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Another Possible Government Shutdown; Fed Continues Pumping, Stock Market, 401(k)s Soar; Storms and Flooding in Mexico; Pope Francis Sits for Interview with Jesuit Magazine; Assad Denies Weapons Use; McCain Writes Op-Ed in Russian Newspaper; Powerball Winnings Still Unclaimed

Aired September 19, 2013 - 11:00   ET


ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Wait until you hear what we've learned about a pair of rusty cars filled with skeletal remains pulled from a murky Colorado lake.

And if you're into stealing cars, prostitutes, drugs, guns and torture, congratulations, today's your day. "Grant Theft Auto 5" is here, the game's most violent graphic blood and guts version yet.

What does this say about a society that shells out $800 million for this game? And that's just on its first day on the street, $800 million.

And I'll bet you wish you had half that much money, don't you? You just might if you're the one who bought that one Power Ball ticket, that one Power Ball ticket in South Carolina.

We're going to take you there to see if America's newest multimillionaire is actually going to step forward and say hello.

Hello, and welcome, everyone, to LEGAL VIEW. I'm Ashleigh Banfield. It is Thursday, September 19th. Very nice to have you here with us today.

Wish I could say it's a better day, but it's 11 days and counting until the government welcomes Fiscal Year 2014 by shutting down.

Doesn't have to shut down, but the odds do get better. In fact, they get better by the minute as some lawmakers insist on tying the continued government funding to a cutoff for Obamacare.

Other lawmakers are saying that is just a foolish and futile gesture. The twist this time, though, is those two camps happen to be the same party, Republican.


REPRESENTATIVE ERIC CANTOR (R), MAJORITY LEADER: We aim to put a stop to Obamacare before it costs one more job or raises a family's out of pocket expenses one more dollar.

REPRESENTATIVE JASON CHAFFETZ (R), UTAH: We're talking about fully funding the government at its current levels with the exception of Obamacare. Now, we're not here to just gravitate to what Harry Reid wants to do. The United States Senate is going to have to have this debate, but in the House, we're poised to pass this on Friday.

SENATOR TOM COBURN (R), OKLAHOMA: The only effective way to truly stop Obamacare, and I think we ought to do it, to stop it, would be totally reverse it. We don't have the votes to do that.

REPRESENTATIVE PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: We can't let the government shut down. We can't be kamikazes. And we can't be General Custer.


BANFIELD: CNN's Wolf Blitzer is watching the Republicans battle this out, Republican against Republican, from a distance. He joins me live now from Washington.

OK, first, I'm going to get the elephants out of the room right now by saying this is the fourth time since 2011 we've been having this discussion, the government shutdown.

And before I get to that, why this time is it Republican against Republican? Because I thought that was what Ronald Reagan always said was the 11th commandment, thou shalt not speak ill of fellow Republicans?

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR, "THE SITUATION ROOM": Because there's a major split within the Republican Party right now, especially when it comes to Republicans -- at least a lot of them, not Peter King, you just heard him, but other Republicans in the House of Representatives and a whole bunch of Republicans in the Senate.

In the House of Representatives, John Boehner has reluctantly gone along with those Republicans who say the government, in effect, will have to shut down unless Obamacare is defunded, no more money for Obamacare.

That's not going to pass in the Senate, and even if it were to pass in the Senate, and it won't pass in the Senate, the president would veto it. There's no way he can get a two-thirds override in the Senate or even in the House of Representatives for that matter.

So you have all these other Republicans telling the most active, like you saw Jason Chaffetz in that sound bite that you just played, you know what? It's a worthwhile goal to get rid of Obamacare, but it's certainly not going to happen right now.

And if you do go ahead and shut down the government October 1st when the government runs out of money, it's going to destroy the Republican Party, politically, in the midterm elections next year.

And they say don't just believe them. Don't just believe what a lot of experts are saying. Read Karl Rove's article in "The Wall Street Journal" today who says this would be a disaster for the Republicans if there's a government shutdown because the public, especially independents, would overwhelmingly blame Republicans, not the president and the Democrats.

