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Federal Judge Rules Parts of Texas Abortion Law Unconstitutional; Does The President Have A Problem When It Comes To Accountability?; Murdoch's Empire Under Fire; "Bad Grandpa" Defies "Gravity"; "Entourage" Movie A Go?; Score A $1 Million Painting For $135

Aired October 28, 2013 - 16:30   ET




In more national news, some of the strictest abortion restrictions in the country have been tossed out just one day before they were supposed to take effect. A federal judge ruled that parts of the new Texas law are unconstitutional because they would make getting an abortion in the state nearly impossible. Under the law, doctors would need admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of any abortion clinic, and they would have to follow strict rules for pill- induced medical abortions.

The law inspired, as you may recall, a nearly 13-hour filibuster by state senator Wendy Davis and prompted a protest of screams when lawmakers tried to vote back in June.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If I could have order, we will suspend the roll call vote until we can get order in the chamber.


TAPPER: Planned Parenthood and abortion providers in the state challenged the law, but the attorney general called it necessary to protect women, and of course, to protect the life of a fetus.

Let's bring in CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin. Jeffrey, can you explain what made the judge ultimately decide part of this law is unconstitutional?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: The Supreme Court has said about abortion that a law cannot be an undue burden on the rights of women. Now, what's an undue burden? Well, that's something judges have been trying to figure out.

But what this judge decided in Texas was that the idea that all the doctors in a given clinic have to have admitting privileges at a local hospital would have required about two-thirds of the current abortion clinics in Texas to close. And that, he said, was not medically justified and an undue burden on the right of women to have abortions in Texas. So it was unconstitutional.

TAPPER: I want to read this statement from the governor, Rick Perry, about this ruling today. Quote, "Today's decision will not stop our ongoing efforts to protect life and ensure the women of our state aren't exposed to any more of the abortion mill horror stories that have made headlines recently. We will continue fighting to implement the laws passed by the duly elected officials of our state, laws that reflect the will and values of Texas."

Now, the law also bans abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Was that part of the law upheld?

TOOBIN: Not yet. That is not fully resolved yet. You know, ever since the Republicans took over so many state houses in 2010, the -- many of them have passed more restrictive abortion laws. Some even more restrictive than Texas. Those are now all working their way through the courts.

Governor Perry, Jim Abbott, the attorney general -- also a candidate for governor, is -- will appeal this decision to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. The Supreme Court is going to have to weigh in on all these issues. The Supreme Court hasn't had a real abortion case in about 10 years, but so many new laws have passed. And whether it's this law or the law in ArkaNSAs, in the Dakotas, one of these laws will wind up before the Supreme Court relatively soon, and we'll get a lot more clarity on what's constitutional and what's not.

TAPPER: Fascinating. All right, Jeffrey, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

What did Obama know about the NSA spying program on other world leaders? Potentially a lot more than we thought just an hour ago. We break it down with our political panel. That's coming up next.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

In politics, it's like a scene from a movie, maybe from "The X Files." After the oath of office, the president is plunged into the world of classified information about our country's national security. Today, reports ping-ponged through the media about whether President Obama knew the NSA had been eavesdropping on other world leaders, including Germany's Angela Merkel, or not.

CNN now learns from a U.S. official that the president was provided with very detailed documents about the framework for these programs, as every president is, even though the White House has said that he didn't know.

Let's bring in the panel. CNN political commentator and Democratic strategist Donna Brazile. Associate editor for "The Hill," A.B. Stoddard. And CNN political commentator and Republican strategist, Kevin Madden.

Donna, it's a weird kind of excuse. The president didn't know about this, he can't be held accountable because he didn't know. He ultimately is responsible. Is that a good excuse?

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I'm glad that he knew about the framework of these programs, especially because many Americans are concerned that these programs might be going too far.

Now, on one hand, it's very useful to have this intelligence, I'm sure. On the other hand, we're concerned about our privacy. So I'm glad the NSA is not on autopilot, that somebody is watching the watchers, and that at least on the House side, Representative Sensenbrenner is going to have -- introduce a bill called the Freedom Act. I'm interested in that. He's a Republican. The House Intelligence Committee is going to have oversight hearings. But I'm glad the president knew about the framework.

But that doesn't really answer the question. Why are we spying on our own friends? I want to know why.

TAPPER: You heard Dick Cheney say you never know what kind of information you're going to need until you need it. Is there becoming a meme here about President Obama not knowing what's going on in his administration?

A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, "THE HILL": This has happened before. President Obama was protected by somebody, so he didn't know, so he gets to sort of exonerate himself and say I really didn't know.

