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Secret Service Hit with Another Scandal; Congress to Vote on Obamacare Amendment; Interview with Debbie Wasserman Schultz; New Challenges for Toronto Mayor

Aired November 14, 2013 - 07:00   ET


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Right now base officials aren't saying much, but they do tell CNN that it happened while the marines were clearing an area where various bomb strikes were during training exercises. And a military spokesman said it could have involved artillery suddenly detonating. The incident comes eight months after a mortar blast killed seven marines during a training exercise in Nevada.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: And new this morning, we want to show you amazing live pictures, a sinkhole swallowing up part of a home along Florida's gulf coast. Right now you're looking at an image of a boat that is literally teetering on the edge of that sinkhole. We're told first responders are on the scene. Local media reporting that homes in the immediate area have been evacuated. Utilities have also been shut down just in case. Thankfully no injuries have been reported.

You might recall last year, earlier this year, a sinkhole opened up under a home about 30 miles away in Florida last February, that sinkhole opening below a man's bedroom and essentially swallowing him up.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: New this morning, another scandal rocking the Secret Service. Two officials charged with keeping the president safe now accused of misconduct. The allegations involve everything from sexually suggestive e-mails to a misplaced bullet. This comes as the agency is still trying to rebound from that prostitution scandal last year. Let's bring in Joe Johns live from Washington with more. Good morning, Joe.

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Chris. It certainly is a troubling new issue for the U.S. Secret Service at a time when they're trying to get past all of the issues serving Cartagena and questionable conduct there.

This latest concern for the agency stems from an incident at Washington, D.C.'s exclusive Hay Adams hotel. And perhaps most troubling for the agency, it involves two of its supervisors. And these supervisors actually work in the presidential detail which protects the president. Sources confirm to CNN that two Secret Service agents are now under investigation. That investigation got started after an agent removed ammunition from his weapon and apparently left a bullet in the room of a guest he had been visiting there at the hotel. He apparently tried to get back into the room to retrieve the bullet, and at that time the hotel notified the White House.

Investigators followed up by taking a peek at the agent's BlackBerry. At that time they discovered what appear to be sexually suggestive messages that were sent to another government employee. So those two supervisors now have been disciplined to some extent. They both have -- one has been reassigned, another, of course, has been removed from his position. Chris?

CUOMO: OK, so we're going to have to wait to see what the response is here. But let's look at the future as a function of the past. Whatever came out of that scandal in Colombia, Joe? Any sweeping changes in how the Secret Service operates or picks their men?

JOHNS: There's certainly a lot more sensitivity you can say at the agency. The agency named its first female director Julia Pierson, and that came just about seven months ago. There was also a lengthy inspector general's report that was put into play here. Still, I think you can say they're very good at investigating allegations of sexual misconduct involving their agents, but not clear just how much systemic change has come as a result of what happened in Cartagena, Chris.

CUOMO: All right, Joe, appreciate the reporting. We'll keep watching this one.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, Joe.

Now it's the Democrats who seem to be getting fed up with the Obamacare fiasco right now. Tomorrow, the Republican-controlled House will be voting on a bill to allow millions of Americans who have been dropped by their insurance companies to keep their policies if they like them, a promise that came from the White House. This is leaving the White House scrambling to offer their own plan before Democrats choose to break ranks.

CUOMO: Joining us now is Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz. She's the chairwoman of the DNC. Great to have you with us this morning, congresswoman.

REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ, (D) FLORIDA: Great to be with you both.

CUOMO: Let's deal with what is on the table, right? Where is the backbone among your party members? Why with these numbers that you should have expected with the rollout not going well, you should have expected because you talked about it, you should have expected all these problems, why all this talk of revolt/

SCHULTZ: Let me correct the record. One is that the vote tomorrow on the Upton bill in the House of Representatives would go much further than simply allowing people to keep their plan if they like it. What it would do is actually allow new policies to be sold that would allow insurance companies to drop people or deny them coverage for preexisting conditions, allow insurance companies to charge women double just for being women, allow the annual caps to be removed, to be re-added again, where the Obamacare legislation prohibits it. So it would set up two completely different tracks and further undermine the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Democrats will not revolt tomorrow.

