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House Holds Vote to "Fix" ObamaCare; Toronto Council Strips Mayor's Powers; Philippines Death Toll Rises; Florida Sinkhole Swallows Homes; Obama's Katrina Moment?

Aired November 15, 2013 - 11:00   ET


ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN HOST: After the President's fumble, House Republicans pick up the ball hoping to pass an Obamacare fix of their own. Keeping with the sports analogies, we're keeping score on who is keeping plans and promises.

Also this hour, the Toronto mayor cannot blame a drunken stupor this time around. Yes, he's apologizing but so what? That city council continues to go after this mayor and now his power structure is starting to crumble.

And how many more homes could this thing possibly swallow. Look how fast and how big this sink hole. By the second, families are fleeing for their lives now and we are live on the scene.

Hello, everyone. I'm Ashleigh Banfield. It's Friday, November 15th. Welcome to LEGAL VIEW. Good to have you here with us today, lots to talk about.

The fumble, the fix, the fallout, in about 90 minutes, the House of Representatives is going to vote on a Republican bill called a fix, at least a fix to one aspect to the president's signature healthcare law.

The critics, however, say, this is no fix; this is a gutting, a wholesale gutting, of a major part of ObamaCare.

And all of it comes one day after the president took the blame for the botched rollout, apologizing profusely, and offering a bit of an adjustment.

If you like your health care plan, you may be able to keep it, however, only for about a year.

Our chief congressional correspondent Dana Bash joins us live from Capitol Hill. Nothing goes on up there that isn't pretty darned political.

The president has promised to veto whatever comes his way if it even gets any farther than that, so what exactly is in this bill that could be so damaging to ObamaCare?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Democrats argue that what is in it is, as you said, it would gut the bill, or the law, I should say, and the reason is because, unlike what the president proposed, which is just a one-year ability for people who already have cancelation policies in their hands, this would allow everybody to keep their plans, not just people who have cancelled plans.

Those cancelled plans are mostly cancelled because they don't -- they're not up to par. They don't have the benefits now required under the law. So that would disrupt the whole risk pool and disrupt the whole law.

But what is going on right now, even given that, and the drama in the hallways here, Ashleigh, is how many Democrats are going to defect. How many Democrats are still going to vote for this Republican bill in about an hour and a half despite those warnings from Democrats?

Democrats are hoping and pretty confident that what the president did yesterday will mitigate those defections. In fact, that's clearly pretty much the only reason why he made that announcement when he did yesterday.

And they're hoping that an alternative that they're going to offer on the floor before the Republican bill will be voted on will give the Democrats some cover. They'll be able to vote for that and against the Republican bill.

So why does this matter? As you said, everything is political here. If you see, 40 or maybe 50 Democrats voting with Republicans, that is a very embarrassing vote for the White House.

BANFIELD: All right, Dana Bash, keep an eye on things for us, if you will, our chief congressional correspondent, very hardworking. Yet again, Dana Bash, thank you for that.

Got some breaking news for you out of our neighbor to the north. Toronto's city council has just voted to strip the embattled mayor of that city, Rob Ford, of some of his power, important powers, in fact, his ability to appoint and dismiss senior staff members.

And more action by the council is expected later today, as well.

In the mist of it all, Ford has fired off another outrageous diatribe, and in a very rare appearance, standing by his side and looking terribly uncomfortable, that's his wife in the blue blouse there.

She almost never, ever comes out in public since this awfulness all began.

We're going to get to the latest outburst in just a moment, but first, a couple of big developments. Canada's Sun News Network has really outdone itself. It's going to begin a new show on Monday, hosted by none other than the mayor and his brother, Doug Ford.

It's called Ford Nation, a reality show of sort. This is the same brother, by the way, who's a member of city council, and by the way, has changed his tune somewhat, now urging his brother to take a leave of absence.