But you're right. If he's not responsible, who is? He has to be accountable for major decisions and major moments like this. When someone like Merkel calls him, he has to be able to be accountable to her and to say these aren't decisions made by other people five years into my administration. I should have known about this. It's not a good enough answer.

TAPPER: Kevin, you worked for a lot of powerful people. I'm not going to ask you to name names, but the ones to whom this happens, this type of thing happens where something's going wrong and he honestly did not know about it or he knew about it but somebody takes the fall for it -- what's the dynamic going on behind the scenes? I mean, are people afraid to give politicians like that bad news?

KEVIN MADDEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think oftentimes what happens is they try to silo off different departments or different elements within an inner circle away from the presidency and essentially treat information as a commodity. Some information more valuable and other information. And I think that's the problem.

But for the public that's watching here right now, I think this goes to A.B.'s point, which is there's really no good answer. If he knew, then essentially we are being misled by different people in the administration about the extent of the president's knowledge. If he didn't know, it's an abdication of even the most basic responsibilities of command and control over very important parts of his administration. That becomes a problem.

BRAZILE: We're in the age of Twitter. So, I think when we get these questions, we ask somebody in the White House what did the president know, when did he know it, and they're like well, he doesn't know. But later, you find out, well, he probably knew. I just think we need to hold on and wait until the administration gives us a full explanation because we deserve an explanation.

MADDEN: To that point, and I think this is where, again, the public ire is raised, which is there's such a lack of accountability here. If we were spying on our allies, the NSA was spying on our allies and the president did know - or didn't know -- and he should have, then somebody has to be held accountable for that. I think that's one of the problems right now is that through all the public posture coming from this White House, whether through spokespeople or the president himself, there does seem to be this lack of accountability or taking responsibility.

You know, Harry Truman once said the buck stops here. With this president, he keeps saying the buck stops elsewhere. That's a problem.

BRAZILE: No, that's not true. I don't think the president is saying the buck stops somewhere else. But I do believe it's important to understand this program has been in place now for over a decade. We know that we have been spying on these folks for over a decade. If the president knew and decided that this program was no longer useful, then we need to know that as well. All I'm saying is we need more information.

TAPPER: A.B., let me give you the last word. I guess one of the questions I have is, is there a meme now with the issues with the website and President Obama obviously not knowing about that before the launch of people on the Hill, Democrats too starting to wonder about what's going on?

STODDARD: He has often said that he didn't know what was going on with the website. He even said now in a meeting last week with his top former -- you know, Axelrod, Gibbs, everyone -- if we fix the website, everything will be fine.

That is a dismissive answer. It's not an engaged answer. It's not accountable. He can't pretend he doesn't know and then walk away from problems anymore because he has been caught too many times out of the loop. And it's just -- he can't do his job that way.

BRAZILE: Maybe you widen your circle, and you'll always be in the loop.

TAPPER: All right. A.B. Stoddard, Donna Brazile, Kevin Madden, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Coming up next, he's in his 80s, recently single. His empire is under fire, but is media mogul Robert - Rupert, rather -- Murdoch banking on a comeback? My next guest says so.

Plus, it's a bit pricey for a raffle ticket, but the winner takes home a million-dollar masterpiece. That's ahead.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. The World Lead now, in London, a trial has begun that promises to pour over some of the darkest days of Rupert Murdoch's sprawling media empire. Two former editors of Murdoch's now defunct British tabloid "News of the World" are now on trial for conspiring to illegal hack into the voicemail boxes of politicians, celebrities and perhaps most shockingly, crime victims.

Both Rebecca Brooks and Andy Coleson along with six other defendants deny the eavesdropping, but the allegations go even deeper than that. It's all part of the new book "The Last of the Old Media Empires, Murdoch's World." Author and NPR media correspondent, David Folkenflik joins me now. David, good to see you. What's the significance of this trial for American viewers and for Rupert Murdoch?

DAVID FOLKENFLIK, MEDIA CORRESPONDENT, NPR: Well, for American viewers, if you think about Rupert Murdoch, he's based right here in Manhattan not so many blocks from where I'm sitting now at CNN, Columbus Circle. And yet, he has as you say the sprawling media empire that goes across borders and across the globe.

In the U.K., you know, the two tabloid editors on trial, one went on to be the CEO of his British publishing arm, the other one to be the chief P.R. official for Prime Minister David Cameron. We are going to see in this trial whether or not convictions are gained.

The prosecution presents evidence that shows how the Murdoch media executives were working hand in glove with politicians of both major parties in a way that seemed to sort of forget or overlook the obligation, perhaps, this media empire had to the readers and the public that they served.