He writes this, "Going down that road would strengthen the president while alienating independents. It is an ill-conceived tactic and Republicans should reject it."

Now, listen to Dick Durbin, the Democratic whip in the Senate.


SENATOR DICK DURBIN (D), ASSISTANT MAJORITY LEADER: I never thought I would ever come to the floor of the United States to quote Karl Rove.

But this morning's "Wall Street journal," for goodness sakes, he writes a long article to his fellow Republicans, saying wake up to reality.

Independent voters, those who don't declare for either political party across America, think that the tea party Republican strategy is disastrous.

And he warned the Republican party, if you're not careful, you're going to push those independents over on the Democratic side.


BLITZER: Yeah. So those are pretty strong words from Durbin and a powerful article from Karl Rove in "The Wall Street Journal."

And, by the way, his organization, his political organization, has done polling in 10 key states where there are a lot of independents, and the numbers just don't back up what a lot of the tea party Republicans in the House of Representatives would like to hear.

They say this would be a political disaster for the Republicans next year.

BANFIELD: Yeah, but you know what? I think a lot of people are angry at congress in general, given the fact what I led off the show with, Wolf, was this is the fourth time since 2011.

And if we do the math, that's only two years, that we've had this bargaining chip looming over us to keep the government running.

I think President Obama has said it. The full faith and credit of the U.S. is a bargaining chip, once again. It shouldn't be.

Could you please answer me as to why these two years have been so gut wrenching when it comes to this as opposed to every other year?

BLITZER: First of all, there's two separate issues. There's the funding of the government that comes up that ends at the end of this month. October 1st is a new fiscal year.

If there's no appropriations bill, a continuing resolution, as it's called, passed, then the government will run out of money and millions of Americans will stop receiving government checks, a lot of important government services will grind to a halt, because no appropriations bills have been passed this year at all.

The separate issue you raise, the full faith and credit of the U.S. government, that will really come up in the mid-October, when the Treasury Department says the government needs to raise the debt ceiling in order to continue borrowing money and repaying the federal debt.

And that's a separate issue, but both of these issues have one thing in common. A lot of Republicans want to keep that funding of Obamacare hovering over both of these issues in order to score -- to try to eliminate Obamacare.

The bottom line, as you know, they hate Obamacare, even though it was passed by the Congress, signed into law by the president, and constitutionally approved by the U.S. Supreme Court.

They're looking for ways to get rid of it, and this is one option, but it's not going to go anywhere.

BANFIELD: And they both have the effect of paralysis on the federal government.

Wolf Blitzer, live for us, thank you. We're going to see you again at the half hour.

So Washington may be in upheaval, but Wall Street's actually never looked brighter. Look at the Big Board.

While there's a minus sign there just today, the blue chip stocks are actually doing well, a record run yesterday, in fact, after the prompt by some unexpected news from the Feds.

Christine Romans, the expert on all of this, basically, the spigots of money are still open, at least for a few more months.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS ANCHOR: They are. And, in fact, the Fed chief, Ben Bernanke, kind of blasted Congress in everything that Wolf was just talking about.

You know, the Fed is the only game in town, is the only game in town in Washington right now, and it is propping up the economy.

Let's look at stock market rise. Today is the hangover. After a big party, you have a little hangover, Ashleigh. Maybe not you, but some people do, and on Wall Street, that's what we're seeing.

Look at the Dow for the year, up 20 percent; the NASDAQ, 25 percent; the S&P 500, up 21 percent.

Ashleigh, anybody with anywhere close to that return in your 401(k), and your 401(k) should not be 100 percent stock, I should say, but you're going to see double-digit gains in your 401(k).

That, you can thank the Fed. You can thank a very slowly improving economy. But the Fed, everything it's been doing, helping out investors here. BANFIELD: Great news for those checking a daily 401k update. Here's the bigger question. When this looked so rosy, when we all think, hey, we must be out of that slump, we hit that anniversary where are the jobs?

ROMANS: That's such a good point. This is what Ben Bernanke and company are concerned about.

