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Polar Vortex Chills U.S.; Six Senate Republicans Vote With Democrats to Bring Unemployment Benefit Extension to Senate Floor; Rodman Speaks in CNN Exclusive;

Aired January 7, 2014 - 11:00   ET


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you for joining me today. I'm Carol Costello.

LEGAL VIEW with Ashleigh Banfield starts now.

ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: No electricity, heat or school, record lows and wind chills that can kill, it's the polar vortex, everyone.

And even if you've never heard of it, I bet you're never going to forget what it feels like if you happen to be in its path.

Also, the battle over extending expired unemployment benefits heating up in the Senate at this very moment, we are watching the vote and expecting to hear directly from the president, all within the hour.

And also ahead, it is a $50 billion a year business that no family wants to invest in, and yet, millions are dragged into it every year just same.

The shocking look inside the family court system, are politicians, divorce lawyers and even judges on the take in some cases?

Hello, everyone. I'm Ashleigh Banfield. It is Tuesday, January 7th, and welcome to LEGAL VIEW.

I digress from weather for a moment because, as we speak, the Senate is holding a make-or-break vote on extending federal jobless benefits that ran out just after Christmas for more than 1 million long-term unemployed people in America.

This is what you call one of those procedural votes. It needs the support of 60 senators to pass, and this one is what you call a squeaker.

Our Dana Bash is watching it. So, if it's a squeaker, are we at the one-vote squeaker status? Where do we stand?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Where we stand is that we are listening to the senators vote. It's happening as we speak, as you said.

What Democrats needed, if they had all 55 Democrats present and voting, were five Republican yeses to get to 60 to break a Republican filibuster. So far, we have actually heard five Republican yeses. There was addition to what we were told publicly earlier. Dan Coats of Indiana, a Republican, voted yes.

What we are waiting for, Ashleigh, is to see if, in fact, all Democrats are present. We were told earlier that it possible that some, because of weather and other issues, may not make this vote.

Mark Begich, for example, flying all the way in from Alaska, is somebody that the Democratic leadership is worried about not making.

So, we're watching it. If you can see, if you look at the floor, the leadership is huddled over the clerks who are taking the role, who are tallying the votes and we're not exactly sure where it is going to go. And it's truly a nail-biter.

Why is it nail-biter? Let me play for you a pretty good illustration of where Republicans are and Democrats are from the leaders on both sides this morning.


SENATOR HARRY REID (D), MAJORITY LEADER: In unemployment like we have today, never in the history of our republic and yet we're turning 1.3 million people away.

Are they going to be the next ones sleeping on some street wherever they come from, trying to stay warm?

For many Americans, these benefits make the difference between being able to live a decent life, not a good life, a decent life, and going hungry or becoming homeless.

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MINORITY LEADER: And it's only whether you believe government is the answer to all of your problems that you talk about unemployment insurance instead of job creation, the minimum wage instead of helping people reach their maximum potential.


BASH: So there you heard some of the arguments.

Now, Republicans are, in addition to that, saying that they believe -- some of them say that if you're going to spend $6.5 billion out of the federal treasury for these long-term unemployment benefits, that you should offset it elsewhere.

Others are saying that they believe that this is just a political vote, because, Ashleigh, as you mentioned, the president has a big speech later this hour.

Democrats are making it very clear that they want to make this issue of trying to point out that Republicans are abandoning those that need government the most, a major issue for the president in his second term. So, they believe this is the reason why Democrats are pushing this with no committee discussion, with no committee vote and, you know, trying to get this done right out of the gate for a political reason.

As you heard from Harry Reid, they say that is just not true. This whole concept of the long-term unemployed is a relatively new one.

BANFIELD: And speaking of the politics of it, it is great watching what we are watching right now, because it's live, it's happening, it's a barometer of where they are going to go.

But it's not a guarantee that even those Republicans who may vote on the Democratic side for starting the debate would vote that way for any kind of bill.

So, yes, interesting, but clearly we ought to watch more carefully as this progresses.

Dana Bash, thank you for that. We're going to have live coverage all throughout the day to make sure that we're on every moment of what happens in the Senate, and then, of course, there's always the House, later on.

But you know what? Another very big story, the bitter and paralyzing cold, as if it's not bad enough, now, people are stranded.

They're stuck in airports. They're stuck on trains. They are freezing and frustrated. Look at that Amtrak car and look what the passengers are seeing out their windows.

