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Obama Wants Immigration Bill This Year; ObamaCare Web Site Hearings; Teacher Murdered by Student

Aired October 24, 2013 - 11:00   ET


JIM ACOSTA, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It's not really the Senate's fault as to what's happening here. They passed an immigration bill. They got it out of the Senate by a bipartisan -- with wide bipartisan support. It's the House that's the issue here and we heard the President sort of laying that out, talking about that during those remarks.

But the other thing that he also said, Jake, is that this is an issue that has been lingering out there for some time. It's not an issue whose time has come, he's said.

It's an issue that we've been kicking down the road for several years now, talked about how George W. Bush tried to get immigration passed, talked about how this is something that has had the support of people like John McCain for many, many years now, and so now he is saying, now is the time to get it done.

The question, though, Jake, as we talked about before, is whether any of this works over in the house of representatives.

There are Republican lawmakers who just don't have the kind of support for this in their districts that they would need to justify it in, say, primary against a tea party challenger next year, or even in the course of a general election fight.

It's just it's difficult to get the politics right and the House right now for this White House. And I think the president, if it doesn't get done, is perhaps sort of laying a marker there to explain to the American people why it might not get done.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Jim Acosta at the White House.

Gloria Borger, I want to bring you in.

What optimism does anyone -- would anyone have for optimism that the House Republicans would take this up?

As President Obama pointed out, this did pass the Senate, a comprehensive bill. It passed in June, 68-to-32. Fourteen Republicans voted for it.

The House politics are quite different. And as you and I have discussed many times when it comes to the government shutdown, what might not be popular across the country could be popular in individual congressmen's and congresswomen's districts. GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Sure.

TAPPER: Especially the tea party caucus.

BORGER: I think demographics is the only answer I can give you.

I mean, Darrell Issa this morning, a conservative Republican from California, has said that he's going release legislation next week to provide temporary -- some kind of temporary legal status for six years to undocumented immigrants now in the United States.

So, you can see, and of course he is from the state of California, right? So I think there will be lots of members who feel this pressure on the Republican side of the aisle.

Certainly there have been a couple of presidential candidates, John McCain and -- who's gone through all kinds of iterations on this because he felt the anger from the Republican Party on this issue when he was running.

I think the key here is to convince people, as you were talking about earlier, that you can do the border security part of this first, that the president can be trusted, as you were talking about earlier, to get it done first, and then the rest can kick in.

I think that that's the way that potentially this could be done so that both sides trust each other on this.

I also think that you've got business weighing in on this. You've got the Chamber of Commerce, you've got the business community weighing in on this to Republican lawmakers, and that could potentially help get something done.

You know, you're never optimistic about achieving anything in Congress these days, but I do think that there is a pathway to passage, if you will.

But, you know, it may not get done right away, but I could see a way that John Boehner can try and work this out.

TAPPER: Would he get a majority of the majority? Would he be able to bring --

BORGER: You know, that's the question. That's, of course, the key question.

I don't want to be Pollyanna here, but I don't think that is the key question. The question would be whether he'd be willing to try and get that done.

If you look at Marco Rubio in the Senate, potential presidential candidate, put himself on the line on immigration reform, and he's been hurt within the Republican base, nationally, because he did that.

So, it is dangerous. You know, there's no doubt about it. And the question is whether Boehner is going to take a stand on this. TAPPER: Gloria Borger, thanks.

I want to go now to Ana Navarro and Maria Cardona, two political analysts and CNN contributors, Ana, a Republican, Maria, a Democrat.

Ana, you were talking before about the promise that President Obama did not meet. He promised that he would bring up immigration reform in the first year and many in the Latino community were resentful of that, although ultimately, he won the Latino community quite significantly in his re-election.

It seems like the pressure is on House Republicans. Is that fair?

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think the pressure is on both sides. I think the president certainly feels pressure, because it is a legacy item for him.

This is something that he promised, that he promised the first time he ran, that he promised the second time he ran, so it's an important issue for him in order to have a legacy.

