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Problems with Obamacare Website Continue; Interview with Kathleen Sebelius; School Shooting Leaves One Teacher Dead; Children to Testify Against Father in Utah Murder Trial

Aired October 23, 2013 - 07:00   ET


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Welcome to NEW DAY. It's 7:00 in the east. New this morning, Kathleen Sebelius, head of -- the secretary of Health and Human Services trying to explain why the Obama care website still isn't fix. We're finally hearing from her. She's speaking out and he is getting answers to the important questions. Plus, we're going to speak with an expert who says the problem is not vendors, is not code, is actually something much deeper.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Also this hour, outrage in Florida. An unarmed man shot by deputies in his own driveway, a story we've been following very closely. Now a grand jury decision has left the man still looking for justice. We'll have an update on that, ahead.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: And Mariah Carey is back and arguably better than ever. You get to hear her dish on her recovery from injuries she sustained. Her new single is due out next month on Facebook. We'll talk all things Mariah, coming up.

CUOMO: But first, a man who may have the toughest job in in America. His name is Jeffrey Zients. He's been tapped by the president to fix the Obama care website. Who is he? How is he going to do this? We try to get you answers to these questions. Dr. Sanjay Gupta is standing by to bring you more of CNN's exclusive one-on-one with Kathleen Sebelius. That will happen in just a moment. First, let's bring in White House correspondent Jim Acosta to find out more about Mr. Zients. This is one tough job to take.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It's a tough job to take. I'm not sure anybody really wants it in Washington, but Jeff Zients is taking it. That's right, Chris. Even though the White House has appointed Zients as a management guru to oversee the repairs to the Obamacare website, Republicans are ratcheting up the pressure, which explains why the Obama administration is still going into damage control mode.


ACOSTA: The White House is out to make sure the bugs in the Obama care website don't bite bug. So the president recorded this video message for Organizing for Action, his post-campaign volunteer team, to spread the message of patience.

BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: By now you've probably heard that the website has not worked as smoothly as it was supposed to.

ACOSTA: The Obama administration has also appointed Jeff Zients, the man who will soon be the president's top economist and who once served as acting budget director, to be the Mr. Fix-It, to go after the site's technical problems.

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think he's providing management advice and consultation but for more details about his role because he's being brought on by HHS, I would refer you to HHS.

ACOSTA: But the White House is offering few additional details about the website rescue effort.

CARNEY: I would refer you to HHS. The tech surge was announced by CMS and HHS, so I would refer you to them.

ACOSTA: Republicans want more oversight, calling for weekly reports on the website's progress and a delay of the individual mandate to buy insurance if the tech issues continue.

REP. DARRELL ISSA, (R) CALIFORNIA: The president put politics ahead of his own program working effectively and easily for hundreds of millions of Americans.

ACOSTA: Former vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan is the latest top GOP leader to call on Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to step down, saying on a Republican conference call "This rollout has been a fiasco. I think some people should be held responsible." But Clay Johnson, a former White House innovation fellow who worked on I.T. projects for the administration says the real problem is with the government contractors who built the site.

CLAY JOHNSON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE INNOVATION FELLOW: I think that they don't know how to measure success. I mean the federal government wants to innovate so badly but it doesn't have the access to the right kinds of contractors that it needs in order to pull off these kinds of innovation.


ACOSTA: A Democratic source tells CNN the White House offered House Republicans an Obamacare website briefing from HHS in the days before that website went online. But a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner said that was not the case, that offer was not made. But if the offer still stands, they'll take it. Kate?

BOLDUAN: All right, Jim, thanks so much. We should let you know that we'll be talking to Clay Johnson, who Jim mentioned in his piece, a little later on this hour, to get his view about what he thinks went wrong with the rollout.

