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Former Army Captain Awarded Medal Of Honor; House Democrats To Meet With Obama; Senate Talks On Hold, Waiting For House Bill; Terror Suspect Pleads Not Guilty; Ex San Diego Mayor Pleads Guilty; Report: Cruz Convenes Secret Meeting; The Difference Women Make In Stalemate

Aired October 15, 2013 - 14:30   ET


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Amazing story. As we stay on some of these pictures, I want to bring in our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr. Jake tapper is with us as well. Barbara, you're the one who interviewed Captain Swenson not too long ago. As the president pointed out at the top of his remarks, the video, which is so rare to see, from that pilot's helmet cam, you told me Captain Swenson actually didn't realize that video existed until recently.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: He didn't. I was very privileged to interview him yesterday and talk to him at length. Let me give you a bit of the back story. As you look at this video, the California National Guard crew that was running the Medivac helicopter, it was their helmet cameras. They didn't realize how much they captured until several months ago when they finally, one of the guys looked at it on his laptop. He's like, my goodness. Look at what we have here.

They called up Will Swenson. He came, got together with the guys in California. They looked at it together. What Will Swenson told me is he had no memory of all of this, this level of detail, until he looked at that laptop computer. He said, you know, I can tell you every minute of the battle, where we were, where the enemy was, but I didn't remember the sounds, the wind, the dust, the sound of the gunfire, and even this moment of kissing Sergeant Westbrook goodbye.

He just didn't remember it and then he saw it on the laptop, and I think it's very fair to say a lot of what happened in that valley came back and even came back if you looked at his face today. You could tell that's where he was.

BALDWIN: Thank you for sitting with him. What a privilege indeed for sharing his story. Jake Tapper, over to you. Something we heard the president a little, little detail that he unveiled the fact that Will Swenson each and every day picks up the phone and calls the wife of one of those fallen soldiers. How common is that?

JAKE TAPPER, HOST, CNN'S "THE LEAD": It's not very uncommon, truth be told, especially when it comes to a captain looking after his men or somebody in a leadership position calling. I found in reporting on the military, especially after battles like this where men and women are tragically taken, there really is a lifelong devotion to those who survive, especially the family members. A lot of times they feel like they're completely alone.

So it's not out of character it sounds from what we hear about Captain Swenson, that he would have that connection and make sure that the Westbrooks are all OK, the widow and the three sons. Also, for other survivors to make sure and check on each other, especially in this age of communication where texting, e-mailing, and Facebooking is so easy to do.

BALDWIN: I know, it is. Jake tapper, thank you. We'll see you at 4:00 on THE LEAD. And again, just to echo what the president, we thank all of the service men and women. Thank you. Thank you.

Still ahead, as talks over the debt ceiling and government shutdown are suddenly on hold in the Senate, word of a secret meeting in the basement of a Mexican restaurant on Capitol Hill, the whole thing orchestrated by Senator Ted Cruz. Stick around for those details. You're watching CNN's special live coverage of the deadline in Washington.


BALDWIN: Back to Washington and what's happening right now. House Republicans say they're working on a proposal to reopen the government and avoid a default, but the White House has already rejected its key points. But this new House effort means Senate talks on a potential compromise was simply in a holding pattern.

Let's look at the big picture. This shutdown here is now the third longest in American history. First one lasted 21 days from December '95 into January of '96. The second longest government shutdown in case you were curious lasted 18 days. That was way back in September and October of 1978. And that brings us to the current shutdown, 15 days and counting.

To the White House we go to our senior White House correspondent there, Brianna Keilar is standing by. Brianna, we know that the House Democrats, they are headed to right where you are in just half an hour from now. What can you tell me about that meeting?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. President Obama, Brooke, will be meeting with House Democratic leaders here at about 3:15 Eastern. This is really about shoring up support. President Obama's party has been able to remain pretty unified, very unified, in fact, through this whole process. Whatever happens in the House, he will be relying certainly on many House Democratic votes. I think they're just kind of getting their ducks in a row here.

We saw Senate Democrats here on Saturday as well. What's unclear is what's happening in the Senate where it appears negotiations have stalled and also what's going to go on in the House. Speaker Boehner earlier today said that they're talking to members on both sides of the aisle. They're trying to find a way to move forward today, but it also appears, Brooke, he doesn't have the votes to pass a proposal that at least momentarily was put out there this morning by House Republicans. BALDWIN: So once again, to be crystal clear, and this sticking point we've been reporting that the president and White House are rejecting, the fact that this House version of this proposed bill includes changes to Obamacare. We've heard from the president. You were in the daily briefing today with Jay Carney. They're not negotiating when it comes to that, correct?

