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LEGAL VIEW WITH ASHLEIGH BANFIELD

Ted Cruz Speech on Senate Floor; Kenyan Mall Terrorist Attack; Amanpour Sits Down with Rouhani; Is Syria Safe for Weapons Inspectors?

Aired September 25, 2013 - 11:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: I intend to speak in support of defunding Obamacare until I am no longer able to stand.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN HOST: Twenty hours and counting. But something's got to give in the next hour in Senator Ted Cruz's fight against the President's controversial health care law. And some Republicans are just as angry at him as the Democrats are over the confrontation that may well lead to a government shutdown mere days from now.

And the gunfire and the explosions at the mall have stopped, but the search for bodies and answers is only just beginning in Kenya. And now we take you inside that mall for the first time since the shooting. All in the next 10 minutes here on CNN.

Hello, everyone. Welcome to THE LEGAL VIEW. I'm Ashleigh Banfield. It is Wednesday, September the 25th, and let's begin here.

Is it really news when a politician blathers on for hours and hours, simply for the purpose of blathering on and on?

This may be Senator Marco Rubio who's talking right now, but he has not been the star of the last almost 24 hours.

No, that goes to his colleague, Senator Cruz, because, for the last day, he's been taking advantage of some liberal -- some very liberal -- Senate rules on filibuster.

You have to be a real geek to know about these rules and why it is he's allowed to be doing what he's doing, running down a clock.

Technically, this is not a filibuster, at all. We're going to get to that in just a moment.

But first, I want to hear a sampling of this man, Ted Cruz, what he has to say and then try to figure out, as he's saying it, why he's saying it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SENATOR TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: I will credit my father, he invented -- this wasn't for the restaurant, but he did it anyway. He invented green eggs and ham.

Some time ago, I tweeted a speech that Ashton Kutcher gave.

Now, number one, just as a consumer, I'm a big fan of eating White Castle burgers.

I don't believe there's been a day on the Senate floor that I haven't worn my argument boots.

I took the coward's way out, so went and purchased some black tennis shoes. So I am not in my argument boots.

I want to take the opportunity to read two bedtime stories to my girls.

I do so like green eggs and ham. Thank you, thank you, Sam, I am.

So I want to point out just a few words of wisdom from "Duck Dynasty."

You put five rednecks on a mower, it's going to be epic.

Redneck rule number one, most things can be fixed with duct tape and extension cords.

Happy, happy, happy.

SENATOR MIKE LEE (R), UTAH: Can you tell me, Senator Cruz, where did Chinese goose berries come from?

CRUZ: Chinese goose berries actually come from New Zealand.

LEE: Can you tell me what part of the world the Panama hat comes from?

CRUZ: Ecuador.

LEE: A camel's hair brush, do you know what it is made of?

CRUZ: Squirrel fur.

A third observation about Senator Rubio's question, when he compared Obamacare to a horror film, I enjoyed that comparison. In fact, in my mind I heard the music from "The Shining," or not from "The Shining," from "Psycho" in the shower scene.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How are you doing?

CRUZ: I thank the senator from Kansas, and I will tell you I'm doing fabulous.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BANFIELD: You've got to hand it to him, right? Fabulous. OK, look, props to the White Castle, but I think a lot of people are pretty confused as to why someone is actually allowed to do this.

If you ever wonder how they get even a moment's break, it's when those other senators ask questions. Talk about brotherly love. They're there to help out.

But I want to get back to that point, the Ted Cruz talk-a-thon. It's not delaying. It's not even impeding or affecting in any way what the Senate is about to do, and that is the key vote that's set to take place on the stop-gap spending, right, that stop-gap government funding which is going to happen about two hours from now.

And that is whether Ted Cruz is ready to stop talking or not. It's just procedural. He will be done. So the countdown's on to being done.

And that's why we turn to CNN's chief congressional correspondent Dana Bash to sort of sort all of this out.

I want to ask you this very simple question, Dana. I'm glad you got the memo about the blue dress today.

But when is filibuster not a filibuster, and really what is the point of what we're seeing? Because there is one.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There absolutely is one. It's because we're talking about it, Ashleigh.

We played some of the fun and rather sometimes weird comments that we heard on the Senate floor all night long, but for the most part, to be fair, Ted Cruz has been talking and talking and so have some of his colleagues about Obamacare, why they think it's bad, why they think it's going to hurt small businesses, and that is the point here.

They know that this isn't going to change the votes in the Senate. They know that it's still run by the Democratic Senate but they, and particularly Ted Cruz, was elected last year in a GOP upset by the conservative base pretty much on a promise to say that he's going to do whatever it takes to try to stop Obamacare. And that's what he's doing.

