Return to Transcripts main page


Interview with Barack Obama; Analyzing Interview with Obama; 911 Operator Reunites with Antoinette Tuff; Is Filner Out?

Aired August 23, 2013 - 07:00   ET


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: We have the moment they met and an unexpected surprise for that hero.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: And, could San Diego's mayor be out of office today? The city council is set to consider a deal that Mayor Bob Filner has reached. If they approve it, he is out. But, will San Diego be stuck footing the bill for his sexual harassment lawsuit? We'll discuss that coming up.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Let's begin this hour though with our exclusive interview with President Obama. There's a reason why the approval rating for Congress is through the floor right now. It's all the gridlock. A lot of talking, not a lot of acting.

President Obama says the answer is simple, and he's got some choice words for his Republican colleagues. Here's a look at more of our exclusive interview with the president.


CUOMO: When they get back in session, do you believe you know the way to get things done for the American people so that we don't have another shutdown of the government which effectively punishes everybody else except the lawmakers?

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There is a very simple way of doing this, which is the Senate passed a budget and the House passed a budget, and maybe you're not old enough to remember "Schoolhouse Rock," but --

CUOMO: Oh I remember it.

OBAMA: Remember how the bill gets passed? You know, the House and the Senate try to work out their differences, they pass something, they send it to me, and potentially I sign it. We like to make things complicated but this is not that complicated.

Congress doesn't have a whole lot of core responsibilities. One core responsibility is passing a budget, which they have not done yet. The other core responsibility that they've got is to pay the bills that they've already accrued, and if Congress simply does those two things when they get back, then the economy can continue to recover and folks out there who are working hard, who are trying to find a job, will have some sense of stability, and we can start thinking about things like college education and some of the big structural changes that we have to continue to make to ensure that we're competitive.

CUOMO: How much of the lack of action in Washington do you put on yourself in terms of blame?

OBAMA: Ultimately the buck stops with me, and so any time we are not moving forward on things that should be simple, I get frustrated. And I've said before, and I continue to say, I'm willing to do whatever it takes to get Congress, and Republicans in Congress in particular, to think less about politics and party and think more about what's good for the country.

And then finally, now what we've got is Republicans talking about the idea that they would shut down the government, bad for the economy, bad for not just people who work for the government but the contractors who -- and defense folks, everybody who is impacted by the services that they receive from the federal government, we should shut that down because Republicans, after having taken 40 votes to try to get rid of Obamacare, see this as their last gasp.

Nobody thinks that's good for the middle class, and I've made this argument to my Republican friends privately. And by the way, sometimes they say to me privately, I agree with you, but I'm worried about a primary from, you know, somebody in the Tea Party back in my district or, I'm worried about what Rush Limbaugh is going to say about me on the radio. And so, you've got to understand I'm -- it's really difficult. I can't force these folks to do what's right for the American people, but what I sure as heck can do is stay focused on what I know will be good for the American people.

CUOMO: There's been a lot of discussion about what the NSA does in the surveillance programs. You have said it is not the business of the U.S. government to spy on its own people, but the more that seems to come out, the more questions seem to be raised. Are you confident that you know everything that's going on within that agency and that you can say to the American people it's all done the right way?

OBAMA: Yes. But what I've also said is that it can only work if the American people trust what's going on, and what's been clear since the disclosures that were made by Mr. Snowden is that people don't have enough information and aren't confident enough that, between all the safeguards and checks that we put in place within the Executive Branch and the federal court oversight that takes place on the program, and congressional oversight, people are still concerned as to whether their e-mails are being read or their phone calls being listened to.


CUOMO: Especially hearing they are, then mistakes are made, shakes your confidence.

OBAMA: What was learned was that NSA had inadvertently, accidentally pulled the e-mails of some Americans, in violation of their own rules, because of technical problems that they didn't realize. They presented those problems to the court. The court said this isn't going to cut it. You're going to have to improve the safeguards given these technical problems. That's exactly what happened. All these safeguards, checks, audits, oversight, worked. Now, I think there are legitimate concerns that people have that the technology is moving so quick that at some point, does the technology outpace the laws that are in place and the protections that are in place and do some of the systems end up being like a loaded gun that somebody at some future point could abuse? There are no allegations and I am very confident knowing the NSA and how they operate that purposely somebody's out there trying to abuse this program or listen in on people's e-mail or --

CUOMO: You're confident in that?

