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LEGAL VIEW WITH ASHLEIGH BANFIELD

Senate Negotiators Agree on Budget Deal; Jordan Graham Murder Trial Begins; Photos from Air Force One; Boy, 6, Called Sexual Harasser for Kissing Classmate

Aired December 11, 2013 - 11:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


WOLF BLITZER, HOST, THE SITUATION ROOM: Nancy Pelosi has praised it. John Boehner has praised it. But there are critics on the right and left who don't like various aspects. It still has to be voted on in the House of Representatives. I assume it will pass, pass the Senate and the president will sign it. And the next two years, including the mid-term election in 2014, we won't have to worry, as you point out, about another government shutdown.

ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Let me ask you this. There are a number of different polls that come out today, and it depends on to what TV network you seem to watch as to whether the president is doing better or worse. But the CNN poll that combined them all, 42 percent of Americans approve, 53 percent disapprove. Here is the question. Did the Republicans possibly see that the battle over the budget was not gaining them traction, politically speaking and that Obamacare was a debacle that they could have actually maximized and switching to the strategy of Obamacare? Because if that's the case, isn't the --aren't Obamacare numbers starting to do better, too. So that's a bit of a quandary, isn't it?

BLITZER: There's no doubt that on the first point, the government shutdown, most Americans blamed the Republicans. And I think most Republicans, at least privately if not publicly, will acknowledge that hurt them. The first two weeks after October 1st when the Obamacare website was rolled out, they missed an opportunity, the Republicans. They really could have gone after the president and Obamacare those first two weeks. Although the country for two weeks was focused on a government shutdown and deep concerns over the government shutdown and raising the nation's debt ceilings, which I suspect hurt the Republicans as well. I think one of the factors working on Paul Ryan to go ahead and make this deal, this compromise deal with Patty Murray, the Democratic Senator from Washington State, was because they didn't want another government shutdown. This would avoid a government shutdown. Certainly, give the Republicans, they believe, some added advantage going into next year's mid-term elections. Because if the big issue -- that's still a big if -- if the issue is still Obamacare, then the Republicans think they not only can hold on to the majority in the House but maybe even take over the Senate. That's what some of the political types are thinking about. But we shall see. It's a long time between now and next November.

BANFIELD: Yeah. Those enrollment numbers right now are nowhere near where they should be according to the government's own projections. We'll have to follow these polls as we go forward because who knows if that's going to be the winning strategy for the Republicans.

Let me show you something else for a moment. I want to switch gears to something we don't often see, Wolf. Around the NEWSROOM, we were all crouched over these images that came out from the White House aboard Air Force One, a plane that few people get to ride aboard. But there's something about these pictures. This one, the president and the former president in the hallway outside of the meeting room just kicking it. It's a long flight to South Africa. And in this next one, Mr. Obama, Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton, the deputy national security adviser, Ben Rhodes, is standing in the background. A third photo shows Hillary Clinton. This is my favorite, Wolf. It shows her smiling at what looks like a tablet or iPad of sorts, and the former President Bush is showing her his most recent artwork. Valarie Jarrett is off to the right of the photo. Susan Rice, the look on her face is great. Eric Holder standing. And in the foreground to the right, that's Mrs. Bush. And Michelle Obama just to the left of the secretary in the picture. And this shot was right before dinner, Wolf. Apparently, they were waiting for dinner. I love that they're all dressed so comfortably. They're flying together for somewhere around 16 hours to fly to Johannesburg.

I just wanted you to weigh in a little bit on the culture aboard an aircraft like this, where you can almost literally let your hair down and change relationships.

BLITZER: It's a good opportunity to spend some good quality time because you are aboard a plane. When I was the CNN senior White House correspondent, I had the opportunity many times to fly aboard Air Force One, including on long flights. I covered President Bill Clinton. And you go into the conference room when you're invited up there and you see the president with the United States with his top aides just playing cards or with his special guests, dignitaries who might be on board or with his senior staff. And you see how close the quarters are. Even though it's a big 747, it's still pretty tight. You do have an opportunity to bond. And this was a great moment, I'm sure, for two presidents, President Obama and President Bush, to get quality time in if they wanted to chat, wanted to talk, or the first ladies or whatever. Hillary Clinton was there. Bill Clinton and Chelsea Clinton came on a separate flight. Jimmy Carter was there in South Africa. He came on a separate flight as well. But you're right. These are unique moments, historic moments, if you will. You go into that conference room on Air Force One, you sit there and get ready for dinner and you chat a little bit, that's pretty cool.

