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Obama Addresses Government Shutdown Threat; Congress Faces Debt Ceiling, End of Fiscal Year; Aaron Alexis' Mother Speaks; Bus Collides with Train in Canada, 5 Dead; Gen. Dempsy, Secy. Hagel Speaks on Military Base Security

Aired September 18, 2013 - 11:00   ET


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You have never seen in the history of the United States the debt ceiling or the threat of not raising the debt ceiling being used to extort a president or a governing party and trying to force issues that have nothing to do with the budget and nothing to do with the debt.

So here's where we are, and I think this is the bottom line and I want to make sure everybody is clear here. I have presented a budget that deals with -- continues to deal with our deficit effectively.

I am prepared to work with Democrats and Republicans to deal with our long-term entitlement issues. And I am prepared to look at priorities that the Republicans think we should be promoting and priority that's they think we shouldn't be promoting.

So I'm happy to negotiate with them around the budget, just as I've done in the past. What I will not do is create a habit, a pattern, whereby the full faith and credit of the United States ends up being a bargaining chip to set policy. It's irresponsible.

The last time we did this in 2011, we had negative growth at a time when the recovery was just trying to take off. And it would fundamentally change how American government functions.

And if you doubt that, just flip the script for a second and imagine a situation in which a Democratic speaker said to a Republican president, I'm not going to increase the debt ceiling unless you increase corporate taxes by 20 percent, and if you don't do it, we'll default on the debt and cause a worldwide financial crisis.

Even though that Democratic speaker didn't have the votes to force through that particular piece of legislation, they would simply say, we will blow the whole thing up unless you do what I want.

That can't be a recipe for governing. I have responsibilities at this point not just to the current generation but the future generations, and we're not going to set up a situation where the full faith and credit of the United States is put on the table every year or every year and a half and we go through some sort of terrifying financial brinksmanship because of some ideological arguments people are having about some particular issue of the day. We're not going to do that.

So the good news is that we can raise the debt ceiling tomorrow just by a simple vote in each chamber and set that aside and then we can have a serious argument about the budget.

And there are significant differences still between Republicans and Democrats when it comes to the budget, but it is going to be important for all of you, I think, over the next several weeks to understand what's at stake is and to make sure that you are using your influence in it whatever way you can to get back to what's what used to be called regular order around here, doing things in a way that reflect the genuine messy negotiations of democracy but do not promise apocalypse every three months.

And I think this is the time for us to say once and for all that we can't afford these kinds of plays. I know the American people are tired of it, I'm tired of it and I suspect you're tired of it, too, because it's pretty hard to plan your businesses when these kinds of things are looming at any given moment.

With that, let me stop and let me open it up for questions.


ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: So you've been listening to the president live as he has got a tough job ahead.

In about 12 days, I don't know if you know this, we've reached the end of the fiscal year and there's no presents coming. The debt ceiling actually kicks in, and if we don't raise the debt ceiling, effectively we default on payments.

That's not good, so the president is trying to work with Republicans and with business leaders and is beseeching them to get on board and raise the debt ceiling.

Dana Bash, you had a chance to speak with the Speaker of the House regarding this grand bargain -- I hate to use that, but it sure sounds like a bargain being put forth by Republicans.

Sure, debt ceiling up, ObamaCare defunded. That essentially what many Republicans are saying today?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, maybe we should take a step back because the president was talking about the debt ceiling, which he described exactly what it was.

I don't have to repeat that. That had been part of the discussion inside the House Republican caucus about attaching that to defunding ObamaCare.

But instead what they're doing and formally announced this morning is they are going to attach defunding ObamaCare to keeping the government running.

So there are basically two deadlines. The first deadline is September 30th. That's when the government runs out of money. If they don't pass something to get the funding going, then the government will shut down. Then the other is the debt ceiling, which we think will probably be in mid-October, But what House Republicans have decided to do is to make their number one issue defunding ObamaCare part of the spending battle, which is will really, really high stakes because this means that in the next 12 days, September 30th is 12 days from now, they're going to have to deal with the House Republicans and the Senate Democrats who obviously have very different thoughts on this.

This will likely pass the House, as it has 40 times before, defunding ObamaCare. The Senate is run by Democrats. The votes aren't there to do that. So we're in this sort of limbo where they're going to have to reconcile this.

