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Good News For Obamacare; Florida Race Key Midterm Test; Emotional Testimony In Pistorius Trial

Aired March 11, 2014 - 07:30   ET


MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: Congress has some tough questions for General Motors about a recent recall over 1.6 million vehicles with faulty ignition switches. The defect has been linked to 13 deaths. Despite first learning of the problem back in 2004, GM only issued the recall last month. They House Monday announcing the committee hearings, which will also investigate the response from federal regulators. GM for its part is conducting its own investigation.

Well, we all know that elephants obviously have big ears, but apparently they have a good ear too. Scientists believe that they can actually tell the differences among human voices and language. They did a study that looked at the group of elephants in Kenya. The animals acted more threatened by the language of a human tribe known to kill elephants than they did by the words of a tribe that generally leaves them alone.

The study also found that elephants can tell when women and children are speaking. Scientists say that the famous elephant memory is at work here building up a bank of knowledge in order to survive in areas where they come into periodic conflict with humans.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Is it because the men are going after the elephants?

PEREIRA: But not always because there are some tribes of men that bother them and some of them that don't and they can differentiate between the two.

CUOMO: Why you got to hate? Mich is dropping all this beautiful stuff about the elephants.

It's easy by comparison. It looks smart when you're sitting next to me. That's why I have to take you now to John King. Please, speak some truth of politics to us.

JOHN KING, HOST, CNN'S "INSIDE POLITICS": I think she's a little anti-male today out there. I don't know. Two women on the set with one guy. When we get back to you, we'll see if Cuomo has survived.

Some potentially good news for the president this morning as we go inside politics. A brand new CNN/ORC poll shows support for the president's health care law, you know that's been a big issue this political year, is up a bit. Look there, those who favor the law, 39 percent now, that's up a bit from December when it was 35 percent. Opposition down a bit, as you see those numbers. Here's a significant part if you dig a little deeper. Among those making less than $50,000 a year, it's stable, 35 percent favoured it a few months ago, 35 percent now. But look at that 10-point jump among higher income voters, $50,000 or more a 10-point jump.

Let's discuss this this morning. With us to share their reporting and their insights, Mia Malika Henderson of "The Washington Post" and CNN's Peter Hamby. Significant for the president, if he can make this a trend line, right, that's a pretty modest uptick so we don't want to read too much into it. But if he can continue that trend line between now and November, maybe it helps politically?

MIA MALIKA HENDERSON, "THE WASHINGTON POST": That's right. And really continue that trend line for March. This is when folks have to sign up. If those folks can sign up and they are sort of touting the good news of Obamacare, I think that could show up at the polls in November.

But I mean, I think if you look at this, the fact that the blow under 50,000, I mean, those are the real folks that this is impacting. Those folks above 50,000 likely have health insurance through their employer, haven't been really affected by this much. But again, I think in these states you are looking at, you know, especially in the south, where it's a real referendum on Obamacare. I'm not sure that this is going to matter that much.

KING: It comes neither on the heels of our poll showing a bit of an uptick in support comes on the heels of Gallop poll. A Gallop survey that shows the percentage of uninsured has dropped. That's the big policy goal of the law is to get more people into the system. Get more people with coverage. That's a policy plus for the president. Can he turn it into a political plus?

PETER HAMBY, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: We're going to find out today in Florida perhaps in the special election. Look, his approval -- the right track number in this country it's actually getting a little bit better for Democrats, but Obama's approval rating continues to be a drag for him. That will be a drag on candidates particularly in red states.

But again in Florida, there's a special congressional election in the Tampa St. Pete area. This is a district that is majority white. There are lots of seniors. Look, Republicans are trying to make Obamacare, you know, a negative for Democrats across the country. But in this district in particular, there are a lot of people who are grappling with the new health care law. That's why Republicans are trying to make it a more specific issue.

KING: Let's talk about it because we often over play. We'll have the results tonight, tomorrow morning and we often overplay special elections. Democrats won three out of four in 2009, early 2010 and then of course, they got blown out in November 2010. However, as Peter notes, there are some significant things to watch in this race.