OBAMA: I am confident in that, but what I recognize is that we're going to have to continue to improve the safeguards, and as technology moves forward, that means that we may be able to build technologies to give people more assurance and we do have to do a better job of giving people confidence in how these programs work.

So, what I've said is that I am open to working with Congress to figure out can we get more transparency in terms of how the oversight court works, can -- do we need a public advocate in there who people have confidence in. But we've also got to do it in a way that recognizes we have some hostile folks out there that will potentially try to do us harm.


CUOMO: Hostile folks out there, hostile folks in Washington, D.C. For more on how the president's comments will play in Washington let's bring in our chief national correspondent, John king. Good morning, John. Thanks for joining us.


CUOMO: We took two beats on the NSA with the president, asking whether or not he feels he knows everything that's going on, whether he is confident in what he says about the way the NSA conducts business. Any concern that the president exposed himself now and if more revelations come out, hurts him?

KING: Well, you could see that a bit in the caution in his answer and him saying now we're trying to work with Congress on the transparency issue. They're working with Congress on the transparency issue because they've been embarrassed by many of these public disclosures.

Remember at the beginning when this came out the president, quite in a defiant way, said no one is listening to your phone calls. Well he -- he got over the skis a little bit, if you will, because we found some examples -- maybe not specifically listening to phone calls but the NSA violations were more than what the president indicated earlier.

You can see the caution in his voice and in his body language there. Now he has to work with the Congress on that. That's what he striking, Chris. Compare -- just look at his eyes, look at his face, look at his tone when you're talking about the NSA opposed to who has the upper ground when it comes to the question of a government shutdown.

What the president says throughout this interview is very interesting, but how he says it is also worth studying.

BOLDUAN: And also in terms of the hits he's taken in Washington as well, John, I mean he says -- the president said that when it comes to Congress, when it comes to these budget battles, when it comes at the threat of a government shutdown, the buck does stop with him and he hopes they can come together and reach some agreement to avoid a government shutdown, but it does make you wonder, he knows the relationship that he's had with Congress since the beginning of his first term. Is there a lot of motivation, politically speaking because it is all politics, to compromise in terms of his fellow Democrats? Because the Democrats would be the ones that would be in the position to benefit if there was a government shutdown.

KING: The president knows that. Look at how relaxed he was talking about that. He's not relaxed there would be a government shutdown. He's relaxed that he has the political high ground here. Republicans would say "foul, Mr. President! You're the one talking about a government shutdown a lot more than we are, you're raising the prospect of it a lot more than we are."

But the president knows he does have the high ground politically here. He knows Speaker Boehner and the Republican leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, don't want to shut down the government. They both don't want to do it from a policy perspective. They also understand and believe Republicans would take the bigger political hit if that happened. The president knows that, which is why 40 votes to repeal Obamacare, now you want to do it again? He's almost smiling in the interview. You can see he's almost (INAUDIBLE). He does believe he has the high ground on that one, and that's part of what this bus tour is about, and the president wants to frame this to the American people when Congress comes back, when we get into the debt ceiling, when they make another run at Obamacare. This shutting down the government is probably not going to happen but the president himself wants to put that prospect out there as part of his leverage in the negotiations to come.

CUOMO: With what you heard on Syria and the situation in Egypt, a lot of people believe that the emotion on the ground, the human cost, would force more of an enthusiastic reaction now from the United States. All right, we're ready to be all in. The president very deliberative, and we played out those sections long to show where his process is. What's your read into that, why it's not just about jumping in what the latest is?

KING: Capital H hesitant and capital C cautious when it comes to both Egypt and Syria. In the sense that we've talked about this before, there are no good options and the president's quite clear in saying that. What does he do when you press him on the chemical weapons? He says yes, we're the United States, yes we're supposed to be the beacon of freedom and morality, but we need the United Nations to actually prove this happened. We need to be extra cautious in getting the evidence. Then we'd have to react within international law. The president himself brought up Afghanistan. The American people are war weary after now 12 years almost in Afghanistan. So the hesitancy and the caution even as he tries to say we need to do something. Even as he acknowledges the relationship with Egypt, we don't know where it's going, but the president was very candid saying it won't be the same. We have to turn some sort of a page here, but he's not exactly sure what the next chapter looks like, or the next day looks like in either one of those situations. So very, very cautious and I would say again you can see the hesitancy, the pause in his eyes.

