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Debt Deal on the Way?; Interview with Congressman James Lankford of Oklahoma; A Brave Young Woman; Georgia Teen's Mysterious Death

Aired October 11, 2013 - 08:00   ET


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: James Lankford, he's in charge of the policy committee. Let's see what he has to say.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: And we got a chance to sit down and to somebody with quite a story. The one and only, Robin Quivers. She is a radio star and Howard Stern's sidekick.

She joins us live this morning talking about her life after her cancer diagnosis and she's going to tell us what she credits with saving her life. She wants to help others and written a new book. We'll talk about that when she joins us.

Eleven days in and finally at least a hint of progress -- Democrats and Republicans and the president at the very least talking to one another. Short term fix to the debt limit crisis could get done today.

Senior White House correspondent Brianna Keilar joins us live -- Brianna.


And we're getting some information about a key moment between Obama and Paul Ryan, the former vice presidential nominee that really changed the dynamic at the meeting at the White House with House Republicans, with House Republicans. Apparently, after an hour of going round and round on the shutdown, President Obama wants it to end, Republicans want to keep on going as they negotiate following an increase in the debt ceiling/

Well, apparently Ryan implored the president to deal with Republicans and said they need to find a way together, find a way to work together. They're not going away. And that is the moment where President Obama said, OK, let's take a break. Republicans go and figure out what needs to be done so that you guys can reopen the government.

An encouraging sign after house Republicans met with President Obama at the White House.


KEILAR (voice-over): An encouraging sign after House Republicans met with President Obama at the White House.

REP. JEB HENSARLING (R), TEXAS: I would characterize this as probably the most constructive.

KEILAR: And pledge to keep the talks going.

REP. ERIC CANTOR (R), VIRGINIA: We will have more discussion. We will come back to have more discussion.

KEILAR: On the table, a compromise that would increase the debt ceiling for six weeks. The White House said the president looks forward to making continued progress with members on both sides of the aisle.

But the government shutdown is still up in the air. President Obama and congressional Democrats insist the government reopen as part of a deal. Republicans want concessions from the president to make that happen.

REPORTER: Republicans were pretty clear earlier today they want to negotiate before you reopen the government. Is that --

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: Not going to happen.

KEILAR: Even as they were meeting, more signs the Republican strategy is hurting them in the public's eye. In a new NBC/"Wall Street Journal" poll, 53 percent of Americans now blame Republicans for the shutdown, 31 percent blaming the president.

Only 24 percent have a favorable opinion of Republicans, 21 percent have a favorable view of the Tea Party -- both numbers at an all-time low.

And governors in states where national park closures are hurting tourism are starting to get fed up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come on down to southern Utah. The parks are open.

KEILAR: Utah brokered a deal with the Department of the Interior to fully fund park service personnel and reopen its parks. Colorado, Arizona, and South Dakota may follow suit.

On Wall Street -- the Dow soared to its biggest one-day gain for the year, hungry for good news. Be just one week before the U.S. is set to hit the debt ceiling.

A six-week debt ceiling deal would take us to November 22nd just as holiday shopping season gets under way.

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president said the other day that if they were to send them a clean debt ceiling extension, no partisan strings attached, he would sign it.

(END VIDEOTAPE) KEILAR: And he did also sign one piece of Republican pushed piecemeal legislation, the only bit he signed so far, Chris, and that was to so reinstate the death benefits for families of soldiers killed in combat and training.

CUOMO: OK. Brianna, thank you very much.

So, with the White House and house Republicans at least talking -- the obvious question how close are we really to a deal?

Congressman James Lankford of Oklahoma, chairman of the Republican House Republican Policy Committee was at the meeting with the president, joins us now.

Congressman, thank you very much for joining us.

REP. JAMES LANKFORD (R), OKLAHOMA: You bet. Good morning, Chris.

CUOMO: We hear there's progress. This morning, lawmakers are trying to back us off. But what do you say? Did you come out of that meeting headed in the right direction?

LANKFORD: We are headed in the right direction. Ten, 11 days ago now we said we'd like to have face-to-face negotiations, sit down, start talking to the issues, the White House and the Senate both said no, we refuse to sit down and talk yesterday for the first time we sat down and talked. I think we can get all this resolved if we can sit down face-to-face and start working this out.

CUOMO: All right. So, you got that part of it down but the big piece coming from the president's side is I'll talk to you but I'm not going to link Obamacare's defunding or any major change to us getting the government going again.

Is that now agreeable to your side of this discussion?