But first let's get to what Kathleen Sebelius has to say about all of this. She sat down for an exclusive interview with our chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta, and he's joining us from Washington right now. Sanjay, so how did the secretary respond to what amounts to a flood of criticism coming her way? DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: There's no question she feels the pressure. She talked a lot about the frustration within HHS, Health and Human Services, but also the White House. Kate, it was a wide-ranging interview. I did ask her about what we knew before October 1st, what she thought about the fact that 70 percent of insurers had some concerns about that October 1st date, and also that the system had been tested just a few days before, with just about a hundred or so people logging in, and the system crashed, and why was it still allowed to go forward.

But then we got to this issue of what happens next. How do you fix this? Take a listen.


GUPTA: There's a lot of frustration, as you know, Madam Secretary. If this persists, even at this point now, would you consider resigning over this?

KATHLEEN SEBELIUS, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY: I think my job is to get this fully implemented and to get the website working right, and that's what I'm focused on. I work at the pleasure of the president. He is singularly focused on making sure we deliver on this promise. That's what I'm committed to doing.

GUPTA: What about tech people? We hear that the best and the brightest, those are people or companies that we're going to recognize, can you give us some names?

SEBELIUS: Right now we've asked all of your contractors to look at their teams on the ground and bring in their absolute A-team, and I am confident that that is happening every day, while we also --

GUPTA: The contractors didn't do such a great job so far. Why didn't they bring their A-team in in the first place?

SEBELIUS: I can tell you --

GUPTA: Why are we saying three weeks now bring you're A-team into this whole equation.

SEBELIUS: We had hoped they had their A-team on the table. But I am talking to CEOs and urging them to make sure they have the talent we 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 accelerate the fix as quickly as possible.

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

SEBELIUS: It does.

GUPTA: 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: 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 of 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 website but states around the country is that the interest is huge, that people are eager to have this affordable product, and that the product is there. Insurance companies have to compete for one another for people's business for the first time.


BOLDUAN: And Sanjay, she talks about focusing on the product, not on this mishap, if you will. But it does lead you to wonder if the mission will get lost in how they put out a garbled message at this point. There have been calls now to delay part of the law, that requirement to buy health insurance, until they can get this website straightened out. Do you get any sense that that will actually happen, that they will kind of finally acknowledge it's bad enough and they need to put a delay on this?

GUPTA: She dodged that question, sort of, Kate. It's interesting. I asked her that same thing. I phrased it like this, saying, look, this individual mandate, this requirement that people purchase health care insurance, can you penalize them for not doing so if it's been so cumbersome to sign up using

And she basically said now is not the time to be talking about that. I don't know, Kate, if that means it may come up again in the future or if this is the final word on it. But she did dodge it and a lot of people are asking that same question.

BOLDUAN: So wWhat about the other big question people are asking, that someone needs to be held accountable for this mess. And what about the calls for her to resign, how did she respond?

GUPTA: She basically said, look, for right now she's here to stay. That was her bottom line answer. She serves at the pleasure of the president. I asked her if she would consider resigning over what happened now or had she considered resigning? And she said no. And it came back to this larger mission, Kate, which you mentioned. I think this idea, she brought this up a few times, you could have millions more people insured at the end of March versus people now. And that is what's kept people motivated, inspired within the White House and HHS.

BOLDUAN: It's good that she's answer something of these questions now. Sanjay, great interview. Thanks so much.

GUPTA: Thank you.

CUOMO: We have newly released 911 calls that are putting the chaos and confusion during Monday's deadly shooting at a school in Nevada into sharp focus. A 12-year-old boy, disturbed, shoots a classmate and would go on to shoot another and then kill himself. But after the first shot this revered math teacher approaches him to talk him down. He loses his life but may well have kept the situation from being much worse. Stephanie Elam is in Reno covering the story. Stephanie?

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Chris, when you hear what the shooter was apparently yelling it gets very scary. He was apparently yelling out, "Why are you doing this to me? Why are you laughing at me?" This is what one student told us as he ran for his life.


ELAM: The terror that unfolded at Nevada's Sparks Middle School on Monday lasted just three minutes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have a shooting at our school.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You have a shooting?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have a teacher down.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Don't hang up. Hold on one second.

