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Obama: Americans Are Fed Up; Rep. Michael Burgess Talks Immigration Reform Bill; Rep. Steve Israel Talks Broken Government; Trial Opens on Doctor Accused of Killing Wife.

Aired October 17, 2013 - 11:30   ET



BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: But nothing has done more to undermine our economy these past three years than the kind of tactics that create these manufactured crises. You don't have to take my word for it. The agency that put America's credit rating on watch the other day explicitly cited all of this, saying that our economy remains more dynamic and resilient than other advanced economies and that the only thing putting us at risk is -- and I'm quoting here -- "repeated brinksmanship."


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: The president speaking moments ago. Very tough speech by the president, moving forward.

Dana Bash is up on Capitol Hill.

Give us some reaction. What are you hearing from folks there? He has a lot of critics, especially those who voted against the Senate passed legislation and House passed legislation.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Let me read you an e-mail I got from a senior Republican source: "What an opportunity the president had to unite the country following a crisis. Completely willfully squandered." That gives you a sense of how this was received inside the walls of senior Republican offices here on Capitol Hill with regard to sort of the tone of his message.

But when you look at the substance of what he asked for, namely immigration reform -- which obviously is something that many Republicans want to do, particularly after the way that they got really hit hard in the last election they lost badly with Hispanic voters. Mitt Romney did, in particular. Everybody wants to do it. I think when you're talking about the leadership, but getting it done has always been very divisive, especially in the Republican Party. George Bush, Republican president, couldn't even get it done. I was asking the question, really, what are the chances of immigration reform happening? One e-mail said, "Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha." The other said, "Zero." And the third said, "Not happening right now." The belief among Republicans, fairly or not, enough of them -- the president what he did today was designed to help the -- not help the process, but to lay blame in advance. A lot of Republicans think that the president is setting a trap for them by talking up immigration reform and it's an issue that he knows divides Republicans as a way to help get Democrats elected, maybe even take over the majority, but elected in Congress so that he can do his -- some of his big legacy issues with a Democratic Congress in the second term. Now -- at the end of his second term. That may be conspiracy thinking and certainly very cynical.

I'm giving this to you, because that is the way a lot of Republicans are thinking, and especially when you look at the issue of immigration reform, which is so, so, so dicey for so many Republicans. It doesn't look like that's going to happen in the near future. Maybe after the 2014 mid-term elections before the 2016 presidential, when Republicans are look at the growing Hispanic population and saying we do need to do something. It doesn't look like it's going to happen in this year.

BLITZER: The president pushing things, saying all three of those issues he put forward, get some kind of budget agreement, immigration reform and farm bill if there's goodwill between now and the end of the year. On those three points, we shall see.

Michael Burgess is joining us right now, Republican from Texas, voted against the legislation last night.

Thanks very much for coming in.

REP. MICHAEL BURGESS, (R), TEXAS: Sure enough, Wolf. Let me just say, first off, that I would like to actually join with the president in saying thank you to those federal workers that he was addressing this morning, and federal workers across the country. I would like to say a word of thanks to the long-suffering taxpayer, who allows all of us to spend the money that is spent up here and finally thank the men and women in the military and those who serve for giving us the opportunity to exercise our freedoms. All of us are deserving.

BLITZER: You heard his specific appeal to you and others, Democrats and Republicans to support the farm bill that emerged from the Senate that's now before the House.

BURGESS: Wolf, Wolf, Wolf --


BLITZER: Hold on a second. Let me go through these three points and you can respond. Work out a budget now that Paul Ryan is going to be meeting with Senate colleagues, Patty Murray and others, to try to work out a budget over the next few weeks, and comprehensive immigration reform. Are you on board?

BURGESS: Look, look, the budget committee, perhaps something that should have been done months ago. I don't agree with that. The reason it has not formed is the fundamental preconference disagreement over revenue. That revenue disagreement is not going to be solved through a committee. I will just predict to you that will end up at a stalemate. Maybe Republicans will get blamed. Nevertheless, that's where --

(CROSSTALK) BLITZER: Immigration reform?

BURGESS: The president got, what, $800 billion of revenue in the fiscal cliff vote the first of January and he also got an additional $800 billion in new taxes in the Affordable Care Act. They've had a pretty big chunk of new revenue this year. I'm hard pressed to say that I think they need more. Immigration, I would agree with the e- mail that Ms. Bash received that it's just not likely to happen. We have 11 million people out of work here in this country. We should focus on that part of our population first. No question that -- look, the United States is more welcoming to immigrants than any other country in the world. All the other countries in the world combined. About a million people a year come to this country, raise their right hand, take the oath of citizenship and that's a good thing. Don't tell me our immigration system is broken and we need to put everything else on hold. We need to enforce the laws as they exist today and perhaps that's something that can happen going forward.