It's an important piece for Republicans looking into the future and looking into the future for politics and also for some other core groups.

I think Gloria had it exactly right. A presidential speech by President Obama on this is really not going to sway many Republicans.

This is something that we Republicans have to sway our Republican leadership to do, the business groups, the evangelical groups, the Catholics, high tech, and the moderate voices, the voices within the Republican Party who are national party folks and who realize that, in order to be a national party, we need to get this done.

TAPPER: Maria Cardona, you can certainly understand Republicans' skepticism.

While it's true that the demographics are shifting to the point that Mitt Romney won the same majority percentage of the white vote as did George H.W. Bush, it didn't help him because of the changing demographics in this country.

A lot of Republicans look at this and they say, why would Republicans not only move to do something against Republican principles in terms of individuals coming into this country illegally, but these are millions and millions of likely Democratic voters.

Why would we sanction that? Can you understand that skepticism at all?

MARIA CARDONA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Of course, I can understand, Jake, but this is where I think the test is going to be for Speaker Boehner.

Because he also has to understand, and we've talked about this a dozen times, and we'll continue to talk about it, not just the demographics, Jake, in terms of what the future holds for the Republican Party to be a national party to ever get to the White House, they need to do this.

But, also, you talked about conservative principles or Republican principles. John McCain always leads with this. Immigration reform has always been, frankly, a piece of legislation that has been led by Republicans.

You look at what Reagan did. Look what George W. Bush did. And so if you look at having 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country illegally, that is not a conservative or a Republican principle.

And that's what I think Democrats need to continue to talk to their Republican counterparts. And there are a lot of Republican counterparts -- their Republican counterparts -- in the House that are ready to do this.

I understand that on Sunday Jorge Ramos, who you have already mentioned, is going to have as a guest on his show, Al Punto, the first Republican that is ready to sign on as a co-sponsor to a bill that's in the House, HR-15, a bipartisan bill, that focuses on trying to get to where they can be to try to get this to conference and try to get this done and that more are going to come.

So it's going to be up to John Boehner, as we have always said.

TAPPER: All right. Thanks for joining us today, Ana Navarro, Maria Cardona.

And thank you for watching.

"LEGAL VIEW" with Ashleigh Banfield starts after this break.


ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Ashleigh Banfield. It is Thursday, October the 24th. Welcome to LEGAL VIEW. It's nice to have you with us.

And that's where the niceties end. An unmitigated disaster, because that's what the critics are calling ObamaCare's Web site.

The people who created that Web site have been in the hot seat this morning on Capitol Hill, and if you haven't been watching this, it's time you tuned in.

Facing lawmakers who are demanding answers to how this could happen, the contractors are having to cough up the info.

Of the numerous, incredulous facts we already know, the Web site crashed during a test run, but no one informed the president about that.

As you might expect, there's a lot of finger-pointing going on, both ways, and the morning's most contentious moment may have been over whether the contractors have access to the patient's personal information.

Here are just a couple of highlights of that.


REPRESENTATIVE TIM MURPHY (R), PENNSYLVANIA: We were promised a Web site where people could easily compare plans and costs.

$500 million later, we find the American public have been dumped with the ultimate "cash for clunkers," except they had to pay the cash and still got the clunker.

REPRESENTATIVE FRANK PALLONE (D), NEW JERSEY: Once again, here we have my Republican colleagues trying to scare everybody.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Will the gentleman yield?

PALLONE: No, I will not yield to this monkey court or whatever this thing --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is not a monkey court.

PALLONE: Whatever you want, I'm not yielding.


BANFIELD: So when I said it was fiery, I meant it was fiery.

Joe Johns is now live with us from Washington, D.C., and also with us, technology correspondent Laurie Segall.

Joe, let's start with the politics of this. Monkey court, screaming back and forth, accusations that patients' records are being accessed by thousands of others, what's the real story about what's going on in that room?

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, Ashleigh, it didn't take long for this to degenerate into pure political gamesmanship, I think.

It diverted slightly off the topic of where the Web site isn't working properly and into the issue of privacy, so let's straighten that out.