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

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is a student from Sparks middle school. Can you please send police down here? There's a kid with a gun.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Where are they, with a gun?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Where are they with the gun?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sparks middle school.

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

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: By the basketball court.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: By the basketball court?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. Please send someone now.

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

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Somebody brought a gun to school that shot a teacher.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The teacher is down?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. We'll get somebody out there right away. You're at Sparks middle school?


KYLE NUCUM, WITNESSED SPARKS MIDDLE SCHOOL SHOOTING: I turn around and see a teacher approach the gunman, and then the gunman is pointing 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.

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

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

SGT. ROGER GARRETT: 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."


ELAM: And the parents of the assailant, we learned, are under police protection. They are cooperating fully with the investigation, as the police say they are grieving for the loss of their son and trying to come to grips with what their son committed. Kate and Chris, back to you.

BOLDUAN: Stephanie, thank you so much for that update.

A lot of other stories happening at this hour. Let's get straight over to Michaela for the headlines.

PEREIRA: Kate, good morning, Chris, and good morning to you at home. We want to tell you about a pretty big food recall, Reser's Fine Foods pulling more than 11 tons of prepared foods off shelves due to a possible listeria contamination, products that include chicken salads, ham salads, potato salads, and barbecue beans that contain beef. They were distributed to 20 stores in some 27 states. So far no reports of illnesses from these foods.

The IRS paid out as much as $13.6 billion in improper earned income tax credits over the past year and more than $132 billion over the last decade. That's according to a new internal audit. The treasuries inspector general says up to a quarter all earned income tax credit payments were last year were made in error. A controversial German bishop has been suspended by Pope Francis. He has come under fire for spending millions on renovations to his private living quarters and buying expensive luxuries. The bishop being told to stay out of the diocese while an investigation continues.

The rise in tuition at public colleges slowly slowing down. The college board saying they've seen the smallest increase in more than three decades. The average price up just 2.9 percent. That's actually quite dramatic compared to an average eight percent increase in the previous decade. Although the report says the financial aid has not kept pace to cover price hikes.

More Americans than ever support legalizing marijuana. Let's take a look at the latest Gallup poll -- 58 percent of those polled believe marijuana should be made legal. It's the first time there's ever been such a clear majority. Just 39 percent say marijuana should remain illegal. Support for legalizing pot surging 10 points since last November with the biggest increase among independent voters.

Those are your headlines at this hour. Back to you.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, Michaela. Let's get over to Karen Maginnis now in for Indra Petersons keeping track of the forecast for everyone. It is quite a lot colder out there today than yesterday.

KAREN MAGINNIS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes it is, because yesterday we had a temperature in Central Park, it made it to 67 degrees. You had such a nice fall until now. And now those temperatures are running about 10 to 15 degrees below where they should be for this time of year.

Right now New York City, 49 degrees as temperatures only going to bump up a couple more degrees, and that will be it. This area of low pressure dragging a frontal system away is going to take its time to pull away from the coast. So as a consequence to the south and east of interstate 95 you'll have problems as far as wind and visibility. Also we're looking at some of the airports along that I-95 corridor. They could be affected perhaps by some delays with the reduced visibility.

If you're headed to Boston for this evening, those temperatures on the cold side, only in the 40s. Could see just a slight chance of a shower. For New York City, 54 degrees. As I said, the temperature right now, 49. Only going to be in the low 50s. That big chill stays in place and it will with be even cooler coming up for tomorrow. Also in Chicago, a high of only 45. Chris, Kate, back to you.

BOLDUAN: Thanks so much, Karen.

CUOMO: Coming up on NEW DAY, a doctor accused of killing his wife. He says he didn't do it but his daughters may say he did. One of them just 12 years old. The latest in the MacNeill murder trial straight ahead.

BOLDUAN: Plus, a tech expert who worked in the Obama administration slamming the Obamacare website and the rollout of it. He calls it sloppy. Can it be fixed? He is going to join us, ahead.