That's why he has this fire hose, I keep saying, full of money, and he's spraying $80 million into the economy every month. They're trying to keep it going.

The kindling, the fire, has started to burn, but we don't have a real good solid fire going in the American economy yet. You can see that in jobs.

There are a lot of economists, especially progressive economists who are quite concerned, Ashleigh, that if they pull back too soon, you're going to see those jobs added really start to shrink at a time when you don't need that to happen.

So, still concerned about the job situation, one of the reasons why the Fed is still going here.

BANFIELD: When is the next chance that we get to hear whether the spigots stay on or get turned off? And ultimately if they get turned off, we have to be very worried about our mortgages.

ROMANS: You've got to pay the piper at some point. I'm mixing my metaphors like crazy here, but you know look, this can't go on forever. The Fed has to have an exit strategy. You can't just keep pumping the economy with money forever. The economy has to take over on its own.

Look, when should we be worried? Goldman Sachs says the next time this comes will be at the December meeting. UBS says no, more likely January. There is a meeting in October.

I can guarantee you there will be all kinds of guessing between now and then. Most immediate way you're going to see this outside of your 401(k) is probably mortgage rates.

I think what the Fed has done or didn't do yesterday probably gives you another chance to refinance or to buy your first home or to get a mortgage at a decent rate, below five percent.

It gives you a little breathing room there because, you know, there were some calls yesterday that you were going to see five percent, 30- year fixed rate mortgages if the Fed started this taper. The Fed's not tapering just yet.

BANFIELD: So while I really took a bath on a stupid hedge fund that I still own, don't ask, I did get the sweet spot on the refi on the mortgage.

ROMANS: Fantastic. BANFIELD: Because I listened to you.

ROMANS: Fantastic. It's still good to refi.

BANFIELD: Christine Romans, thank you for that.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

BANFIELD: Stick around. This is still a busy day for you because the Export Council and president's meeting today, so we're going to have a lot more news coming up.

Smartest lady in television, thank you.

We're also watching some other big news. In fact, I want to take you to Mexico because there's been catastrophic damage there from Hurricane Manuel, just one of three storms, sorry to say, bringing this kind of devastation.

Look, oh, my gosh. This flooding has killed at least 80 people, 58 others at least at this point considered missing, mudslide coming through a community west of Acapulco, and tens of thousands of tourists who love to go there are facing those pictures.

The storm is not going away any time soon either. That's the bigger problem, five-to-10 inches of rainfall still expected there with isolated amounts of 15 inches for parts of the western part of the country of Mexico, so stay tuned.

Look at the rescues. Unbelievable.

Now, for some other pictures that defy belief, this is video of a chemical plant fire in Thomas, Oklahoma, so intense that people could feel this from a highway quite a distance away.

Authorities clearing a four-mile area because they were concerned about the burning chemicals that were obviously going up in smoke into the air, blowing any which way the wind blew.

At this point, no one knows what caused this fair, and the good news, if there is any, is that no one was hurt in that. Just a remarkable inferno overnight. Our thanks to KOCO for those pictures.

Up next, Pope Francis, think you know him? You're about to know him a lot better because he is releasing his first in depth interview.

Folks, this is so rare, what he's done. He sat down with the Jesuit magazine to talk about -- are you ready -- abortion, gay marriage, the role of women in the church, pressing questions to say the least.

You won't believe his candor. We'll share it with you in a moment.

Also, one lucky person in South Carolina or maybe passing through South Carolina, don't know, but you are $400 million richer today, effectively.

The announcement just about to happen. More on the winning numbers in a moment.


BANFIELD: Pope Francis has granted his first in-depth interview to a Jesuit magazine that's going to share with all Jesuit magazines all around the world. It's a 12,000 word piece so it is no small feat. It was published this morning.

I want to get you right to CNN's senior producer Eric Marrapodi, who is the co-editor to of CNN's belief blog. Eric, this was really astounding news that A, the interview was given and B, that it was as candid about topics ranging from abortion to women in the church, to the right of the church to interfere in gay people's lives. Can you give me some of the headlines?

