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Republicans Issue Playbook for Criticizing Obamacare; Interview with Congressman Ted Yoho; Skakel Out on Bail; Charges Dropped in Bullying Case

Aired November 22, 2013 - 07:00   ET


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: A little more than an hour from now, a wreath laying ceremony will be held there, and in a few hours there will be a memorial at Dealey Plaza in Dallas, the first official ceremony ever held at the site where JFK was shot in 1963.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: And a historic move in the Senate. Democrats triggering the so-called nuclear option to change filibuster rules. Now the Senate can pass most of the president's choices for federal judgeships or executive nominees with a simple majority instead of the 60 votes they needed before. Democrats said this was a needed fix to a broken system, but Republicans are calling it a power grab.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: This morning Kennedy cousin Michael Skakel is out of prison on $1.2 million bail. A Connecticut judge ordered a new trail in the 1975 murder of his neighbor, Martha Moxley. The judge ruled Skakel's original attorney didn't represent him well enough. We'll be joined later this hour by a private investigator who worked on Skakel's defense.

BOLDUAN: We begin with Republicans banking on Obamacare to be the Democrats' Achilles heel. That's the message in a new GOP playbook CNN has obtained a copy of. The book details a comprehensive strategy to win over public opinion, suggesting videos, flyers, social media posts, Republicans can use to drive home the problems with the law. CNN's Athena Jones is live at the White House with more on this political playbook. What do you know?

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Kate. Part of this Republican effort kicks off today when the House oversight committee holds a field hearing with North Carolina voters to talk about the sky high insurance premiums Republicans are saying because of Obamacare. And this is just one of their many lines of attack.


JONES: A new 17-page House Republican playbook reveals the strategy behind sustained attacks Republicans have staged against President Obama's health care law and it's error-plagued website.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER, (R) HOUSE SPEAKER: It's obvious that the reality of the president's health care law simply doesn't match the promises the president made to the American people to sell it. JONES: More than seven weeks since Obamacare launched and days away from the president's deadline to fix the troubled site, congressional Republicans continued to exploit it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Young adults are now witnessing the increase in health care costs.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is taking away our health care plans.

JONES: Their goal, to create a public groundswell of opposition to it, a gamble they hope will pay off for the GOP in next year's midterm elections.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It looks like any Democrat in a serious re- election fight is neither eager nor proud to run on Obamacare.

JONES: The Republican playbook aims to keep the focus on what they say is a bad law and keep the pressure on the White House and Democrats in Congress. The strategy calls on GOP members to use social media, digital flyers, and videos, to share talking points about rising premiums and Americans losing their health plans and access to their doctors. House Republicans are collecting Obamacare horror stories, but Democrats are quick to point out the playbook has no counterproposals or fixes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They do not have a playbook to create jobs. They do not have a playbook to build infrastructure. They do not have a playbook to reform immigration. They don't even have a budget. They don't have a playbook to actually fix a broken health care system.

JONES: President Obama continues to suffer in the polls, his approval rating plummeting to 41 percent, an all-time low in CNN polling, with 50 percent of Americans saying Republicans will have more influence over the country in the next year.


JONES: Now, there may be some light at the end of the tunnel for the administration, at least in some states. California health officials say 10,000 people a day were signing up for health insurance on that state's exchange as of last week. On the flipside, though, health officials there also voted on Thursday to reject the president's fix, allowing people to keep health policies that don't comply with Obamacare. Chris?

CUOMO: All right, thank you for the reporting, appreciate it. Joining us now from Gainesville, Florida, is Representative Ted Yoho, Republican from Florida and fierce critic of Obamacare. Congressman, can you hear us? Welcome to NEW DAY.

REP. TED YOHO, (R) FLORIDA: Yes, I can. I can hear you fine, Chris.

CUOMO: Let's talk about the playbook. I grew up reading these. It's a good one. Let me ask you, is it a fair criticism that it seems to be missing a section called "solutions"? YOHO: No, not at all. We've got two great solutions for a replacement. It's HR-2300, a bill presented by Tom Price out of Georgia, and then there's one out of the Republican study committee, HR-3121. The good thing about these is they put health care back where it should be, between the patient and the doctor. It keeps the government out of it.