One of the Republican members, Congressman Joe Barton went down this line of questioning it's easy to get trapped in but important to talk about.

He was pointing out from one of the witnesses that some of the code for the Web site says there's no reasonable expectation for privacy for people using the Web site.

Barton suggested that could be a violation of federal health privacy laws, HIPAA laws.

Democratic Congressman Frank Pallone responded that federal health privacy laws, or HIPAA laws, as they're called, don't apply because ObamaCare gets rid of pre-existing conditions for people trying to get insurance. And Pallone is correctly stating the administration position. I know because I've asked administration officials about this very topic. They say HIPAA doesn't apply because ObamaCare gets rid of pre- existing conditions.

But that's not the end of the story, Ashleigh. The other part of the story is that the inspector general for the Department of Health and Human Services issued a report as recently as August, suggesting that ObamaCare exchanges did have security control problems that could expose health records and financial records of Americans to hackers and criminals.

But at that time, CMS, the Centers for Medicaid -- Medicare Services, they're responsible for the Web site, they said they're confident all of these problems would be fixed by October 1st.

So, yes, privacy's been an issue. The administration says HIPAA's not.

BANFIELD: OK. So HIPAA is critical because that is massive.

Personal information, whether it's your name and your address or not, is still a big bummer.

I mean, if I'm going to log onto a Web site, I want to know that it can't be hacked, and I also want to know that someone's not going to get my personal information, even if it is just name and address.

Laurie, that's where you come in. Is anyone addressing the actual 500 million lines of code and maybe which of them are flawed and how we're going to fix them?

LAURIE SEGALL, CNN TECHNOLOGY CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all, the one thing I took away from this is that it's a massive blame game. I mean, anyone who could be addressing it is blaming someone else.

We heard from Cheryl Campbell, from CGI, who in her testimony essentially said the main problem at first, which caused our problem, was from another contractor, from the EIDM, which is the secure account creation.

We had Andrew Slavitt from Optim say listen, the government said at last minute we needed to change the website so people had to make a secure account before they could actually enter.

Now, when we're talking about a complicated website, Ashleigh, making a change like this is not going to be easy and clearly there was not enough testing, and clearly not enough time for testing, but he also made the mention (ph) that there were other contractors in charge of that, too. It wasn't just them.

It's a huge blame game. But when you talk about this 500 million lines of code, the one thing we heard is that -- it was Cheryl Campbell who was asked a question. They said, can you fix 5 million lines of code? That's the number that's out there. And she said no. If I went to my 300 employees and said you need to rewrite 5 million lines of code, they would laugh at me. This is an over-inflated number.

Privacy, as you mentioned before, a huge part of this. And a huge part of a complex website that needs to be baked in ahead of time. But there were so many cooks in the kitchen, it's hard to point fingers at who would have been in charge in putting forward certain privacy applications.

BANFIELD: I have to wrap that up, but not before I'm absolutely clear. I keep hearing 500 million lines of code. To be comparative, to send out the mars rover, it was 500,000 lines of code. Am I wrong?

SEGALL: That's the number that's going around.


SEGALL: They're saying 5 million lines of code need to be fixed. That's the number that's going around.

BANFIELD: Thank you.

SEGALL: We can't confirm that. And, yeah.

BANFIELD: 5 million corrections needed on the lines of code, as opposed to 500 million have to be thrown out with the bath water. Thank you, Laurie. Thank you, Joe Johns.

Here with me now is someone who knows about a thing or two about working with presidents who happen to find themselves in hot water or in a crisis anyway. Lanny Davis served as White House special counsel in the Clinton administration. He's now a practicing attorney. And just so happens to be a crisis manager, big-time crisis manager with a real who's-who list of clients. He's also the author of well go figure, a book called "Crisis Tales." Joining us now is the Lanny J. Davis.

First of all, a lot has been happening this morning. We came out of a live news conference where President Obama was addressing immigration reform. Another big plank of his agenda. All of this on the heels of what is just -- I hate to say it. It's logorrhea of everything that's going wrong with his signature Obamacare. I hate to suggest it. I'm going to ask: is this whole rollout of the conversation about immgration today to try to somehow to tamp down all the conversation about Obamacare?

