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Polls Show Disgust with D.C., Congress; Gov. Christie Appealing New Jersey Same-Sex Marriage Ruling; More Lasers Being Aimed at Planes

Aired October 21, 2013 - 09:00   ET


MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning. Thank you so much for joining us. I'm Michaela Pereira.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm John Berman. Carol Costello is off today, and this morning President Obama steps in front of the cameras and takes the heat for the Obama Web site glitches. Glitches might be a nice word in this case.

The government's health care web site has sputtered. It has crashed leaving thousands of insurance shoppers frustrated and angry. This all comes as Americans are already fed up with Washington and the dysfunction that led to the shutdown and the near default on its debt.

According to this new CNN/ORC poll only 12 percent approve of the way Congress is handling its job, 12 percent, 86 percent disapprove.

Let's get the view from the White House right now and CNN's Jim Acosta.

Jim, what do you have this morning?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John. Well, that same CNN/ORC poll finds a majority of Americans are not happy with Republican control of the House of Representatives but the GOP may have caught a big political break as the president just as you mentioned later on this morning will be addressing those glitches in Obamacare.


ACOSTA (voice-over): The shutdown ended days ago but the hangover is still lingering and it's bad news for Republicans. A new CNN/ORC poll finds just 38 percent of Americans believe GOP control of the House of Representatives is good for the country. More than half say it's a bad thing. But it gets worse for House Speaker John Boehner. A sizeable majority of Americans say he should be replaced, only 30 percent say he should stay.

The numbers are slightly better for President Obama, 44 percent have confidence in the president versus 31 percent in Republicans in Congress. GOP leaders say it's blowback.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MINORITY LEADER: A number of us were saying back in July this strategy could not and would not work and of course, it didn't. So they'll not be another government shutdown. You can count on that.

ACOSTA: But the end of the budget brinksmanship has shifted the spotlight right where Republicans wanted on Obamacare. Later today, aides say the president will acknowledge the Web site's now infamous glitches and lay out solutions for fixing them.

The pressure is on. While the program has seen nearly a half billion applications and 19 million visitors to the Obama administration admits the Web site experience has been frustrating for many Americans.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: It's been a fiasco. Send Air Force One out to Silicon Valley, load it up with some smart people, bring them back to Washington and then fix this problem. It's ridiculous and everybody knows that.

ACOSTA: Conservatives are calling for the resignation of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, saying she is resisting requests to testify on Capitol Hill, even though she has time to go on "The Daily Show."

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: Absolutely she should resign. Why? Because the program she has implemented, Obamacare, is a disaster.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), MINORITY LEADER: Ridiculous but nonetheless I do think what has happened is unacceptable and has to be fixed, and that's what will happen.


ACOSTA: Now administration officials say they are bringing in what they call the best and the brightest to work through some of these Obamacare Web site glitches.

In the meantime we should point out this morning, John, that if you go to right now, there is a new link, a new feature that directs people to the phone number that they can call to call in to sign up for health insurance through these exchanges. At the same time the White House is making the case that this program is much more than a Web site, that it's offering consumer protections that did not exist pre-Obamacare. And you can expect the president to repeat that message later on this morning -- John.

BERMAN: That's right. And we will of course take a look at the president as that happens, that's after 11:00 Eastern time this morning.

Jim Acosta at the White House, thanks so much for joining us.

PEREIRA: One man who has come to embody both the divisions in Congress and the public anger at the dysfunction is Senator Ted Cruz. First a sampling of his fans, fellow Republican conservatives who welcomed him back to Texas this weekend.

BERMAN: The standing ovation, it went on and on and on, and the Tea Party favorite may take almost as much joy in boasting that his bare knuckle tactics have left him reviled, really, by both Democrats and some longtime Republicans that he calls party bosses.

Colorful, defiant, and blunt, Ted Cruz sat down for a one-on-one interview with our very own Dana Bash.


DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Are you planning on doing this again on January 15th when the current bill that was just passed to reopen the government when it finishes?

CRUZ: There will be time enough to talk about specific strategies, specific tactics. What I can tell you is that I think we need to keep as the top priority providing meaningful relief for all the millions of people that are --


BASH: But you're very deliberately not ruling it out?

