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Debt Ceiling Talks; Rabbis' Alleged Divorce Torture Gang

Aired October 11, 2013 - 14:00   ET


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you so much for joining us. I'm Don Lemon, in today for Brooke.

The government still partially shut down, the debt ceiling still looming, and a temporary extension on paying the nation's bills has not been agreed upon. The Republicans want the deal without ending the shutdown. But right now, in Washington, something is happening. A phrase that we have not heard for 11 days now. That phrase, "We're all working together now." Stop the presses! Congress, the people we pay to talk, actually talking to each other. Imagine that.

We're just minutes away from hearing from Republican Congressman Paul Ryan, we should tell you. Why is this so important? Well, the man who once ran against the president, at least as Mitt Romney's vice presidential candidate, is the man who may have actually broken the stalemate that has crippled our government. It happened at a meeting between House Republicans and the president late yesterday. And not too long ago, though, a similar meeting with Senate Republicans. Senator Susan Collins says the meeting was good, but inconclusive.


SEN SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: The president was very generous with his time. He spent about an hour and 40 minutes talking with us. I did have the opportunity to present the plan that many of us have been working on, that is a multi-element plan that would allow us to reopen the government, have a short-term extension to, say, January of next year of the debt limit, repeal or delay the medical device tax, introduce more flexibility for managers to deal with sequestration subject to congressional approval, and also make sure that there's income verification for the Obamacare insurance exchanges to prevent fraud.

The president listened carefully. He said that some of the elements were issues we could work on. But he certainly did not indorse it. There were many conversations on the long-term debt problem. Many members expressed concern about raising the debt limit without having a specific plan to deal with our $17 trillion national debt. It was a good exchange, but it was an inconclusive exchange.


LEMON: OK. So, earlier, Republican Senator Ted Cruz, greeted like a rock star at the gathering of social conservatives. I want you to listen to how he described this meeting at the White House.


SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: So this afternoon, President Obama has invited the Senate Republicans to the White House. So after leaving here, I'm going to be going to the White House. I will make a request, if I'm never seen again, please send a search and rescue team. I very much hope tomorrow morning I don't wake up amidst the Syrian rebels.


LEMON: A man who is actually at this Values Voter Summit and saw Cruz's comedic role live up front in person was Mark Preston, CNN's senior political director.

So, Paul Ryan told CNN that President Obama is not saying yes to the offer to extend the debt ceiling but hasn't said no either. And right now we're waiting on Paul Ryan to speak at the Values Summit. What can we expect?

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, Don, what we expect Paul Ryan to say, and it will not be in a live message, he's going to send in a video. It's going to be about five minutes. He's going to talk about the pragmatism of what the situation is right now. The fact is, it's a near impossibility for Republicans to get anything or everything that they all want, I should say. Everything that they all want. The fact of the matter is, you have the White House in Democratic hands, you have the Senate in Democratic hands. Paul Ryan is going to talk about the need to cut government spending and also to jump-start the economy. Very pragmatic approach to the situation that we're in right now. He is also going to mention, Don, Obamacare, and how they should handle (ph) the (ph) fight (ph).

LEMON: OK, Mark, we need to get to - we need to get to Paul Ryan now. I'm sorry to cut you off, but they're introducing Paul Ryan. Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan. Let's listen.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R), WISCONSIN: It's been slow going, but I want to make the most of this moment. We have an opportunity here to pay down our national debt and jump start our economy. You know, divided government, it's frustrating. But our country is worth the effort. We have to find a way to make it work.

Now, this president, he won't agree to everything that we need to do. A budget agreement with this president and this Senate, they won't solve all of our problems, but I hope it's a start. I hope we can get a down payment on our debt. And I want to ask you for your help. You see, I, too, am a values voter. I, too, believe that what makes us different, what sets us apart, is our beliefs. A rich country can be a strong country, but only a good country can be a free country.