BLITZER: Let me ask you a question.

BURGESS: But the farm bill, for crying out loud, the House has passed a farm bill, passed a bill. As far as I know it's on its way to conference committee. The president should have encouraged his Democrats in the Senate to work with Chairman Lucas and see if we can get something done that is sensible and saleable to the American people without blowing the bank on entitlements. So I think that, you know, that's already in the works. I don't think the president need to ask for that. Again, Chairman Lucas has done an enormous amount of work in getting that to the point where he can go to conference and surely that is something that could have happened without --


BLITZER: You don't think there will be a budget agreement. You do think maybe there will be a farm bill. You don't think there will be immigration reform. Quick question. Is there any way under any circumstances you could support a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants here in the United States?

BURGESS: No. No, Wolf. Again, you have 11 million American citizens unemployed right now. That is the priority. And look what it does to the president's health care law. If you create this provisional status that the Senate created in their bill that they passed, all of those people can be employed but they're not subject to the mandates under the employer mandate when it kicks in, in the Affordable Care Act. Guess what, that's a free employee for that employer and it puts more American citizens and their employment at risk because now these new workers will fill that position. This is something that -- this is an example of how poorly thought through these programs from the administration are. I'm willing to work with them on things. I reached out to them at the beginning of the year, saying you have big problems coming in the Affordable Care Act. This computer portal is not going to work. You put it off too long. When you come to our committees, come prepared to answer our questions. Don't put us off. Don't parrot back recorded sound bites or rehearsed sound bites. Even just two weeks before the thing crashed and burned, that's what we got from the guy that's supposed to be implementing this entire thing. People understand that this process is not going to work. They spent $600 million and a lot of our time and energy and we're no closer to having that system work today than we were three and a half years ago.

BLITZER: Congressman Burgess, unfortunately, we have to leave it there. We were anxious to get your reaction, a different perspective, clearly, than the president.

Michael Burgess, from Texas, thank you very much.

We'll continue special coverage on CNN throughout the day. I'll be back at 1:00 p.m. eastern, later in "The Situation Room" at 5:00 p.m. eastern. Our special coverage will continue after a break. Ashleigh Banfield and "Legal View" will pick up our coverage.


ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to our continuing coverage. The government reopened today. And now it's all about the talking, the branding and perhaps the negotiating, which could be the most important part of this equation. You just heard from the president, who at length laid out what he thinks we need to do, who we no longer should be, bickering, if anything. But you are also hearing those who still believe that may be the road for the future in terms of negotiating on a lot of different aspects as what the president you would like to see as an agenda, immigration, farm bill, tax reform, budget dealings. Make no mistake. We may be reopened but is the government fixed? You probably also heard the Republican side of the argument. Congressman Michael Burgess joins us. Now you'll hear from the Democratic side.

Congressman Steve Israel is joining me.

Thank you for being with me.


BANFIELD: There's still a lot of work to do outside even the budget, which we have all been so mired in for weeks on end. How do you think the president is going to be able to get things on board for things like the farm bill, immigration, tax reform? That's going to require a lot of co conciliation, don't you think?

ISRAEL: I hope they use it as a teachable moment that the American people are rejecting this intransience. Let me give you a little bit of optimism, if I can, in this pessimistic environment. A few years ago, a moderate Republican from Illinois and I, a moderate Democratic. We would have a timer, pick an issue -- health care. Five minutes to fight, 55 minutes to agree. Here is what we learned. And I think this is the way forward. Democrats and Republicans are going to disagree on 75 percent of the issues. That's OK. There's a reason I'm a Democrat. There's a reason for that -- Republicans. Republicans. The problem with Washington is that we agree on the 25 percent of the balance. If we could just pass that 25 percent, America is 100 percent better off. What the president just said is farm bill, budget agreement, immigration reform may not be 100 percent, but it will make us a much better country. So instead of fighting over our differences, let's just get it done.

BANFIELD: Why your hearing that these wonderful timed lunches that you had, that was a few years ago. And what a difference a few years can make. Because we've been careening from crisis to crisis for the last few years and I don't think anybody is in the mood to have that kind of lunch today. What I'm asking you is on the eve -- we're not even 12 hours since the president signed this bill. No one may be gloating over it, but this is a huge thumping for the Republicans. How are you expecting to get the Republicans on board? There is GOP support in the center right for many of those things on the president's agenda, but you still have that far right wing.

