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White House Fires Twitter "Mole"; Progress on Obamacare Web Site Fixes; Mystery Child Cases in Greece and Ireland; Interview with Rep. Cory Gardner of Colorado; 911 Tapes: "We Have a Teacher Down"

Aired October 23, 2013 - 09:00   ET



CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Also cross-continent custody drama.

ROBERT LOWERY, NATIONAL CENTER FOR MISSING AND EXPLOITED CHILDREN: The estimation of Maria, she may be 6 -- around 5 or 6 years old.

COSTELLO: A blond haired, blue eyed little girl and a new twist in the case.

Plus a royal affair. Baby Prince George set to be Christened this hour. How will William and Catherine break from tradition this time?

And Betty White takes on Miley Cyrus? Get ready to kiss your sledgehammer.

You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

BETTY WHITE, ACTRESS: Hand me a sledgehammer.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

COSTELLO: We'll talk about Betty White in just a bit. But first, good morning, everyone. I'm Carol Costello.

We do start with breaking news. This is out of Massachusetts and it's very curious, we have learned that all schools are closed in the Boston suburb of Danvers while police investigate a murder. We're expecting a news conference from police at any moment.

You're going to see a picture soon from our affiliate WCVB. Police say Danvers High School is a crime scene and CNN's affiliate WHDH is reporting a 14-year-old student is in custody after a teacher was found dead at Danvers High School.

Police are saying there is no threat to public safety at this time, but every school in this district is closed this morning.

We'll keep you updated on the situation as we learn more.

All right. On to other news this morning. Intrigue, insults and another major embarrassment for the White House. This morning a national security official is out of work for Twitter attacks on Republicans and even his fellow Obama insiders.

Jofi Joseph is booted from his job as the director for the National Security Council. He tweeted his insults under an alias, including this shot at President Obama's senior adviser, quote, "I'm a fan of Obama but his continuing reliance and dependence upon a vacuous cipher like Valerie Jarrett concerns me," end quote. And Valerie Jarrett wasn't the only target of his venom.

CNN's Jim Acosta is at the White House this morning with more.

Good morning, Jim.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Carol. And what we can tell you is that a White House official tells CNN that Jofi Joseph, the director of Nonproliferation at the National Security Council here at the White House was fired immediately when his identification was known, when his name was traced back to this Twitter account handle which has now been taken offline.

It was @natsecwonk, and under that Twitter handle, as you mentioned, Carol, a number of off-color remarks that were made about administration officials, also some top Republicans. Let's show you some on screen here.

This one about Sarah Palin. It says, "So when will," excuse me. "So when will someone do us the favor of getting rid of Sarah Palin and the rest of her?" And this is just quoting here from this tweet. "White trash family? What utter useless garbage." And then there was another tweet about Huma Abedin, a top aide to Hillary Clinton, who is also the wife of former New York mayoral candidate, Anthony Weiner, and that tweet goes, "Was Huma Abedin wearing beer goggles the night she met Anthony Weiner?"

So obviously once this gentleman's name was connected back to this account, he was fired by White House officials and we should point out that we've been trying to make attempts to confirm all of this with Mr. Joseph. Have not heard back from him. But he did release a statement to "Politico" apologizing for this. Let's put that up on screen.

It says, "It has been a privilege to serve in this administration and I deeply regret violating the trust and confidence placed in me. What started out as an intended parody account of D.C. culture developed over time into a series of inappropriate and mean-spirited comments. I bear complete responsibility for this affair and I sincerely apologize to everyone I insulted."

That from Jofi Joseph to "Politico."

And, Carol, this has the potential to, at least temporarily, offer a brief distraction from everything that has been going on with Obamacare and all the technical problems with the Web site. We should point out a little bit of news that will be happening over here later today. Insurance industry executives from the health care industry will be over here at the White House, meeting with senior administration officials including the secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius. We're hearing she will also be at that meeting -- Carol.

COSTELLO: That nicely sets up our next story, Jim Acosta, live from the White House.