BANFIELD: I don't know why it is that I'm so fascinated by it.

Could we pop the photo up again of the conference room that Wolf was referring to? They're in their sweaters.

I hate to say this, but I was actually pacing it out in the office today. The conference table is huge. And the chairs are big and plush and huge. That makes it hard to believe you're onboard an air plane. But it is close quarters, isn't it?

BLITZER: It looks bigger in that picture than it actually is. You're aboard a big plane, a 747. The conference room is nice, but it's not huge or anything. It's --

(CROSSTALK)

BANFIELD: Not like your office?

BLITZER: No, not that big, obviously.

(LAUGHTER)

But it's eight or 10 feet.

BANFIELD: Wolf Blitzer. Thank you. Good to see you.

BLITZER: Thanks.

You can always see Wolf Blitzer, starting this afternoon, 1:00 p.m. eastern time.

Thanks, Wolf.

I want to take you next to Montana. What a case. A trial of a young widow on trial for the death of her husband. Jordan Graham is accused of pushing him over a cliff. And the court hears her lies. We've heard people lie before to cover up a crime. But the extent of her lying, you have to hear it to believe it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: This is an unusual statement. A woman may have a murder trial that lasts longer than her eight-day marriage. Jordan Graham says she got in a fight with her new husband, Cody Johnson, at Glacier National Park in Montana. He grabbed her and she pushed him away and that's when he fell off a cliff to his death. That's her defense. Prosecution, however, says something very different. It's day three of the trial. It's a federal case. That means, I'm sorry to say, no cameras in the court room.

But our Kyung Lah is in the court room and we have incredible details on this case.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Jordan Graham walked into what would be a damaging second day for her defense in her murder trial. Prosecutors played video of police interviews where the jury saw and heard her lying to police. In the first video, she was matter of fact and unemotional as she tells police a story, that her husband took off from home in a dark car with Washington plates. Johnson had been missing for two days. Police were searching for him. The reality is Graham knew her new husband was already dead at the bottom of the sheer cliff at Glacier National Park. The sergeant says, on video to Graham, "I'm getting the feeling you're not being 100 percent honest with me." The very next day the police videotaped her again. She went to police because she received an e-mail dated July 10th, three days after her husband's death. It came from a mysterious friend named Tony. It reads, "Hello Jordan. My name is Tony. There is no bother in looking for Cody anymore. He is gone." The e-mail claims Johnson died during that car trip. The officer who saw the e- mail says, to Graham, "seems kind of sketchy." Because it was. The e-mail traces back to a computer in Jordan's father's home. A faked e-mail created to support Graham's story to police. She also lied to friends, like Jennifer Toren, who were clearly shaken after testifying.

(on camera): What it was like to be in the court room and see Jordan.

JENNIFER TOREN, WITNESS: All I'm going to say it was very nerve- racking.

LAH: Graham lied to her own brother. He testified that Graham brought him to the cliff to discover Johnson's body. The teenage boy sobbed, saying, "She told one lie, was asked to tell the truth. She said it again. She had to keep adding more lies to cover up it up."

Graham even lied to her best friend and matron of honor, Kim Martinez. She testified that before Johnson's death, Graham claimed her new husband would grab her and had a terrible temper.

That was hard to hear for Johnson's friends, who called it another lie.

UNIDENTIFIED FRIEND: He's a great friend of mine. Just a really good guy. Just a tragic situation. Just want closure.

LAH: The night of Johnson's death, Graham texted Martinez, "Dude, I'm freaking out. I'm about to go for a walk or something, jump off a frickin bridge. IDK" -- meaning I don't know -- "I've lost it." Yet, at the same time, Graham texted happy, bubbly messages to another friend about dancing. "Dude, you better work those sweet moves, although you are pretty amazing already." Her friend replies, "Yeah, I know I'm a pretty good dancer. I think I'm the best dancer I know." Graham texts, "Whoa, whoa, too far, homie." Those texts sound immature, because defense attorneys say exactly that, a naive, social inept sheltered young woman. Just 21 at the time of her husband's death. The fall, says the defense, was just a terrible accident. Graham says they were fighting. He grabbed her. She pushed him away and he fell.

So why the lies? The defense argues Graham was an awkward young woman who married the popular guy in town and she feared no one would believe her.

Kyung Lah, CNN, Missoula, Montana.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BANFIELD: Wow. That's one big word for this one.