KEILAR: Well, they are and they aren't. I guess they are in a way, it appears because the White House is very much in concert with Senate Democrats, with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Democratic sources tell us that Obamacare changes have been on the table in those negotiations. Now, when you look at it, I guess you could argue these are kind of small fry changes.

There's something called a delay to a reinsurance tax. That's something that Democrats and labor unions wanted anyways. What Republicans would get in exchange for that is verifying the income of Americans who are seeking those federal subsidies, who are getting federal assistance to help pay their insurance premiums.

So those are kind of little things, I guess you could argue, but they still violate, if you take the president at his word, that he won't negotiate on Obamacare. I think the key thing to zero in on is those aren't key demands of the Tea Party. I think that may really be what the White House is looking at.

BALDWIN: Got you. Brianna Keilar, thank you, my friend, at the White House.. Some of the folks who have fought America's battles are calling for peace in the nation's capital. Take a look at this. A coalition representing more than 30 veterans groups wants an end to the shutdown, at least partly out of fear that it could cut government benefits. The Department of Veterans Affairs has warned that it can't guarantee all the payments promised to veterans should the shutdown enter the month of November.

Coming up next, remember the former mayor of San Diego? Boy, did we talk about him for a while. Bob Filner faces a number of sexual harassment allegations. Well, big news today. He's now facing felony charges. We're on the case next.

Plus, what is going on at LAX? The airport in los angeles, another dry ice bomb found. Who's behind this? What's going on? Stay right here.


BALDWIN: The suspect in the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Africa pleaded not guilty this afternoon before an American judge. Delta Force soldiers seized Abu Anas Al-Libi October 5th right out of his home in Tripoli, Libya. U.S. prosecutors say Al-Libi is an al Qaeda operative who played a role in the attack against American outposts in both Kenya and Tanzania. His wife says Al-Libi, who is now 49 years of age, no longer has ties to al Qaeda and is in poor health from Hepatitis C.

To San Diego here, the former mayor who was forced to resign amid a massive sexual harassment scandal has just pleaded guilty to multiple criminal charges. Bob Filner was charged with one count of felony false imprisonment and two counts of misdemeanor battery. CNN's Kyung Lah joins me live from San Diego. Kyung, a guilty plea, is this a surprise?

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the speed at which all of this happened is the biggest surprise here, Brooke. Also, essentially, the personality transplant that we saw take place in Bob Filner just a few weeks ago, you may recall he was defiant, refusing to leave his job as San Diego mayor. The man we saw in court today appearing was conciliatory.

He was obedient as he pled guilty to these charges, charges that occurred all within this past year while he was mayor. The most serious of which is that he restrained a woman using force against her will at a fundraising event. Remember, we are not just talking about San Diego's former mayor, but a 10-term congressman, a man who spent 20 years in Congress, the former chair of the House Veterans Committee, who is now a felon. Here's what his attorney told us.


JERRY COUGHLAN, FILNER'S ATTORNEY: He's a much more humbled man, in my own personal view, from the first time I met him early in this. I think he didn't realize this was as bad as perceived by other people. He's got ongoing counseling going on. I don't think any one of you ever want to enter a guilty plea in a court. It's a sobering event.


LAH: The California Attorney General's Office did release a statement calling this case, quote, "an extreme abuse of power." If Bob Filner had gone to trial, if he had been found guilty of these three counts, then he could have faced a maximum of five years behind bars, Brooke. He will now have three years of probation, three months of home confinement.

BALDWIN: OK. Kyung Lah in San Diego. Kyung, thank you. I should tell you jury selection underway in the trial of a doctor accused of killing his wife. Prosecutors say Martin Macneill gave his wife a deadly cocktail of drugs so he could be with his mistress. This is after the couple's 6-year-old daughter found Michelle Macneill's body in her bathtub. Her death was initially ruled due to natural causes. That was until her children called on toxicology tests.

Coming up next, Congress faces down a deadline, Americans are not the only ones frustrated with this partisan bickering and in fighting. Female lawmakers are fed up with the tactics of some of their male colleagues. Coming up next, Senator Jean Shaheen joins me live from Washington on how some of the ladies are making moving to end this stalemate.


BALDWIN: Here is another layer of gamesmanship to it the drama playing out in Washington. A reliable web site that covers Capitol Hill reports that Senator Ted Cruz of Texas convened in a secret meeting last night. Heard about this? Cruz reportedly summoned some 15 to 20 House Republicans to the basement of this Mexican restaurant there on Capitol Hill for a meeting, lasted about two hours.