You talked about the fact that the rules are understood by geeks, you know, guilty as charged, and I can try to explain some of that to you.

But the bottom line is that, you know, maybe some people who kind of watch the movies and see is this -- maybe we're dating ourselves, but Jimmy Stewart and talking on and on and on until he's sweaty, until he can't talk anymore. That isn't exactly what this is because, as you said, the clock is already running.

This is a measure that is already going to have a vote in a couple of hours, but he wanted to have the show, and it is theater, because he wanted his audience to see that he is doing this.

BANFIELD: Oh, I'm sorry, Dana. I thought they were going to run a quick piece of sound on that, but you know what? Since that sound isn't ready to go, I do want to ask you this.

I think a lot of people think it's absurd to hear "Green Eggs and Ham" and things about Dr. Seuss and "Duck Dynasty." While it's great on cable, it's not great on the floor.

And I remember watching Wendy Davis in Texas, that legislator who talked and talked and talked until she talked off topic and that's what got her booted off the floor.

Why is it you can go off topic when you're on Capitol Hill?

BASH: Well, you know, the rules are very liberal. Probably odd to use the word "liberal" and Ted Cruz in a sentence, but they are pretty liberal in terms of what the Senate can do and what a senator can do when he or she is talking.

They have to keep within the decorum of the Senate, but the rules are basically that for him to keep the floor, to hold the floor, he has to only yield to somebody if he's getting a question so that everybody is talking to him in the form of a question and he can't sit down. He's standing up.

So, in fact, I can just give you a little color. I went into the chamber to see what was going on before I came here. Marco Rubio was talking. Ted Cruz was in the corner talking to a staffer and he was literally going from foot to foot, leg to leg, almost trying to keep his legs awake because he's been standing for about 20 hours.

But I also want to play for -- I think we have it now -- for our viewers what Ted Cruz did do this morning that was a little bit -- maybe it showed that he was a little bit tired.

Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CRUZ: I will confess that phrase of "rebellion against oppression" conjured up to me fighting against the empire, the empire being the Washington, D.C., establishment, and indeed, immediately on hearing that phrase, I wondered if at some point we were going to see a tall gentleman in a mechanical breathing apparatus and come forward and say into a deep voice, "Mike Lee, I am your father."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: I just ran into Mike Lee and I said, did you ever think that Ted Cruz would be speaking to you in a Darth Vader on the Senate floor? And he said, you know, things happen.

But let me just also just button real quick by saying, obviously, what he is doing is he is railing against Obamacare. The people in his party who are against this are against it because they know that they don't have the votes ultimately, and so that is the vote that we're going to see at 1:00 Eastern, so in a little bit under two hours.

But in one hour, the top of the hour, the Senate resets, the new day officially starts, so he will technically have to stop talking and yield the floor for the pledge and prayer and the things that normally start the day in the Senate.

BANFIELD: By all means, Dana, we shouldn't except the cane around the neck hauling him off the podium. It's a procedural thing.

And by the way, I think it's fair for me to say you're the prettiest geek on Capitol Hill. It's true.

BASH: Thank you.

BANFIELD: Dana Bash, thank you for that.

I know Dana is going to keep watching the developments for us.

And for all the sound and fury that the battle over the short-term government funding is, it's actual chicken feed compared to what's coming, the war over the debt.

The Treasury has been juggling the government's bills and the government's accounts for several months now since we bumped up against the borrowing limit of just under $17 trillion.

And today it warned Congress that it's going to run out of options no later than October the 17th, so mark your calendar.

Our Jim Acosta joins me now, live from the White House.

So, Jim, while we've been busy talking to Dana about what's happening and the spending bill and Obamacare, this is really on the horizon.

Will this be similar? Is this a "no negotiation," as the president has said?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I guess this is sort of the "Star Wars" sequel, is that it? "Return of the Jedi" or something like that?

BANFIELD: Nice one.

ACOSTA: Yeah, when the debt ceiling comes, that's right. I mean, Ashleigh, everybody is talking about September 30th when the government may shut down, but honestly, the bigger deal is coming in a couple of weeks after that on October 17th.

And the treasury secretary, Jack Lew, made that clear in a letter not only to House Speak John Boehner, but to all members of the 113th Congress, saying, hey, you know what? We're going to run out of money that we have to pay the bills that we've racked up on October 17th.

And it also offers a warning at the very end of that letter, Ashleigh, saying that the president is not going to negotiate over the debt ceiling.

That is a statement that the president has made clear and that members of this administration have made clear for the last several weeks. And you've been talking about this notion of what's going on over there on Capitol Hill, is it a filibuster or is it not a filibuster?