BOLDUAN: That might be the case that that is what the bill does, but still Democrats are threatening in the House of Representatives that they're going to have to vote for the Republican plan because it's going to put them in a bad political position if Democrats don't offer something better. So what's the alternative that you, Democrats or the White House is going to offer up?

SCHULTZ: Kate, tomorrow when that legislation comes on the floor, I'm confident that Democrats are going to stand as we have in unity to continue to support fully implementing the Affordable Care Act. We do all believe that we should make sure that folks who like their plan can keep it. I know I'm confident that president Obama and his administration is working diligently to come up with a fix for that problem.

But let's also recognize that the people who have faced losing their coverage that they like currently, most of them, the overwhelming majority will be able to go on that website, can now because of the improvements in the Web site, shop for coverage that's better in benefits and lower in cost.

I'll give you a perfect example. There's a woman in my district, Carolyn Newman, who is a breast cancer survivor. She got a letter from her insurance carrier, Blue Cross, that said that the plan she had now, which is $1,270 a month was now, with the new coverage that would be made able would only be $604 a month, saving her $7,000 a year. That is really significant when it comes to someone who wasn't able to get insurance coverage as a breast cancer survivor in the first place.

CUOMO: You're caught up in the optics though, right now. Reality is perception, and here you have the president, he says if you like your doctor, your plan, you can keep it.

SCHULTZ: The overwhelming majority of Americans are able to do it.

BOLDUAN: You're talking about 10 million people. That's not something to sneeze at.

SCHULTZ: We're not sneezes at it.

CUOMO: It seems like, congresswoman, you're losing the argument, the narrative at least on two levels. One, you said you can keep it, but you can't. There may be good reasons that you can't keep your plan that you're not making arguments for. You're not even defending your own bill. What's going on here?

SCHULTZ: I'm certainly here defending the implementation of the Affordable Care Act because let's look at what's happened since 2010. Since 2010 millions of young adults can stay on their parents' insurance until they're 26. Annual caps are now a thing of the past so that people don't face medical bankruptcy, and lifetime caps will be a thing of the past beginning on January 1st. Women can get access to life-saving preventative care, without a co- pay or deductible. And I'll tell you, Chris, as a breast cancer survivor, after I shared my own story publicly, I had so many women who were under insured come up to me and say, Debbie, I had breast cancer and I had to choose between the chemo and the radiation because I couldn't afford the co-pay or the deductible on both. That is the peace of mind that the Affordable Care Act has already brought and will bring to millions more.

And with every passing month, we will see millions more people sign up for coverage. Look, let's not discount that 500,000 people have been able to sign up for coverage, and we've had a million more go on the website, register and are now shopping for coverage. We will have more improvements over time.

BOLDUAN: Quick question about the politics of it as a chairwoman of the DNC.


BOLDUAN: You told Candy Crowley Democratic candidates in 2014 should be and will run on Obamacare, because that -- that will be a centerpiece of their campaigns and that they should run on Obamacare. Karl Rove wrote in "The Wall Street Journal" this morning, that "Republicans should pray every night that Democrats take her delusional advice and make Obamacare their centerpiece." I want you to respond to Karl Rove.

SCHULTZ: Let's look at the contrast. Just last week in Virginia you had a candidate, Ken Cuccinelli, for governor of Virginia, who essentially staked his campaign on Obamacare and said, you know, if you want Obamacare to be implemented vote for the other guy, Terry McAuliffe. If you don't, vote for me. Guess what, Terry McAuliffe will be inaugurated as governor of the state of Virginia in January.

And when we have an opportunity with every passing month for people to fully feel the benefits as they already have been since 2010, and they're contrasting between Republicans who were willing to shut the government down over denying people access to quality, affordable health care, who were willing to jeopardize our economy in the name of throwing obstacles in the path of Americans simply being able to stay healthy, and Democrats who want to focus on creating jobs, getting this economy turned around, investing in education, and insuring that we never again can take the peace of mind away from people who simply want to get access to quality, affordable health care, you're darn right our candidates are going to run on the advantage that Obamacare will be going into the 2014 election, because the choice will be very clear.