The candidates are Alex Sink. She is a Democrat. She ran for governor in 2010. So she has very high name identification. She carried this particular district in the rac for governor. David Jolly on the left there is the Republican candidate, a former aide to the Republican congressman who passed away.

Obamacare has been a referendum to the point, Mia, that even David Jolly, the Republican candidate because the Chamber of Commerce, all these outside groups have spent so much money, even he has said it's over kill. If the Democrat wins, will Republicans run from their all in on Obamacare strategy?

HENDERSON: No. I mean, I think they call them special elections for a reason because they're special elections. These candidates haven't been the best candidates. They aren't exactly the most charismatic folks. Alex Sink, for instance, she made some gas around the immigration reform. David Jolly has had some issues there in terms of some of the things he said about his own party. I think Republicans are all in on Obamacare. This is going to be a replay of 2010. What you haven't really seen is a very robust defense of Obamacare in a lot of these races.

GAMBY: There are a couple of Republicans out there who have said let's wait and see. Bobby Jindal, the Louisiana governor is one who said maybe we shouldn't go all in on Obamacare. The focus needs to be on jobs and the economy, but most Republicans still think that that's going to be the issue.

KING: I'll say this from observation over the years, even if it's a result you can write off to the local conditions, some candidates and some consultants rule the technical term for it is bedwetting. They panic after race like this and it happens. So let's show our folks, if you care about climate change, maybe you've been up all night watching the United States Senate.

The Democrats have decided to stage an all-nighter in the United States Senate. They want to talk about the need in their view for climate change legislation. You see right there this continuing. Now we've seen Republicans do all-nighters before. Almost always, Nia and Peter, these are stunts just to try to draw attention to an issue. There's nothing wrong with that.

If you care passionately about an issue and you have a platform, you should, of course, raise it. However, I want to make this point, the president wants action on climate change. Majority Democrats in the Senate want action on climate change, but what we have not seen participating in this debate some of the most vulnerable Senate Democrats this year.

Mark Begich, Alaska happens to be a big energy state, he is missing. Perry Landreu, Louisiana. You see there Kate Hagan of North Carolina, a sort of a state on the cusp. Tough race for her, not so much in energy state, but a potentially sort on the blue/red line and Mark Pryor of Arkansas. When the party leadership says, let's do this, do they risk hurting some of their own candidates?

HAMBY: Yes, definitely. Just yesterday, Mitch McConnell's campaign in Kentucky tried to make an issue of this with their Democratic challenger, Alison Lundergan Grimes of Kentucky -- huge call state. KING: Yes.

HAMBY: No meaningful environmental legislation has passed under President Obama in part because red state Democrats won't vote for it and now it would stand absolutely no chance of passing a Republican House.

KING: Anybody who cares passionately about an issue, if you have a platform, you want to bring it forward. But is the timing here? Do you think the leadership maybe --

HENDERSON: This is really odd to me. I mean, I guess folks are watching it maybe overnight on C-Span or something. There is no legislation. There has been movement I think around climate change with EPA regulations. But I mean, Landreau isn't even there and she is chair of the energy committee.

HAMBY: Liberals want to talk about this and this seems like a stop to the Democratic --

KING: It could to raise some money. Let's move on a bit. What are you looking for today as things play out in politics? What do you think will drive the buzz?

HAMBY: You know, I think the one thing we've seen in the last couple days, which is fascinating is this flareup between Rand Paul and Ted Cruz to conservatives who are running for the White House -- it's going to be tense. These two have engaged over the last few days over foreign policy. Rand Paul, libertarian leaning, has talked about the need to engage with Ukraine, but that's different for him because he's a libertarian.

He thinks that perhaps we should engage a lot overseas. Ted Cruz has tried to step in and say, I'm more like Ronald Reagan. We can't abandon our place in the world and we have to engage overseas. Rand Paul went back on him hard last night with Sean Hannity's show on Fox.