And then one wrung up, as you go to what's like the governor, this is the premier of the province of Ontario. This is rare, too, what she did. Kathleen Wynne says that she's willing to step in if she is needed to assist the city of Toronto's council in resolving this Ford crisis. That's if the council wants it. Also saying, this is not going to define us.

More now on the mayor's latest bombshell, and I have to warn you, and I really am warning you, that these are some of the most graphic remarks you'll ever have to deal with from a politician or anyone else.


MAYOR ROB FORD, TORONTO: I have to take legal action against the waiter that said I was doing lines at the beer market. That is outright lies. That is not true.

You know what? When it hurts my wife when they're calling a friend of mine a prostitute. Alana is not a prostitute. She's a friend and it makes me sick how people are saying this.

So, unfortunately, I have no other choice. I'm the last one to take legal action. I can't put up with it anymore.

So I've named the names. Litigation will be starting shortly. I've had enough.

That's why I warned you guys yesterday to be careful what you wrote.

Olivia Gondek says that I wanted to eat her (inaudible). I've never said that in my life to her. I would never do that. I'm happily married.

I want to apologize for my graphic remarks this morning. Yesterday I mentioned it was the second worst day of my life, except for the death of my father.

For the past six months I have been under tremendous, tremendous stress. The stress is largely of my own making.

I have apologized, and I have tried to move forward. This has proven to be almost impossible.

The revelations yesterday of cocaine, escorts and prostitution has pushed me over the line, and I used unforgivable language.

These allegations are 100 percent lies. When you attack my integrity as a father and as a husband, I see red. Today, I acted on complete impulse in my remarks.

I fully realize in the past I have drank alcohol in excess. I wish you to know, I'm receiving support from a team of health care professionals. I am taking accountability and receiving advice from people with expertise.

I do not wish to comment on the particulars of this support. I am accepting responsibility for the challenges I face. I would ask you, please, please, respect my family's privacy.


BANFIELD: That's kind of hard to do when he's been doing the things he's been doing.

Our Nic Robertson got this assignment. He joins me live now from Toronto's city hall.

So, Nic, before you even begin, I just need to make amends to our viewers. That language was in fact so bad I can't even explain it nor can I put it up on the screen with little asterisks.

That's how vial and vulgar that language was that he just casually tossed out to a live group of reporters and cameras.

After all of that, city council got back to business this morning, and there were two big pieces of their agenda that swept all the air out of the room. Can you explain?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, these pieces of agenda were to start stripping powers from the mayor.

When you listen to Mayor Rob Ford today in that council chamber, not the kind of man we heard with all those profanities yesterday, much more meek, much milder, but still not sitting down.

They want to strip him of powers to appoint senior staff. They did that in a vote of 40-to-two. That is an increased number, if you will, going against the mayor from the vote to try to get him out of office, earlier in the week.

But the point here is, is that he is not taking this sitting down. He is questioning this. His brother even stood up and discussed how -- who is also a councilor, by the way, Doug Ford -- discussed how much this is going to cost. That will resonate with their voters.

Right now, they're discussing stripping another power from the mayor. That will be the power to exercising authority during an emergency situation, the mayor questioning how many emergency have their been.

Well, there were over half a dozen that were listed, if not full emergencies.

It's just playing out in slow motion, Ashleigh. We won't get the profanities inside the council chamber, though.

BANFIELD: I just don't know what else to say, Nic, but every day it just becomes a bigger, more outrageous story.

Nic Robertson, following the details for us, keep us posted, sir. Thank you for that.

This outrageous mayor, Mayor Ford, it's really hard to wrap your head around what's going on up there. The allegations against him are astounding.

You have to read 400 pages of an affidavit to know, but here are just some of the "lowlights," so to speak -- assault, sexual harassment, racial slurs, misusing city staff.

That's not all -- use of marijuana, Oxycontin, cocaine, some of it in the mayor's office, drinking and driving, the use of prostitutes, escorts or whatever you want to call them.