The way I see it, our job is to preserve our values in the 21st century. We need to apply our principles to the challenges of today. And that means we need to completely rethink government's role in our lives. We need to completely rethink government's role in helping the most vulnerable. We need to completely rethink government's role in health care. That means we can never give up on repealing and replacing Obamacare. So I want to ask you for your help as we work to renew our country. We need more people like you to get involved, to revive our communities, because, trust me, the answer isn't in Washington. It's in the people of this country. So I want to close by saying, thank you. I am grateful for everything that you have done and everything you will do. And I'm honored to be among your ranks. Thank you.

LEMON: All right, that was Paul Ryan in Washington at the Values Voter Summit. Let's -- there's lots to talk about here, so we should get straight to it.

Let me introduce my guests first here, Larry Elder, host of "The Larry Elder Radio Show" on KABC in Los Angeles. He is a conservative. Obviously, we know Larry Elder. And then Hilary Rosen is a Democratic strategist and a CNN political commentator and she is a liberal and a Democrat, as we just said.

Good to see both of you.


LEMON: Short but sweet. Short but sweet, Larry. We're all hearing this NBC/"Wall Street Journal" poll. It went off like a bomb within the ranks of the GOP. Fifty-three percent now blame the Republican Party for the shutdown. Only 31 percent blame the president.

LARRY ELDER, AUTHOR, "DEAR FATHER, DEAR SON": Well, Don, it depends on the poll that you look at. I saw a poll the other day that said, you're right, the American people blame - 63 percent -- of Republicans, but 57 percent blamed the Democrats, 53 percent blamed Obama.

Look, this, for a lot of Republicans, especially the Tea Party Republicans, Don and Hilary, is the hill to die on. Our debt is not $17 trillion. Our debt is closer to $80 trillion to $90 trillion. And on top of that, we're going to add another brand new entitlement program. A lot of Republicans are saying, hell no, let's stop this.

LEMON: Yes. He's going on and on about, you know, about the debt or whatever, but all of this mess, the shutdown was not really over the debt. This was over Obamacare. So what's going on here, Hillary?

ELDER: It is.

LEMON: Is it sort of like, OK, let's - and then we'll hide this? But what we really hate is the president's signature health care plan.

ROSEN: Well, you kind of highlight the problem that the leadership in Washington is grappling with right now, which is, what are we supposed to try and negotiate to make a deal over? Obviously, this started over Obamacare. And we heard Ted Cruz this morning make a speech urging his House colleagues to stand firm and not reopen the government and keep it over Obamacare and not, you know, raise the debt ceiling. So yet you've got Paul Ryan saying, you know, same party, same guys, oh, no, no, no, we need to be practical, we need to go for budget cuts and deficit reduction and it doesn't really matter where it is. It's sort of generally an entitlement. So, you can imagine what it's like for the president or the Democrats to say, will you guys please decide what you want because we don't even know what you want, much less who to negotiate with anymore? That's kind of where we're stuck right now.

LEMON: Let's talk -

ELDER: Don - Don -- Don, if i -

LEMON: Go ahead, real quick.

ELDER: Don, if I were a supporter of Obamacare, I would be worried about the fact that 74 percent of small business people say, because of Obamacare, I'm not going to hire. I'm going to delay giving people more hours. Warren Buffett, who was a big supporter of Obamacare, has now turned against it. Jimmy Hoffa has written a letter to the president saying that Obamacare is going to be an attack on the 40- hour work week and could be the demise of the middle class.

LEMON: OK, Larry, Larry -

ELDER: (INAUDIBLE), I'd be a little nervous about all of that (ph).

LEMON: Larry, Larry, Larry, Larry, Larry -

ROSEN: You know, actually, one of - one of the -

LEMON: Hilary, what does that have to do -


LEMON: What does that have to do with shutting the government down? You can debate all of that. You can -

ROSEN: Well, there's one thing that has to do with it.

LEMON: And all well and good if you agree with Obamacare, if you don't - if you don't agree with Obamacare, but why do you shut the government down because of that?

ELDER: What does it have to do with (INAUDIBLE). It has everything to do with it (ph).

