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Administration Officials Grilled on Capitol Hill; "BLACKFISH" Spurs Debate Over Killer Whales; Ada MacNeill and Gypsy Willis Testify in MacNeill Murder Trial; Jonas Brothers Breaking Up

Aired October 29, 2013 - 15:30   ET


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: So, let's talk about this, sort of the bigger picture here, the policies, the criticisms, how the administration is handling all these challenges right now.

Bob Cusack joins me from Washington. He's the managing editor of "The Hill."

And, Bob, great to see you back here.

BOB CUSACK, "THE HILL": Hey, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Let's begin with -- listen, working at the White House, it's a tough job.

CUSACK: That's right.

BALDWIN: But this -- we have heard the criticism that this administration, you know, may be good at creating policies, never really good at executing policies.

We have heard that before. Do you think what we're watching today sort of gives legitimacy to that criticism?

CUSACK: Well, Brooke, I mean, when

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: ... may be good at creating policies, never really good at executing policies. We've heard that before.

Do you think what we're watching today sort of gives legitimacy to that criticism?

BOB CUSACK, MANAGING EDITOR, THE HILL: Well, Brooke, I mean, when the president's going against somebody like a boogie man on the right, whether it's Mitt Romney or House Republicans during the shutdown, he's done very well.

But in these other situations, I mean, this is a gift to the Republicans who are basically saying, what shutdown? They're focusing on ObamaCare, the NSA controversy. It's a tough position for President Obama and his team, but I think there are parallels in both the NSA issue as well as the ObamaCare Web site. They have to release more information.

It continues to be a story if they don't release the enrollment numbers. I mean, clearly, if those numbers were good, they would be out. They keep saying mid-November.

BALDWIN: Not until November, right? That's what we just heard from her this morning.

We also heard, you know, that Obama did not know about spying on allies. We heard Obama did not know the healthcare Web site was such a mess.

Is "I don't know" really an acceptable defense? Because at some point, you know, just speaking optically, don't you start to be perceived as out of touch?

CUSACK: Yes, and previously Obama hasn't taken this stance. He said on a number of occasions the buck stops with me, whether it's Benghazi or other issues that he had in the first term.

So I don't think that's a good long-term strategy. Any time you're having that discussion of I didn't know about it or if I knew about it, either way, it's bad news for the White House.

But I think they have to be less reactive and go on offense and lead the charge on changing the NSA, curbing their powers, doing whatever they think is best.

Now you have allies, as you mentioned before, Dianne Feinstein working on legislation. You have friends on Capitol Hill. Once again, this divides the Democratic Party.

We saw the Republicans divided during the fiscal showdown. Democrats are now grappling with both the healthcare issue and the NSA issue.

BALDWIN: My, what a difference two weeks makes.

And speaking of Capitol Hill, I just want to pause and dip back into this congressional hearing under way.

We're watching some very important people here being questioned.

Here's Congresswoman Michele Bachmann. Let's listen.

REPRESENTATIVE MICHELE BACHMANN (R), MINNESOTA: ... or Spain or Brazil or any of our other wonderful allies.

It's reasonable to believe that they either historically have or currently are listening to the United States or our leaders?

GENERAL KEITH ALEXANDER, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL SECURITY AGENCY: That's correct. BACHMANN: Is it common for those who are not United States allies, whether it would be Russia or China or Iran -- would it be reasonable to conclude they listen to the United States or our leaders?

ALEXANDER: It's reasonable to assume that, yes.

BACHMANN: And has that information been made available to the White House?


BACHMANN: Has it been made available to the president of the United States? And does the White House get national security briefings from the NSA?

JAMES CLAPPER, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: Well, the NSA is one of the contributors to the briefings that are given in the White House.

BACHMANN: And how often are those briefings given to the White House?

CLAPPER: Virtually daily.

BACHMANN: Virtually daily.

How often -- if it's given daily, how often does the president of the United States attend those briefings?

If you could speak into the microphone.

CLAPPER: He is briefed either here or if he's on the road.

BACHMANN: Does the president -- how often does the president attend those briefings? Does he receive them personally?

CLAPPER: Quite frequently.

BACHMANN: Quite -- in his absence, which members receive those briefings?