What's so fascinating, Ashleigh, this isn't something that the House Republican leadership, namely John Boehner, the speaker, wanted to do. He was here in 1995 when the government shut down and Republicans in the House, not the Democratic president, Bill Clinton, got the blame.

But there was so much discussion and so much pressure from conservatives in his own caucus, they were hearing from outside groups for the past five weeks during their recess, that he had no choice.

He tried to craft something that just funded the government without this defunding ObamaCare, but he didn't have the votes for it so he had to give in. I asked him about that today, and he said, look, leaders lead, and I'm doing what I have to do in order to get my caucus to agree.

We'll see what happens in the end game there, but it is a big question mark how this will end.

BANFIELD: So I'm mixing apples and oranges, and it all seems to run together today, but the two differences being the debt ceiling issue and then keeping the government running.

And it sounds to me as though the speaker earlier has made some pretty strident comments about this should not be a conversation about shutting the government down, and yet the goal is to reduce spending and protect Americans from ObamaCare.

Dana, can you hold that thought. I want to bring in chief White House correspondent John Acosta who is standing by.

This seems like an epic battle that doesn't go away. What is the latest salvo in the effort by the president to make this a smooth September?

JIM ACOSTA, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's very interesting, Ashleigh, because everything that was going on with Syria over the last couple of months, this was going on behind the scenes.

You could hear the president, you could hear top administration officials, talking about this at briefings and so forth, and Syria was dominating the discussion so much that really the rest of the country didn't really focus on it. So now that Syria has been put off to the diplomatic side for a moment, now we're in this compressed timeline of 12 days before the government shuts down, roughly a month, maybe a little less, until the government runs up against the debt ceiling.

And because the Republicans in the House and even some in the Senate want to use ObamaCare as a wedge here, they want to use the debt limit and government shutdown possibility as sort of leverage to get what they want out of ObamaCare, now we're sort of in this -- we sort of have seen this movie before, but we're doing it all over again. Even the new arguments sound like old arguments.

What you heard the president say at the business roundtable is that, no, he is not going to negotiate over the debt ceiling. He is not going to deal with that when it comes to dealing with the president's health care law.

And so what he has basically done at this point -- we don't want to throw around the term "red line" -- he's essentially drawn a red line.

The reason why he's doing this, Ashleigh, is this White House feels that politically they're in a very strong position here. There is no reelection to worry about at this point.

The midterms are coming next year, and anybody can say this here in Washington and many have, that if the government shuts down, if they hit the debt ceiling and the government goes into default, they feel here at the White House that this hurts Republicans, helps Democrats, and perhaps tees up those midterms pretty nicely for them, Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: Thank you both for rounding out that conversation. Obviously a tough crowd at the business roundtable for the president this morning.

Dana Bash and Jim Acosta, thank you.

The mother of the ex-Navy reservist who opened fire in the Washington Navy Yard on Monday is speaking. She's saying she has no idea why her son did it.

But she is saying one thing that is even more poignant. She's glad that he'll never be able to hurt anyone else.

My colleague Deb Feyerick joins me live with what I think can only be described as a heart-wrenching statement.

Deb, fill me in on how this happened and how this woman came to make this statement.

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, the media has been staking out her home for several days, wanting to know exactly what she was thinking, what she was feeling during this tragedy.

Her voice is very subdued, choked with emotion. I was allowed inside as the reporter for the media to record her. She set the ground rules. She said no pictures. She only wanted to read her statement, would take no questions.

Her voice was really subdued. She seemed drained. She was supported on either side by two community bishops who were there to really give her strength. And she read a very poignant statement. Take a listen.


CATHLEEN ALEXIS, MOTHER OF AARON ALEXIS: -- 12 people and wounded several others.

His actions have had a profound and everlasting effect on the families of the victims.

I don't know why he did what he did, and I'm never going to be able to ask him why.

Aaron is now in a place where he can no longer do harm to anyone, and for that I am glad.

To the families of the victims, I am so, so very sorry that this has happened. My heart is broken.


FEYERICK: Now, Miss Alexis said she'd returned home on Monday afternoon after she heard the news it was her son. She hasn't been able to leave her apartment since.

She was dressed very simply. She was wearing a black sweater, black pants. She had a gold necklace and gold hoop earrings and she was wearing slippers.

She wouldn't answer any questions. I asked when the last time it was she spoke with her son. She didn't want to answer that.

She said that there were many inaccuracies or a number of inaccuracies that had been reported, but she refused to correct any of them, saying she really wanted to make sure that the statement spoke for itself.

