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EARLY START WITH JOHN BERMAN AND ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN

How Long Will the Shutdown Last?; Who's to Blame?; Dismantling Syria's Chemical Weapons

Aired October 1, 2013 - 05:00   ET

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


ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: Senior White House correspondent Brianna Keilar is in Washington with the latest for us.

We're going to keep the clock up until they figure this out. Got any idea when that is going to happen?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: No. I think that clock may be a fixture for a little while, unfortunately, guys. The White House has sent out a memo to its different agencies. They had previously put out their, I guess you could say, plans for what to do in case of a shutdown. So, the White House has now ordered them to begin that orderly shutdown after this game of chicken where nobody blinked.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KEILAR (voice-over): Overnight, President Obama relieved a message to the troops.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You and your families deserve better than the dysfunction we are seeing in Congress.

KEILAR: After signing a bill into law agreed upon by Congress in order to keep paying the military.

OBAMA: I'll keep working to get Congress to reopen our government and get you back to work as soon as possible.

KEILAR: As lawmakers worked into the night in a heat floor debate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stand with your country! Stand for your country! Or do you want to take it down?!

KEILAR: But failed to reach an agreement to keep the government funded.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: The House has made its position known very clearly.

KEILAR: This morning, national parks and museums are closed for business and hundreds of thousands of nonessential government employees are furloughed indefinitely. House Republicans did not blink in their demand to push forward a new plan to tie government spending to a weakening of Obamacare, which begins open enrollment this morning. President Obama blamed House Republicans on Monday night and reiterated this was, quote, "entirely preventable."

OBAMA: One faction of one party in one house of Congress, in one branch of government, doesn't get to shutdown the entire government just to refight the results of an election.

KEILAR: House Speaker John Boehner fired back.

BOEHNER: I talked to the president earlier tonight! I'm not going to negotiate. I'm not going to negotiate. We're not going to do this.

Well, I would say to the president -- this is not about me. And it's not about Republicans here in Congress, it's about fairness for the American people.

KEILAR: After days of talking past each other, competing plans ping- ponged from one chamber to another and now a government shutdown for the first time since 1996 when Bill Clinton was in the White House, Republican Speaker Newt Gingrich ruled the House of Representatives and their standoff lasted for weeks.

Brianna Keilar, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KEILAR: And when it came to that, it was really President Clinton who ended up sort of winning the battle, if you will. House Republicans who lost in polls indicated a lot of observers believe that that's going to be the case here. So now, John and Zoraida, now, what you're going to see is the pressure.

President Obama with that address to the camera to military folks, I think that is a preview of some of what you're going to be seeing here in the coming days.

SAMBOLIN: I'd say that is probably the only good news that has come out of this, right? That the military personnel, certain military personnel will actually get paid. So, we'll see how that all pans out. And we'll also see how history is written here and who actually takes the blame.

Brianna Keilar, thank you. Appreciate it.

BERMAN: You know, as Brianna pointed out, there have been government shutdowns before, but this one this time comes as a result of its own very special kind of dysfunction. A Republican Party in battle sometimes with itself.

CNN's Brian Todd explains.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John and Zoraida, the group behind this strategy is led by a freshman congressman from North Carolina, Mark Meadows. These congressmen contend this is all about serving their constituents back home, but they have come in from heavy criticism from traditional Republicans, after starting all of this off with a letter in August to their leader.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): By most accounts, House Speaker John Boehner didn't want it to get this far and didn't want to use the prospect of a government shutdown to push for defunding the president's health care law.

But according to a recent report, a small corps of Republican representatives were the catalyst for the current showdown and forced Boehner's hand. It started with a letter to Boehner in August from an obscure freshman congressman from North Carolina, Mark Meadows.

The letter said, quote, "We urge to you to affirmatively defund Obamacare in any relevant appropriations bill brought to the House including any continuing appropriations bill."

Ryan Lizza who reported this for "The New Yorker" says the idea gained serious momentum.

RYAN LIZZA, THE NEW YORKER: Some of the conservative groups got behind this effort, including FreedomWorks and some conservative senators, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Mike Lee.

TODD: Soon, Lizza says, the letter was signed by 80 Republican representatives, but some influential representatives slammed the strategy. Pundit and strategist Karl Rove wrote in "The Wall Street Journal", it was an ill conceived tactic that would alienate independents.

Columnist Charles Krauthammer called this group the suicide caucus.

One of the letter's signers, Texas Republican Blake Farenthold responded.

REP. BLAKE FARENTHOLD (R), TEXAS: Look, we've got to use what few leverage points we have in a divided government and the continuing resolution is one of them. You know? We can't move anything unless we've got some leverage.

