelligence isn't so great always in the moment, Jake.

TAPPER: And of course there was a division within the CIA itself about whether or not this was a spontaneous demonstration that went bad or whether or not this was a planned terrorist attack. I mean, it's not just that there were divisions among different departments and agencies in the Obama administration. The CIA itself was divided.

YELLIN: Right, and we don't know how much of that got circulated. If that was kept -- one of the realities of this Benghazi story is the messy inter-agency process in Washington and how much agencies fight with each other for blame/credit, and then how much goes on inside an agency where different factions fight within the building and don't convey that outside. So, you know, how much of that got out of the CIA to other officials is something that has to be determined. TAPPER: All right. If you're with us right now, you are waiting for President Obama and British British Prime Minister David Cameron to come out and talk to reporters in the East Room. We are waiting for that as well; we'll bring it to you live when it happens.

We're going to take a quick break. We expect that to happen any minute.