LANKFORD: What's interesting is 10 days ago that was agreeable. Ten days ago, the House of Representatives passed a measure that said here's what we're interested in, members of Congress and the White House being treated exactly the same as every other American and interested in those if they make a mistake, if there's an error, or if you just don't want do it this first year, that they would have the penalties removed, they could sign up for the exchanges, they can still move forward, they just wouldn't face the penalties, which is exactly the same as where businesses are.

So, this notion we've been hard and we've difficult to work with and we want total defund or nothing is not true. We've already passed something 10 days ago that said that and that's what we want to sit down (ph) with the president. So, we feel that's a fair thing. We protected businesses. We should protect individuals as well from fines for the first year.

CUOMO: But do you recognize that by putting those provisions in to any bill that reopens the government, you're doing what the president said he wouldn't allow, which is connecting, restarting the government to doing something to Obamacare, right?

LANKFORD: Well, we want to sit down and have that conversation. We haven't had an opportunity to be able to have that conversation. We want to sit down and be able to have that.

I think the White House and the Senate will find very reasonable in this process if we'll actually sit down and do it, which amazingly it took ten days to meet for the first time face to face. That to me is a very sad. It's a breakdown of our system. We should do that immediately.

CUOMO: Well, look it's sad to everybody, that's why we want to make sure there's progress now that it's happened.

So, let me just ask this one more time, if you came out of that meeting and say there's progress, does that mean that the Republicans are now ready to present something to the president that restarts the government, avoids the debt ceiling problem but doesn't deal with Obamacare in that same bill. Will you do that?

LANKFORD: I'm not going to get into the middle of any negotiations happening. We've been good about this, the White House has been great about it overnight to say let's stay out of the details until we talk through all the different options, let's talk and walk through this process and see what we can't resolve, because our goal is to try to get this resolved, I believe it's the White House's goal. I believe it's the Senate's goal.

The first step of that is actually meeting face to face, though. We've accomplished that, let's keep going.

CUOMO: OK. So, now, we get to how long this will take to end. What do you think about the timetable? You know, there are polls out now saying that Republicans are taking much more of a beating than the president although there's plenty of blame to go around.


CUOMO: Is that pushing you guys to get this done sooner? What do you think?

LANKFORD: I don't know that it's pushing it get it done sooner. You don't hear a lot of eagerness from Republicans that we were in this moment as well. Three weeks ago, we were saying we didn't want a shutdown. It's the same as where we are right now.

Now, understand that we are here. We want to try to get this resolved.

So, as far as how quickly it could be resolved, it could take days, it could finish today -- depending how the negotiations go and how we get a chance to interact with the Senate.

Again, people are going to find out we're flexible in this, want to make some progress and move forward. We have other issues that have to be dealt with that are much larger. The country is facing huge debt in the days ahead. That has to be resolved.

But we also have constituents that are being hurt by Obamacare, that are facing higher premiums that are their businesses cutting back, going from full time to part-time, they're real issues there that the White House can't ignore and say everything with Obamacare is going fine.

Your network has done a great job of covering the rollout of the Web sites and all of the problems that happened with the Web site in the last two weeks, that's a microcosm of what's happening in exchanges and insurance connections and hospitals. That -- what is happening on the Web site is a very public view of what is happening all over America and multiple different aspects of the rollout. There are issues that have to be dealt with.

CUOMO: But you don't have to connect them to shutting down the government. You don't have to connect them to playing with the full faith and credit of the United States government with the coming debt ceiling.

Do you regret that move? Because you know that's what bothers people. Nobody has a problem with debating Obamacare, nobody has a problem with finding better ways to have fiscal responsibility. But you linked it to shutting down the government, now you shut it down, now you're playing with the debt ceiling, all in the interest of these issues. Do you regret making it this severe?

LANKFORD: Here is the hardest part about this. For the past three years, we passed over 40 different bills dealing with aspects in the Affordable Care Act saying there are problems, issue action we anticipate things. We have 40 different bills we passed the senate would never take them up and the president would never talk about them.

After three years of that constant we have to sit down and deal with this, it finally reaches this moment to say at some point, we're really serious. We have to sit down and deal with this.

Our constituents are being affected. While they raise up some constituents that are being now covered, that are under the different plans that are covering those with preexisting conditions, terrific. We're also raising folks that are being affected by this in a negative way and we can't just ignore them as well.

CUOMO: But you know that the people are unanimous saying, don't punish us for your process.

So, Congressman, hopefully, you find a forward real quick to get the government he will opened. Thanks for joining us on NEW DAY.

LANKFORD: You bet. Thanks.