TODD: Farenthold says the vast majority of people in his district don't want Obamacare, but if he is one of only 80 Republicans who signed on to this strategy early on, why did Boehner go for it?

LIZZA: He's got 233 members, and it takes, right now, 217, to get a majority in the House of Representatives. So if he loses just a few members, he doesn't have his majority. So, 80, even though it's not even a majority of the Republicans, it's enough for him to have to listen to them or he can't pass legislation.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: Other factors according to Ryan Lizza. Boehner doesn't have earmarks to offer like his predecessors as speaker. And he says outside conservative groups which raise money for these hard-line congressmen for their districts have also siphoned power and influence away from the speaker's office. Now, we couldn't get a response specifically to that or to the criticism from other Republicans of this strategy from Boehner's office -- John and Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Thank you very much. So, the big question on everyone's mind. How does this all work? And what does it mean for me? The good news not all government functions simply evaporate. What you can count on, getting your Social Security check and the U.S. Postal Service will keep delivering your mail.

And for those of you on Medicare and Medicaid, or hoping to sign up for Obamacare, you're good to go. But the national parks will all be closed. Also, there may be some hassles with renewing your passports. Some of the offices will be closed. You should be OK. You just need patience there.

And for veterans, some services like disability claims could be delayed.

BERMAN: So, today is a big day for that very issue that many people in the Republican Party used to pin this whole government shutdown. You can, starting this morning, go to a government Web site and buy health coverage from the insurance exchanges. This is part of Obamacare. These exchanges in the marketplace where you can shop for various health coverage options and these take effect January 1st.

Critics insist the exchanges will not work and many will pay more for health insurance than they are paying now. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius says that's not so.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KATHLEEN SEBELIUS, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY: Six out of 10 people will have the choice, the choice of a policy for under a hundred dollars. It's a debate. Do you want to have protection for basically every checkup, every visit, everything that you do? Families can make a budget choice.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: The administration hopes 7 million Americans will have signed up for these exchanges by next March.

SAMBOLIN: Eight minutes past the hour.

Two Marine Corps generals are out of the job this morning, asked to resign after an attack in Afghanistan left two more Marines dead. The Marine Corps saying Major Generals Charles Gurganus and Gregg Sturdevant did not take adequate measures to protect their service members during an attack on a coalition base last September. That is when 15 insurgents dressed in U.S. Army uniforms and heavily armed made it into Camp Bastion, destroying more than a dozen coalition aircraft.

BERMAN: The Justice Department is asking an appeals court to reinstate the conviction of Osama bin Laden's former publicist, Ali Hamza al Bahlul's 2008 convict on terror charges was overturned by an appeals panel in January, saying the charges were not war crimes and could not be prosecuted before military tribunal.

But a lawyer for the government says military prosecutors have long charged people with conspiracy and the conviction should stand.

SAMBOLIN: So, how about direct flights between the United States and Iran? That is what Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is asking aviation authorities to look into -- perhaps the latest sign of relations normalizing between the two countries. I may be overstating that a bit. It's more than three decades since planes were allowed to fly between the United States and Tehran. Those trips came to a halt in the wake of the 1979 revolution and the taking of U.S. hostages at the embassy.

BERMAN: All right. Nine minutes after the hour. We are told there will be weather today.

Indra Petersons is here.

SAMBOLIN: We have had morning all weather.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: We need good news, right? So, finally, I'm bringing up to you. It's very rare. But it's literally gorgeous outside. I mean, high pressure is in place, which means warm temperatures going from the south stretching into the Northeast today.

And just check these out. I mean, temperatures well above normal. New York City today looking for 81. I want to guess what average is? Sixty-nine. That's how nice it is out there for fall. D.C., 84 today, looks like Cincinnati also looking for the 80s. So, we are loving this.

The warmth, of course, is not only in the Northeast but thanks to that high out there, it's also into the Southeast also. A lot of 80s and Atlanta 81 and Orlando today, 88 degrees. Now, the differences in the Southeast, yes, it's still warm but the highs out there so with that we are pulling in the moisture off the Gulf.

So, looking a little bit of moisture from Texas, all the way through about Mississippi or so. Nothing major, just a couple of showers popping up with that moisture coming out of there. You take a look at the weather models, only about an inch, maybe two inches at best. A hint of a flooding concern.

But overall, I mean, look at the country today. So, dry pretty much across the entire country, the only story really remains again in the Pacific Northwest. Looking at a series of more waves kind of kicking through the area. So, more rain in the forecast and on top of what they have already received.