And we've got to make absolutely clear to you these are allegations, allegations from staffers, a lot of staffers. He says he's going to sue them. They are unproven assertions based on witness interviews, police surveillance.

Mayor ford has not been charged with anything. He has not been convicted of anything. If he were, out he goes. There's no argument to that.

But all of this has not only shocked Toronto, but it has rocked the country, as well, to its very foundation. And no one brings more experience to this saga and this country than someone I grew up with, in fact, Andrew Coin.

He's a political columnist with Canada's "National Post." He's written for "Maclean's" magazine and the "Globe and Mail" newspaper. He join us live from Toronto.

Usually we have much more fun things to discuss, Andrew, but you and I are going to discuss something embarrassing and very serious right now, and that is the mayor of the city where you live.

Andrew, where is this going ultimately?

ANDREW COYNE, COLUMNIST, POSTMEDIA: Nowhere fast. I mean, the council, as you heard, is slowly stripping away the mayor's powers.

You would think that would end it. You would think he would give up and realize the battle's lost. He's a mayor in name only.

But this guy never gives up and never realizes when he's beat, so in theory, this could go on for weeks or months unless we get some sort of intervention from the province or otherwise.

BANFIELD: So here's where -- I mean, there are so many troubling parts of this. But, Andrew, as I was listening to one of his fellow councilors who has brought motions against him outlying his concerns, he went there/

He went to the investigation and the murder that's how out there and the possibility there could be something far more sinister than just the silliness, ugliness and vulgarness that we've been seeing play out in front of live cameras.

There could be something really awful down the line, as the police continue their investigation.

What is the buzz among reporters as to where ultimately this could go on the criminal level?

COYNE: Well, first of all, you have to know that the mayor, as part of his apparently limitless habits, hung out with a lot of really bad customers, you know, drug gangs, also people who he grew up with who were involved with drugs.

And there was, as you've probably reported many times, the video showing him smoking crack cocaine was circulating somewhere out in the underworld.

One fellow who was possibly in possession of it, certainly was murdered, is the same guy who shows up in a photograph of the mayor with two other alleged gang members.

You know, so many people around this mayor are either dead or in jail or wounded in some way or another, and certainly, yes, as his -- as these cases start to come to trial, for example, his very close confident and driver, Sandro Lisi, is charged with extortion in attempts with trying to get back that video.

As some of this comes to trial and people start to testify, I think we're going to learn possibly some very, very dark secrets around this.

BANFIELD: I hope you and I can return to the other things we've always talked about while growing up, much more fun than this. And it's just so shameful that our country is being seen this way.

Andrew, good to see you. Thank you for this today.

COYNE: Good to talk to you.

BANFIELD: Andrew Coyne, joining us live from Toronto.

We have another big story that's been developing all morning. In fact, if you watched the morning show compared to the afternoon show, this thing, a sinkhole, is just getting more massive by the moment. Now two homes sucked into it.

We're taking you live to Florida when we come back.


BANFIELD: I've got breaking news I want to bring your way. You probably heard of this story out of Michigan. A young woman named Renisha McBride, just 19-years-old, two hours getting into a car crash ended up on a porch of a home. Her family says she was seeking help, but ultimately she was shot dead.

A person within that home, behind that gun, suggesting that there was fear that maybe this was a break and enter, that there was some criminal activity afoot. And now we're being told that 54-year-old Theodore Paul Wafer (ph) has been charged with second-degree murder, manslaughter, and possession of a firearm in the commission of a felony. All of this coming out as well as a toxicology report suggesting that McBride was nearly twice the legal limit of alcohol for drivers, actually nearly three times, I beg your pardon, and also had marijuana in her system. There were a lot of developments in that case in Michigan. We'll keep you posted on what's happening there.

Also a lot of moving news out of the Philippines and a number no one wants to have to report. A growing number: 3,621. That's the number of people now who have died after that massive typhoon struck in the Philippines now one week ago. All of those people with different hopes and dreams and families. As the dead are buried, survivors have to worry about the basics: food, water, and dying themselves because they are sick and there is so little security.