CLAPPER: Well, the rest of the national security apparatus, the vice president, and the cabinet heads all receive variations, but essentially the same briefing.

BACHMANN: And so would the National Security Council staff or the White House who deals with the country in question be made aware if there was any listening going on?

Would the National Security Council staffer at the White House who deals with the country in question be aware if there's any listening going on?

CLAPPER: As a general response, yes. It depends on the responsibility in the NSS.

BACHMANN: And if the United States was doing any listening of key foreign leaders -- we learned this week that apparently was news to the White House.

Would that information have been made available to the White House and their briefing books?

CLAPPER: As I explained earlier on the way the national intelligence priority framework works and the way the broad national tasking is implemented or executed throughout each of the collection disciplines, it's unlikely, unrealistic, to think that every last detail about how a particular piece of information is gleaned through all of the collection apparatus we have, be it HUMINT, IMINT or SIGINT, it would not necessarily know that level of detail.

BACHMANN: So let me ask you this. Was the leaker in question, Ed Snowden, was he a traitor?

CLAPPER: You're asking me?


CLAPPER: Absolutely.

BACHMANN: Would that be the opinion also of General Alexander? Is that your opinion?

ALEXANDER: Absolutely.

BACHMANN: Mr. Inglis?


BACHMANN: And Mr. Cole?

JAMES COLE, DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL, DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE: He's been charged not with treason, but certainly leaking and compromising the integrity of our intelligence system.

BACHMANN: In your opinion, Mr. Cole, would he be considered a traitor to the United States?

COLE: This is a matter that's --

BACHMANN: Just your personal opinion.

COLE: Unfortunately as a Justice Department official where there's a case involved, it's difficult for me to do that under the rules of professional responsibility.

BACHMANN: Does the White House consider Mr. Snowden a traitor?

CLAPPER: I think best to ask -- you say the White House collectively. I think most people feel that he's done a great disservice to the country.

BACHMANN: I yield back.

ALEXANDER: Could I just make sure -- I want to make sure I answered all the Snowden thing. I answered them quick.

If I could just ask the deputy attorney general just to make sure I hit those all right, because you have some constitutional questions, and I'm not a lawyer.

I just want to make sure I got that correct.

COLE: I think the only one I might add to is certain foreigners who are in the United States do have certain constitutional rights.

That would be the only amendment I'd make to what General Alexander said.

BACHMANN: Then perhaps he could elaborate back --

BALDWIN: A little back and forth. They're asking questions of James Clapper and General Keith Alexander, head of the NSA, and also the head of national intelligence. So a couple questions back and forth.

Bob, let me bring you back in, part of the questioning clearly about the crux of this is what did the president know, how much did the president know. You could hear Congresswoman Bachmann asking about those briefings.

Was the president in attendance? Who was there if he wasn't? What did you make of that back and forth?

CUSACK: I think they were pretty good questions by congresswoman Bachmann. There were a lot of questions that remain here.

I think the administration, and you saw it with James Clapper today, is starting to say, listen, everyone spies here. The problem is you can't get caught.

Somewhere in Russia, Edward Snowden is smiling right now, coming up in congressional testimony like we've heard.

So this has really thrown off the -- thrown the White House off balance. At first, the president was saying the NSA is not spying on Americans.

Now they have to deal with spying on foreign leaders. That's been the big problem.

BALDWIN: OK. Bob Cusack, thank you very much.

Coming up next, the CNN film, "BLACKFISH," has sparked a nationwide debate over what should be done with killer whales in captivity. There's been a huge push to set the whales free.

The big question is, once the whales are released back into the ocean, what happens next? We investigate that after the break.


BALDWIN: CNN's film, "BLACKFISH," has sparked a national debate on what should be done with killer whales in captivity.

Many opponents of aquariums and marine parks would like to see the killer whales set free, but how can that be done?

The other question, once they're set free, what next?

CNN's Martin Savidge has been looking into just that question. Martin?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Brooke, there's no question that the movie "BLACKFISH" has stirred up a lot of controversy and has some people rethinking this whole idea of captivity for killer whales.

But then what do you do? In other words, can you just set them free? As we found out, it is not that simple.


SAVIDGE: There are 45 to 50 captive killer whales, or orcas, around the world.