CRUZ: What I'm saying is the top priority -- there are a lot of politicians in Washington who want to put Obamacare behind us, say OK, fine, no more. No more discussing Obamacare and you know what? The American people are not satisfied with that.

BASH: But on a practical level what is frustrating some or many of your colleagues is that they think that you are turning your ire on them instead of focusing on trying to help elect more Republicans to do what you all want to do. And I know you said that you're not endorsing any primary candidates but you are -- your tactics are being used as fundraising tools for the very groups that do fund those primary candidates.

CRUZ: Look my ire is focused on Obamacare because it's not working and it's hurting the American people, and I don't think it's acceptable. I'm not willing to go to the Texans who elected me and say, well, you're hurting because of Obamacare but I wash my hands. There's nothing I can do about it. I'm not going to stand up and fight. I'm not willing to tell that to my constituents. And I am encouraging Senate Republicans to stand together for principle.

BASH: And to those who say that you've tarnished the Republican brand, that you have set the Republican Party back in efforts to maybe retake the Senate, maybe, you know, get in the position where a Republican can win the White House in 2016?

CRUZ: The single most damaging thing that has happened to Republicans for 2014 is all of the Senate Republicans coming out attacking the House Republicans, attacking those, pushing the effort to defund Obamacare and lining themselves up opposite the American people.

Now I'm hopeful that will change. I'm hopeful there will be some times, some reflection and that Senate Republicans will come back, come back to the principles they believed and they campaigned on. I'm hopeful it'll actually put action behind the campaign promises.

(END VIDEO CLIP) PEREIRA: Cruz told Dana Bash the efforts to repeal Obamacare failed because Senate Republicans refused to unite with their House counterparts. Yet he also said that the media is seizing on all of that sniping among fellow Republicans and covering the infighting like, quote, "a Hollywood gossip column."

BERMAN: Two convicted killers back behind bars and more arrests might be on the way. U.S. Marshals hunted down Joseph Jenkins and Charles Walker this weekend in Panama City.

I think we have some footage of the dramatic captures. Yes, here it is. This was the capture caught on cell phone video.

Forged documents are blamed for their mistaken release from prison weeks ago. Authorities later classified the inmates as escapees and say the pair likely had, quote, "a lot of help." Family members have denied any knowledge of their escape plan.

PEREIRA: The NSA under fire again amid reports the agency intercepted more than 70 million phone calls made in France during just a 30-day period, these claims made were by a French newspaper "Le Monde" which cited documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

This comes just a day after a German magazine alleged they NSA hacked the public e-mail account of former President Felipe Calderon. And quote, "systematically eavesdropped on the Mexican government."

Mexico for its part, vowing to investigate, calling the actions "unacceptable."

CNN's senior international correspondent Jim Bitterman joins us now-- Jim.

JIM BITTERMAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That was exactly the words that the French prime minister used as well, "unacceptable," that allies would be spying on each other in this sort of way. I think really what's bothered the French most about this report and by the way they've known since June that in fact the NSA was spying when the first reports that came out of the Edward Snowden leaks, that what bothers most about this "Le Monde" report is that the volume, 70 million in a month's time, between December and January of this year, 70 million intercepts.

Not only of telephone conversations but also text messages and e- mails, and as well the people that were being spied on were not just terrorist suspects according to "Le Monde" anyway but also government officials and administration officials here, which I think has really irritated them the most. They've protested. They called in the American ambassador, Charles Rifkin, this morning, to have a chat with him.

John Kerry, the secretary of state, who just happened to be coming to town for an Arab summit meeting that's taking place here in Paris this afternoon, his timing wasn't so good in the sense this story broke this morning. He now is going to be meeting with the foreign minister tomorrow morning to talk about this subject-- Michaela. PEREIRA: Yes, I'm sure there's going to be any terse and tense conversations to be had.

Jim Bitterman, thanks so much.

BERMAN: Of course Secretary Kerry speaks good French so he'll understand all the mean things the French leaders are saying to him.

Still to come for us. New jersey makes it legal becoming the 14th state to OK same-sex marriage. We're going to speak with one lawmaker who performed those ceremonies already today.