BOLDUAN: Welcome back to NEW DAY. A family tragedy playing out in a Utah courtroom. A doctor, Martin MacNeill, accused of drugging and killing his wife and the key prosecution witnesses could be his own daughters. Miguel Marquez is in Provo, Utah, following all the latest developments this morning. Good morning, Miguel.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Kate. This is a sad and sordid tale. The MacNeills had eight kids, four biological, four adopted. They are expected to be the star witnesses. We know of at least three at this point, possibly more that will now testify for the prosecution.


MARQUEZ: Today, the children of Dr. Martin MacNeill, a step closer to testifying against their own father. Prosecutors say the first up as soon as Thursday, expected to be 12-year-old Ada MacNeill, only 6 when she discovered her dying mother.

CHAD GRUNANDER, PROSECUTOR: He want Ada to testify because she has an important story to tell as part of the big story here. She was the first witness to find her mother in the bathtub.

MARQUEZ: The defense counters Ada should not testify, not a reliable witness they say as investigators used her older sister Alexis during repeated interviews.

SUZANNE GUSTIN, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Alexis was doing the other interviewing and investigators were saying ask her this, ask her that. That's highly improper.

MARQUEZ: Prosecutors have already called several first responders. Testifying at the scene of his wife's death, Martin MacNeill was agitated to the point of distraction as they desperately tried to save his wife's life.

DAN BECKERSTROM, PLEASANT GROVE POLICE DEPT.: He was hysterical. Blurting out things like, why did you have to have the surgery? Why are you on so many medications? Why God.

MARQUEZ: Prosecutors contend the drama was an act and that it was MacNeill pressuring his wife to get a face lift and using a deadly combination of prescription drugs post surgery to kill her.

MARK SANDERSON, PLEASANT GROVE FIRE CHIEF: He made a comment she had overdosed on her pain medication, and also a comment about slipping in the tub and hitting her head. He also indicated that he was only gone for a short period of time.

MARQUEZ: MacNeill's alibi, he was at work when his wife fell in the tub. Prosecutors say they have evidence to the contrary.

(ENV VIDEOTAPE) MARQUEZ: This story seems to know no end of sadness. They also had a son, Damian, who killed himself back in 2010, the sisters claim because of the pressure of all of this. Also expected to testify, is a woman named Gypsy Willis, she may testify this week as well. She's the alleged former mistress or mistress of Mr. MacNeill. It is her, they say, that became so involved with this family, just another level of sadness and deceit through all of this trial. Chris, back to you.

CUOMO: No question, Miguel. The question becomes what will it mean in court? Let's bring in out legal experts. We have Danny Cevallos and Sunny Hostin, a true marquee match-up. Thanks for both of you being here, and let's just set the table a little bit here.

This is usual that there's so much intrigue, so many layers of potential bad acts and morality plays going on that bring us into a trial where maybe or maybe not they go to the elements of the crime.

Sunny, let's start with that. All of the testimony that's been coming on as he ain't acting right, he's saying weird things before, he's saying weird things during and after. What is the prosecution using them for and is it working?

SUNNY HOSTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: They're certainly using it to try to paint the picture of a murderer. They're trying to say this is a guy who just didn't act right. This is not the way people should react when confronted with a situation like this, especially a medical professional.

Will it work, though, Chris, I think is a great question. Because I don't really see it going to the elements of the crime. You can do all this mood stuff in the courtroom, but the bottom line is you've got to prove your case beyond a reasonable doubt.

Did he murder his wife? And I don't see them getting there. And I see Danny kind of shaking his head because it's something I usually don't say, right? It just doesn't seem to me like they have a very strong case so far. But it's still early in the case. I think the case is supposed to last about five weeks. We're talking about a week of testimony.

CUOMO: True.

HOSTIN: But I think the prosecution at this point is on pretty shaky ground.