Colin Baird was involved with the only effort ever attempting to release a performing killer whale back into the wild, Keico, star of the movie, "Free Willy."

He survives just over a year after swimming off on his own. But Baird says Keiko really wasn't the best candidate.

What is the measure by which you determine who's a good candidate and who's not?

COLIN BAIRD, FORMER KILLER WHALE TRAINER: Length of capture, age of capture.

SAVIDGE: Most of the captured killer whales died off. Most all the captives orcas we see today were born in a pool. They've never had to hunt for their own food and never even seen an ocean.

Marine zoologist Anna Hall says these hybrid killer whales would never fit in with the wild ones and could be a danger by transmitting human illnesses to wild populations.

ANNA HALL, MARINE ZOOLOGIST: You've got animals that have come in contact with humans. Have they got disease?

SAVIDGE: So is there an alternative to keeping them in tanks?

To find out, I'm in a boat in Victoria, British Columbia, looking for oceanfront real estate for a retirement home for killer whales.

I brought you here because I wanted to give you an example, and this is it. A bay with a net that would be strung across the entrance so that the killer whales could be on one side, protected and cared for.

And then all around them, they'd be in a living ocean. The idea is called a "sea pen." BAIRD: Natural seawater bringing in fish and, you know, the bird and everything else with it. And just a natural pristine environment for a retired, captive orca.

SAVIDGE: But where does the money come from, the land, the food, and the constant human care?

From the public who would pay to visit, say supporters.

Paul Boyle of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums thinks they'd be disappointed.

PAUL BOYLE, ASSOCIATION OF ZOOS AND AQUARIUMS: People can't see them. They won't see them. They won't know about them.

They will lose the compelling reason for protecting the oceans and the environment around us.

So I guess I'd just say, what's the point of that?

SAVIDGE: The point, says Anna Hall, is that it would be far better than the cement pond where most captive killer whales live today.

HALL: We can put people on the moon. We can do a sea pen. We just need to think about it a little bit.


SAVIDGE: As popular as that idea is for a sea animals, we looked everywhere in the world to try to find one functioning today. There is not a single one. Right now it is just an idea.


BALDWIN: Martin Savidge, thank you.

It could be the most important moment in the murder trial of this Utah doctor. Today, the jury saw statements made by his now 12-year-old daughter. She was just 6 when she found her mother's body in a bathtub.

Coming up next, what this little girl said and how it'll impact the trial.


BALDWIN: Jurors heard from someone who is expected to be one of the more powerful witnesses in the trial of this accused wife killer.

His youngest daughter, Ada, was all of 6-years-young when she found the body of Michelle MacNeill in the bathtub back in 2007.

Prosecutors say Martin MacNeill killed his wife so he could be with another woman.

The jury, though, is not hearing from Ada on the stand, rather on this video, watching this interview she gave in 2008 to a county investigator.

And only the audio is being released publicly. Here it is.




MACNEILL: Just a different color.


MACNEILL: She was just laying there.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She was laying down in the bathtub? Did she still have her blue jacket on? And some kind of pants?

What was your dad doing in the bathroom?

MACNEILL: He was screaming, quick help. Go next door and get somebody.


BALDWIN: HLN's Jane Velez-Mitchell joins me now.

And to hear this little girl's voice, it's heartbreaking, talking about her mom in this bathtub, but at the time when she gave the interview, correct me, she was 7.

So how much will this really impact this case?

JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL, HLN HOST: First of all, I agree with you, absolutely heart wrenching to hear this little girl in her baby voice say repeatedly, wry want to talk about it. I don't want to talk about it.

She didn't want to talk about this. This was so traumatizing for her to remember. Ultimately, as she is questioned gently, she does remember seeing mommy lying down in the tub face-up, looking up fully clothed.

Now that is completely different than what Dr. MacNeill said. He claimed that he found his wife face down in the tub, as if she had tripped and fallen over with her head in the tub and legs out of the tub, which would lean more towards accidental death.

The way the daughter describes it, it would lean more towards possibly murder. So it's a very crucial difference, but ultimately, you have got a 7-year-old testifying on audiotape, videotape, we only heard the audiotape, about what she remembers a year earlier. It's not that credible, very, very emotional, but not that credible.