She wanted to emphasize the fact that this is about the victims. And when one of the bishops said to her, well, you've also suffered a tragedy, she said, no, no, it's not about me.

So very humbling, very subdued, very emotional, Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: And, Deb, I know that his father mentioned the issue of PTSD after helping to recover victims during 9/11.

But what about other family members? Are there any? Is anyone talking?

FEYERICK: There is a sister that we know about. There are some other siblings. But nobody is talking. They have been very quiet about this.

Only a brother-in-law came out on Monday saying that he really hadn't been -- that Aaron Alexis had not been in touch with the family in a good number of years, or at least he had never met him. But nobody is really talking. They're trying to process just the depth and the scope of this tragedy.

One thing Miss Alexis told us is that she's worried about going back to work. She doesn't know whether she's going to be accepted. She doesn't know how she's going to be received.

She's worried, she's very, very worried, about how this tragedy perpetrated by her son is going to affect her and her family.

BANFIELD: A son in his 30s who has been estranged from the community where she lives, we should remind people as well. This can't be easy for anyone involved in this.

Deb Feyerick live for us, thank you for bringing us that, a remarkable statement the mother of the shooter made.

We also have some developing news that's coming out of Ottawa, Canada, a double-decker bus colliding with a train. And I can tell you this, there are multiple fatalities.

We're going to take you there live right after the break.


BANFIELD: There's been a terrible accident to report to you that comes to us from Canada. A passenger train there actually shearing off the front of a double-decker city bus in the capital city of Ottawa. This happened this morning, and police say at least five people right now are confirmed to have been killed in this accident.

CNN's Paula Newton is live on the scene. She joins us via telephone. Paula, can you update on what just sounds like a tragedy.

PAULA NEWTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is a tragedy. People here still quite shaken, Ashleigh. What happened was people were waiting on the platform to board a train that was bound for downtown Ottawa to downtown Toronto. They heard a loud thud, an incredibly loud screech, they said. You could hear the metal. And then plumes of black smoke.

What seems to have happened, from what we get from witnesses, is that this bus failed -- this double-decker bus failed to stop at that intersection where the railway crossing was. Other cars had stopped, perhaps even another bus had stopped. This particular bus failed to stop, and as you said, just a horrific scene here with the front of the bus completely sheared off.

I can tell you everyone here still quite shaken wondering what was going on with that bus. When they first saw the train, Ashleigh, that's now splayed across the tracks it has now derailed, that's what they thought it was; they thought it was a train derailment. It wasn't until they saw the front of the bus that they understood exactly the gravity of the incident.

I've been talking to people coming off the train, again, quite shaken. We understand any injuries on the train to not be serious. In the meantime, at least ten people taken to area hospitals undergoing treatment right now, and police, again, confirming five fatalities on that bus. Ashleigh?

BANFIELD: Just hard to see those pictures and imagine the front of that bus just gone. Paula Newton live for us in Ottawa, Canada. Thank you for that.

Coming up just ahead, a Florida man is charged with killing his wife and then posting a photo of her on Facebook, her dead body, but now a different twist to this story. There was a camera rolling inside his home at the time this happened, and you're going to see what that camera recorded. Next.


BANFIELD: A lot of breaking news we want to get you up to speed on. We want to take you live to the Pentagon right now where in the wake of just two days after the terrible shooting in the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C., Chuck Hagel, the secretary of defense, is actually, we believe, outlining some of the details for the sweeping -- actually, General Dempsey has now has taken over the microphone - but some of those details on the sweeping security revisions or reviews at least on all military installations across the country. Let's listen.


GEN. MARTIN E. DEMPSEY, CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: While I cannot discuss the details of an ongoing investigation, I can discuss the bravery of the first responders. Even in the midst of tragedy, there are moments of triumph. The most visible feats were accomplished by professionals, our military, police, and EMTs, but there were other unseen moments equally heroic. I was especially inspired by the story of Omar Grant, a Navy Yard civilian, who helped a blind colleague to safety as they exited building 197 in the middle of the shooting. Omar refused to leave his friend behind.

The urge to run toward danger to help someone in need is a testament to an American's character. Our military family will continue to help those in need. The secretary of the navy has granted designee status to provide medical care to those injured in the attacks. We've also mobilized teams of military chaplains throughout the area to minister to those in need, and counseling services are available for all of those affected by Monday's rampage.

And I look forward to your questions.