ISRAEL: Correct.

BANFIELD: They still need to be dealt with. You still need to accommodate for them. How are you going to do that?

ISRAEL: It is painful. I'm less interested in the pain to the speaker than I am the pain to the economy. What we need to do is find that middle ground. House Democrats have already demonstrated that we are ready, willing and able to find that middle ground. We provided 100 percent of the votes last night to pass the bill. Virtually every Democrat voted to pass the Hurricane Sandy relief bill where we can only find a few dozen Republicans. We passed the bill in the last fiscal crisis. We are ready, willing and able to negotiate. We passed the Budget Control Act which reduced spending by over $1 trillion. We're open to reasonable solutions in that middle ground. We need some Republicans to meet us in the middle. What happened with the center aisle caucus --


BANFIELD: I hear you and it sounds wonderful. I hate to see it become white noise, these platitudes. Whether it's you or a conserve of it I interview, you all say the same thing. Here is the problem.


ISRAEL: No, no, not on our terms.

BANFIELD: You effectively want peace on your terms because both sides were very intransient over the past few weeks.

ISRAEL: No, I'm sorry to disagree with you. Ashleigh --


BANFIELD: But my question for is, we are going to get even more sticky as it gets closer to the mid terms. How can I expect, come January 15th or February 7th, the debt limit deadline you're going to get any better at this when you're getting closer to election time?

ISRAEL: Well, let me just -- I do feel compelled to say we didn't ask for peace on our terms. We were willing to give them peace on their terms, our own lower budget level, which was difficult for many Democrats to accept. We accepted that we can't have it all our way. One party in Congress has worked consistently to find that middle ground. You have another party in Congress that exists of two parties, those few left that are willing to find that common ground and the Tea Party that keeps tugging them to the right. One side or the other has to win the Republican civil war so we know who to negotiate with. House Democrats have to win the majority in 2014 so that we can move this country forward and not go from cliff to cliff. What happened to the House center aisle caucus in 2010? You're exactly right. Why isn't it still existing? In 2010, moderate Republicans lost their elections, moderate Democrats got swept out by Tea Party fanatics. Ever since then we've gone from cliff to cliff, crisis to crisis.


BANFIELD: You make a good point. Elections and winning elections and winning seats is a really good way to get your way, holding us all -- basically holding the government hostage is not the best way as we've learned.

ISRAEL: You're right.

BANFIELD: Congressman Steve Israel, thank you very much for being with us. Appreciate it.

ISRAEL: Thank you, Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: Now get to work.

ISRAEL: Will do.

BANFIELD: Other news I want to bring to you as well. We've been so busy talking about the government shutdown, there's something else that's been happening that you would probably be pretty astounded by. A doctor accused of drugging and drowning his own wife. Their 6-year- old daughter finding the body of her dead mother. The trial started in earnest about an hour ago, opening statements. Our Nancy Grace has been weighing in on this. You won't believe what she has to say about this. She says the alleged killer should rot in hell. She will join me after the break to tell you why she's so certain the man on your screen did it.


BANFIELD: In "Crime and Punishment," out to Provo, Utah. Take a good look at this picture behind me. Day one today of a murder trial six years in the making. They look like a very happy couple. But Martin MacNeill, a wealthy, handsome doctor, he's a Sunday school teacher, too. He's also the father of eight children. And he is a defendant, accused of drugging and drowning that beautiful wife of his, a beauty queen in their bathtub in their home. The medical examiner who performed the autopsy actually concluded that she died of natural causes, all of this following face-lift surgery. But here's where it gets weird. Their daughters said they knew something else was up.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED DAUGHTER OF MARTIN MACNEILL: My mother told me -- I was helping her wash her hair, and she said, Alexis, if anything happens to me, make sure it wasn't your father.


BANFIELD: Michelle MacNeill died April 11th, back in 2007. The prosecutors say, and it took them a long time to get here, they say it was in fact murder at the hands of her husband. And the motive, a mistress by the name of Gypsy. I'm not kidding. A mistress by the name of Gypsy who ultimately became the brand-new nanny as soon as the wife was out of the way.

Perhaps no one better to talk about this case than HLN's Nancy Grace. He she's in the courtroom and live in Provo, Utah.

I have seen you making a few comments about this case in the lead up to it. It reads like a Steven Gresham novel, it's remarkable some of the details. But get me up to speed on why you're so certain that this man is guilty of this crime.