Five hundred people had to spend the night on three Amtrak trains after getting stuck in snow drifts in northern Illinois -- yes, northern Illinois, where it is frigid.

A passenger sent us these pictures. Amtrak officials say all three trains have been unloaded as of right now, and passengers are headed to Chicago's Union Station.

Our Ted Rowlands, is there, live, watching this all play out. Ted, people have just got to be so frustrated, if not freezing, but lucky they're OK.

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Yeah, Ashleigh, and as we speak, two buses are just pulling here up at Union Station and passengers that are enduring this nightmare are getting off. And they seem to be in pretty good spirits and all in good health.

Amtrak has done everything they can to help keep them comfortable. You mentioned that these are people that started their trips in California.

Two of the three trains originated in California, one in San Francisco, the other in Los Angeles, and they added about 20 hours each to their trip. And that 20 hours was stuck on a train that did not move at all because of these snow drifts that stopped the train from moving. They are now just getting here to Union Station and I am just listening in to one person a little bit here who is being interviewed.

And my colleague, (Inaudible), who said -- who basically said it wasn't really that bad, and they understood that there's really nothing that could be done.

This wasn't a mechanical problem. This wasn't something like the Carnival Cruise nightmare, where something happened on the actual vessel.

This was Mother Nature, and these people are -- I can tell you this. You can tell in their faces, they are collectively very happy to be here in Chicago, despite the frigid temperatures. At least they're off the train.

BANFIELD: I think it's all relative. I'm sure the people who came from L.A. are the least happy of all of them, but they are all happy to at least be safe.

And you be warm, Ted Rowlands. You've been doing great work. Thank you for that.

And if people in the South, the Northeast and the Midwest aren't traveling, they may very well be stuck inside, because the crippling cold is spreading today.

Just take New York, for instance. There was a 51-degree drop since yesterday. It feels like negative-13 with the wind this morning.

Our Chad Myers joins me live from the Weather Center. And there is a very good reason for all of this deep freeze, something called the polar vortex.

If people don't know what it is, they sure can feel what it is.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yeah, it comes down every 20 years or so like it did here.

It's always there, but it is usually up, like, you know, Hudson Bay and doesn't come down to Georgia or -- hey, I got a question for you, Miss Winnipeg.

BANFIELD: Yes. I'm listening.

MYERS: What temperature is Celsius and Fahrenheit the exact same?

BANFIELD: Minus 40.

MYERS: Correct!

BANFIELD: And, people, I am telling you right now, this was not planned but because we knew up with Americans south of the border, we always knew that.

MYERS: And Ironwood, Michigan, was minus-47, not wind chill. BANFIELD: I know their pain, Chad. I know it. I remember it well. It was dangerous as kids going to school.

MYERS: Someone's son got a scholarship to Marquette. It is now minus- 42 in Marquette, Michigan.

That Miami scholarship sounds pretty good right now.

A hundred-and-twenty-one cancellations on the airports at this point in time. Thirty-seven below right now in International Falls. These are wind chill temperatures. Thirty-seven below in Green Bay as well.

It is cold all the way down to the Gulf Coast. Mobile, it feels like 18. New Orleans, 21. Breaking record all across the Deep South and wind chill advisories, wind chill warnings all across the East, as well.

Atlanta broke a record, down to six. New York's Central Park down to four. Charlotte to six.

My son woke up this morning. He's 9. He said, Daddy, what temperature is it? I said it's four.

He says, is that the coldest I've ever felt? And I said, this is the coldest temperature you're ever going out to, as I'm taking him to school.

He said, Yay! You're only ever going to get that from a 9-year-old boy, I'm afraid.

BANFIELD: So, tell him that next Christmas, you're going to Winnipeg for Christmas.

Chad Myers, thank you for that. Keep an eye on things for us.

I want to scoot right back to Washington, D.C., cold there, but heating up in the Senate.

Give me a quick update, Dana, if you will, on the vote on the unemployment benefits extension.

BASH: It cleared that hurdle, and it was a squeaker, just 60 votes. And this key procedural vote in order to get the whole idea of extending unemployment benefits for the long-term for three months on the Senate floor for a debate did pass.

Six Republicans broke ranks and voted with Democrats to give Democrats their victory here.

Of course, if you talk to Democrats, it is a victory for -- and it is a victory for people who don't have unemployment benefits, because they ran out at the end of December. And they have been unemployed for a very, very long time.