CUOMO: And how will that work to protect people from all the problems we see in the current health care system?

YOHO: Well, the big thing is, you know, like I said, keep the government out of it. The government's taken a free enterprise system that our country was founded on. It's like if you wanted a car, buy Ford, Chevy, the mod that'll will fit your needs. That's what we did with our health system. That's what we've done with so many things. But the government has come along and says we're going to make it like a public transportation model system.

The HR-2300 or HR-3121, they keep health care in the hands of the individual. They have tort reform in there, they cover for preexisting conditions. They allow adult children to stay on their parents' policies until age 26. They promote, this is -- I think is this is a critical thing, they promote health savings account so people can have the money put aside for specific health reason costs. And this is what we should be promoting as government is independence, self-reliance, and things like that. This is allows for that.

CUOMO: The criticism, of course --

YOHO: It also allows for --

CUOMO: Go ahead. Please, please. This is about what you have to say. Tell me.

YOHO: It also allows for interstate commerce between states on insurance so that they can shop around and get a better price for it.

CUOMO: How, obviously you'd have to deal with the 10th amendment rights and each state has its own laws. That gets tricky when you make policies portable. But it's a solid idea. The criticism that comes from the other side, the system as it is has real flaws and anybody who's dealt with the system knows that. Consumer protection is important, the uninsured getting policies is important, and that the insurers had really overtaken the system through the marketplace.

Are you worried about not protecting people by just saying, well, let's go back to open markets and the private sector will take care of it all?

YOHO: No, not at all. Look at where we're at. This is why the Republicans were so adamant about not allowing this law. I mean, this is just the beginning of it. This is the tip of the iceberg. You're talking about consumer protections. Look at what the government's allowing happen. They're allowing people to sign up, other people, getting critical information, their driver's license number, Social Security numbers. And the navigators, the people signing people up on the exchanges, they're not bonded. They're not insured, they're not trained in insurance. You know how complicated insurance can be to meet a need for your family, and the government allowed this to happen. And there's been breaches in the security of this. You talk about consumer protection, I agree. That's a very important thing. When you have somebody like the Consumer Reports coming out, stating don't sign up on the government website. It's set up for fraud. So that's a big concern. And we'll get away from that if we go back to the private market.

CUOMO: It's interesting. I'm hearing these ideas from you about the legislative proposals that would be an alternative to the ACA. But they're not in the playbook. Shouldn't those be what's foremost in terms of capturing the imagination of the American people? We need answers, not just criticism of what is in place now. Why not push the plans more than just the attacks in the playbook?

YOHO: I agree 100 percent. I agree 100 percent. We don't need to criticize. Criticism at this point is not going to help anybody. We need solutions. We've got two great solutions out there. We talk about it all the time, I do, I know a lot of other congressmen would encourage you to talk to Steve Scalise, the chair for the Republican Study Committee, and he could tell you about HR-3121, and Tom Price out of Georgia, his bill is HR-2300. These are great replacements. They've been out there. We've been talking about it. The news has not been picking them up. I encourage you to do your due diligence and get that out three more.

CUOMO: Fair criticism, Congressman, though when I'm holding the playbook in my hand, it's some 18 pages on the attacks of Obamacare, very rarely have I heard about the other two bills. That is certainly not just about the media, it's about what politicians are deciding to make their message. Fair criticism?

YOHO: I think that's fair. We could do a better job on messaging for sure. Every time we're in the district or take a meeting with the business people, you know, I ran on stopping the affordable care act because we saw the disaster. Like I said, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Think about where we're beginning to be three months from now. All these people that are registering thinking they're going to have coverage or they've got a number, they thought they got on the website, they've got a number, they go to the hospital, maybe their son or daughter has fallen and broken an arm or something like that. The receptionist at the medical care facility types in their number and they come back and say listen you're not in the system, we can't treat you. You can see the chaos that will create.

So they're obligated to treat that child, and so they'll take information. And then after they cheat the child, they're going to put that information somewhere to get paid. We know how it works if you put in a Medicare payment wrong or a Medicare treatment wrong, that doctor or that facility has the possibility of being charged for fraud. This is going to happen.