QUESTION: Mr. Secretary -- and perhaps, Mr. Chairman, if you could answer -- to the general public who sees sort of -- the sort of string of events -- Snowden, Hasan, Bradley Manning, and now this -- it sort of looks as though there are incidents, there are studies, and something happens again. Is there -- you did extensive studies after the Hasan incident. So can you talk about, what is it -- what changes were not made then that should have been made? Are there gaps? And when you look at security clearances, should we lower the bar to include more personal information or take note of greater personal information in order to protect safety? Where is that line?

HAGEL: Well, first, obviously, something went wrong. That's the point of the directives that I have made in the reviews that will go forward. As I said in my comments, we will review everything. And from that review, the intensity of that review, the depth and width of that review, we would hope that we will find some answers to how we do it better, how can we do it better.

HAGEL: The fact is, starting with the tragedy of what happened Monday -- and you mentioned other tragedies -- we don't live in a risk-free society. And every day, all the millions of DOD employees, whether they're uniformed or civilian, that come to work, help this country, contribute to the security and safety of this country, there's always some risk to that. And that isn't a good answer. That's not good enough. They deserve the security of a safe environment.

We will find those gaps, as I said, and we will fix those gaps. So to go beyond that in the specific areas of your questions, I would leave that to the review. There are many questions that are going to be asked, need to be asked, many reviews, and the intensity of those reviews have to go down to every aspect -- the security of our physical premises, the security clearance, standards of that security clearance, are they strong enough, why do we do certain things the way we do -- we need answers. And we will find those answers.

DEMPSEY: Well, I'd just add that the -- to what the secretary said, in terms of what we changed after some of those earlier incidents that -- early indications are actually contributed to -- to the -- to a less horrific outcome were alert notices, coordination in advance of crises with other agencies of government, training for -- for employees and law enforcement on active shooter scenarios.

So, I mean, some of the things we did as a result of those earlier incidents, we believe, actually reaped the benefit we intended. The clearance piece of this is one I think we very clearly have to take another look at, and the secretary's directed us to do so.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary...



QUESTION: Do you believe that the security clearance procedures and investigations are not rigorous enough or that, for the lower- level security clearances, that that 10-year timeframe may be too long?

And again, a question for you, General Dempsey, on Syria. You've expressed concerns before about the difficulties in securing chemical weapons sites in Syria, even in a non-hostile environment. If Syria should agree to open up its sites not only to inspection, but seizure by the end of this week -- or at any timeframe -- just how difficult would that be? Do you think it's even possible to secure those weapons during a civil war?

HAGEL: Well, on your question regarding timeframes on security clearances and the entire specifics and components of security clearances, timeframe, the depth of the clearance, kind of clearance, access different clearances give individuals, we're going to look at all that.

Obviously, the longer clearances go without review, there's some jeopardy to that. There's no question about it. So we're going to take a look at every one of those components.

DEMPSEY: On Syria, my current role and the current role of the military is to provide some planning assistance to the Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons, OPCW, who has the lead, and as well as to maintain the credible threat of force, should the diplomatic track fail.

My comments about the security of the stockpile remain valid. That is to say, it's a very challenging -- it's a very challenging environment. Indicators are at this point, though, that the regime does have control of its stockpile. And so long as they agree to the framework, which causes them to be responsible for the security, the movement, the protection of the investigators or the inspectors, then I think that the answer to your question is it is -- it is feasible. But we've got to make sure we keep our eye on all of those things.


BANFIELD: So the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, Martin Dempsey, along with the defense secretary having a sobering news conference to remind us that there is about to be a major effort put in place not just across this country when it comes to all military installations, but around the world with regard to the security that is in place at this point and whether there's enough to prevent what happened on Monday from ever happening again. In fact, Chuck Hagel said, we're going to do everything possible, his words, everything possible to prevent shootings like the one at the Washington Navy yard from ever happening again. So here's the big question. Who is going to be in charge of that? What does it mean? There are a lot of unanswered questions about exactly what kind of security they're talking about and what it's going to cost in a time where cost-cutting at times has been part of the conversation with regard to what happened on Monday.

That story continues as well as that story about the man who allegedly shot his wife dead and then posted a photo of her dead body on Facebook before grabbing his jacket, his camera, and walking out of his home. Now new video, and it's chilling. It's surveillance video rolling inside his home the moment shots were fired. Photos were taken. You'll see it in a moment.