And did you hear, by the way, yesterday just out of Olympia, they actually had an EF-1 tornado. So, definitely some unique weather still being a factor there in the Pacific Northwest. Hello, 80 today, averages are 69.

You have to say thank you, because you're the number one complainer, John. BERMAN: I don't give -- it's always, Zoraida. That was nice enough --

PETERSONS: I can't blame Zoraida. I'm just going to blame you.

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: I was like, it's fun, it's nice. I love the cooler weather. That was totally uncalled for. That was out of nowhere there.

SAMBOLIN: You deserve that.

PETERSONS: Exactly.

SAMBOLIN: Thank you, Indra. Appreciate it.

PETERSONS: You're welcome.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Eleven minutes past the hour. Coming up the complex mission of destroying Syria's chemical weapons begins. Inspectors arriving as the Syrian government continues to defend itself to the United Nations.

Matthew Chance is live in London with the very latest for us. That is headed your way right after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone.

Today in Syria, dozens of international experts will take the first steps towards dismantling that country's chemical weapons stockpiles. Arriving to prepare for field inspections that should result in the Assad regime losing its most devastating tools of mass destruction.

Matthew Chance is following the latest developments. He is London this morning.

Matthew, that team -- what are they doing on the ground now?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, when they arrive in Syria, and we haven't had confirmation yet, John, that they've actually arrived. They have been traveling by road from Beirut.

The first thing they're going to do is travel to the Syrian foreign ministry and where they're going to be talking about logistics. That in some ways is the biggest challenge of this because this is the first time the OPCW, the organization for the prohibition of chemical weapons has been asked to destroy the armaments of a country that is at war, and the 19 sites of chemical weapons have been stockpiled by the Syrians, according to their information they have given, seven of them are in active combat zones.

So, one of the big challenges is going to be how are they going to get to the areas where the fighting is going on around the various installations? It may mean some delays and it may mean also they'll have to negotiate local truces between the rebels and the government forces to give them access to these stockpiles so they can take them away and destroy them, John.

BERMAN: A complicated job to say the least.

Meanwhile, here in the United States, Syria's foreign minister spoke at the United Nations this week and made some comments that startled a lot of people comparing what's going on in his country to September 11th.

CHANCE: Yes, Walid Muallem, the foreign minister of Syria, making exactly that comparison. Basically, trying to link the rebellion, the insurgency in Syria with the global war, the global fight against terrorism, saying that the ranks of the rebels were made up largely of foreign fighters, or at least with a significant amount of foreign fighters that were driven by their fundamentalist ideologies. He also warned that that could spread to other countries by those foreign fighters, having fought in Syria, eventually return to their home countries.

It wasn't accepted, though, those comments. Certainly officials from the United States mission to the United Nations called it offensive, that he should compare the events taking place in Syria where, of course, Syria is alleged to have used chemical weapons against its own people and killed a hundred thousand people in various attacks over the past several years were offensive that that should be compared to what happened on 9/11 in New York.

BERMAN: A lot of people here were offended.

All right. Matthew Chance for us in London this morning, thanks so much.

SAMBOLIN: Seventeen minutes past the hour.

Prosecutors in the trial of the alleged Colorado movie theater shooter are being told to trim down a list of 4,000 potential witnesses. The prosecution says they possibly could have it done by early December but a judge wants much quicker resolution, with James Holmes trial is expected to start in February. He is accused of killing 12 people, wounding dozens more at an Aurora movie theater last summer.

BERMAN: Back to work in Los Angeles today for the jurors of the Michael Jackson wrongful death trial, deliberations will resume over whether concern promoter AEG Live was negligent in hiring the doctor convicted of causing Jackson's overdose. Jackson's mother argues that AEG was in charge of Conrad Murray, but the concert promoters say that Conrad Murray was working for Michael Jackson.

SAMBOLIN: How much oil actually gushed into the Gulf of Mexico in the 2010 BP disaster? It is a key question, as the second phase of the civil trial gets under way now. The Justice Department says 176 million gallons spilled and BP says only 300 million gallons.

Also in question, how quickly the oil flowed and why it took almost three months to plug the well. BP is facing fines that could reach up to $18 billion.

BERMAN: All right. I have something pretty cool to show you right now. Are you ready for it?

SAMBOLIN: I'm ready.

BERMAN: All right. Take a look at this. Have you ever been to a wedding where the bride and room take too long to get down the aisle? Not these guys. That is (INAUDIBLE) Lauren Bushar. They are zip lining to the altar. Fantastic!

This took place at a resort in Asheville, North Carolina.

SAMBOLIN: Everybody seemed to love it.