So now to the other PR nightmare for the -- for the White House. The botched rollout of Obamacare and its Web site that has left thousands of Americans angry and frustrated. After three weeks the White House says progress is being made on repairs to the Web site and reducing problems.

Kathleen Sebelius, the nation's health chief and the person most responsible for the site sat down for an exclusive interview with Dr. Sanjay Gupta.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: What about tech people? When you hear the best and the brightest, are there people or companies that we're going to recognize? Can you give us some names?

KATHLEEN SEBELIUS, HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY: Well, right now we've asked all of our contractors to look at their teams on the ground and bring in their absolute A-team and I -- I'm confident that that is happening every day. While we also, the presidential innovation fellows --

GUPTA: The contractors didn't do such a great job so far.

SEBELIUS: Well, I --

GUPTA: I mean did -- why didn't they bring their A team in in the first place?

SEBELIUS: I can't tell you --

GUPTA: Why are we saying in three weeks now bring your A team into this whole equation?

SEBELIUS: We have hoped that they had their A team on the table, but I -- I am talking to CEOs and urging them to make sure that we have the talent that they have available. I think all of them have folks who are assigned to a project.

We want new eyes and ears. We want to make sure that we get all the questions on the table, that we get all the answers and accelerator the fix as quickly as possible.

GUPTA: I know that open enrollment goes for six months, to the end of March.

SEBELIUS: It does.

GUPTA: But when will this be fixed?

SEBELIUS: Well, as quickly as we can get it fixed. I think I can tell you, it's improving every day, and more people are getting through. More people are having an easier time and we intend to stay at this until we open the doors wide open.

GUPTA: And do we deserve a specific date? I mean what -- what can we tell people? Because I mean there's a -- there's a little bit of a loss of confidence in this. So if you say as quickly as possible, that meant October 1st.

SEBELIUS: Well, what we can tell you is that it isn't where it needs to be. We are three weeks into a 26-week open enrollment period. People are enrolling every day. Not as many as we would like, not at the volume we would like, and we will keep working on it until it is working as efficiently as possible.

GUPTA: The president's legacy is part of this whole issue as well. I mean, has it been tarnished by what has happened?

SEBELIUS: I think that what we need to do is see the enrollment figures at the end of March 2014. That's when open enrollment ends, and what I know from what we're seeing in not only states that are run by the federal Web site, but states around the country is that the interest is huge, that people are eager to have this affordable product. And the product is there. Insurance companies have to compete for one another for people's business for the first time.


GUPTA: So, Carol, you can see that the secretary did come back to this overall mission over and over again, this idea that millions of more people may have health care insurance at the end of these six months than had it before. And that's, I think, what's keeping her motivated. She's not talking about resigning. I did ask her about the individual mandate and sort of said look, if it's been so hard, so cumbersome to enroll, can you really penalize people for not doing so?

And she sort of dodged that question. She said, look, that's not -- this is not the time to be asking that question or to be addressing that. Who knows if that means it may come up again later on but for now, Carol, the individual mandate, they're requiring that we all buy health care insurance if we don't have it, that stays in place.

Carol, back to you.

COSTELLO: And yes, those fines will take effect. Thank you, Sanjay.

Secretary Sebelius, by the way, will also take part in a new initiative. An administration source telling us that while White House officials and even Cabinet secretaries, they'll visit 10 cities with the highest rates of uninsured Americans. They'll encourage enrollment and when the first events take place later this week we will -- we will be covering them.

Got that out for you. Sorry about that.

Checking other top stories at eight minutes past. Surveillance video capturing a bizarre incident at the Utah state capitol. A man actually drove his pickup truck up the steps of the building's west entrance and then he walked into the building and after trying to break into a secured area was forced to the ground by state troopers. The man may face charges. Troopers still don't know exactly why he did this.

Remember this horrible video of bikers attacking a family in an SUV? Well, now New York City Police have arrested a ninth person in that case. Jason Brown faces four charges including first-degree gang assault. Brown is accused of hitting the SUV driver with his helmet. More arrests could be made in this case.