ERIC MARRAPODI, CNN PRODUCER/CO-EDITOR, BELIEF BLOG: Yes, it's very un-pope-like for a pope to sit for an interview of this length. It was done over three days with the La Civilta Catolica, that's the Roman Jesuit Journal. Just astounding stuff.

Let's get right into it. One of the things the pope talked about was the church needs to find the right balance between its political mission and its spiritual one and warns very candidly in that balance fails, the church's moral foundation will crumble like a house of cards. That's just incredibly strong language there from the pope.

I want you to look at something he said about some of the hot button social issues. He's been criticized by some in the church for not talking enough. He addressed that head on. Take a listen to this. "We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage, and the use of contraceptive methods." This is what the pope told these Jesuit journals. "I have spoken much about these things - I have not spoken much about these things, and I was reprimanded for that. It's not necessary to talk about these issues all the time."

That's just stunning. That is a course correction for the Catholic Church from what they've been on for a number of years in the public sphere. This is -- he's saying, let's get back to the roots. Let's get back to serving people. At one point in this article, he calls the church a field hospital.

Let's take a look at another one. This is on homosexuality. He addressed this, as you know, on that plane ride back from brazil in July. He talked very candidly. He said, who am I to judge if someone who is gay approaches the Lord with an honest heart. Some people thought he was just talking about priests. He clarified that in a big way.

Listen to what he said on this. Someone asked him a very pointed question, whether he approved or not of homosexuality, and this is what he said: "I replied with another question, tell me, when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of that person with love, or reject and condemn this person? We must always consider the person. Here, we enter into the mystery of the human being." Just a very, very difference tone than we've heard from the Catholic Church publicly. He's going back to the catechism, the laws of the church that say embrace people who are gay, even if you're not embracing the acts and the things they're doing that may be outside of the church's teachings.

Let's look at one last thing, this is something he had to say about women in the church. He said on that plane ride back from Brazil there needs to be a new theology on women. He said there's not going to be women priests but that women need to play a much more active role in the church. Listen to what he said here in this article. "The feminine genius is needed wherever we make important decisions. Women are asking deep questions that must be addressed. The church cannot be herself without the women and her role."

Just astounding stuff this morning, Ashleigh. Incredibly wide-ranging interview. You can read our full takeout on it on Just incredible stuff here.

BANFIELD: Incredible, but I just want to footnote this by saying that he also said in this interview, the door is closed on women's ordination. That may disappoint a lot of Catholic liberals. This is an emphatic quote. The door is closed on women's ordination. Thank you for getting through that quick read and giving us those essential headlines. You can read a lot more on CNN's belief blog at Again, one of the rarer things that you've ever see a pope do, sit for this lengthy interview and be this candid.

Coming up, 40 years after they disappeared, six bodies in two separate cars are fished out of an Oklahoma lake in the very same spot. Can these bodies be identified? Can the mystery be solved? Three letters for you: CSI.

Also, the Navy yard shooter left a cryptic message etched on his gun. Going to tell you what it is and if it means anything after the break.


BANFIELD: There is blood everywhere. There is damage everywhere. That's a quote. How officials are describing the inside of building 197 in the Navy Yard in Washington three days after the shooting rampage that killed 12 people, 13 if you count the shooter.

Officials say the damage in the building is so extensive, it may be weeks before it's reopened. They also say they've turned up a very puzzling online alias that was created by the shooter, Aaron Alexis, and that alias is in the name of Mohammed Salem.

Also police are trying to figure out the meaning of two phrases that he etched on the stock of the shotgun. Those phrases read, "better off this way," and "my elf weapon." Cryptic to say the least.

A worker inside the building gave a gripping account of what it was like when the shooting started. Here is just part of what he told CNN's Anderson Cooper.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOHN WEAVER, WITNESS TO NAVY YARD SHOOTING: When he started going away, and I got off the phone with the D.C. 911, the fire alarm went off. I'd say it was about five minutes after the shooting started.