BERMAN: People are cheering. I mean, how can you not cheer when people come down in the zip line? Zoraida pointed out earlier at least they didn't fall. I think you're all --

(CROSSTALK)

SAMBOLIN: Look at her socks. I thought it was bloomers but she is wearing striped socks. And I think her shoes are sneakers.

BERMAN: Obviously, the couple thought this was the perfect way to tie the knot.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LAUREN BUSHAR, BRIDE: Why not? Are you kidding?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Miss Universe? I have no idea.

BUSHAR: Yes, because it's awesome and we wanted to make it the most fun for our guests and fun for ourselves and something different.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was perfect. It was perfect.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: And, again, Zoraida has been obsessed what she was wearing beneath the dress.

SAMBOLIN: I have, because you expose yourself, don't you, in a big way?

BERMAN: I guess.

SAMBOLIN: Attagirl. Nicely done and she gave them something to look at.

BERMAN: Fantastic. Congratulations to them. Good luck on many years of happiness.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Coming up the big story of the day. The government shutdown is more than five hours old. The cost could be enormous.

"Money Time" coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: Check out the headline this morning.

BERMAN: "House of turd," that is from "The New York Daily News" and the picture of House Speaker John Boehner. It says, "United we suffer as cesspools. Play liars poker with the government shutdown."

SAMBOLIN: In a nutshell, right?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: They have 10 percent approval rating and I was looking yesterday for what other things that have 10 percent approval ratings. Colonoscopies have a higher rating.

SAMBOLIN: Really?

ROMANS: And apparently root canal is also more favorability than Congress.

BERMAN: The big question is who's the 10 percent that actually approved, right?

ROMANS: That's what I asked too.

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: Christine Romans, "Money Time", give it to us.

ROMANS: Good morning.

This is exactly what investors fearing yesterday when they sent stocks stumbling. And now, caution about what happens, next.

But you're not seeing a big extension of that selloff.

U.S. stock futures right now are higher and major stock markets higher in Asia and Europe although a couple of Chinese markets were closed. Different tone from Monday, with its big U.S. stock markets selloff. Expect some unpredictable days ahead, some major caution amid the uncertainty.

How many times do I say Wall Street hates uncertainty? Oh, Washington is serving up a steaming heap of that.

Now, today is the first day of a new quarter and where stocks reached record highs last quarter. That means Congress has a lot of room to do more damage to your 401(k) if they mess this up. So far the year, the Dow is up 16 percent. The NASDAQ is up 25 percent. The S&P 500 is up 18 percent.

So, a lot of people are saying, hey, we made a lot of money this year in the stock market this year, Washington is crazy, we don't know when the Fed will stop flooding the zone with money. Maybe we'll be cautious here. So, really trade carefully in stocks.

Hour-by-hour, really, we've been crunching the potential economic impact of a shutdown and it's the numbers we usually reserve for national disasters only this is preventable and entirely man-made. Moody's Analytics thinks a billion dollars lost each week in paychecks. When you add up the total damage looking at $55 billion the kind of hit to the economy over a span of a month if it's hit that long.

That's lost wages, but it's unfilled contract, lost orders and uncollected fees and whatever may suffer collateral damage from the United States government closing up. As any business leader will tell you, this is no way to run a business and you're going to be hearing a lot of business leaders weighing in on this. Banking industry executives are going to meet with the president this week we are told to talk about just that.

"The Wall Street Journal" reporting the Financial Services Forum which represents 19 of the largest banking and insurance companies, including CEOs of all of these big names, they will be meeting with the White House perhaps the most important topic will be the effects of a failure to raise the debt ceiling in just a few weeks. The Treasury Secretary Jack Lew has called that scenario catastrophic.

This fight is not the only big fight.

BERMAN: It isn't a big fight.

ROMANS: It really isn't. This is a really -- we are really in for some rough nights and perhaps the president the ought to be talking to is Warren Buffett. His Berkshire Hathaway is going to get more that $2 billion in Goldman Sachs stock through warrants that acquire at the depts. of the 2008 financial crisis.

Goldman had turned to Buffett, remember in 2008, to bolster capital, shore up market confidence. He invested $5 billion for the right to buy Goldman Shares at a set price and he is executing that price, and he is going to make --

BERMAN: He needs the money. I know he's been suffering later. That will help him get by, make things a little easier for Warren Buffett.

ROMANS: Yes, for his old pickup truck.

BERMAN: Christine, thank you so much.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Coming up, a live look at the capital as Washington shuts down. We're going to continue talking about this and the very latest when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: The U.S. government shutting down overnight, following gridlock in Washington over spending and Obamacare. What the shutdown means for you and the blame game is, of course, continuing this morning.