The White House press secretary, Jay Carney, is holding a briefing at 1:00 this afternoon, so that will be our first real chance to get a clear response from this White House to what Ted Cruz has been doing over there on Capitol Hill the last 24 hours.

BANFIELD: All right. Jim Acosta, thank you for that, and props for "Star Wars" references. I'm always very impressed when you get them right like that on the fly.

So, coming up, we've got another story we've been following all week long. It's Wednesday, and it's been a long week in Kenya. That mall attack may be over, but now there is a huge question about the bodies they are recovering from inside.

How to i.d. a terrorist, and is it possible one of them might be the "White Widow," a woman? That's coming up.

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BANFIELD: Welcome back.

Since that news broke about that mall in Kenya being fired upon and then under siege for days, we've been wondering what that fire that erupted was all about, and then ultimately we heard three floors collapsed.

The Kenyan government is now saying, and this news has been breaking, that the floors that collapsed actually crushed terrorists only, which may lead some to wonder or at least question, whether that was an intentional act, whether they actually did that to the building to get those who had been holed up in one area.

The investigation is still just in its infancy. Our Zain Verjee is live on location.

Zain, a lot of developments that are coming in, fast and furious. That was one of the developments that the Kenyans announced.

But there are a whole bunch more on those who've been held and those that they're trying to identify.

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The focus is really become on this one British national.

Now a few hours ago, the government spokesperson here told me that one British national had been arrested. Since then, Kenyan counterterrorism officials have said that that was in connection with the attack that happened at Westgate.

They were saying that this British national of Somali origin was at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. That's the main airport here, okay. And he was going to get an international flight to Turkey and then go back to London. Now, the thing that raised suspicion was that he was reportedly had all of these injuries around his face and he had all these bandages, so that raised a red flag and authorities were really looking at the airport to see anyway if people were going to get away, whether it was the support crew or people who may have gotten away.

But what happened in the last few minutes, 20 minutes, is that the Foreign Commonwealth Office, the British, has said that there is no link at all of this British national to directly being involved in the situation in the mall at Westgate.

So conflicting reports, it just gives you a sense of a situation here because there's so much to sift through. In all, there are ten people that have been arrested and they are being interrogated. There are five militants dead and they are doing DNA and forensic tests. They don't want to say anything until they have conclusive evidence as to who they were. Ashleigh?

BANFIELD: And then also, Zain, just this notion that there were these bodies in one area of the collapsed mall and that they had originally said that the terrorists were confined to one area and now they are the only ones found in the collapsed area, is that now what is complicating this, trying to I.D. these bodies? And how do you I.D. a terrorist? How do you get the I.D. confirmed?

VERJEE: Okay. Well, how you would get the I.D. confirmed is that you would get the terrorist or the body out. The DNA forensic teams would be on the ground, the pathologists, and then you probably look for some kind of a DNA match.

The intelligence agencies all work with each other in a situation like this. So they may take a picture, share DNA, e-mail to all security and intelligence around the world. They check with the British, the Israelis, the French, the Americans and everybody goes, yes, this is it, and then it's clarified, okay? But if they are under the rubble, it's going to be a long haul out because there are three floors that they have been crushed under. So that's the identification part of it.

There are 65 people missing, okay, and no one can account for it. So it's very possible that they, too, are under the rubble. And lastly, in reference to the terrorist were all on one side, from my reporting and the sources I've talked to in Kenya, there's a section on the ground floor of the Westgate mall that had a Barclays Bank that had bulletproof glass that the terrorists were kind of using to shield themselves and the behind and the Nakumatt (ph) grocery, furniture, lifestyle store, whatever - that section there -- they are perpendicular to each other and that is the section where I'm given to understand there was a major fire fight and a critical turning point for the Kenyan military happened there where significant militants were killed and then the game changed. Ashleigh?

BANFIELD: Just fascinating how they were able to -- and I think there are a lot more questions than details we are about to get as they continue to do the forensics. Zain Verjee on the ground live for us in Kenya, thank you for that. It's been a long few days for Zain who is home in Nairobi. So, it's a very personal story for her.

Speaking of getting personal, I don't know if you saw it, but our Christiane Amanpour scored the big one, the interview of the United Nations general assembly, Iran's president. And wouldn't you know it, he had a shout out for America. You're going to hear it in English in a moment.

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BANFIELD: So there is a reason that Christiane Amanpour is considered one of the best in the business, if not the best, when it comes to international affairs, and that's because she scored the best interview of the United Nations general assembly at a time when it couldn't be more important to talk to the Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani. She did, and remarkably, he spoke to her in English and, guess what, he spoke to the rest of us as well. Have a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HASSAN ROUHANI, PRESIDENT OF IRAN: I would like to say to American people, I bring peace, and friendship from Iranians to Americans.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BANFIELD: I'm not sure if the interviewer was as surprised as I was, but the chief international correspondent, the host of "AMANPOUR" CNNI joins me now.