CUOMO: Good luck going forward.

A lot of other news this morning. So, let's get over to John.

BERMAN: Thanks so much, Chris.

Secretary of State John Kerry just arrived in Afghanistan for talks with President Hamid Karzai. The U.S. hoping to make progress in a stall security y deal that would leave some U.S. forces in Afghanistan beyond their scheduled exit at the end of 2014.

We have some breaking news, the Swedish consulate in Benghazi, Libya, badly damaged by a car bomb this morning. Libyan and Swedish officials say there were no casualties because the mission was closed and it appears the blast was triggered by a remote controlled device. Several nearby homes also sustained damage, no one has claimed responsibility.

New this morning: the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. This is a crucial international group that has been working to clean up chemical weapons in Syria. However, many people speculated that Malala Yousafzai would win. This was a surprise. She, of course, was a Pakistani teenager shot by the Taliban for working to promote education for women.

Georgetown women's basketball coach Keith Brown has resigned. The move comes eight days after the school placed on administrative leave with several of his players filing complaints about inappropriate language and unprofessional conduct. No replacement has been made. Right, the Hoyas are being led by assistant coaches.

A frantic search underway for a missing dog at San Francisco's airport, Larry is a 2-year-old greyhound. His owner died but Larry was rescued and on his way to a new home in Canada. His flight was canceled when an Air Canada employee took him for a walk but the dog bolted. The airline says it has a team now out looking for him.

PEREIRA: And they're looking for him on Twitter, of course.


BERMAN: I remember covering a whippet like a racing dog that got lost at JFK, very hard to locate, never found.

Hopefully, it will be a different story for Larry.

PEREIRA: I think the key was someone said don't let him out of the cage and they didn't do that.

CUOMO: They had to take him for a walk.

PEREIRA: Yes. Well, now he's running.

CUOMO: We'll follow it up. We'll find out what's going on.

Right now, though, let's get over to Indra Petersons for the latest on the forecast -- Indra.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: We have more delays this is morning. It's thanks to the storm that's still hanging around, if you're at LaGuardia, we're stilling about two-hour delays right now into Philadelphia now, starting to see delays in the area, 40-minute delays.

All of this, of course, we mentioned that system still bringing rain from Pennsylvania pretty much down through Maryland, Virginia, starting to move further north and out of your area. It's not the rain causing the problems, it is the wind. We have that dome of high pressure and a low right below it, you get the winds right between it, pretty strong coming out of the northeast, winds gusting to almost 30 miles per hour. Of course, that's what's stopping the airplanes.

Otherwise, we're looking at the dome of high pressure blocking the low from leaving as well, that's why we call it a blocking high. So, with that, the rain is expected to linger for the next several days, each day weakening a little bit more.

Either way, it's one to three inches of rain is possible, bull's eye around Jersey, through Maryland, rest of the mid-Atlantic an inch of rain over three days, not too strong at any one point in time. Middle of the country beautiful, really warm temperatures there, miles in the Pacific Northwest, a little bit cool, temperatures rebounding also in the Northeast each day as we go through the weekend. So, should start to feel better.

There is the front making its way out of the Rockies. You're going to watch this guy if you have travels through Texas this weekend because that will start to bring in delays as heavy rain is expected around Houston, three to five inches of rain. So rain here and rain into the Northeast and maybe I'm staying because flights are getting worse.

BERMAN: A week in vacation.

PEREIRA: You were going to go away.

PETERSONS: Mama needs some lobster, go to Maine.

CUOMO: All right. Have a donut.



CUOMO: She's not going to have a donut.

PETERSONS: Nope, she won't.

CUOMO: Coming up, one on one with the remarkable Malala. Christiane Amanpour sat down with this brave young woman. She joins us this morning to talk about it. She was up four the Nobel Peace Prize. Didn't win it. What does she think about that? We'll tell you.

PEREIRA: We've been watching a story out of Georgia. There are new and disturbing details emerging in his death. He was found in a high school gym mat when he was found dead. Initially, his death was ruled is an accident. His family not buying that. We have new details ahead for you.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) PEREIRA: Welcome back to NEW DAY. Sixteen-year-old Malala Yousafzai, the incredibly brave Pakistani advocate for girls education has been awarded with a top human rights prize by the European Parliament. This award comes just a year after this, after Malala was shot and nearly killed by the Taliban on her school bus.