NANCY GRACE, HOST, NANCY GRACE: Well, let me, first, address what's go on in the courtroom. I just walked out of court, opening statements are going on right behind me, and I'm hearing all sorts of facts that we were not privy to. Facts such as how the doctor, the defendant, Dr. MacNeill forced his wife into having this face-lift. I thought that he just persuaded her to. But now I learned that she was advised not to have the surgery. Her attending physician told her over and over, her blood pressure was too high. Following this consultation, and there were witnesses to this, the defendant turns to his wife and says, I've already paid for the surgery, we're going forward as scheduled. His wife, now dead, went on and on how she wanted to lose a few pounds to get her blood pressure under control. The doctor would not let her. I also heard about the morning that Michelle MacNeill died. I heard about all of the conflicts in testimony. And I heard the way that Dr. MacNeill, according to prosecutors, carry on in front of the EMTs and neighbors that were there, about how he begged his wife not to have the surgery, that she clearly overdosed on medication, medication that he insisted she had. I heard about her older daughter, Alexis, who is a medical student, how she left her dad alone with her mom for just a few hours, came back, and she was over sedated and unconscious for an entire day. At that point, Alexis and her mother became so suspicious of Dr. MacNeill and what medications he was giving his wife, her head was bandaged, it was a face-lift, she couldn't see the pills, she begged her doctor to let her feel the pills so she could understand what her husband was putting in her mouth and saying swallow, swallow. I learned this, in the last hour, that at the time she died, she was only on two percoset pills a day. But when they came and pulled her body out of the tub, she had a cocktail of multiple drugs that she had ingested. I'm very surprised. I was also very surprised that the defense jumped into the opening statement and objected, and the judge asked over and over, what's your legal basis, why are you interrupting the state's opening statement? The defense could never give a legal basis, they were just trying to interrupt. I don't know if the jury caught that but I did. BANFIELD: 10 seconds left. It's critical to note that the daughters, four natural born children of this couple, there are also four adopted kids, but the daughters have actually turned against their father. They've shown up with photographs in court of their mother, and at least one or two of them is going to testify against him, right?

GRACE: I've talked to the daughters in depth and I don't know that I would call it turning against their father, the very first day Alexis came home and all of Michelle's clothing, this is within a couple of hours of her being pronounced dead, all of her clothes, her shoes, her hose, perfume, body lotion, hair brushes, all were packed up and moved away. This is within hours of her being pronounced dead, only he knew that he was planning to move his mistress in within days and she needed a closet. Hello!

BANFIELD: At the time this was not a mistress, this was the new nanny coming to look after the littler four children --


BANFIELD: -- and turned out she was no nanny, she didn't even look after the kids?

GRACE: No, that was their testimony. Another thing I also have just learned, I learned that one of the sisters, adult sisters called the other into a closet and shut the door so nobody can hear them, and one says, "I think dad killed mother, I think daddy killed mother." So this was all happening contemporaneously. They didn't just cook this up in the weeks and months following their mother's death.

BANFIELD: I've stolen two extra minutes because this is such a fascinating case. We saw a picture on the air of a woman in jailhouse clothing. It's Gypsy Willis, the mistress who became the immediate nanny, literally within days of the death of the wife. And then ultimately she and the doctor were convicted of crimes relating to trying to give her a new identity. Could you explain what happened? Why has this man already spent time in prison?

GRACE: You know what? You know what? You're a mom, and this is going to make your stomach clench. They had four children between and adopted four children, some from the Ukraine. After Michelle died, he, Dr. MacNeill -- I'm pointing behind me, in the courtroom back there -- tried to give back the four adopted children. Why? Because he took one of the little girls' identity and gave it to his mistress so she could get credit and falsely apply for loans under someone who didn't have a bad credit history. Can you believe that? Give back, give back your children? I only wish I could have four more children. Give back children? I don't know if the jury's going to hear all of that.

BANFIELD: Yes, you said, can I believe it? Yes, because you and I have seen enough go through the courtrooms throughout this United States to make our skin crawl I have heard worse. Keep us posted on the case. It's only day one. Lots more to come.

Thank you. Thank you for being on the show today. GRACE: Thank you. I'm headed back in the courtroom.

BANFIELD: OK. Good luck to you.

Nancy Grace, joining us from Provo, Utah. We'll keep up coverage of the martin MacNeill murder trial at 8:00 p.m. On our sister network, HLN, Nancy Grace will have a full accounting.

I'm out of time. I've borrowed two extra minutes from the next show. Thanks for watching. AROUND THE WORLD starts right now.