And that's why ultimately the defense said, we're not even going to try to cross-examine the now 12-year-old girl. BALDWIN: OK, so this is Ada, who is now 12.

Let's talk about the mistress, or I guess I should say ex-mistress, Gypsy Willis.

So let me just play some of this. This is part of her testimony. This is when she talks about Martin trying to get a fake i.d. for her. Here she was.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And what name was used for you?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And did you hold yourself out as married to someone?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Married to whom?

WILLIS: Martin MacNeill.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And did you have a marriage date on this?

WILLIS: Marriage date is listed as April 14.


WILLIS: 2007.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is the significance of April 14th of 2007?

WILLIS: That is the day of the funeral.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Of whose funeral?

WILLIS: Michelle's.


BALDWIN: Jane, how'd she do?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: She did great. I believe that she may still very well be in love with the defendant and hoping that he gets acquitted so they can hook up again after this trial.

Because she was, it appears, doing everything she could to help the defendant, to the point where the prosecution said, your honor, this is a hostile witness for the prosecution.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: And, so, it's really fascinating. I think the very thing that made her sort of irresistible to Dr. MacNeill was the same thing that kind of flummoxed the prosecutor.

Because she says kind of incriminating things, but she says it in a manner that's like, nothing to see here. Oh, yeah, it was the day of the funeral. No big deal. We said we were married on that day. You know, next question?

And they -- I think we needed a little Juan Martinez. Remember that prosecution in the Jodi Arias case who really was attacking the witness. That's what I think the prosecution needed to do here.

They kind of let her slide. There were very incriminating things that she said, but they didn't bring it home. And I think that there could have been a little bit more theatrics on the part of the prosecution.

Now, again, all of this very creepy. They -- she sent Dr. MacNeill a sexy photo of her buttocks the day after Michelle died. They were shopping and bidding for wedding rings on eBay.

He proposes to her within a couple of months of Michelle's death, gives her a four-and-a-half-carat ring worth about $7,000, she said, very, very creepy.

But what does it prove? They were having an affair. That -- where's the leap toward murder? That's where the prosecution has a problem.

BALDWIN: I got it.

Jane Velez-Mitchell, thank you very much. Watch Jane each and every night. 7:00 p.m. Eastern on our sister station, HLN.

Coming up next, the day's best videos, including a guy who dodged a bullet because of his cell phone.


BALDWIN: Time for the hottest videos of the day, "Hit Play."


BALDWIN (voice-over): Up first, saved by the cell, a Florida gas station clerk is lucky to be live today after his cell phone stopped a bullet from a would-be robber.

And when the clerk couldn't open the safe, the robber fired one shot as he was leaving.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Clerk said, I feel like my chest hurts, and so they started looking at the clerk. And that's when they realized that the guy had actually shot at him, hit him, struck his cell phone and cell phone stopped the bullet.

BALDWIN (voice-over): The clerk was checked out at the hospital and released. The suspect, still on the run.

Feeling a little stressed? Maybe a massage from a python will help you loosen up a bit. A spa in Indonesia is offering the treatment. They say the movement of the snakes and the fear you feel help out your metabolism. Go figure.

It was the one that got away, a couple of fishermen showing off their catch of the day when out of nowhere this sea lion sneaks up and yanks the mahi-mahi out of his hands. You snooze, you lose.

And, finally, "Star Wars" fans, take note. It happened long ago in a galaxy far, far away, 36 years to be precise.

But now fans are finally getting a look online at a never-before-seen "Star Wars" blooper reel.


MARK HAMILL, ACTOR: Now let's get some distance before that thing goes supernova? How do you pronounce supernova? What's the inflection? Supernova or supernova?

BALDWIN (voice-over): That's today's "Hit Play."


BALDWIN: And, now, I leave you here with some news. I'm sorry to be the bearer of this, but take a moment. The Jonas brothers, breaking up.

They canceled their tour three weeks ago, reportedly over creative differences. "People" magazine quoted their spokesman as saying there was a, quote, "deep rift" within the band over its musical direction.

And now the pop band of brothers is splitting up for good and going their separate ways.

Hey, if you missed an interview you want to check out, go the Brooke Blog at

That's it for me. I'm Brooke Baldwin. See you tomorrow.

To Washington, we go. "THE LEAD" with Jake Tapper starts right now.