There's been a lot of blame for what could have been done differently and some have blamed the media for not showing the resilience of the Filipino people. And that is something CNN's Anderson Cooper says is flat out wrong.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: They have survived for a week with very little food, with very little water, with very little medical attention. Can you imagine the strength it takes to be living in a shack, to be living and sleeping on the streets next to the body of your dead children? Can you imagine that strength? I can't. And I've seen that strength day in and day out here in the Philippines. And we honor them with every broadcast that we do.


BANFIELD: Our Anderson Cooper has been working hard to cover this story. Look what he's having to look at daily and those people are having to endure. If you want to help the millions of victims you can go to There are terrific opportunities to help out and it's simple to do. We highly recommend it.

One minute, you may be sitting around your house relaxing. The next minute your house is swallowed up by something like that. A giant sinkhole. This is happening right now, live in Florida. It's remarkable how large it's becoming by the moment. The statistics are this: 70 feet wide, 50 feet deep now and growing. This is all taking place in Florida. A city of 35,000 people just north of Clear Water, Florida. We have more on this now from John Zarrella.


JOHN ZARELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Watch this. This is a section of Mike Dupre's home collapsing after an enormous sinkhole opened up beneath it. It's been falling a piece at a time, slowly, agonizingly.

MIKE DUPRE, HOMEOWNER: I saw a screen room going down into the sinkhole. At that point I just turned around and said everybody out, grab clothes and try to get out of house and called 911.

ZARELLA: The sinkhole spread to the home next door. Others are at risk too. At least half a dozen in all. For Dupre, this is a bitter ending. He was planning to remodel. Put in a pool.

DUPRE: It's our house. We stay there all of our lives. Now it's not go to be happening.

ZARELLA: Two years ago, after spotting cracks in his walls, an engineer for Dupre's insurance company, Citizen's, verified there was sinkhole activity underneath his house. That engineer and another one hired by Dupre disagreed on how best to fix it. Ultimately he says, Citizen's won.

DUPRE: Our way or the highway basically.

ZARELLA: Just this week preliminary work had begun to stabilize the home. Not soon enough. In a statement, Citizen's told us, quote, "the law pretty straightforward. It does not let us, nor do we want to, get in the middle of a debate between two engineers."

We've been seeing more sinkholes recently. Earlier this year, Jeff Bush died after being swallowed up into the ground near Tampa while he was sleeping. And in August, a resort in Orlando crumbled into the Earth. Florida is the most sinkhole prone state. As development increases, so do insurance claims. The industry says there were 2,300 claims in 2006. In 2010, almost triple; nearly 6700. But many never get paid.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They can deny it on a visual assessment not evening testing the soil. How do you know if there's a sinkhole going on if you don't drill the soil and test it? Under current law, they don't have to do that.

ZARELLA: Citizen;s will cover the Dupre's for the loss of their home. For now they family is staying in a nearby hotel, waiting to see if they can get their belongs out before the whole place is gone.


BANFIELD: Unbelievable. Our John Zarrella is live there now on the scene. I can see the tape behind you keeping families out. What are they going to do? Where are they living?

ZARELLA: Well, they're still in the hotel. And they got some stuff out. Thanks to the fire department. As you can see, viewers can see behind me, about two hours ago demolition we began on the home. Another home will be demolished probably later today.

There are also front loaders and dump trucks bringing in a lot of dirt to put it in the hole there. Imagine this. You're Mike Dupre, his wife Yani (ph), his 13-year-old daughter Ivy (ph), and you're standing across the street watching as your home is demolished and periodically firefighters are able to bring you out some scrapbooks and picture albums. I talked to Mike briefly and he said it's really difficult. But those things can be replaced.