And the start of the 2014 tax season will be delayed a week or two and you can thank the government shutdown. IRS workers have to catch up on a lot of other work before they can start looking at your tax forms. And you can forget about the filing deadline being pushed back. Oh, no, no, no, you still have to do that by April 15th.

For the second time in a week police have taken a young girl from a Roma family, this time in Ireland. The case has a striking similarity to the case in Greece where people are searching for the parents of this girl, Maria, after she was found with a Roma couple who looked absolutely nothing like her.

Police are narrowing down the investigation to see if she is a missing child.

CNN's Erin McLaughlin has more for you from Dublin.


ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In a Dublin suburb less than 48 hours ago, the police known as Gardi here took a little girl away from her Roma family and put her in the care of social services after a tip-off to the host of a local crime show.

PAUL CONNOLLY, TV3 REPORTER: We were told she had blue eyes, told she was around 7 years of age, told that she had blond hair. The mother and the father produced documentation as I understand it but the Gardi were not satisfied with that.

MCLAUGHLIN: Thousands of miles away in Greece, police are searching for the parents of another fair-haired girl known only as Maria. She was found living with the Roma community there. The couple posing as her parents now charged with child abduction.

KOSTAS KATSAVOS, COUPLE'S LAWYER: The claim is that we never abduct this child. We've just adopted.

MCLAUGHLIN: Though Interpol says Maria's DNA doesn't match any profile in the database it is still being compared to that of Lisa Irwin.

DEBORAH BRADLEY, MOTHER OF LISA IRWIN: I don't know for sure but just the fact that we don't know for sure is enough.

MCLAUGHLIN: Lisa vanished from her parents' Kansas City home two years ago and though they believe Maria is too old to be a match, U.S. authorities want to be certain. LOWERY: I think the estimation of Maria, she may be 6 -- around 5 or 6 years old but the fact is that the DNA will be conclusive to tell us one way or the other.

MCLAUGHLIN: The common thread in Ireland and Greece, the Roma community. Its members have long been victims of discrimination throughout Europe and its connection to these two cases has created even more public scrutiny. Though not in the eyes of U.S. authorities.

TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: They're not looking at the Romas as being the originators of this vast, you know, international child abduction conspiracy. Unfortunately, there are crime groups, if there's money to be made and if it's made in human trafficking, then they'll traffic human beings including infants and small children to do it.


MCLAUGHLIN: I have spoken to the family of the little girl here in Ireland, her picture, she does have blue eyes and fair hair. They insist that she is their biological daughter. They say that they have submitted to DNA testing and they hope to have her back by the end of the day -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Erin McLaughlin reporting live for us this morning.


COSTELLO: Still to come in NEWSROOM --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's a kid with a gun.

COSTELLO: The dramatic 911 calls from the Nevada school shooting as it happened. New details this morning on the hero teacher who lost his life saving his students.

Also, Colorado rebuilds.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In terms of trying to get back to normal.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, right now this is normal.

COSTELLO: We're live in the town of Lyons, as the small town comes together.

Plus charges filed in that ugly fight at the Jets/Patriots game.

NEWSROOM back after a break.


COSTELLO: There are three -- count 'em, three -- House hearings on Obamacare, only one next week will feature the woman in the hot seat. That would be Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

The thing is, do we need three House hearings to determine the Obamacare exchanges are not working? Don't we already know that?

Joining me now is Republican Congressman Cory Gardner of Colorado.

Good morning, Congressman.


COSTELLO: Thanks for joining us. We appreciate it.

GARDNER: Thanks for having me on.

COSTELLO: We all know the Web site rollout was terrible. It was a debacle, and you can use other adjectives, but it was just flat-out horrible.

So, what more can we learn when Sebelius is only in one House hearing?

GARDNER: You know, I think what we're going to learn and the questions we're going to have to ask, of course, is why red flags weren't raised during the development of the software, they were but they were ignored, what did the secretary know, what did she understand to be taking place, and why were we as oversight committees told that the rollout, everything would be ready and good to go when clearly that's not the case?

COSTELLO: Couldn't all of that be found out in one House hearing?