I want to bring in CNN's legal analyst and defense attorney, Danny Cevallos; and HLN's legal analyst and criminal defense attorney, Joey Jackson.

Gentlemen, when you hear facts like that, I think the defense attorney has to put on jazz hands and somehow razzle-dazzle, Johnny Cochran style. It's hard to get past that, real hard

JOEY JACKSON, HLN LEGAL ANALYST: It is. This is something Danny and I do regularly. And some things are easier than others. But I think what the defense will do here, Ashleigh, is they'll say this does not make her a murderer. She did lie. But that was after the fact. She panicked and acted under anxiety and distress, not thinking that anyone would believe her story, which a lot of people don't, of course. But this doesn't go to the actual issue in the case. Was it really an accident? And I think the prosecution will show that it goes to consciousness of guilt. And that certainly people who engage in accidents don't behave this way. They call the police. They do things which a reasonable person under similar circumstances would do.

BANFIELD: Reasonable is key here. Because the jury is being asked to be reasonable and come up with reasonable doubt.

One item of consciousness of guilt, or two items, now we're at three.

JACKSON: Collectively, yes.

BANFIELD: And four. And, hey, dude, that's great dance moves, apparently where you've got concussions of guilt.

Danny, where I lost it is was when she went to her father's house and created a fake e-mail.

DANNY CEVALLOS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It's one thing to lie, as she did and was caught lying, but I think juries in the public especially punish when somebody goes to lengths to disguise something and then ultimately it's very easy to fine. If you don't know by now that your computer can be traced back to you with an I.P. address, then -- even if you create a web-based e-mail, then you deserve --

(CROSSTALK)

CEVALLOS: The way the jury is going to view this, you deserve to get sent to the moon because you should know better. Juries will punish people more when they have that ah-ha moment and they get caught doing something dumb than they would just a typical run-of-the-mill lie, if there be such a thing.

BANFIELD: There's is a lie, like, hey, Danny, I really like your tie.

CEVALLOS: Well, thank you.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

BANFIELD: And then there's scheming.

JACKSON: Right. Exactly.

BANFIELD: And there's a big difference between lying and scheming. And juries hate -- every jury I've ever seen, they hate scheming.

Can you stick around? Both of you?

CEVALLOS: Absolutely.

BANFIELD: I have a couple of cases I want you to weigh in on.

I just want to show our viewers this as well. Can we zoom in on the "New York Post" cover? "Flirting with Dane-ger." That's the Danish prime minister. Here is the deal. Look at Michelle Obama's face on that picture. The prime minister of Denmark flirting with her husband and she is mad. Wait until you see what they said inside the paper and how they're characterizing this series of photographs of Michelle looking really mad at her husband for flirting with that pretty blond. Wait until you see what's inside. And wait until you see what the photographer said really happened, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: President Obama gave a well-received speech Tuesday at the memorial service honoring the former South African president, Nelson Mandela. Yes, I know you're wondering, then why are you showing that picture behind you? It's a selfie. It's a selfie captured during the service. And it is causing a lot of backlash and banter.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED TALK SHOW HOST: President Obama Went to Africa for the Mandela tribute and got caught taking a selfie. Look at this. Look. Yeah, look at that.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED TALK SHOW HOST: Yeah, doesn't that make you proud? Look, Michelle looks really happy about it, as well. Look at that. Yeah.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BANFIELD: Yeah, there it is again. The cell phone picture showing the president posing with both the Danish and the British prime ministers, and it appears that Michelle Obama is none too pleased. Right away, this thing went viral with a flurry of criticism. But here's the deal. Before I get to the deal, come back on camera for a second so I can just show you the "New York Post" again. If you open up the paper -- I hope I can do this right -- to the actual story, it gets even kind of rougher on the president. It says, "When Michelle freezes over." And if really kind of makes the case that she is angry at all of this flirtatious behavior. Heavens to Murgatroyd. Now the reality check. The press photographer who took the picture in a blog post, Roberto Schmidt, says that the first lady was not upset. He was there. He says this look was captured by chance. And that Mrs. Obama was actually laughing, laughing along with them all, just moments before the actual photo. He can't believe there's all of this criticism. He says just not the way it happened. He also said this. I can't believe a photographer would say it. Sometimes pictures do lie. There you go. Reality check for the day.