And then the other thing I really fear for is the people that had insurance through their own that got canceled and haven't been able to sign up on the Affordable Care Act, they're in limbo because they can't get on, they've lost their insurance because of the government plan and mandates.

This is, again, why the Republicans fought so hard to prevent the rollout. We wanted to get rid of it. I mean, we all know that. We fought hard to get it defunded and repeal it. But at the end we just fought to get it delayed for a year for the individuals because we saw this disaster. When Max Baucus, who is the primary architect of this said it's a train wreck, stop it. They didn't heed that warning. I think that's unconscionable.

CUOMO: I hear the points. They're good ones. And certainly if the predictions come true there's going to be plenty of opportunity to do is better and we'll be looking forward to the answers that come from the GOP and the Democrats. Appreciate you coming on today, Representative Yoho. Appreciate the opportunity.

YOHO: Yes, sir. Thank you. Have a happy Thanksgiving.

CUOMO: And you as well, to you and yours.

Indra, over to you.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Still talking about snow this morning, Chris. Love this video, this is Colorado, Denver overnight. It's beautiful, two to four inches fell in the area. That will continue to be the story pretty much from the west coast to the east coast as a series of cold fronts make their way across.

Here's the one in the west coast, still dropping farther south. So if you're in Colorado, New Mexico, look for snow flurries and heavy rain into the southwest from this system. How much snow? A ton of it. We're talking about almost two feet of snow around Telluride, even California, Big Bear, possibly a foot of snow in that region, and Albuquerque as well, about one to four edges. There's so much moisture we're also talking about flooding concerns, so into the desert southwest, anywhere from three to five inches, will produce flooding likely this weekend. We'll be monitoring that.

Here's the system affecting pretty much the whole chunk of the country. Midwest yesterday, starting to move out of the Midwest today, moving into the Ohio valley and expecting to see showers into New York City throughout the day today, also through Boston and D.C., not really a big moisture system. Not looking for a lot of rain out of this, maybe about an inch into the mid-Atlantic. Down to the south, about one to three inches of rain. The big story again, is the temperature drop here? Boston 47 today, highs on Sunday 29 degrees. Even in Atlanta you're talking about temperatures going from 60s down into the 40s. So the chill is going from the northeast straight down to the southeast. Biggie.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, Indra.

CUOMO: Scientific term, "biggie."

Coming up on NEW DAY, after 11 years in prison, Michael Skakel finally gets a taste of freedom. Will it be permanent? That's the big question. We're going to talk with a private investigator for the Kennedy cousin.

BOLDUAN: Also ahead, criminal charges were dropped against two girls in the case of cyber-bullying that led to a 12-year-old girl's suicide. We'll talk to one of the girls live, along with her attorney, Jose Baez.


CUOMO: Welcome back. Kennedy cousin Michael Skakel is out on bail. His conviction for a 1975 murder was thrown out last month. Thursday Skakel walked out of a Connecticut prison for the first time in a decade. Now, he can't leave the state, but he is free at least for the time being. Standing by is a private investigator for Skakel's defense. But first, let's bring in CNN's Deborah Feyerick with more.

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What's so fascinating about this case, Chris and Kate, is that after a decade of appeals, of motions, this case even went up to the United States Supreme Court, which rejected it. But finally, Michael Skakel has another chance.


FEYERICK (voice-over): After 11 years in prison, Kennedy cousin Michael Skakel is waking up this morning a free man, at least for now, after walking out of a Connecticut courtroom Thursday.

HUBERT SANTOS, MICHAEL SKAKEL'S ATTORNEY: There were two tragedies that occurred in Greenwich, Connecticut, in 1975. The first was, of course, the murder of Martha Moxley. The second great tragedy occurred when Michael was convicted of the murder of Martha Moxley.

FEYERICK: Skakel and Martha Moxley were both 15 the night she was beaten to death and stabbed with a golf club outside her Greenwich home, next door to the Skakel residence.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Under the totality of the circumstances, I'm going to set a bond of $1.2 million.