BOLDUAN: What I hear you saying is bring it on, Karl Rove.

SCHULTZ: Darn right. Darn right. I'm ready. We'll be ready.

CUOMO: He's the least of your problems. Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, thank you for joining us on NEW DAY.

SCHULTZ: Thank you, both.

BOLDUAN: Great to see you be you.

SCHULTZ: You, too.

CUOMO: That's the big issue for them is can they hold it together in the face of the political storm? She made the case well there, but she needs the rest of the party to do the same.

BOLDUAN: Very good point, Chris.

CUOMO: So let's get over to Indra Petersons watching the cold go by, not feeling good about it, sleeves this morning. How's it look?

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It's easy to run to the car in the morning when you actually have sleeves on. We're talking about temperatures cool in the morning for one more day. After that, things will rebound. Regardless, right now a lot of us below freezing, 20s and 30s are out there. Pittsburgh 27. Detroit right now 29 degrees. We want the change, and that includes the south. Look at their temperatures. We're talking about Jackson 26, Atlanta below freezing right now at 31. Even stretching back into Texas, we are currently seeing the 30s. So for that reason we do have freeze warnings from Texas all the way in through Georgia.

This should be the last night you deal with this. Behind this of course we'll be talking about the warming trend. All thanks to the high pressure, moving off to the east. So with that, you start to pull the wind off of the Gulf where it's warmer, and all that warm air makes its way up into the northeast. So that's why temperatures will feel so much better. I mean a big jump in a short period of time, Pittsburgh, 12 degrees warmer, Nashville, 13 degrees warmer today. You get the trend, five to 15 degrees warmer for the entire eastern half of the country.

What does it look like for you? D.C., 55 is your high. Boston is doing a lot better. Instead of feeling like the teens, today you're getting 50 and charlotte goes up to 58. The best news of all, as we go towards the weekend we'll continue this warming trend. So for once instead of talking about Debbie Downer for the weekend, we're talking about rain or snow, this time warming up and beautiful this weekend.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, Indra.


BOLDUAN: Coming up next on NEW DAY, drug use, abusing his staff, and many more new bizarre allegations surrounding the embattled Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, but are they enough to push the mayor out of office? Are they enough for him to go get help? It's unclear.

CUOMO: Under the topic of wild, how about the court battle between Alec Baldwin and his alleged stalker. She got tossed in jail, contempt of court. He compared her to a Hitchcock film. So what really went on between these two? We'll unpack it when we return.


CUOMO: The conversation has started here, welcome back to NEW DAY, Toronto city council had what amounted to an intervention, addressing the litany of allegations surrounding their mayor's drug abuse. But the mayor was resistant or in denial. Take a listen to some of what happened.


DENZIL MINNAN-WONG, TORONTO CITY COUNCILOR: Mr. Mayor, have you purchased illegal drugs in the last two years?

ROB FORD, MAYOR OF TORONTO: Yes, I have. I can assure you, I am not an alcoholic. I am not a drug addict. Have I drank? Have I done drugs? Yes, I have.

The reason I drank or did drugs was not because of stress. It was out of sheer stupidity. That's all it was.

I think I've said everything I really could say today. There's not much to add. Apologizing and saying sorry, you can only say that so many times. There's nothing else to say, guys. I really f'd up. And that's it.


CUOMO: Or is that it? Of course someone can abuse substances and not be an addict, but new documents this morning detailed more alcohol, drug abuse and erratic behavior. Let's discuss it. Let's bring in CNN political commentator Anna Navarro and Jane Velez-Mitchell, host of HLN's "Issues with Jane Velez-Mitchell." It's good to have you both here. We keep saying it looked like an intervention. This feels like an intervention. That's because it is -

BOLDUAN: The most public intervention ever.


What do you think needs to happen here? We're looking at this politically but really this is more personal. Start with you , Ana, what's your take.