PEREIRA: And was this little girl adopted or abducted? The couple that was found with little Maria go to court while the search goes on for her birth parents.


BERMAN: Welcome back, everyone. A cause for celebration for many couples in New Jersey.


MAYOR CORY BOOKER (D), NEWARK: I now, by the power vested in me, thank god by the state of New Jersey, it's about time, I declare Joseph and Orville to be lawful spouses in the state of New Jersey.

(Cheers And Applause ]


BERMAN: The state becoming the 14th in the nation to allow same-sex marriages. That was Newark mayor and Senator-elect Cory Booker he marked the occasion. He married same-sex and heterosexual couples after refusing to perform all weddings until marriage equality was a reality.

PEREIRA: Joining us now is Steven Philip, he is mayor of Jersey City and he has been a very busy man since just shortly after midnight. He has a busy day ahead of him.

So far, sir, welcome to "NEWSROOM."

MAYOR STEVEN FULOP (D), JERSEY CITY, NEW JERSEY: Stephen Thanks for having me.

PEREIRA: You've done eight already?

We did eight at midnight last night. Or early this morning. And then we have about 20 more to do today. And what is the general feeling in your community right now?

FULOP: People -- so we have one of the largest LGBT communities in the state of New Jersey and people are excited and people are coming in to city hall filling out applications and moving forward. It's a great day for Jersey City and a great day for New Jersey. BERMAN: Now this is not over yet. The state Governor Christie is still appealing this to the state's Supreme Court. They did not stay it so the marriages can happen until the case gets before the court.

How do you think governor Christie's decision has affected him politically? I mean, obviously he's still way ahead in the polls there.

FULOP: Yes, I mean, I think his position is more politically motivated as it relates to ambition beyond New Jersey so at the end of the day, we have the court is here to say in New Jersey. And we're excited about it. I don't think any of the rhetoric you hear from the governor at this point is going to have any implications at the end of the day for marriage equality staying.

BERMAN: You're saying he's looking nationally. Do you think he's ingenuous about his feelings? He's always held this position.

FULOP: I think he heightened his dialogue because of the conservative side of the Republican Party and I think he has to endear himself there. So, had that not been his motivation long-term I don't think you'd see him speaking in the way that he is today.

You know, look the reality of the situation is New Jersey is a progressive state and he's the governor of a progressive state, so he represents all of those people and the rhetoric today I think is looking a little bit beyond.

PEREIRA: As John was mentioning it is not over, at peel is scheduled for some time in January. How are you feeling about it? Are signs pointing to it being overturned? Or what do you think?

FULOP: No. I think it's here to stay and I don't think anything is going to change it. I think the courts have ruled that they're not going to have a stay, it's gone through several cycles of that up until now. It's in man and by that point there will be hundreds if not thousands of couples married and I don't think anything is going to change in the state of New Jersey.

Marriage equality is a good thing.

BERMAN: These couples married between now and January, they stay married no matter what the courts decide?

FULOP: I'm not on the court so I don't know, but I wouldn't expect the court to intervene. I really wouldn't.

PEREIRA: The big question is how do you keep each and every one of the ceremonies as personal as it was for the 20 others you did earlier in the day?

FULOP: I think today, tomorrow, I'm going to be doing them and eventually it will back to the deputy mayors and the clerks because I have to govern a city but this is one of the fun things about the job and it's enjoyable.

BERMAN: You really enjoy this? How does it fellow when you're up there?

FULOP: Yes. It's great. You see the families just excited and it really is terrific, some of them coming with children, really excited to fill out the applications. Just to see it happening is really a momentous occasion for New Jersey.

PEREIRA: And also getting the support of heterosexual couples saying we want to get married to support what you are able to now do.

Mayor Fulop from Jersey City, a real delight to have you here. You've got some work ahead of you today.

FULOP: Thank you.

BERMAN: Have a busy day ahead.

FULOP: Thank you.

BERMAN: Still to come for us, serious threat to the safety of anyone who flies. More people aiming laser at airplanes and blinding the pilots during takeoffs and landings. We're going to have the troubling details coming up next.


BERMAN: Welcome back, everyone.