ROSEN: There's one - there's one reason why what Larry is saying is relevant, even though I think he's got his facts wrong about it, and that's this. In that same poll that you talked about this morning, the new "Wall Street Journal"/NBC poll, had since the Republicans have taken to The Hill, since they've expressed their desire to die on The Hill for this one, Obamacare has actually gotten more popular. It's risen in popularity, according to, you know, this carefully calculated poll over years which consistently had it as being unpopular. It's risen in popularity a full 10 percent since the Republican jihad against it.

So I think in most respects it's because people are starting to wake up saying, wait a minute, if I already have health care, I'm cool. But if I don't have health care, I can actually get Obamacare. You know, so they could keep talking about it and it will be more popular by next month.

LEMON: OK, Larry, I promise you I'm going to let you respond, but I just have to get a break in, on the other side of the break.

And I want to talk to you about this pretty explosive suggestion as well by one speaker today. I want you to listen.


DR. BEN CARSON, PHYSICIAN, CONSERVATIVE ACTIVIST: Really, I think, the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery.


LEMON: He's saying the worst - Obamacare is the worst thing to happen to this nation since slavery. A lot to discuss on that one. Stay with us.


LEMON: We've all taken deep breaths and we're back with Hilary Rosen, a Democratic strategist and CNN political commentator. She is in Washington. And from Los Angeles, California, is Larry Elder, host of "The Larry Elder Radio Show" on KABC.

So, Larry, I promised that you would get to rebut, if you will, what Hilary said. We talked about the Values Voter Summit taking place in Washington. Before you respond, I want you to listen to this from Ben Carson. He is a physician and well-known conservative activist. And he said this today about Obamacare.


DR. BEN CARSON, PHYSICIAN, CONSERVATIVE ACTIVIST: And I have to tell you, you know, Obamacare is really, I think, the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery. And it is, in a way -- it is slavery in a way because it is making all of us subservient to the government. And it was never about health care. It was about control.


LEMON: OK, Larry, I think a lot of people would say, I think 9/11 was pretty bad. I think, you know, the theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado, was pretty bad. I think that, you know, the Pan Am jet bombing was pretty bad. I mean, is Obamacare worse than those things compared -- the worst thing since slivery?

ELDER: Don, I spoke with Dr. Carson on my show yesterday. And I think he was referring to legislation, not incidents. And as far as legislation is concerned, this is a legislation that compelled every man, woman, and child to buy a product, whether they want it or not.

And before the break, Hillary said that Obamacare was becoming increasingly popular. And I suspect that's probably true because of the way the media has been maligning the Republican Party, the way Republicans have been using terms like hijacking and Harry Reid has referred to Tea party Republicans as anarchists.

But because legislation is popular, doesn't mean it's good. Minimum wage laws are popular, but many economists believe that when the minimum laws went into effect in 1938, 500,000 young black people lost their jobs. So just because something is popular, it seems to me you still have a moral obligation if you think it's wrong to stand up and say, no, we're going to try to stop this.


LEMON: OK, Larry, listen, I'm not going to defendant the Democratic Party. I'll let Hilary do that. But, I mean, I'm going to defend the media at least here. I think the Republican Party is doing a pretty good job of maligning themselves. And I don't think they're helping their case at all because the Republican Party, that's the party --

ELDER: Don, Don, Don, Don, I'm sorry, the media - the media research group --

LEMON: I'm not finished with my thought yet. I'm not finished with my thought yet, Larry. The Republican Party are the ones who shut down the government. And specifically the Tea Party faction of the Republican Party shut down the government. And it's - no one -- it doesn't make sense to anyone, and I'm sure most Republicans either, that you get on television and that you're upset because there are parts of the government that are shut down. Veterans aren't -- can't go to parks, they can't get benefits. Well, then, that what happens when you shut the government down, so you can't blame it on anyone else but yourselves.

ELDER: Don, the House - the bills --


ELDER: Let me finish, please.

Bills originate in the House. There have been 18 shutdowns since 1976. Fifteen of them involve Democrats who controlled the House. In this particular case, if the president - if Harry Reid put a clean bill in front of the Senate and said we're going to fund all the measures of government except for Obamacare, we're going to delay Obamacare for a year, or this, that or the other, the majority of people in the Senate would sign onto that as well. So don't tell me just because Harry -- just because Boehner won't send a bill to the House -

ROSEN: This is why it's irresponsible.