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Forget about the city council intervention. At this point, this guy needs a divine intervention. He needs to get sanity into him and realize this is a huge problem, it's not going to go away, it's growing, not getting smaller and the best thing he can do is leave the public scene, go into rehab. Deal with his issues. He's going to have legal issues, addiction issues, all sorts of issues. Go deal with them and leave the people of Toronto to elect a mayor that can actually do the job that requires doing.

BOLDUAN: And, Jane, you talked very publicly about recovering from alcoholism. What do you see in this very public intervention, and kind of what it looks like, a man falling apart before our eyes? JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL, HLN HOST: This is a case study. It's actually very educational. It shows the world when an addict alcoholic is in denial about their disease, there's absolutely nothing you can do. Nobody else can force you to hit bottom but yourself. You can take the horse to water but you can't make them drink.

That's an internal calculation that happens. Some people have to lose everything. They have to lose the house, the car. They have to literally end up in the gutter and sometimes then they still don't say that they're an alcoholic.

This is really sad because his entire family is enabling him. They're classic co-dependents, the mom, the sister, the brother, they're saying nothing to see here. They're minimizing, justifying, rationalizing. That's the enabling that creates the safety net that allows the alcoholic addict to continue their behavior knowing the family is going to catch them. This is a very dysfunctional, sick family. They all need to go into therapy.

PEREIRA: Furthering it is that there's no -- it doesn't look as though the police are going to get involved. There's no charges in the offing. He's polling well. He doesn't think he has a problem. He's digging in his heels. The city council sounds like they're helpless. There isn't much to be done. It's like they're at a standoff.

NAVARRO: Well, but there's more police reports coming out. I mean there's more issues that came out overnight. I think he may have a set of entirely new issues to deal with.

PEREIRA: But again, the police have to step in. That's their only recourse at this point.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, here's what I think should happen -


NAVARRO: That may be the case; there seems to be no impeachment process for them. I mean you're Canadian -


VELEZ-MITCHELL: The Toronto police have the video of him smoking crack. They should release it ASAP. That will add pressure. Apparently they have other videos of him behaving badly. They should release that. They should find the drug dealers. He admits that he bought drugs. Illegal drugs within the last two years. Find those drug dealers. Make a case against him. And throw the cuffs on him. And start the prosecution.

Also, let's check his handlers. There's been allegations that they've been involved in shady dealings. Have them fired or prosecute them.

CUOMO: The politics is kind of a blessing and a curse here. Because in answer to your question, the research I've done, city hall, forget about the counselors, city hall can take away powers from him and basically make him impotent in a way that will make him unable to function. That's the best they can do, and kind of push the suggestion. The polling, yes, people would vote for him again, but it is condition, 60 percent say, on his getting help.

So, the message is there, but the cut against it is, I wonder if doing it publicly is making him dig in and making him use his support system, foe as though it may be, his family, and making it less likely he'll do something if it had been handled a different way.

NAVARRO: You know, Chris, voters will give you a second chance, but they have to see that you're in the mode of getting help.

CUOMO: Right, and I like that. I like that the people up there recognize him as being an addict doesn't make you a bad person.

NAVARRO: This is one of the most extreme cases I've seen in politics of things going badly. This is like -- like one of those films. Instead of girls gone wild, this is mayors gone wild, between the guy in San Diego, mayor wannabe here in New York, Weiner, and this guy, even though this guy makes those look like prince charming. Anyway, it's, you know - can there be a second chance? Yes. This would be an extreme case. We've seen it with Marion Berry in Washington, D.C.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I think this illustrates the double standard that our culture, United States and Canada, has about drug addiction. If you're on the street doing drugs and you fit that stereotype, I think you know what we're talking about, suddenly you're a gang banger, lock 'em up, throw away the key.

PEREIRA: Very good point.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: If you're a middle-class guy, suit and a tie, we're going to give you a second chance. We have people locked up doing hard time in the United States, and I assume Canada as well, for nonviolent drug offenses, we have to look at our cultural hypocrisy on this issue. Let's be fair to everybody, not just mayors and prominent people and people who have fancy jobs.

NAVARRO: Though, if you are on the street doing drugs, you're probably not on TV and we wouldn't be discussing you.