LANNY DAVIS, FORMER WHITE HOUSE SPECIAL COUNSEL: Incomprehensible why the president isn't shirt sleeves rolled up, with his team, fixing this problem, letting the American people know that he's right on top of it, hands-on president aware that it's a major problem. I don't understand. I'm a supporter of President Obama, supported Obamacare, still do.


BANFIELD: You didn't answer the question. Is immigration an effort to quiet down --


DAVIS: To answer your question, it is quite definitely an effort to distract attention. It's not possible and it's bad crisis management.

BANFIELD: He is the president of the entire United States and there are other things going on and immigration is critical. So, is it just that it's all within 24 hours that it's a problem?

DAVIS: You have to go with the flow. American people are concerned about what's happening with Obamacare. That's a signature program. He has to be addressing it.

BANFIELD: To that point there's a huge Republican cry for Kathleen Sebelius' head on a platter or stake, depending how aggressive you are. Does some high-level Democrat, leader need to fall on the stake in this one?

DAVIS: That's utterly stupid. The idea is to fix this problem, not to find a scapegoat. To think that replacing the cabinet secretary is going to fix this problem -- there is actually a fix. In full disclosure, I represent a client who is in the private sector, running a website and has done this for 13 years, yet they won't let the private sector help fix this problem. They spent government money when the private sector website is available to do the problem. They've got to fix the problem.

BANFIELD: I think a lot of people wouldn't (ph) argue with you that getting rid of the head of the organization isn't necessarily going to fix those 5 million lines of code that Laurie Segall was just outlining, but you're a crisis manager. You know how this stuff sells. This is a massive branding problem. This is a massive campaign issue. So wouldn't, say, a high level name being blocked off fix that even if it's not the real fix that's need?

DAVIS: No. I'm a crisis manager that wants people to be satisfied not optical political scapegoating.

BANFIELD: You know how important optics are.

DAVIS: Though optics are important, if there were a real personal blame by Secretary Sebelius, everybody knows that this is a process gone awry by reinventing the wheel all over the country when they could have used private sector websites that are successful rather than all the billions that have been spent. So, Kathleen Sebelius has to be held accountable, but firing her isn't really going satisfy the American people.

BANFIELD: Ten seconds left. Honestly ten seconds left. That disaster on Capitol Hill is not going to bode well for the administration today.

DAVIS: Not today, and they should have been addressing it rather than another issue.

BANFIELD: Lanny Davis, I hope you'll come back.

DAVIS: Thank you, Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: It's good to see you, and I have always appreciated your work and the book is great.

DAVIS: Thank you.

BANFIELD: Just ahead, a town in mourning after a popular teacher is killed at her high school. We now know what the murder weapon was, and it's rather surprising. Going to take you live to Massachusetts next for a report.


BANFIELD: We are just now learning some new details about that really unspeakable death of a high school teacher in Danvers, Massachusetts. Law enforcement sources there are telling us that Colleen Ritzer, that's the teacher, was killed with a box cutter in the school bathroom, her body was then stuffed into a recycling bin, rolled out of that bathroom and dumped into the woods behind the building.

Our Don Lemon has been working this story, he's live in Danvers, Massachusetts this morning-- Dan -- or Don, I wish this were better circumstances we could be speaking, but the details coming out of this story are unusual and bizarre, to say the least. Can you explain what the progression was of this teacher and how she ended up in the circumstance where she could be attacked?

DON LEMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's really horrific, Ashleigh, and these grave details or interesting details were given to our Pamela Brown this morning. And according to that source the faculty restroom was locked. So Miss Ritzer went into the second floor student bathroom. According to those sources, Philip Chism followed her into that restroom and then punched her and then took out a box cutter and slashed her. And then they believe he took her body and put it into a recycle bin and then rolled it out of the building and into the woods. And then from there, Ashleigh, it is believed that he went and he changed and then went to a movie theater and then started wandering around town and that's when police found him in a neighboring town.