She is sharing her message with the world and had a chance to sit down with CNN chief international correspondent, Christiane Amanpour, hosted a town hall with Malala last evening here in New York. We have you back from last hour, and I know one of the things we were talking about last hour is how progressive Malala herself is, her family is, but she's also incredibly pious.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, she is. They come from a conservative religious area like most of the people in the Swat Valley (ph) and she talked about what happened to her last year, how she had nearly died, how she had been, you know, attacked by a gunman who would ask who is Malala, and obviously, a Taliban gunman was after here. This is why she said about why thinks she was saved.


MALALA YOUSAFZAI, PAKISTAN YOUTH ACTIVIST: I think, I was hit by only one bullet, and it also affected my eardrum. So, now, I have a problem in listening as well. It also cut down my (INAUDIBLE) now. But still, if I look at it, it's a miracle. My brain is saved. My spinal cord is saved. Everything is fine. I am alive and I still can talk. I can smile so I thank God for that.


PEREIRA: Very vivid recollections of that day, but choosing always to remain hopeful.

AMANPOUR: That's right and thanking God all the time and knowing that she's going to keep going out there. They've threatened her again, but she's not going to give up this cause.

PEREIRA: I was thinking about the fact that even before this incident, she was really quite an extraordinary young woman. At the age of 12, blogging anonymously about the Taliban for the BBC. After this event, she has been thrust in the international spotlight. She obviously knows that there's quite a future ahead for her.

AMANPOUR: I think she does. Look, she said that before all of this, she wants to be a doctor. Why? Because in many of those places, that's all and that's the most a girl can aspire to and it's a great thing, obviously, but they don't see themselves in politics or at the top of, you know, the financial structure. So, she said that yes, once, I wanted to be a doctor, but now I want to be a leader and a prime minister.


YOUSAFZAI: I want to become a prime minister of Pakistan and I think it's really good.


YOUSAFZAI: Because through politics I can serve my whole country. I can be the doctor of the whole country, and I can help children to get education, to go to school. I can improve the quality of education, and I can spend much of the money from the budget on education.


PEREIRA: She's already got the money spent. I like this, her focus is there.

AMANPOUR: Yes. And she's really adored in her home country.

PEREIRA: Is she?

AMANPOUR: Well, yes, by a certain huge portion but hated by another portion who are either jealous of her or the Taliban who do not want to see a girl behaving like that and getting that kind of limelight or even going to school. And that's where her battle is and that's where the battle for all Pakistani young girls right now in certain parts of the country still remains.

PEREIRA: She and her family live in London

AMANPOUR: Well, her father and she living in Birmingham where she was treated and basically saved. Her mother and her two brothers are actually back in Pakistan. The brothers were missing too much school, she told me, and the mom had to take them back.

PEREIRA: What an incredible story. And I loved watching the conversation between the two of you. Thank you so much for joining us on NEW DAY to share that with us.

AMANPOUR: Great pleasure.

PEREIRA: And of course, you know, this weekend, you can watch more of this incredible interview with Malala. "The Bravest Girl in the World" with Christiane will air this Sunday on CNN 7:00 p.m. eastern. What a delight to have you, here, Christiane.

AMANPOUR: Thank you.

PEREIRA: Thank you so much for that -- Chris.

CUOMO: All right. Mick, when we come back, we're going to have a return of the kitty cabinet. Six really smart fourth graders sharing their thoughts, this time, on the debt ceiling crisis. Our Congressmen could learn a thing or two. You may as well.

Also, Howard Stern's sidekick, Ms. Robin Quivers, joining us live to talk about the vegetables that saved her life. There she is. Hey, Rob.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) ANNOUNCER: You're watching NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo, Kate Bolduan, and Michaela Pereira.

CUOMO: Welcome back to the TGIF edition of NEW DAY this OCTOBER 11th. Let's get right to John Berman for the five things you need to know for your NEW DAY.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Thanks so much, Chris.

First up, some light at the end of the tunnel. House Republicans say their White House meeting was very useful. Both sides agree to keep talking in an effort to avert a debt ceiling disaster. The president meets with Senate Republicans today.

Truckers converging on the capitol for a three-day protest on the beltway starting today. They plan to clog traffic now through Sunday to protest the gridlock in Washington.

A Nobel Prize stunner. The peace prize awarded this morning to OPCW, an international group that's been working to clean up chemical weapons in Syria. It's surprise it did not go to Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teen fighting for education rights.

Officials have handed down the first indictment in that Biker/SUV confrontation here in New York. And today, another biker is expected in court charged with first-degree assault and gang assault.