Checking our top story:

Attorney General Eric Holder reportedly wants to change the way that local police respond to active shootings like the recent mass killing at the Navy yard in Washington. Sources say the new emphasis would be on taking out the shooter before waiting for highly trained backup teams to arrive, waiting for backup has been the policy in many areas until now.

New fears this morning in Australia, where brush fires have already scorched an area larger than New York city and damaged or destroyed hundreds of homes. Officials are warning the three large fires converged into a mega-fire, a total fire ban is in place for the entire Sydney region already choking on smoke from the fires.

A disturbing discovery at New York's Kennedy Airport. Look at this, knives, blades, matches, scissors, just some of the many possibly destructive items that security found on one man, one man's carry-on luggage this weekend. Twenty-nine-year-old Timothy Schiavo Jr. (ph) admitted to owning that bag. Police charged him with criminal owe session of a weapon.

PEREIRA: Speaking of security. Threats at airports. Laser pens pose a serious threat to anyone who travels and an alarming number of people are aiming these cheap handheld gadgets at airplanes, blinding and startling pilots during crucial moments of takeoffs and landings.

This is a trend so serious the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force is getting involved. Rene Marsh is live in Washington. We've heard numerous incidents of this happening.

RENE MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Michaela.

You know, it's becoming more common than people may actually realize. Startling flash of light targeting cockpits and pilots and it's a dangerous distraction midair and has federal investigators extremely concerned.


MARSH (voice-over): This video from the FAA shows the blinding glare of a laser aimed at an airplane's cockpit. It's a scenario that replayed itself thousands of times throughout the country. Listen as a plane is coming in for landing at New York's JFK Airport last year.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We just got lasered up here. Two green flashes into the cockpit. It caught the first officer's eye.

MARSH: In New York City, the FBI says incidents targeting planes have jumped 17 percent.

RICHARD FRANKEL, FBI AGENT: We don't have an idea as to why the increase, but it has been a 17 increase over last year regarding these incidents. So, they are concerning to us.

STEVE WALLACE, AVIATION SAFETY CONSULTANT: Laser is not going to physically hurt the airplane, but the laser can blind the pilot at least contemporarily blind the pilot and also just the effect of this startling burst of light into the airplane cockpit.

MARSH: A dangerous distraction for pilots. According to the FAA, the number of laser incidents is 13 times higher now than previous years. Compare more than 350 incidents in 2006 to more than 3,400 incidents in 2012 and while these lasers have never caused a crash, the blinding light often appears during takeoff and touchdown.

WALLACE: The worst case scenario is that in the critical phase of flight, a pilot loses control an airplane, potentially, a tragic accident.

MARSH: The most recent incident happening last week, a commercial plane was coming in for landing at New York's LaGuardia Airport when a blinding green laser light illuminated the cockpit. Later that night, a private plane reported a laser two miles southwest of LaGuardia. No injuries reported in either case.

But earlier this year, several commercial pilots suffered significant injuries, including a burnt retina, according to the FBI, which is leading the investigation.

WALLACE: We need to train pilots better to how to cope with them. We need to train the public in the hazard that these things can represent.


MARSH: Experts say part of the reason we may be seeing an increase in incidents is because they're inexpensive and they're available online. We should note that the FAA is exploring potential laser eye protection for pilots like special glasses, military pilots already wear laser protection. Right now, there's no evidence of terrorism, but the FBI is investigating because pointing a laser at a plane is a federal crime -- Michaela.

PEREIRA: It's a federal crime, but it also doesn't seem like the easiest thing to pinpoint who is the offender when it's happening.

MARSH: Yes, this is a tough one and the FBI, they know the general area where the plane was flying over when the pilot experienced this flash of light coming into the cockpit, but in that press release that the FBI put out, they are clearly asking the public for their help if you've seen anything.

So, not an easy thing to investigate, but taking it very seriously, because the consequences could potentially be very tragic -- Michaela.

PEREIRA: Lives are at stake. All right, Rene Marsh, thank you so much.

BERMAN: That is one of the most criminally idiotic things I can imagine doing. Let's hope the FBI can catch some of the people doing it.

Still to come for us -- the Obamacare Web site bogs down and the president is stepping up going to talk about it this morning. Our Elizabeth Cohen shows how vast these glitches are.

Stay with us.