ELDER: Therefore the Republicans are stopping this. Reid won't send a bill to the Senate either that would (INAUDIBLE).

ROSEN: This is why it was irresponsible.

LEMON: Hilary, go ahead.

ROSEN: And everybody - this is why it was irresponsible. Everybody knows it and the polls show that everybody knows it. LEMON: Yes, it does.

ROSEN: Simply because you have a law that is a law that is a signature program just getting started, was never going to be amended, was never going to be defunded. The Republicans knew it and insisted on shutting down the government anyway. So that's -- that's not -- that's not negotiations. That's just foolhardy.

But let's kind of go back. I don't think that we can let Ben Carson off the hook in saying that Obamacare is the worst thing since slavery. You know what, when 50 percent of food stamps are going to feed children and the Republicans will not pass food stamp legislation in the House, that's the worst thing. When, you know, sexual assaults in the military are going at an astounding rate and Congress is not addressing that, that's the worst thing.

You know, how dare him suggest that a law that actually goes to help 30 million people who do not have health care is the worst thing, is exactly what is wrong with, you know, Ben Carson and his Fox contributor friends and the Republican Party who is so out of touch with regular people's needs, that that's why we are in this situation we're in.

LEMON: And, Larry, he did not say -- you said legislation. You spoke with him. He needs to clarify that because he did not say legislation. He said it's the worst thing. He didn't say legislation.

ELDER: Well, Don --

LEMON: And I think -

ELDER: Don, Don, however -

LEMON: And, listen, I want you to respond to this. I think Hilary has a point. If you look at the polls, the polls show that most people blame Republicans. And if you look at the latest Gallup poll, it shows that Republicans are losing favor 10 points from a month ago. I think it's down to 28 percent from 38 percent approval rating. The Republican brand is in trouble and everyone is looking at the Republican brand except for Republicans.

ELDER: Let me suggest this. The stock market is up about 300 points because they believe there's going to be some sort of resolution on the shutdown and maybe even on the debt limit.

Let me ask you something. If in the unlikely event that President Obama walked out on the Rose Garden, franked by Harry Reid and John Boehner and said, we have all decided that Obamacare is a bad idea. People are losing hours, people are getting their hours cut under 29 hours. There was a piece in "The Wall Street Journal" today by a CEO of a restaurant saying Obamacare was a bad idea. So we're going to start all over again. What would happen to the stock market? It would be up 500 points the next day.

ROSE: You know, there's just no evidence of this.

LEMON: So -- but - I mean, but - and monkeys can fly. I mean what are you talking - I don't understand. What does that mean?

ROSEN: There's - there's absolutely no evidence that -

ELDER: My point - my point is that Obamacare is --

ROSEN: There's no evidence of this.

LEMON: Go ahead.


ROSEN: And you ought to let the law work to see what the problem is before you make a charge like that. Because the CEOs that are complaining about it, you know, are bringing it to an ideological perspective. And guess what, CEOs may want to cut back on health care, but finally - they've been doing that for the last 10 years. The trend has been going down on coverage for employees getting health care from their bosses. And that's why we need Obamacare, not the other way around.

ELDER: Seventy-four percent of small business people -

LEMON: Larry.

All right. Thank you. Listen, obviously, Hilary, you --

ELDER: Seventy-four percent of small business people - 74 percent of small business people believe that Obamacare is a bad idea.

LEMON: You would think that we need Obamacare. And, Larry -- that's not true. That's not true. Because they wanted -- so many people wanted it.

ELDER: What's not true?

LEMON: Many people wanted it to be stronger when it came to single payer. So it all depends on the way you ask the question. I will give you that a lot of people don't like --

ELDER: No, no, I said - I said 74 percent - I said 74 percent of small business people don't like Obamacare.

LEMON: Listen, I will give you, a lot of people don't like Obamacare. But here's the thing. Here's the interesting thing. Larry, someone who is independent, I'm telling you, the Republican Party needs to take a good long look in the mirror over this issue. And I don't understand why you guys can't see this. You are ruining your brand. You need brand management.