So then I pushed my desk out and I said run. When I ran around the corner, I saw Mary Knight dead, laying on the ground, basically. And what I did was I kneeled over her and checked her by looking straight into her eyes to see if there was consciousness and there was none, and I knew there was nothing I could do for her.

So I just got up and I ran and I went down the stairs and I saw my friend standing there. I couldn't believe she was there. I mean, it was that shocking. And I said to her what happened? Because I didn't want to say, have you been shot? I just said, what happened? She goes, I've been shot. And then so I looked at her and her finger was torn off basically. A really bad manicure. Let's say that. And then the back of her head was scraped off. I looked at her and said, I've gotten a bigger scrape playing hockey so let's get out of here.


BANFIELD: That witness, John Weaver, knew 6 of the 12 victims who were murdered in that attack.

We've told you about the United Nations report confirming without a doubt that poison gas, sarin, was used in a deadly attack in Syria last month. That report also offers great detail on the missile delivery system, and the estimated trajectory that indicates the weapons could only have been fired from a Syrian military position. Now, in a new interview, Syrian leader Bashar al Assad says the U.N. Report is flatout wrong. Those are his words, wrong. He again denies using chemical weapons against his own people. Here is just part of what he said in a Fox News interview.


PRES. BASHAR AL-ASSAD: The Russian satellite (ph) since the beginning of these allegations of the 21st of August. They say they have information through their satellites (ph), that the rocket launched from another area. So why to ignore this point of view? So the whole story doesn't hold together. It's not realistic. So no, we didn't. In one word, we didn't use any chemical weapons.


BANFIELD: One word. Didn't use any chemical weapons. So all of the attention on Syria of late has been on those chemical weapons, but let's remember the bloody civil war is continuing with scores of people being killed every day by good old conventional weapons. You see them on your screen. You see them on the news.

And now for the first time, the Pentagon here is proposing that United States military forces train and equip the moderate Syrian rebel groups. If this is approved by the Obama administration, it would, for the first time, put U.S. troops in direct contact with rebel forces in Syria. And still with the topic, Senator John McCain is showing Vladimir Putin of Russia that he, too, can play the Russian president's political game. McCain is lashing out against Putin and members of his government in an opinion piece that he scribed for the Russian newspaper "Pravda." Quote, "they punish dissent and imprison opponents. They rig elections. He, Putin, is not enhancing Russia's global reputation, he is destroying it."

McCain's article comes out just one week after President Putin took on President Obama in an op-ed piece that appeared in "The New York Times." And a good footnote to this, CNN's Jake Tapper will interview Senator John McCain today, 4:00 eastern time. Be sure to tune in to that. Always a great interview.

So on the lighter side, after the Powerball drawing last night, somebody in Lexington, South Carolina, or maybe passing through that state, is $400 million richer today. So if you bought a Powerball ticket on the side of a highway, and you haven't matched your numbers yet, here they are. The winning numbers, 7, 10, 22, 32, 35 and the Powerball, 19. Now, the Lottery officials are saying no one has come forward yet to claim that money.


PAULA HARPEN BUFFET, EXEC. DIR, SOUTH CAROLINA EDUCATION LOTTERY: We really hope this one is home grown. How prideful we are in who we are and who we want to be. Making South Carolina more economically sound and successful.


BANFIELD: Okay, so here's the problem, we may never really know who the lucky person is because South Carolina's Lottery rules say that winners, if they want to, can stay anonymous. Here's what's an even cooler, weirder. I don't know where you live, but if you drove through - because that express gas station, mini-mart, was on a highway where people fly through, get their gas and keep on going. So you never know if the ticket buyer was just passing through. Could be you. Check your ticket. And call me.

As we mentioned at the top of the hour, the Republican party appears to be pretty darn split on how to handle a looming government shutdown. It is possible, folks. Any minute now, we're expecting the House Speaker John Boehner to hold his weekly news conference. Oftentimes, it's quick but it's powerful. We're going to bring it to you live just as soon as it happens.