FEYERICK: A Connecticut judge released Skakel after a different judge last month tossed out the murder conviction and granted Skakel a new trial, saying his previous lawyer had failed to defend Skakel properly. Prosecutors are appealing that decision.

JOHN SMIRGA, CONNECTICUT STATE ATTORNEY: He hasn't been found innocent by any form.

FEYERICK: Skakel was charged with Moxley's murder and tried as an adult some 25 years after the crime. At his trial in 2002, his lawyer Mickey Sherman never mentioned it was older brother Tommy who for years had been one of two primary suspects, a point the judge said should have been made and a point not lost on Moxley's mother and brother.

JOHN MOXLEY, VICTIM'S BROTHER: It's difficult to fathom how there could be any victory in any of this when you think that Judge Bishop basically said it wasn't Michael; it was Tommy Skakel that did it. So it's the family -- you know, where's the joy in that?

FEYERICK: The Skakel family has always denied those allegations. After the bail hearing, more than two dozen of Michael Skakel's supporters, including several brothers and cousins, clapped loudly. Michael Skakel smiled and patted his heart in apparent gratitude before being whisked away to reunite with his family and 14-year-old son.


FEYERICK (on camera): Now Skakel must wear a GPS tracking brace. He can't leave Connecticut without permission. He knows that the situation right now is still very fragile. Although it's likely to take years, if the conviction is reinstated on appeal, Skakel will have to go back to prison. However, if the appeals court agrees that he was badly represented a decade ago, prosecutors must decide whether to try Skakel again, a huge challenge given that memories fade and the state's key witness is dead. Kate?

BOLDUAN: All right, Debra, thank you so much. Let's bring in Vito Colucci, a private investigator who worked on Michael Skakel's case, also met with Skakel and his family when he left jail yesterday. Vito, thanks so much for coming in.

VITO COLUCCI, PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR: Good morning, Kate. Good to be here.

BOLDUAN: Of course. You not only met with Michael, you were in the car with him right as he left, really, that -- as we saw him walking out of jail and leaving the little press conference that he left. What did he say? What was it like, his first taste of freedom?

COLUCCI: Well, we had a ride, maybe about a 20-minute ride to where we were going. And it was great. I mean, he was so happy. We talked a lot. You know, I've been with Michael a lot. I've been involved in this since the year 2000. We got to pray in the car together at some point. And he was just thrilled when he got out of the car at the location we were in, instead of wanting to stay in the facility, we were -- he wanted to spend a lot of time outside for obvious reasons.

He wanted to -- I looked at him one time and said, "You know, you're outside here." He said -- and then he gave a deep breath to smell the surroundings, and look at the trees and pet a dog and things of that nature. So it was great yesterday, Kate.

BOLDUAN: He was behind bars for over 11 years. What does he say he wants to do first? Yes, his future is uncertain, but what about today? I'm sure he's taking it day by day.

COLUCCI: Yeah, very soon he wants to see his son who is now approximately 14 years old. He hasn't really seen him much at all over the last 11 years. His son was three when he went into jail. So he wants to spend a lot of time with his son and just enjoy life right now. That's for sure.

BOLDUAN: Is he angry? COLUCCI: No, not at all. Not at all. He just -- he praised God and he's not angry at all. I mean, we had a great day. It was a day of just being together, reuniting him with his family. I had the honor and privilege of being with him and his family who I know very, very well over like 12, 13 years. That's for sure.

BOLDUAN: And you know well that his legal battle is long from over here. I mean, he's out on bail as prosecution appeals this retrial. What does he say about the prospects of the appeal and the prospects of the retrial? What does he say about that aspect of his future?

COLUCCI: Well, you know, Kate, it's kind of like a football team that beats a big opponent and they're going on to the next part of their league. We're basking in yesterday right now. He didn't say anything truthfully about the appeal or the possibility of a new trial. We just enjoyed yesterday. And, you know, we'll let the attorneys worry about that as time goes by.

BOLDUAN: And he's ordered -- he can't leave the state. He's ordered to wear a GPS tracking device. I'm sure those are small things when you consider what he's -- the freedom he's tasting for the first time. What does that mean for his immediate future? How limiting, is it frustrating for him? How limiting is that for him?