BOLDUAN: I want to get your take, to Chris's point, what do you make of this public intervention? Do you think that it maybe it depends on the person and their addiction? Do you think this is helping him or hurting him? Where he's kind of getting into fighting mode more.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Alcoholics and addicts are defiant. That's a hallmark of addiction. We are also terminally unique. The rules don't apply to us. We're special. We're different. We feel like our case is unique. And he even says that. He says he has a zero tolerance for any drug users except of course for his own drug use. He says he's 100 percent in favor of the cops but of course I'm not going to cooperate with the police investigation into me. That's just classic alcoholic thinking.

PEREIRA: And then you add power and you know, his office to it, it's kind of a recipe for disaster. BOLDUAN: It's a spectacle and it's also very sad.

CUOMO: I know. That's my concern about it is that I like that it's getting attention but what are we going to take away from it? Addiction is so serious. And you know when we saw it a little bit? Rob Ford is trying to distract, there's no question about it, but when he said you should all take tests, everybody is like whoa, whoa, whoa, these are problems everybody has in their lives or someone you know. That's what I want to make sure doesn't get lost in all the political spectacle of it is that these are real issues. These are real struggles that people have.

NAVARRO: You're right in calling it a spectacle yesterday because there were several instances where people were bursting out in laughter, which I thought was rather sad because the entire thing was just sad and pathetic.


BOLDUAN: Especially when you know that no matter what the vote was, it had no teeth. It was truly a public shaming, public intervention and there really was nothing more to that.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, I think other people who have problems might look at this situation and say I can relate to this embarrassing situation. I'm going to get help. So, maybe it helped somebody out there.

CUOMO: That would be great.

What do you think? We all know addiction is a big issue that often gets misconstrued and misunderstood. Let's keep the conversation going. Tweet us with the hashtag #newday. Jane, Ana, thanks.

BOLDUAN: Coming up next on NEW DAY, bizarre courtroom interruptions mane by the woman accused of stalking actor Alec Balwdin. it was bizarre yesterday, bizarre earlier, it's getting even more bizarre now. We'll tell you how she handed up in handcuffs.

CUOMO: You all know "Treme" star, Rob Brown. And you also should know he's not a shoplifter. Question is, why was he treated like one? He's here to tell his side of his shopping while black lawsuit against Macy's and the NYPD.


PEREIRA: Welcome back to NEW DAY. Want to the show you some of the stories making headlines right now. Obamacare driving a wedge between the president and his own party. Many are angry over the website's problems, and the broken promise about current insurance plans. White House officials at the capital today meeting with Senate Democrats after a heated meeting with House Democrats. Tomorrow the House will vote on a Republican proposal to let people keep their health care plans.

Updating you now on breaking news along Florida's Gulf coast. Amazing live pictures of a sinkhole that swallowed up part of a home. There are concerns about a boat on the edge that it might fall in. First responders are on the scene. No injuries yet have been reported. A sink hole opened up under a home about 30 miles away in Seffner, Florida, last February, killing a man.

In the Philippines this morning, the USS George Washington aircraft carrier and a fleet of other American ships have arrived, carrying 5,000 crew and 80 aircraft, including helicopters to help deliver desperately need food, water and supplies, and medical personnel to hard to reach areas decimated by Typhoon Haiyan.

Florida State star quarterback Jameis Winston under investigation for sexual battery. An attorney for the Heisman Trophy frontrunner says Winston is named in a sexual assault complaint filed last year with the Tallahassee police department. He's not been questioned or charged. Florida State is ranked second in the nation. School officials say there's no change in Winston's status for Saturday's game against Syracuse.

And check this out. A camera-shy elk who really didn't want his picture taken. A photographer in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park sitting quietly by the side of the road when the curious creature walked up and began head butting him. Every time the photographer tried to snap a picture, he got another head butt. He even tried wagging his finger, because that always sends away wildlife. And curing at the creature. Nothing worked until a park ranger came by and the elk was scared away.

BOLDUAN: Looks like a dangerous situation.

PEREIRA: I might leave.

CUOMO: I don't get it.


CUOMO: Was the guy still trying to take pictures?