GARDNER: Well, I think all of us have expertise in different areas, whether you're talking about the government, oversight committee, reform committee, expertise in different areas -- our committee is going to bring more of a technical expertise on the software, the actual technology in place and the actual oversight of the health care bill itself. So I think it's important that we have insight and input from all of these committees who do share expertise in the different areas that the, the exchanges, and Secretary Sebelius are going to be talking about.

COSTELLO: Well, some might ask you this question, isn't there a difference between solving problems, finding out what the problems are and extracting a pound of flesh? Because I think the American people are hearing very little about solutions to this problem and a lot about fire the bum.

So, which is it, solving problems or extracting a pound of flesh?

GARDNER: Well, it's clearly about solving problems. "The Chicago Tribune"" just yesterday said that the real glitch isn't just in the software itself but in the law, the Obamacare bill itself, the language of the law that will result in higher health care costs, people losing their insurance plans they were promised they could keep.

So, the primary promise that the president made that if you had a health care plan, you're going to keep it, and this will lower the cost of care, those two promises are not coming true.

And then when you look at the law --

COSTELLO: So, let me get this straight, so these house hearings are not about solving the problems of the existing Obamacare exchanges, this is about getting rid -- these House hearings are about getting rid of Obamacare.

GARDNER: They're very much about solving the problem. The American people are going to be forced into health care exchanges that don't work. And so when you're looking at your family's situation and you have to buy insurance because that's what the law says, you're now being forced into a series of Web sites that do not work.

It's not just If you look at the Colorado-based health care exchange it's not working either. There are serious glitches with that technology.

COSTELLO: That's different from what you first said because what you said --

GARDNER: No, it's not.

COSTELLO: -- the House hearings are going on, and you're going to find out why more red flags were raised? God question. Why the president didn't know there were problems? Why the Congress didn't know? Good questions. Like who's at fault? Good questions.

But now it's gone into the same old, same old, getting rid of Obamacare.

GARDNER: It's not the same old same old.

COSTELLO: That's what I'm hearing from you now.

GARDNER: Carol, why is CNN -- why does CNN get exempt from Obamacare when the American people are not exempt from Obamacare?

COSTELLO: I have health insurance through my employer. If I did not have a job I would not be exempt from Obamacare.

GARDNER: Your employer, your employer is exempt from Obamacare. The president made the decision --

COSTELLO: See, we're talking about the same thing, the same thing we did with the government shutdown.

GARDNER: Because you asked the different question. You're actually trying to confuse the issue. Carol, let me talk about this more. I'm going to answer the question.


COSTELLO: Let me ask you this, "Politico" writes this morning that the reason -- the reason the president will not fire Sebelius is because lawmakers would not confirm any new nominee as in the Republicans in the Senate. Jim Manley, a former top aide to Senator Harry Reid, told "Politico", quote, "No one the administration could pick to replace Sebelius could ever be confirmed, not even the Lord himself."

The animus is such they would find someone to criticize him, namely if the president nominates a health and services secretary and that person supports Obamacare, there's no way the Senate would confirm that person. So, why would the president want to go through that?

GARDNER: I'm not here talking about firing Kathleen Sebelius. In fact, I think very much as you go to court with evidence, you don't shred the evidence before you find out what happened. We need Secretary Sebelius to explain to us what happened, those red flags you mentioned are very important.

So to go back to the first point, I'm not trying to defend Obamacare at all. I'm not trying to defend a principle of delaying it. But we know the American people are going to be forced into a system that simply isn't ready for prime time.

And so, whether that's delaying Obamacare, whether that's scrapping Obamacare, that's what this is about in terms of making sure it works for the American people. So, the solution that you asked for instead of defending Obamacare at all costs, the solution is to make sure it doesn't bear on the American people because the American people are going to be forced to buy insurance that they may not want through a Web site that may not work and the president is saying no we're going to go forward with this and we don't have the answers.

Why were red flags ignored? Why were people told it incumbent' going to work and it's going forward? So, this is very important for the American people.