BOLDUAN: And on exactly that, especially when the president said that he knows the relationship with Egypt is not going to go back to business as usual that something -- he as you said not clear what the next step for the U.S. is in involvement in both situations. It makes me wonder, though, he talks about at the same time the time frame narrowing and when something needs to be decided. How do those two things go hand in hand? Is he just trying to be coy and he's not ready to tell us what he's going to do?

KING: No, it's part of the frustrations of being the commander in chief in the technological era we live in. You're seeing these horrific pictures of the alleged chemical weapons attack in Syria, you're seeing every day the pictures out of Egypt that numb you, and stun you, and shock you, and sometimes outrage you.

So presidents and other world leaders are asked to react on a minute by minute basis which frankly isn't fair to them, but it's the nature of the world.

Now, you see these things, and you say who is going to do what? How fast are you going to react? Why haven't you done anything, Mr. President? They have gotten on the phone dozens of times with the Egyptian military saying back off, find a way to have a circuit breaker here. Find a way to dial it back, and it hasn't worked.

So it doesn't mean they're not trying. It's frustrating. and the president -- nobody can tell you what will Egypt look like next week, never mind next year. And as the commander in chief, you know he's there for two and a half more years but one to follow him and another to follow that. You have to think what I'm doing today, but what does this mean for the United States the next year and beyond. When it comes to the Middle East, right now, any president would be extraordinarily frustrated.

BOLDUAN: It does make you wonder, though, what's the tipping point for action, no matter what it is in both situations, Egypt and Syria. We just don't know right yet at least. Thanks, John, great to see you.

CUOMO: Coming up we'll have more with the president, specifically his phone call to America's newest hero, the woman who redefines what tough means.

BOLDUAN: No kidding. There is a lot of news developing at this hour, so let's get straight to Michaela for the latest.

PEREIRA: All right, Kate. Good morning, everyone. A state of emergency in California after the rim fire more than triples in size near Yosemite National Park. That massive fire has now scorched more than 63,000 acres and is forcing visitors to clear out. This is what the fire fight looks from the air, as a C-130 dropping fire retardant on the inferno. Containment has actually gone down from 5 percent Wednesday to just 1 percent Thursday night.

Staff Sergeant Robert Bales, who pleaded guilty to killing 16 Afghans civilians including women and children, now apologizing. In un-sworn testimony during a sentencing hearing Thursday, he condemned his 2012 rampage as an act of cowardice. Bales pled guilty in June, avoiding the death penalty in exchange for a life sentence. A six-member military jury will decide if he will be eligible for parole.

Two suspects allegedly plotted to kidnap and kill at least one Las Vegas police officer are now under arrest. According to police, suspects David Alan Brucci and Devin Campbell Newman planned to hold the officer in some sort of makeshift jail, try the officer for treason and civil rights violations, the execute them. Police say Brucci and Newman are members of a sovereign citizens movement and do not follow U.S. law.

Army Private Bradley Manning announcing plans to live in prison as a woman named Chelsea. He'll also receive counseling at the all-male military prison at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas, and plans to seek hormone therapy. Army prison officials say while they'll provide counseling, they will not offer hormone therapy or sex reassignment surgery to Manning. Manning was sentenced to 35 years for turning over thousands of classified documents to Wikileaks.

Let me ask you, do you love a good belly rub? I thought you would. So does this lizard. Who knew reptiles so be so darned cute. Her owner posted this little video to YouTube, writing every time you open her cage and wiggle your fingers, she comes running, flips on her back and waves her little arms while you scratch her tummy. That's actually really adroable.

BOLDUAN: Cutest lizard I've ever seen.


PEREIRA: Do you see a lot of lizards?

BOLDUAN: Not cute ones.