What was discussed isn't entirely clear, but those reportedly in attendance included like-minded opponents of Obamacare who have been encouraged by Cruz to lead the unsuccessful effort in the House to derail the president's health care reforms. And stay with me because next hour, we're going to talk to a reporter who broke that story of this secret, you know, I guess you could call it a conclave in this Mexican restaurant on Capitol Hill. He's Matt Fuller from "Roll Call." We'll talk to Matt next hour here in the CNN NEWSROOM.

And you know, this stalemate in Congress showcases the difference not just between parties but also between genders. I want to show you something. This is one opinion piece from I'm quoting, "This has not been a shining week for the patriarchy. The men in suits dither, posture, plan negotiation sessions and then cancel them, and employ copius military metaphors, wage battle, refuse to surrender."

Then there's this fantastic piece straight out of "The New York Times" explaining how Republican Senator Susan Collins got together with two other female senators to form this bipartisan group, and it's that group that "the New York Times" is reporting who developed really what's the blueprint, the framework for this bill that is right now the best shot at ending the shutdown and this debt ceiling crisis.

Here is one congresswoman, her explanation of the difference that the women can make.


REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D), FLORIDA: I think we need more women because in my experience and the women in Congress on both sides of the aisle talk about this all the time, how if they just put us in a room together more often, we could solve a lot of these problem. Women are more focused on consensus building. Not all women. The times I've worked with women, they're not as focused on obliterating the other side. They want to find a way to get to the end.


BALDWIN: Joining me now is one of those senators. She's Jeanne Shaheen from New Hampshire, who's part of this bipartisan group, who wrote up this framework. So Senator, great to have you back. Welcome to you. Reading about your group, I mean, you ladies really do span the ideological spectrum. But somehow you have managed to get together and talk and collaborate. Specifically, senator, what is your secret?

SEN. JEANNE SHAHEEN (D), NEW HAMPSHIRE: Well, you know, I come from a state of New Hampshire where we sent the first all-female delegation to Washington. We have a woman governor. My colleague in the senate, Senator Ayotte, and I have worked closely together. The women in the Senate get together on a regular basis. We have dinner. We talk about our lives. We talk about challenges in the Senate.

We talk about issues that matter to us and we've built a relationship. We trust each other. I think that's very important when you get to this kind of a delicate negotiation. You have to trust each other in order to be able to get something done. BALDWIN: Is it that your colleagues then and some of these men s there a lack of trust? Is that -- thus this intransigence?

SHAHEEN: I'm really not going to speak for my male colleagues.

BALDWIN: Just trying to figure out what you guys are doing right that they're not.

SHAHEEN: You know, I think what's positive is that we've had very good bipartisan negotiations going on. I was pleased to hear Senator Reid and Senator McConnell have been using some of the work that was done by this bipartisan group as a blueprint for what their negotiations look like and have been disappointed today to hear that the House is not following suit, that they have come up with new demands that I think are really irresponsible in the face of the deadline that we're looking at on needing to raise the debt ceiling to the country can pay its bills.

BALDWIN: I can't imagine how frustrating that would be. Some of the men are takes notice. John McCain, he quipped that the women are taking over. Joe Manchin, this is from "The New York Times," that gender mix was great, it helped tremendously. He went on, would it have worked as well if it had been 12 women or 12 men, talking about this bipartisan committee?

I can't say for sure, but it worked pretty well. Back, Senator, to your frustration, talking about this House Republican bill that clearly would be counter to the leadership plan, we were just talking about this basement conclave among, you know, Ted Cruz and a couple specific members of the republican caucus in the House. What are your thoughts on that kind of meeting?

SHAHEEN: Well, obviously it wasn't intended to be secret. Otherwise they wouldn't have done it at Tortilla Coast. I think it's unfortunate that we've got a small group of people who are preventing a real bipartisan effort from going forward. The majority of the people in the House and Senate, I believe, want to reopen the government. It's way past time for us to do that.

There's such hardship on people in my state of New Hampshire, people across this country. They understand that it's critical to our economy, to families, to businesses, to make sure that the country pays its bills. And we all agree we should negotiate. So let's do that. We've got a committee of conference we can appoint on the budget tomorrow to start doing that negotiation.

BALDWIN: Americans ready to move forward. They like that end word negotiate. Senator Jeanne Shaheen, thank you very much. I appreciate you joining us today. As House Democrats get ready to meet with the president at the White House, you will hear from one Republican congressman who's fed up with the Tea Party members of his own party. Stay here, back in 30 seconds.