I think you will also see these incredible revelations about the degree to which at least according to prosecutors, bribery was a way of life within those newsrooms that police officers and public officials were at times given money for information in a way that was illegal.

TAPPER: You say Murdoch remains undaunted. He doesn't plan on going anywhere. He's obviously very successful, very powerful, even during these dark days. Tell me about the psyche of this man. I assume he'll be able to survive this. Can his media empire survive it?

FOLKENFLIK: Well, you've seen him already do something he promised repeatedly not to do in print and on the record. That is, he split his beloved newspapers and a few auxiliary units off from these incredibly profitable other elements that have been propping up newspapers in the decline of the last decades. You know, if you think of the Fox News, you think of B Sky B in the U.K., you think of the Fox television properties, those have really pumped money in for newspapers like the "New York Post," which never made Rupert Murdoch a dime and other newspapers in other parts of the world which started to see revenues decline. So he did that. At the same time he announced in June a great fanfare when these companies split, he said few people are given a chance to begin anew, to have a second round at this, and I have. There are two things striking about that. One of which is most people when running a publicly traded company, which News Corps and 21st Century Fox both are, they are owned by shareholders, but controlled really by him and his family, he thinks of it as his chance to begin anew.

The second thing is he split from his third wife, Wendy, in court papers he filed just within a few days of that. It really meant that he was defining himself not only corporately anew but personally as well, trying to figure out ways to rebuild the relationships with his children that have been so frayed during the scandal and this crisis and a way to move forward even in the 82nd year of his life.

TAPPER: David, obviously, people are innocent until proven guilty but generally speaking, how prevalent was phone hacking in the Fleet Street culture in British newspaper culture, and how credible is it, the idea that somebody who is an editor or even higher would not know about that hacking?

FOLKENFLIK: From the journalists I have talked to, it would not be credible that such widespread hacking could occur without the knowledge of top officials. You know, it's sort of mundane notions, but who controls the budgets, how would you apportion this money. That stuff goes up the levels in the tabloid culture pretty high.

It is possible and indeed, no one has presented arguments that Rupert Murdoch knew of the hacking. He was taped at one point talking to journalists from the "Sun" tabloid in a way that seemed to indicate knowledge of and dismissal of the seriousness of the idea of paying police officers for information, which is part of the trial we're about to see unfold.

There's some question about whether Mr. Murdoch might have some damage on that regard although he said he perhaps chose his words poorly. But as you suggest, there are claims that this was involved in other parts of the press. "Trinity Mirror," the parent of the daily mirror, for which Piers Morgan as a much younger man served as editor.

There are questions about whether that newspaper or organization had involvement, too. He says he had no knowledge, no one broke the law under his tenure and the police have not brought the degree of accusations for widespread violations that they have against the Murdoch properties.

TAPPER: Well, it's a fascinating read. The book is "Murdoch's World, The Last of Old Media Empires." David Folkenflik, thank you so much. Good luck with the book.

Coming up next, "Gravity" loses some of its pull after staying on top for weeks to a movie that probably won't challenge it at the Oscars unless they add a statue for shots to the groin. The Pop Culture Lead coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BRAK TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. In our Pop Culture Lead today, more signs of the pending apocalypse. Sure, there are a host of critically acclaimed films in your local theatre, "Gravity, Prisoners, 12 Years Of Slave," but they cannot compete with the sleeping old man getting a naughty word written across his forehead.

The Johnny Knoxville comedy "Bad Grandpa" took top spot at the Box Office this weekend, the spinoff from the Jackass Series stars the nearly unrecognizable Knoxville as an out of control old man who does wildly inappropriate things to shock strangers. The film earned more than $30 million in its opening weekend and knocked "Gravity" out of the top spot after nearly a month.

The road to a potential movie version of HBOs "Entourage" has been a lot like the plot of a typical episode. Lots of hand wringing about whether the project will ever come together followed by everything working out for fictional movie star and his bros. It's not all that interesting. Wendy Williams is told a deal could be closed today to start filming in January. Good news for people who like watching Jeremy Piven scream into a cell phone.

How would you like a genuine Picasso painting for the low, low price of $135? Sotheby's is raffling off this original called "Man with Opera Hat" to raise money for charity. It's worth about $1 million. Each ticket costs $135, but the odds of winning, well, one in 50,000. Still, that's a heck of a lot better than the odds you'll win your state lottery. A journalist in Paris came up with the idea as a way to get people more involved in charity fundraising. The drawing is set to take place December 18th.

That's it for THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. I now turn you over to Wolf Blitzer. He is next door in "THE SITUATION ROOM" -- Mr. Blitzer.