PEREIRA: That one is adorable.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, Michaela. Let's get straight over to Indra Petersons now with a look at the forecast. Good morning, Indra.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Morning. I'm with Michaela that was really cute and beautiful.

We're talking about beautiful weather here. As we go through the weekend, I love this, all thanks to the cold front that brought those thunderstorms through the northeast yesterday. The cold front still in place, continuing to make its progress to the south. So the mid- Atlantic and also slowly to the southeast, still needing another day of showers but behind it we're talking gorgeous weather.

Keep in mind even though we're seeing improvement in the southeast we're still going to be talking about those typical afternoon thunderstorms in the area but all of this eventually changes as we go in through next week, dome of high pressure finally we've been waiting for this will be building and drying out not just the northeast but the southeast. So much better through next week.

Look at the temperatures especially if you're trying to travel this weekend, gorgeous. Atlantic City seeing 80s, even 70s over in Maine. Portland, looking for 79 today, Saturday about 76.

We'll take you out to the west coast though. We're looking at a couple things, especially with the fire concerns out there. S lot of the moisture staying to the north of Yosemite, not where we want it, but there's going to be dry conditions still in place. The good news no red flag warnings but just teens for (INAUDIBLE). Not good on the fire lines. The good news we do have on the fire lines, though, is we're not talking about strong winds so it's a huge plus in that area.

BOLDUAN: Take what you can get. Thanks so much.

Coming up next on NEW DAY the school bookkeeper who talked down a gunman and averted a tragedy meets the 911 operator who talked her through the terrifying ordeal. Look at their smiles now. A reunion you're only going to see on CNN.

CUOMO: Plus all signs seem to point to San Diego Mayor Bob Filner leaving office but big question, will the people of San Diego pay a price for his resignation? We'll give you details just ahead.


BOLDUAN: Welcome back to NEW DAY. An emotional, surprise reunion for two women who went through a terrifying experience together. Antoinette Tuff is being hailed as a national hero this morning after that remarkable 911 call where she convinced a gunman to surrender to police at a Georgia school. Last night on "AC360," she met the 911 dispatcher who talked her through the entire thing. Martin Savidge is live at the CNN center in Atlanta with who more. Good morning, Martin.


The more I hear from Antoinette Tuff the more I love what she says. She'll be the first to tell you she didn't act alone, and last night we met another powerful voice that was on that call and it was quite a moment.


SAVIDGE (voice-over): It was an amazing moment only on CNN. For the first time, Antoinette Tuff, the coolest, calmest hero you've ever heard, meets the 911 operator who had been the other voice at the end of that emergency call.


SAVIDGE: Kendra McCray said, like everyone else, she was in awe of Tuff.

KENDRA MCCRAY, 911 OPERATOR: She is a true hero.

SAVIDGE: The two women recalling for Anderson Cooper the horror of that day.

MCCRAY: When she said he's right here at the door, and it's like I can see him through just her words.

SAVIDGE: But their fear was never evident in the 911 call that has riveted America.


ANTOINETTE TUFF, ELEMENTARY SCHOOL HERO: Ooh, he just went outside and started shooting.

SAVIDGE: Tuff revealed the man's first shot was into the floor, just a few feet away.

TUFF: He actually took the shot to allow me and the other person that was in there to know that this was not a game and that he was not playing. And that this was serious.

SAVIDGE: She also knew the lives of 800 students hung in the balance.

TUFF: You start seeing all this movement and he actually went to that door with the gun drawn to start shooting. And the media person was there and he looked him dead in his face and started drawing his gun up.

So, I started talking to him. I said come back in. Stay in here with me. Don't go anywhere. Stay in here.

SAVIDGE: And so began one of the most frightening and fascinating negotiations ever recorded.

TUFF: He said to tell them to back off. He don't want the kids. He wants the police. So, back off.

SAVIDGE: The scariest moment Tuff says was watching the man methodically load the gun.

TUFF: He had bullets everywhere on top of magazines. So, I knew when he made the last call that he was going to go because he loaded up to go.

SAVIDGE: Yet instead of feeling fear or anger, Tuff says she felt compassion, recalling her own personal heart breaks, even contemplating suicide.