BANFIELD: All right. John Zarella live for us. It's just tragic to see that. It's -- and also astounding. Thanks for that. Our John Zarella, live in Deniden (ph). So you've heard that whole thing. You can keep your healthcare plan if you like it. If you want it. Well, not so much. Maybe some change is need. But this is LEGAL VIEW after all. And it got us thinking. Can the president just stand there and decree by fiat that he can make these sweeping changes? We're going to dig into it, next.


BANFIELD: More now on the top story of the day. The critics already challenging, calling the healthcare rollout President Obama's Katrina moment. Strong words. And his approval ratings have taken a real pounding. They're at record lows.

Joining me now is CNN political commentator Will Cain, and columnist and progressive activist Sally Kohn. Okay, so, first things first. It's just too easy to go to you first, Will Cain, because as I often say in these conversations it's a little like shooting fish in a barrel at this time, so I'm going to go to Sally first so she can set some kevlar up.

And Sally, here's the question for you, and it's a bug broad strokes one, since everything's been working in broad strokes it seems. Can the president get out of this one? Has he got enough credibility to left to get anything left on his agenda?

SALLY KOHN, PROGRESSIVE ACTIVIST: Wow. That is a big broad strokes question. Here is the important thing for the American people to realize. Which is the president, all this mess, all the morass about the rollout, you know, people complaining about their crappy insurance plans being canceled, all of this is because the president is trying to do something fundamentally good for America, for Americans, and for our economy. Which is raise the quality of our healthcare, lower the cost and make sure everyone has coverage.

And that, ultimately - so this is an implementation mess, of which we're only one month into it, and there's still time to clean it up. So sort of putting it in perspective of him trying to do this thing, which, by the way the majority of the Americans overwhelmingly support that goal as well as elements of the law, I think he can ride out these bumps. It's fairly safe to say.

BANFIELD: Okay, so Will, riding out the bumps might just mean, maybe everybody should be on the same page wanting something to work instead of seizing an opportunity and trying to crush it and throw the baby out with the bath water as well.

WILL CAIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I keep hearing that over and over, where are Republicans in helping us fix this giant problem that we've created? We built this house, it's not working, it's falling upon itself, why aren't you guys over here with hammer and nails helping us build this house that you told us wouldn't work? We understand you said for a long time this wouldn't work, why aren't you over here helping?

Because it was destined to fail. It cannot be saved. And when I hear Sally say essentially the same thing as the president, which is this Ashleigh: can we all refocus on the goal here? Can we all just refocus on the fantasy?

See, Ashleigh, you brought up credibility. And polls suggest this. They support this. Quinnipiac poll out just earlier this week shows the president has lost the trust of the American people. Whatever it is, something close to 50 percent of the American people now believe -- do not believe the president. And the reason for that is because we were sold a fantasy for four year -- three years. Obamacare has been a theory, a fantasy, and now reality is coming true. That you can't just say we're going to insure 30 million new people, everybody is going to have free healthcare, it's going to be wonderful.


KOHN: Whoa! Wait.

Where did the free healthcare part come in there? I'd sign up for that. I was for that all along, but that's of course not what this is.

CAIN: What -- what I mean --

KOHN: And Will is forgetting that the president's approval ratings, even though they have slipped, are still something like three times the congressional Republicans'. So again, this sort of like, oh you know people have lost faith in President Obama, well at least they had faith in him a few months ago. They never had faith in congressional Republicans, and even Republicans who hate Obamacare want to see them stop destroying the law.

BANFIELD: Hey guys? I wish I could -

CAIN: That's fair.

BANFIELD: I wish I had an entire hour for this, I'll be honest with you, but I don't because I've also got another very sage mind sitting beside me. So, Will Cain and Sally Kohn, I'm going to say thank you to you both, and dig a little deeper on some of the legal aspects. Thanks to both of you, you're terrific.

The legal issues surrounding this fix, so to speak, to Obamacare. Our senior legal analys, Jeffrey Toobinn is with me. First thing I wondered, considering the show is LEGAL VIEW, I wondered why is it that the president can just stand up and say I've got the answer, I've got the fix.