BANFIELD: Why on Earth -- obviously that's the question everyone is asking. Why? He was so new. He was a new student, relatively. She was a beloved teacher. Are they figuring out any kind of connection that may point to a motive here?

LEMON: They're not sure at this point. Right now -- this is the beginning stages of the investigation really. They are, sadly, performing an autopsy on that young lady right now. But they're not sure. They did confirm last night that he was in her class. And that is the only relationship that they know of.

They don't know why anyone would have any sort of beef with this particular teacher, because by all accounts, she was beloved by every single student and went above and beyond, tweeting and blogging and Facebooking about their classwork assignments, giving them homework and praise through social media. Really above and beyond. Graduated Summa Cum Laude and then went on to - was taking graduate glasses and still living with her family, and that's how they realized so quickly that something was wrong because she usually showed up at a particular time, because she lived with her parents going to grad school. She didn't show up. They called the police, and that's when police came to search the school, found blood in the bathroom and the whole unseemly thing unfolded.

BANFIELD: Just awful. And really unimaginable. Don Lemon, working the story for us. Thank you for that. Live in Massachusetts for us. I want now bring in our live CNN legal panel, Danny Cevallos, HLN legal analyst Joey Jackson.

Danny, let me start with you. There's an interview. There's video. All I can say is that video is extraordinarily powerful, as can be interviews, if you get your Miranda.

DANNY CEVALLOS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Sure, yes. As long as it was a knowing and intelligent waiver, a juvenile can give a statement just like an adult. But this case highlights our juvenile justice system. Massachusetts is one of those states that essentially says this: if you're 14 years old and charged with almost any crime we'll put you in the juvenile system because we agree that the neurology of juveniles is such that they're less liable for crimes, unless you're charged with something really bad like first or second-degree murder. In that case, you are an adult. And if this kid is two months over the age of 14, oh, what a difference if he was just a few months shy of 14. But that's the system. It draws lines and we're stuck with them.

BANFIELD: And that's it. He is not going to be remanded to a juvenile system. There is no statue in Massachusetts that could allow for a lighter treatment of his current situation.

JOEY JACKSON, HLN LEGAL ANALYST: And not only that, Ashleigh, but just to piggyback off what Danny said, now with the development of a box cutter there's a major distinction between first-degree murder and second-degree murder. Why? First-degree murder, of course, addresses the issue of premeditation but it also addresses the issue of the brutality of the crime and the fact that the crime would be atrocious and that type of thing. You add a box cutter into the mix and it's significant distinction. Why is it significant? Because you're talking about a life sentence for first-degree murder whereas you would be talking about parole after 15 years with second-degree murder. So, it's a major development in terms of how the prosecution could treat the case.

BANFIELD: So you were just listening along as I was talking to Don Lemon, who's reporting this story live in Massachusetts. The big question everyone is asking is what happened? What could have possibly happened?

CEVALLOS: The motive.

BANFIELD: In just a few weeks that this young man had been in the school. And this wonderful, beautiful, beloved teacher. Does it matter if we never find out what the motive was? CEVALLOS: It doesn't matter for his defense. The reality, as you talked about earlier, the juvenile justice system has zero jurisdiction by statute in Massachusetts over this case. That means he will have no opportunity if he's charged with first or second degree murder, he will have no opportunity to get into that more permissive system where they're really just looking to treat, rehabilitate, and supervise a juvenile until they're better.

JACKSON: On that issue of motive, as we all know, you don't have to show motive to prove a case. A jury oftentimes is curious. They want to know why someone would do something like this. It goes in large part for them establishing a case. Motive, while not relevant to prove a case is relevant to a jury's knowledge in understanding how it occurred.

BANFIELD: I'm with you there. I have jury duty coming up and I'm very excited about it. And that is one thing I've always wondered about. You don't have to prove motive, but boy does it ever help for those 12 panelists who are wrestling with the most difficult questions. Danny and Joey, thank you both.