COLUCCI: It won't be limiting at all for him. I mean, he's going to reside obviously in Connecticut and, I mean, he's out of jail. You know? He said to me yesterday, "Look, a dog. I haven't seen a dog in 12 years," and began to pet it.

So that's -- he's not going to worry about an ankle bracelet. They could have ankle bracelets on both -- they could put bracelets on both arms and both legs of his, he wouldn't care. He's just glad to be out and he's enjoying the time. That's for sure. It was a long struggle but we finally got to this part right now.

BOLDUAN: A lot to celebrate for Michael Skakel and his family and his supporters. But also must be mentioned that Martha Moxley's killer, if it is not Michael, is still out there and her family is still looking for answers and looking for justice. Who do you think did it?

COLUCCI: Well, you know, that's for another time. But I can tell you this: I can tell you this much, I know that I know that I know Michael Skakel did not kill Martha Moxley. And for the sake of Mrs. Moxley, who is a very nice woman -- I've talked to her in the past -- the real person needs to take this. The real person needs to go to jail, not Michael Skakel. And I would want that the if that were my family.

BOLDUAN: Looking for answers since 1975. Vito Colucci, great to see you. Thanks for coming in and thanks for bringing us that perspective.

COLUCCI: Thank you, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Of course. Coming up next on "NEW DAY", two teen girls were arrested on cyber bullying charges in a case connected to Rebecca Sedwick's suicide. We're gonna talk to one of those girls along with her attorney, Jose Baez, about the controversial case.


PERIERA: Welcome back to "NEW DAY". Want to show you some of the stories that are making news. A figurative mushroom cloud rising over the Senate as Democrats launch the so-called nuclear option, voting to change the rules so presidential nominees can be approved by a simple majority vote. GOP lawmakers call it a power grab and say Democrats will regret it. It means no more filibusters for most executive or judicial nominees, excluding those chosen for the Supreme Court.

It is the third and final day of nuclear talks with Iran, still no sign of a deal. Representatives from six countries all in Geneva trying to convince the Iranians to curb the nuclear programs in exchange for loosening of economic sanctions. The major sticking points right now, Iran's demand that the west recognize what it calls its right to enrich uranium.

Police in a North Carolina town are trying to figure out who would stuff a bomb inside a teddy bear. They say a newspaper carrier spotted the bear on a road. He noticed it smelled like gasoline and had wires attached to it when he picked it up. Once he got home, he left it on his porch and called police. A bomb squad detonated the bear. A crime lab will now try to figure out exactly who made it.

We are expecting a Massachusetts chemist to plead guilty today to faking lab results in criminal cases. Those questionable results jeopardized thousands of convictions. Annie Dookhan originally pleaded "not guilty" to 27 charges. The judge has indicted -- indicated, rather, she would impose a sentence of no more than three to five years if Dookhan changed her plea was changed to guilty.

Praise for a North Carolina police officer who put himself in danger to stop a wrong-way driver Tuesday going 60 miles an hour. Andrew Schofield got his car between the other driver and oncoming cars and turned on his sirens. After the driver didn't stop, the officer stopped his car and took the collision.

Schofield was treated for minor injuries after the crash. Police say the driver was diabetic and may have been having a seizure at the time. Just an idea of how brave the men and women in uniform are. Our congratulations to him. We hope he has a speedy recovery.

Chris, those are your headlines. Over to you.

CUOMO: Charges were dropped this week against two Florida teens accused of bullying a 12-year-old to death. But the controversy around this case is still ongoing. Is charging kids with felonies the key to stopping bullying? It's a very provocative question. If that's not the answer, then what is?

Standing by is one of the people alleged to have been involved in this crime along with her family and her lawyer, Mr. Jose Baez. First, let's take a look back at what this story was all about.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE) CUOMO (voice-over) The charges against two teenage girls in Florida may be dropped. But the fight against cyber-bullying is far from over.

SHERIFF GRADY JUDD, POLK COUNTY, FLORIDA: Our stance has not changed one bit. If you bully, if it rises to the level of stalking, we'll arrest you.

CUOMO: Last month, Sheriff Grady Judd arrested the teens, now 13 and 14, for aggravated assault.