So, while it was intriguing and delightful, it was super significant that he did this.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, HOST, "AMANPOUR": I think it was super significant. The whole trip is super significant because he does represent a break from the eight horrible years of his predecessor Ahmadinejad who would come to the U.N. every September and take an opportunity to sulk, and rock (ph), and hate speech, and deny the Holocaust, and stick his finger in the U.S. eye, and just absolutely continue in a way that was very bad for world relations and world peace, and that was very bad for any attempt to resolve the nuclear issue.

BANFIELD: Is this just talk?

AMANPOUR: Well, here's the thing. I don't think it's just talk. I don't because first of all, Rouhani was Iran's nuclear negotiator under the previous reform president. He is the one who'd considered to have persuaded the all important, all powerful supreme leader, they call him, the Ayatollah Khamenei, to actually suspend uranium enrichment back in 2003 for a period of time. It had never happened before, it didn't happen since.

So, he knows what it's all about negotiating, plus, times have changed. There's heavy sanctions on Iran he came to office, he was elected in a surprise, promising to remove sanctions, and not only that, promising a more moderate, less extremist -- these are his words -- of foreign policies. So, I think he's serious. The question is, will his leadership give him the room to negotiate? He says now he has that authority and does have that room and then the other question is, a negotiation is a two- way street. Will the United States and the west actually also not just negotiate but do something other than demand a capitulation? That's the question.

BANFIELD: When he said, look, the meeting between myself and Obama, that was just too tricky, it's complicated when it gets to the issues back home --

AMANPOUR: Yes.

BANFIELD: -- I heard different from Reza Sayah, who said this is being cheered in the streets back home. Who back home? The supreme leader, or the people?

AMANPOUR: Well, I think too many expectations were raised about a meeting. I don't think anybody expected that it was going to be a formal meeting. There was a hope, perhaps, certainly from the American side, that there might be some kind of ice-breaker, some kind of handshake. Some kind of --

BANFIELD: Something?

AMANPOUR: Yes, something. Either it a lunch in the hallway or wherever. It didn't happen. There are obviously complications. There are still hardliners in Iran who don't want this to happen. The only thing is the ultimate authority has given his blessing and that is Ayatollah Khamenei. But to Reza Sayah's point and to my point, and to my experience, the vast majority of the Iranian people would be cheering such a meeting in the streets of Tehran.

BANFIELD: Really?

AMANPOUR: Would be thrilled. Because what they want is renewed relations with the United States, they've been in a deep freeze for 35 years.

BANFIELD: I went through a couple thousand people in Iran, "marg bar Amrika," which is "death to America"

AMANPOUR: Yeah, well that was a long time ago.

BANFIELD: Sure, but then they stopped me and said, oh but we love you. So it's --

AMANPOUR: Right.

BANFIELD: It's very complicated. He means what he says when he says it's very complicated.

AMANPOUR: It's very complicated but this is a window that I think all sides know, it's now or never.

BANFIELD: Now or never. Oh, it's great that you're here and way to go. Congratulations on the interview.

AMANPOUR: Thank you. He was very interesting about Israel as well and the Holocaust, because another thing that Ahmadinejad used to do is call the Holocaust a myth, deny it, and he categorically stated that it happened, that it was a genocide, that it was condemnable and reprehensible, and that Iran condemned it. He condemned it on the air. So I thought that was very important.

BANFIELD: Let's cross our fingers, and a few other things as well. Christiane, thank you. Appreciate it.

AMANPOUR: Thank you.

BANFIELD: Just before the Iranian president spoke, it was President Obama who was speaking, actually, at that lectern and he referenced Syria. After all, that is still a crisis and the weapons inspectors are headed back. How safe is it for them? Will they find anything? Might their lives be at risk? A lot of questions still to answer. We're be back in a moment.

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BANFIELD: Almost all of the world leaders are here in New York talking about peace at the U.N. There are still a lot of people dying as we speak in Syria because that war still rages on, even though they are trying to fix it and the weapons inspectors are headed right to the middle of the fray, and it is not an easy place to go. Ivan Watson is live for us in Istanbul. How is anyone expected to protect the lives of these inspectors as they go about this critical job of looking for chemical weapons?

IVAN WATSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's a good question because the U.N. inspectors who were in Syria last month, one of their tasks, the U.N. says, is to go to a town called Khan al-Assal, and that is where one of the first alleged incidents of chemical weapons use came up around March 19 of this year, when more than 20 people died as a result of something - some kind of suspicious weapon that did not leave blood stains or cuts or obvious bullet holes on the bodies of the victims.