So that is now in the Senate. However -- this is a big "however" -- the Republicans still run the House. John Boehner has said that he is open to maybe possibly having a discussion with the White House if they can come up with some kind of idea that Republicans can go for.

That's a long way of saying it does not look like it is likely to happen in the House, but stranger things have happened when you talk about the politics of people who, as you've been saying, are out there, some of them freezing cold with no money to pay for heat and so forth.

BANFIELD: So, hey, with that squeaker, this is a silly question but it's an important question since you just talked about six of the Republicans

I have the list in front of me that were the ones we were expecting to vote with the Democrats, Susan Collins, Dean Heller, Lisa Murkowski, Kelly Ayotte. I'm missing two. Who am I missing?

BASH: Dan Coats of Indiana and Rob Portman of Ohio, both of them have not been --

BANFIELD: How likely, Dana, are they to actually vote yes on the actual bill? This is just a procedure.

BASH: It is just a procedure. We're not sure how likely they are. Once you get to the actual bill, you'll need a simple majority, but not to get too far into the weeds here, maybe another 60-vote threshold to get off of the bill.

So, unclear if this ultimately will pass even the Senate, but it looks a lot more likely now that you have not just one but two Republicans, two extra Republicans, six Republicans, voting with Democrats.

BANFIELD: I want to bring in Rana Foroohar from "Time" magazine to just weigh in on this.

Rana, can you hear me?


BANFIELD: I'm glad to catch you. You are the CNN global economist.

Talk to me a little bit about the impact of this, because Republicans will say, look, this is costly. This is not chump change we're talking about, $6.4 billion. And they want offsets. They want to find a way to pay for this.

Democrats talk about this being critical to the economy, because these benefits go into the economy. People need it to live.

Give me -- is that -- is it as simple as that?

FOROOHAR: In some ways, it is as simple as that. Unemployment itself is costly. And, you know, it's important to remember that during this recovery, we've actually seen a higher than average and, in fact, historically high periods of long-term employment, so folks that have been out of work for a year, a year-and-a-half or more.

That has a really devastating economic impact, because if you think our economy is really fueled by consumer spending. So, when folks are out of work for long periods of time, that has a knock-on effect, dragging the economy down.

But it also has a social cost. There are huge social impacts of long- term unemployment. And there tends to be higher levels of depression in people that have been unemployed for a long time.

Marriages fail. Children have issues when they're growing up in families where the breadwinner is out of work for a long time.

So, I really do think that this is a big issue, and I'm heartened, frankly, by the fact that it's still being discussed in Congress.

BANFIELD: All right, Rana, thank you for that.

We're going to continue to watch this, because, of course, as I mentioned before, this is the procedural vote. They move forward to debate. This is not the actual vote itself.

And those Republicans who sided with the Democrats, we don't know if they'll do that during the actual vote itself.

So, we'll continue to watch that story, critical to the economy, no matter how you look at it.

Something else that crossed our radar today and, boy, is it electrifying, former NBA player, now diplomat, Dennis Rodman, remains in North Korea today, and speaking loudly and exclusively with our Chris Cuomo.


DENNIS RODMAN, FORMER NBA PLAYER: Why? I love my friend. I love my friend. This is my friend. Let me do this.


BANFIELD: My friend, my friend, we are talking about a dictator here.

Hear what Dennis Rodman says about the detained American, Kenneth Bae, as well, and hear how Dennis really lost his cool.


BANFIELD: Dennis Rodman, usually I say, need I say more, but wow. Talk about angry, and passionate and dismissive, all of it while defending his current trip to North Korea. A former NBA all-star was speaking out loud this morning in an exclusive interview with our Chris Cuomo. Rodman and the group of men behind him and even outside the lens that you are seeing right now, former NBA players, planning to square off against a North Korean team tomorrow, which also happens to be the birthday of North Korea's leader, Kim Jong-un, a man Rodman says he, quote, "loves, loves," the same man that ordered the execution of his uncle a few weeks ago.

The most heated moment in the interview came when Rodman was asked if he would seek any information or conversation on the American man, Kenneth Bae, who has been held by North Korea for over a year for alleged unspecified crimes.


DENNIS RODMAN, FORMER NBA PLAYER: The one thing about politics, Kenneth Bae did one thing (ph). If you understand what Kenneth Bae did. Do you understand what he did?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: What did he do? You tell me what he did.