And nothing is better than October baseball. Dodgers/Cardinals tonight in St. Louis. Game one of the NLCS at 8:30 p.m. eastern and the Tigers take on America's team, the Boston Red Sox in game one of the ALCS in the cathedral of baseball, Fenway Park in the hub of Boston, Massachusetts. The Tigers, of course, knocked out the Oakland A's last night.

PEREIRA: I feel like there's editorializing (ph) going on --


BERMAN: That was all factual.

PEREIRA: Was that all --

BERMAN: That was completely factual.


CUOMO: Almost made me bring up the doughnut.


PEREIRA: I need to separate these two. John Berman, thank you so much.

New disturbing revelations in the death of a Georgia teenager. You recall the name Kendrick Johnson (ph). He was found rolled up in a high school gym mat. His death at the time was ruled an accident, but shocking new information uncovered by CNN has called new attention to the case. We want to warn you, parts of this story are hard to watch.

CNNs Victor Blackwell is live at Valdosta, Georgia, with the very latest -- Victor.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Michaela, good morning. The details of what happened to Kendrick Johnson's body after his death left his parents deflated and nearly speechless, but now, with the addition of Ben Crump, the attorney who represented the parents of Trayvon Martin to their legal team, there is a renewed call for access to what they call the one objective eyewitness to Kendrick's death.


(SINGING) Happy birthday to you.

BLACKWELL (voice-over): On the day Kendrick Johnson (ph) would have turned 18, his family still is seeking answers in his death.

KENNETH JOHNSON, FATHER: I walk into his room and I kiss his picture and say "Happy Birthday, Kendrick."

BLACKWELL: In January, Kendrick was found dead in the center of a rolled gym mat at Lowndes high school. According to paramedics, it was a crime scene and they noted bruising on Kendrick's right side jaw. Lowndes County lieutenant, Stryde Jones, was on the scene that day.

LT. STRYDE JONES, LOWNDES COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT: We examined all the alternatives that were presented to us and the only one that fit the physical evidence and the forensic evidence and the testimonial evidence we received was this was an accident.

BLACKWELL: Investigators believe Kendrick climbed onto these rolled mats, slipped his 19-inch shoulders into the 14-inch center of the mat to reach for a shoe they say got stuck upside down.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: By accident, we just didn't believe. You could tell he was beaten.

BLACKWELL: Now, the family is asking the school board to release surveillance any video from that day in order to see if any clues could be found there.

CHEVENE B. KING, JR., JOHNSON'S FAMILY ATTORNEY: We believe these videotapes would clearly answer many of the questions that have surfaced over these many months.

BLACKWELL: In June, the Johnsons exhumed Kendrick's body. They hired Dr. Bill Anderson to conduct an independent autopsy and he checked that bruised right side jaw.

BILL ANDERSON, PATHOLOGIST: We were able to diagnose the fact that there was, indeed, blunt force trauma to the area.

BLACKWELL: So, he took blows to the neck?

ANDERSON: He took at least one blow to the neck.

BLACKWELL: Lowndes County investigators stand behind their investigation.

JONES: We found an area on a wall that appeared to be blood, and we tested it and it was blood. Now, we did DNA testing. It was not the blood of Kendrick Johnson.

BLACKWELL: Now, the Johnsons have new questions about what happened when Kendrick's body was removed from the gym.

ANDERSON: When we got the body for the second autopsy, that organs, the heart, lungs, liver, et cetera, were not with the body.

BLACKWELL: A spokeswoman for the state tells CNN after its autopsy, the organs were placed in Johnson's body, the body was closed, and then the body was released to the funeral home.

What was in the place of the organs?


BLACKWELL: Newspaper?

In a letter to the Johnson's attorney, the owner of Harrington Funeral Home, which the Johnsons hire to prepare Kendrick's body for burial, says he never received Kendrick's organs. He writes in part, "His internal organs were destroyed through a natural process and henceforth were discarded before the body was sent back to Valdosta." It's another tragedy for a family forced to find a new way to celebrate a birthday.

JOHNSON: All that we can celebrate his birthday is pushing and trying to get justice for Kendrick.


BLACKWELL (on-camera): Now, because of our investigation, the state of Georgia is now investigating the funeral home and more about that objective one eyewitness to the death of Kendrick Johnson. The school district's attorneys say they do not have to release it because it's considered an academic record. And under Georgia law, academic records are exempt from open records requests -- Chris.

CUOMO: That's not helpful. Victor, thank you very much for the reporting. Appreciate it. Let's look a little deeper into this now. Let's bring in Sunny Hostin, former federal prosecutor, and of course, CNN legal analyst. Fair assessment of the situation, does it seem that something is certainly off?