COSTELLO: All valid questions. I want to ask one last question. Will there be any talk about making these exchanges work better, or is that off the table?

GARDNER: Well I think that's what the conversation is tomorrow, what is going to happen, how much did they cost, why did they use 10-year- old technology.

COSTELLO: That's not what I asked you. I asked you, is there going to be talk about how to make these exchanges work?

GARDNER: We have four people coming tomorrow to talk about what happened and what they're going to do, absolutely. But the real glitch is in the law itself. And so not only do you have a problem with the website that people are going to be forced to use, they're going to be forced to buy a product that doesn't work because the law itself doesn't work.

COSTELLO: Congressman Cory Gardner from Colorado, thank you so much for joining me this morning.

GARDNER: Thank you for having me, thanks.

COSTELLO: Still to come in THE NEWSROOM: just released 911 tapes reveal the terror inside a Nevada middle school, including students calling for help after a beloved teacher is shot. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSTELLO: Newly released 911 tapes reveal chilling new details about the terror inside a Nevada middle school, when a 12-year-old boy brought a gun to school and opened fire on his classmates.


CALLER: This is a student from Sparks Middle School. Can you please send police out here? There's a kid with a gun.


COSTELLO: Stephanie Elam has the latest from Sparks, Nevada.


ELAM (voice-over): The terror that unfolded at Nevada Sparks Middle School on Monday lasted just three minutes.

CALLER: We have a shooting at our school. We have a teacher down in our --

OPERATOR: OK, don't hang up. Hold on one second.

ELAM: But newly released 911 calls captured the chilling scene that lasted three minutes too long.

CALLER: This is a student from Sparks Middle School. Can you please send police down here? There's a kid with a gun.

OPERATOR: OK, where are they with a gun?


OPERATOR: Where are they with the gun?

CALLER: Sparks Middle School.

OPERATOR: I know, but where at the school? That's what I'm saying.

CALLER: By the basketball court.

OPERATOR: By the basketball court?

CALLER: Yes. Please send someone now.

ELAM: Police say a 12-year-old seventh grader shot two students and a teacher. One student in shoulder, the other in the abdomen before killing himself. The two students now stable and recovering.

CALLER: Somebody brought a gun to school that shot a teacher.

OPERATOR: The teacher is down?

CALLER: Yes. OPERATOR: OK. We'll get somebody out there right away. You're at Sparks Middle School?


KYLE NUCUM, SPARKS MIDDLE SCHOOL SHOOTING EYEWITNESS: I turned around and see a teacher approach the gunman and then the gunman pointed the gun towards the teacher and he fires a shot at the teacher, and then everybody started screaming and running.

ELAM: Officials say 45-year-old Mike Landsberry, the popular math teacher and coach calmly walked toward the shooter, hands raised, trying to convince him to put the gun down.

CHIEF MIKE MIERAS, WASHOE COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT POLICE: Mr. Landsberry's heroic actions by stepping towards the shooter allowed time for other students on that playground area to flee the area.

ELAM: Landsberry's been hailed a hero, a decorated marine, playing the role of Batman as the students affectionately called him.

ROBERT GARRETT, SENIOR MASTER SERGEANT, NEVADA AIR NATIONAL GUARD: He was a soldier with us, but he was always a teacher. He just wanted to always be there for the kids.

ELAM: Landsberry leaves a wife and two stepdaughters. His wife Sharon posted this note on Facebook. "He was my everything, my world. He has touched so many lives and was an incredible man."


COSTELLO: Stephanie Elam joins us live.

Stephanie, what do we know about this boy's parents?

ELAM: Well, at this point, Carol, we know they have some police protection grappling with the loss of their son and the acts he committed. The other thing that we have learned as the investigation continues here, if it is found that the parents were negligent in how they kept this weapon, if it did in fact belong to them then they could potentially face charges. But none of that has been disclosed at this time, Carol.

COSTELLO: Stephanie Elam, reporting live from Sparks, Nevada.

Still to come in THE NEWSROOM: It's a big day for a little guy, Prince George will be Christened this hour and the ceremony will break from royal tradition. We'll be right back.