RODMAN: No, no, no, you tell me. Why did he held captive --

CUOMO: They haven't released any charges.

RODMAN: Let me do this. I would love to speak on this.

CUOMO: Go ahead.

RODMAN: You got ten guys here, ten guys here that have left their families, left their families to help this country as a sports venture. All these guys, ten guys, all these guys here. Do anyone understand that?

CUOMO: We do and we appreciate that. We wish them well with cultural exchange.

RODMAN: No, no, no. I'm just saying (ph). I don't give a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) what the -- I don't give a rat's ass what the hell you think. I'm saying to you, look at these guys here. Look at them!

CUOMO: Dennis, don't put it on them. Don't use them as an excuse for the behavior you are putting on yourself.

RODMAN: They came here, they came here.

CUOMO: You just basically were saying that Kenneth Bae did something wrong. We don't even know what the charges are. Don't use these guys as a shield for you, Dennis. Listen, listen.

RODMAN: There will be no shield. I got this. Let me do this. Willie, willie (ph). I want to tell you one thing, people around the world, around the world -- I'm going to do one thing. You are the guy behind the mike right now. We are the guys here doing one thing. We have to go back to America and take the abuse. Do you have to take the abuse that we're going to take? Do you, sir, let me know. You don't take that abuse. We don't care. Guess what, one day, one day, this door is gonna open.


BANFIELD: This door is gonna open. We need to point out that the State Department says it has nothing to do with Rodman's trip and that the focus should be on the brutality of Kim's regime. You want the basketball side of this? The NBA commissioner, David Stern, is agreeing and saying in a statement that he released, quote, "the NBA is not involved with Mr. Rodman's trip and would not participate or support such a venture without the approval of the U.S. State Department. Although sports in many instances can be helpful in bridging cultural divides, this is not one of them."

The man behind the mike, Chris Cuomo, joining me live now. I'm speechless. It takes a lot.

CUOMO: It is a little embarrassing to watch. Clearly, the intention is not to get into a joust with Dennis Rodman. I don't have that much interest in that. I don't think he deserves the relevance, with all due respect.

I did feel for the men he was mentioning. A lot of them do a lot of good things and they have good intentions here. Charles Smith spoke up during the interview. I'm a Knicks fan and a fan of his work.

However, for all the good intentions of what cultural exchange can do, and I don't need to tell you this, you've seen it in many parts of the world yourself. This game has been spun as a birthday present to the ruler. It is being played on his birthday. That changes the dynamic of what a cultural exchange is. It changes the dynamic of what it says about the ruler. There, you get into some issues.

The reason I think the interview is useful, look, the theater of it, the circus of it, there is no reason to qualify it.

BANFIELD: No, it's there.

CUOMO: You can't exaggerate it. The calm in the interview is one, because we are pros and we are used to people being upset. However, it is also because I don't really care about how Dennis Rodman feels about things -- very deeply. I don't know that he understands why he feels what he feels, but with what is going on with the Bae family, with what's going on with the human rights, the threats of nuclear capabilities.

BANFIELD: You asked him! You went there with him. You said, are you going to make an effort? His reaction was outstanding.

CUOMO: And, look, how - this story is one of the stories that I've always shaken my head and said, wow, you couldn't make this up. Dennis Rodman is the most direct line we have to a guy with nuclear capability, a ruler with nuclear capabilities?

BANFIELD: And did a live interview from that nation with you?

CUOMO: Yeah, and yet, it seems to be that way. Again, all due deference with the State Department, I hope they're working, we're pushing very hard right now about where the State Department is. We are being careful with the Bae family. Why? Obvious reasons -- you don't want to agitate the situation. But I think the value of the interview is to keep this man's plight in the media and the plight of many others held there the and the human rights atrocities.

BANFIELD: What was he saying to you? He --

CUOMO: Who, Rodman?

BANFIELD: Yeah. I don't know if I heard it wrong, but it sounded to me like he was suggesting like, do you know that Mr. Bae didn't do something wrong? It just seemed implausible, what he was suggesting.

CUOMO: Do I know? Yes, I know. I know everything that there is to know that has been reported and that we understand from the family and the State Department. I understand all the allegations. I don't know if I understand them as well as Dennis Rodman.