TUFF: I had been in that devastating moment when all of the things happened to me. So, I knew that that could have been my story.

SAVIDGE: Just before her CNN interview, Tuff got another surprise, ironically, over the phone, from the president of the United States.

TUFF: He just wanted to let me know that him and his wife and his family was very proud of what I had did and everybody wanted to thank me.

SAVIDGE: Tuff gives all credit to her faith, believing her role was part of a heavenly plan.

TUFF: I feel like I helped somebody in need, that God was able to use me. It was an honor to be able to be used.


SAVIDGE: She clearly is a woman of faith. And in fact, she said that while she was going through that ordeal, she was remembering a sermon she heard which was God is your anchor in times of hardship. That sermon she had heard just the Sunday before at church. Tell me things don't happen for a reason. Kate?

BOLDUAN: And every time she says it's going to be okay, I agree with Anderson who is saying I can have her around to hear her say that to me all the time.


BOLDUAN: Martin, thank you so much.

Today may be San Diego Mayor Bob Filner's last day in office. He will reportedly step down this afternoon as part of an agreement to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit. CNN's Kyung Lah has been on the story from the very beginning, breaking quite a few exclusives along the way, Kyung, thanks for joining us in New York. We've been following accusation and new accuser after new accuser. Is this the beginning of the end for the mayor?

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Maybe. That's the expectation is that we know, Kate, there is a deal in place. We know that as part of that deal, according to a source that is familiar with the negotiations that Filner is expected to resign. We got a big clue. I want you to take a look at some cell phone video of him. He's right next to his SUV, and right there, that video in the back seat were boxes. He reportedly said farewell to his staff so the expectation is he's gone.

BOLDUAN: He may be gone, which will be music to the ears of many voters in San Diego, but what about those reports we're hearing the taxpayers may still foot the bill?

LAH; Yeah, you know medicine never tastes good. This may be it, reportedly as part of the deal taxpayers will have to cover his legal fees. That's something that is pretty standard in San Diego, that when you say farewell they cover your fees, so maybe.

BOLDUAN: Bitter pill to swallow, taxpayers who still don't know where their mayor has been all the time they wanted a mayor to be helping run the city. Kyung, great work. Thanks so much. Great to see you..

CUOMO: Some story to see how that ends up.

BOLDUAN: We'll see today.

CUOMO: I hope so.

Coming up on NEW DAY our exclusive interview with President Obama. The president is going to give us his thoughts on Antoinette Tuff. We can't talk her, about her enough, right. But what makes it interesting is what stood out to the president, her feelings for the gunman. It's very interesting. He's also going to tell us about life in the White House with his girls and that new dog.

BOLDUAN: Oh, yes, the new doggie.

Also ahead, a Florida fisherman had to fight to stay alive after falling off his boat, being thrown off of his boat at sea. He somehow managed to tread water for some 18 hours everyone. We'll have the story coming up.


BOLDUAN: Welcome back to NEW DAY, everyone. It's Friday, August 23rd. I'm Kate Bolduan.

CUOMO: And I'm Chris Cuomo here with news anchor Michaela Pereira.

PEREIRA: Good morning, everyone.

CUOMO: Coming up in the show, President Obama getting personal, the commander in chief talks about what makes Antoinette Tuff special to him as well. He talks about her feelings for the gunman. He also gives us on a personal side a peek in the life of the White House. His girls getting older and what their new puppy is doing to the White House decor.


Plus ahead, Hannah Anderson setting the record straight, the California teen telling the world about the man who abducted her after murdering her mother and brother. There are still unanswered questions.

CUOMO: A lot of news as well. Let's get to Michaela.

PEREIRA: Residents near Yosemite Park ordered to evacuate because of a wildfire that is burning out of control. The so-called rim fire has now charred 63,000 acres. Officials say 2,500 homes are threatened. The blaze only at 1 percent containment. California Governor Jerry Brown declaring a state of emergency in the region.

A disturbing story out of Spokane, Washington, a World War II vet 89 years old beaten to death allegedly by two teenagers. This morning police are conducting an all-out search for those suspects.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was a war vet and he fought for this country. In fact, he was shot when he was 18 years old on the beach of Okinawa.