And here's another reality check for you. Remember the old story about dipping someone's braids in the ink well? This little guy decided to give a cute little kiss to the kid beside him. Now, this 6-year-old is being called a sexual harasser and he's technically got it on his record. Are you kidding me? We're going to tackle this in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: If you're a fan of "Casablanca," "you must remember this, a kiss is just a kiss." So the song goes anyway. But if you're a 6- year-old named Hunter Yelton and if the kiss is on the hand of that cute classmate beside you, apparently, it's sexual harassment. This is not a joke. This is what's going on in Colorado where a first grader has that label on his school record.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HUNTER YELTON, CALLED SEXUAL HARASSER FOR KISSING CLASSMATE: It was during reading group. And I leaned over and kissed her on the hand. And that's what happened.

JENNIFER SAUNDERS, MOTHER OF HUNTER YELTON: This is taking it to an extreme that doesn't need to be met with a 6-year-old. Now my son's asking questions, what is sex, Mommy? It should not ever be said "sex" in this incident with a 6-year-old.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BANFIELD: I am with her. Hunter's mom says she wants this suspension overturned and the term "sex offender" removed from her son's permanent record. Apparently, it's not going to move along with him. But come on. Should it even be there in the first place? He's 6 years old.

Let's talk about this with our legal analysts, Danny Cevallos and Joey Jackson.

I don't know where to begin. I honestly don't know where to begin.

JACKSON: Go ahead.

CEVALLOS: I'll begin.

(LAUGHTER)

Number one, I want to find out what this permanent record was we were all told about as kids. I hope mine never surfaces, Joey, I don't know about you.

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

CEVALLOS: But I certainly was warned about it a number of times. Look, you can blame the administrators, but I think if you want to be angry, you also have to blame the recent spate of anti-bullying legislation. We live in a country where based -- without even defining fully what bullying is, we put "or else" obligations on teachers and bring criminal justice into the school and give kids records.

(CROSSTALK)

BANFIELD: You get in trouble.

(CROSSTALK)

BANFIELD: I love when you start saying those things.

CEVALLOS: It's true. Now we have teachers in a heightened state of panic and the same offenses that would have gotten you sent to the principal's office -- and let me tell you, I spent a lot of time in the principal's office.

(LAUGHTER)

The same offences, now you get a record and now you're labeled sex offender.

BANFIELD: Hard to believe you spent a lot of time.

CEVALLOS: Sexual harassment, I should say, not sex offender.

BANFIELD: Joey, is there something to this, that this is a CAY thing and people are just looking out for themselves, making sure there's no litigation that can come back to haunt them?

JACKSON: I hope not. We have rules. No one wants to be touched or offended in any way. You have to apply those rules with reason, with compassion and with rationality. When you start taking a 6-year-old and saying because he kisses a hand or a cheek -- what does he know about sex?

BANFIELD: In reading group no less. Reading group.

JACKSON: What does he know about sexual harassment, Ashleigh, anything?

BANFIELD: Circle time.

JACKSON: I mean, come on.

BANFIELD: I think, charge the dog. Did you see the way the dog was kissing --

JACKSON: Beautiful dog.

BANFIELD: -- licking on him? That little puppy dog.

Gentlemen, thank you. JACKSON: Thank you.

BANFIELD: Always great with you. Appreciate it.

Thank you for staying with us on this hump day. Thanks for watching, everyone. AROUND THE WORLD starts right now

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: He has only been on the job for nine months but Pope Francis has captured the world's attention winning "Time's" "Person of the Year."

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: Plus, new details about the deadly plain crash in San Francisco. The pilots were warned about the steep landing but they may have relied too much on those automated systems.

MALVEAUX: And this, a moment that everyone remembers. You can't forget this. Little Elian Gonzales being pulled from his home in Miami, returned to Cuba. Now he's all grown up and he is blaming the U.S. embargo for the death of his mother.

Welcome to AROUND THE WORLD. I'm Suzanne Malveaux.

HOLMES: And I'm Michael Holmes. Thanks for your company.

With all the news that Pope Francis has been making since he was named head of the Catholic Church, you kind of had to think tht Miley Cyrus didn't really stand a chance when it came to this.

MALVEAUX: She really didn't. I didn't think she ever did.

HOLMES: No.

MALVEAUX: The so-called people's pope beating out the twerker, as appropriate, as well as the leaker, Edward Snowden, other news makers to be "Time" magazine's "Person of the Year." The editor saying -- a quote here -- "With a focus on compassion, the leader of the Catholic Church --