CUOMO: But also, allow me to flip the script then. It looks like it's going to turn into a two-on-one, both of you against me on this. Here's the suggestion. Motive is usually difficult to give as an example, a proof in court, and they have a lot of that here and that's unusual. The idea that a man's daughters could take the stand and say we think he did this, we think we know why, what could that mean to a jury?

DANNY CEVALLOS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: This is a case where the prosecution is trying to take bad character of this defendant, which is usually not admissible and repackage it into motive. Motive evidence is admissible but not as an element of the crime, just to show there may have been intent. They still have to prove, and of course I agree with Sunny here, they still have to prove the underlying crime. While they are heavy on bad character, they're heavy on suspicious behavior, they're going to be a little short on the science.

I've said it before, at least three of the prosecution's medical examiners concluded that cardiac arrhythmia may have been a cause of the death, and they're going to have to get over that hill when they get to that portion of the case. Is it damaging that the guy's own kids are against him? It's horrible, but it doesn't excuse the prosecution's ultimate burden, that's to prove that he intentionally killed his wife and that's beyond a reasonable doubt.

CUOMO: New facts, new facts that led to a different autopsy finding that the toxicology changed a little bit in later reviews and then new facts about how he got those drugs, why the wife was taking them. The doctor comes forward and says I only gave this combination of drugs because he asked for them and he was a doctor. The intrigue about what happens in the bathtub, Sunny, how was she found? The story changes, his story changes. A laceration to her head. Isn't all of this -- aren't these pieces to a puzzle that show an intentional act?

HOSTIN: I think certainly they are pieces to a puzzle, Chris. You can see, because in Utah the jurors are allowed to ask questions, much like the Jodi Arias case. They're asking questions about the tub, they're asking questions about the science, about the medicine. I think that will be helpful to the prosecution. Again, you need more than this is a bad guy. This is a guy that was having an affair, this is a guy that was acting strangely, this is a guy whose family doesn't like him, his kids don't like him. That doesn't necessarily equal murder.

I need to see more from this prosecution. So far we're seeing that mood evidence in the courtroom that prosecutors love. Motive, though, is of course not an element of the crime here. And so I think even though there are some helpful pieces for the prosecution, especially because you do have the toxicology reports saying, wow, she had a dangerous cocktail in her body and this doctor, her husband, likely was instrumental in giving that stuff to her. I just don't think that they have enough, so far, to go over that hurdle.

CUOMO: It is early. It's a good, convenient thing for the prosecutors to be able to set mood so early. Very often you have insipid testimony to start a trial, but Danny, let's end on this: how did this poor woman wind up in the tub fully clothed in the position that she was in if it was all about what she did to herself? It does not look that way to the people who have been on to describe it so far. What do you think on that?

CEVALLOS: In this case, there are a lot of what-ifs, but those generally go to the benefit of the defendant. We are in a jurisdiction where the jury gets to ask these sort of have questions they have, which is very unusual, and usually probably not good for the defendant. But remember, all this unexplainable stuff ultimately may be good for the defendant. We don't know why she still had her bra on, we don't know why she was facing this way or that way. If the defense can hammer that home, that this is just -- if it's unexplainable, there's no reasonable doubt. That is probably the direction they're going to go, that and the fact that the science so far is in the defendant's favor.

CUOMO: Sunny, Danny, we have to watch this one carefully. Thank you for joining us on this first day we look at it. Why? Because it is so usual that we see this conflict between what seems obvious in a public way versus the perception of what you get to show and prove at trial. That's what makes this case so compelling what do you think? Use the hashtag #newday and talk about this to us online. We'll keep the story going and follow the developments as they come. Kate?

BOLDUAN: Coming up next on NEW DAY. "We failed," those are the words from a tech expert that worked in the Obama administration. Clay Johnson will be joining us live with his advice on what needs to change now following the troubling rollout of the Obamacare website.

Also ahead, an unarmed Florida man shot at 15 times by police in his own driveway. So why aren't the officers facing charges?