ELDER: What?


ROSE: No, they want to die on The Hill to prevent people from getting health insurance.

ELDER: I don't understand - can I please say something? Can I please say something?


ROSEN: That's what Larry just said, I want to die on The Hill for it.

LEMON: Thank you, guys.

ELDER: Can I please say something?

LEMON: Appreciate it. Great talk. We'll continue it sometime too hopefully.

ELDER: Doctors don't like Obamacare. Dr. Carson doesn't like Obamacare. He represents a lot of doctors. They don't like Obamacare.

LEMON: Thank you, Larry. Thank you, Hilary. Appreciate it.

Coming up here on CNN, a story you may not believe. A group of rabbis accused of kidnapping husbands to force them to divorce their wives, but these plots don't stop there. That's next.


LEMON: A group of rabbis accused of running a divorce torture service. They allegedly charged desperate orthodox Jew wives tens of thousands of dollars to force their husbands to grant them divorces. Federal prosecutors say the service involved kidnapping, beatings, and torture with cattle prods. CNN's Rosa Flores is here.

What's going on? How did this work?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I known, it's bizarre. And let me tell you, we are not making this story up. The details are real.

Now, here is what we know. So these rabbis allegedly used tough guys, electric cattle prods, plastic bags, handcuffs and karate to persuade orthodox Jewish husbands to grant them divorces to these wives. And, Yes, they were allegedly paid tens of thousands of dollars to pull all this off. And, yes, they are now facing kidnapping charges.

But hear this, folks. The curtain fell when the FBI raided two locations Wednesday night, one in Brooklyn and another in Suffern, New York, exposing what undercover FBI agents had been working on for months. One agent posed as an orthodox Jewish wife who wanted a divorce. Now, according to court documents, a conversation with one of the rabbis went something like this. take a look.

Quote, "basically what we are going to do is kidnapping a guy for a couple of hours and beating him up and torturing him and then getting him to give the get."

Now according to Jewish law, a get is a document that a husband must provide his wife to obtain a divorce. And the price for getting this forced get, you might ask? Well, it's pretty high. According to court documents, $10,000 for the rabbi to approve the kidnapping. An additional $50,000 to pay the, quote, "tough guys" who will do the beating and obtain the get. Now, something the complaint says that these rabbis did every 12 to 18 months.


AARON FORD, SPECIAL AGENT FBI NEWARK OFFICE: This is just an unspeakable crime, any time you have individuals who go against other legal, lawful people who are just living their lives, and violence is committed.

MARTIN AGNIFILO, ATTORNEY FOR RABBI WOLMARK: We don't think all of the defendants are equal. We believe some of the defendants might have been motivated by money. We don't believe that that will end up being proven to be the case with Rabbi Wolmark.


FLORES: Now, this attorney also says that 10 defendants pleaded not guilty to kidnapping charges. If convicted, they face a maximum sentence of life in prison and they're being held without bond pending a bail hearing next week. Don, the details, bizarre. You would never think that these things are happening in this day and age.

LEMON: And why is it such - I mean why is this such a big deal now in the orthodox Jewish community?

FLORES: Well, you know, it is. And one of the rabbis' attorneys tells us that this is a huge problem, actually, in the orthodox Jewish community. And, in fact, in the case of a woman, they tell us, it's a really big deal for her to get the -- this actual get because if she doesn't, and she moves on and has a child, she could be deemed an adulterous, and she could be shunned from her community. And when it comes to the men, it's actually been a huge deal because in some cases they have even listed the names of these men in orthodox Jewish newspapers to shame them about what they're doing.

LEMON: Wow. Goodness. Rosa Floras, thank you very much.

FLORES: Yes. Of course. Thanks, Don.

LEMON: Rosa will continue to follow up on that. We appreciate that.

And up next, the exclusive CNN investigation. A teenager found dead inside a high school gym mat. His body was exhumed. And not only were his organs missing, but his body was stuffed with newspaper. Today, only on CNN, our reporter confronts the man who has the power to get to the bottom of this tragic mystery.