But certainly he didn't want to offer them, and it's a difficult situation, Ash, because you -- I want to get this away from Rodman, even though he is creating all the energy. And that's great because it needs the attention. The guy is still in jail. He is not doing well. It is wrong. We have similar situations in other countries that are wrong that don't get the attention, that hopefully Rodman's antics will provide. Now it is an opportunity to go back to the State Department and give the family the opportunity if they want it, which it seems they do not. They're too worried. And Charles Smith, these men, cultural exchange, I get it. I understand the commissioner's statement, David Stern, we never implied this was sanctioned by the NBA.

BANFIELD: We see symphonies (ph) and that sort of thing. They do work wonders at times.

CUOMO: Sure, they could, and there are a lot of other places they can be very useful as well. Charles Smith and those guys go to a lot of places. I'm sorry he was put in the position of defending Dennis Rodman. I didn't ask him to do that. He decided to qualify a friend. Dennis Rodman means friend. He says he loves the guy, he says they're very close, there's an intimacy. That's his choice, his decision. I'm saying, there is a responsibility that comes along with it. It just does. One of the reactions that's interesting to this, I felt, is that Rodman, because of his clumsiness in this particular interview, gets sympathy. He is not a diplomat, don't hold him to that standards.

BANFIELD: You really think so?

CUOMO: No, I'm getting it. I'm getting it in social media.

BANFIELD: Are you? Ah! The Twitter and such (ph), forget about it.


CUOMO: Social media is often a toxic environment. BANFIELD: Your interview was great - that guy spoke for himself when he shook his finger at you and yelled at you like you were somehow to blame for asking about Kenneth Bae, who was locked up for a year with no charges!

CUOMO: Yes, and that's not unusual - that's not unusual. You know -

BANFIELD: I yell at you all the time.

CUOMO: I know -


CUOMO: The one thing that doesn't make Dennis Rodman unusual is him being angry at me during the course of an interview.

BANFIELD: Or him being unusual period.

CUOMO: Or not caring about what I think. I get a lot of that also.

BANFIELD: Well, let me tell you, it was unbelievable television, remarkably booked, well thought out. I can't believe we got a live shoutout from North Korea like that, and congratulations. Great interview.

CUOMO: NEW DAY has a phenomenal team. The booking, I had nothing to do with it. I'm not you. You're a great booker. I'm not. They got it for us and the job becomes easy from there.

BANFIELD: Remarkable TV, and you know what, you're right. Anything that shines a light on that issue --

CUOMO: That's the hope.

BANFIELD: That's the positive. Yeah. Thank you, great job. Thanks for coming on.

CUOMO: Thank you for doing it.

BANFIELD: Any day, you're welcome because you're a lawyer and this is LEGAL VIEW.

CUOMO: I'm here, I'm here. It's tough to get on this show!

BANFIELD: Liar! Chris Cuomo, ladies and gentlemen. Be sure to watch Chris and Kate. They do a great job in the mornings. They work hours and hours on end all night long. NEW DAY starts every morning on CNN, and again at 11.

Just ahead, imagine working 25 hours just to pay for one hour of time from your divorce lawyer. A brand new film coming and exposes some of the inner circles of family courts across the country.


DR. DREW PINSKY, HOST, "DR. DREW ON CALL": Most people have no idea what goes on in family court unless they go through it. This film reinforces for me why I never want to go through this process.


BANFIELD: That is Dr. Drew Pinsky, and he's narrating Divorce Court. He joins me next to talk about this tragedy that is happening inside our American court system.

Live pictures for you as well. Take a peek here. We are waiting for President Obama to take to the lectern and speak about the Senate just passing that procedural vote heading toward debate for the jobless benefits extension. We're going to bring you this all live.

Stay tuned to CNN, back in a moment.


BANFIELD: It destroys lives, it bankrupts people every day, it tears children from their homes, and just so happens to be a $50 billion a year industry. Talking about divorce, and it's the subject of a brand new film that's coming out this Friday called "Divorce Court." It is narrated by Dr. Drew Pinsky, he's the host of "Dr. Drew on Call" on our sister network, HLN. This documentary shines a light on the unethical and sometimes corrupt practices that can be seen in family court in cases that drag out for years. Here's a sneak peek.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Litigation lasted for over a year.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was married only four months, and my divorce lasted over six and a half years.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Close to eight years.


PINSKY: Half of all marriages in the United States end in divorce.