KING: Risky for Rand Paul to a degree because they're both Tea Party guys and he is trying to push Cruz and keep him in the Tea Party core. He doesn't want him to grow, but you've seen Rand Paul. He has his dad's libertarian base. Ted Cruz has become a pariah to the Republican establishment. Is Rand Paul now trying to say, Mitt Romney, donors, Christi people, bring me some money?

HENDERSON: I think that's right. You've seen that from Rand Paul to a certain extent. You've seen it from Marco Rubio who gave a big speech yesterday in front of a Google crowd. So I think they are all trying to figure out. It's sort of been reset in the post-Christie area and also with this Ukraine debate coming up. A lot of these guys are trying to reset their plate.

HAMBY: I think it's a win-win for both of them. Rand gets to present himself as more palatable option to managing Republican voters and the establishment, and Ted Cruz gets to get back in the headline.

KING: You two stay put as we try to go back to New York. Zach does this funny web series called "Funny or die." Here we go. The president trying to sell his health care plan. Remember, a lot of young people watch this series and young people are critical to those enrolment figures Nia was talking about. Is it funny? Let's listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you go to any web sites that are dot coms or dot nets or do you mainly just stick with dot govs?

ZACH GALIFIANAKIS, HOST, "BETWEEN TWO FERNS": No. Actually we go to dot govs, have you heard of

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's get this out of the way. What did you come here to plug?

GALIFIANAKIS: Well, first of all, I think it's fair to say that I wouldn't be here with you today if I didn't have something to plug. Have you heard of the affordable care act?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, heard about that. That's the thing that doesn't work. Why would you get the guy who made the Zune to make your web site?


KING: Brooke, you still have a Zune, don't you?

BALDWIN: No, but we just sat here and watched the entire thing as we were watching you, hilarious.

KING: You were watching the entire thing --

BALDWIN: Multiscreen experience.

PEREIRA: New generation.

CUOMO: I wasn't watching. I was plugged in and listening to you, brother.

KING: That's it man.

CUOMO: I was listening to you. Any man who can throw me over their shoulder, you've got me.

BALDWIN: They really did that.

KING: If he needs help, I'll hop on the Amtrak.

CUOMO: Thank you, my brother. We have a lot of young people that watch this show as well, but we've never been as funny as him. The president, stand up performance as well.

BALDWIN: Coming up next on NEW DAY, a friend of Oscar Pistorius testifying right now. Could the testimony about guns though be a big blow to the "Blade Runner's" defense?


CUOMO: Welcome back. We want to bring you the latest in the Oscar Pistorius trial. His friend is testifying today, but the testimony is anything but friendly to Pistorius' case. His is name is Daren Fresco and he says that he and Pistorius used to joke about shooting out traffic lights and he says he was so infuriated, a cop touched his gun during a traffic stop that he fired out the sunroof without warning. He is talking Pistorius. So that's today.

How is the case progressed so far? Where are we? Because a lot of stuff has happened early on in this trial. So takes a look. Here are the strong points for the prosecution so far. I'll go through them quickly then we'll discuss with our attorneys.

The ear witnesses. There are people who heard what seems believably so far to have been gunshots and they heard them in a sequence with screaming that seems suggestive of something where Oscar Pistorius should have known that he was dealing with his girlfriend. That's a problem.

Timing of the events. Again this is somewhat related, but from Oscar's story about how things happened, these ear witnesses and the cell phone records that the prosecution have developed so far seemed to suggest there may have been a different timeline, different timeline goes to whether or not to believe Oscar, hurts his case.

Now, the character of Oscar Pistorius. Unique to the South African system. They can bring in a lot of evidence about what kind of guy he is. Remember Oscar is also charged with an unrelated event. It's not just the killing of his girlfriend. It was also about discharging a firearm outside a restaurant or in the restaurant.

So they're bringing all this character reference about how he's volatile like we just heard about the friend testifying about shooting out of the car. It wouldn't come into the U.S. It's coming in here. The defense, what have they done so far. The forensics, the autopsy, very hard to hear, showed a lot of emotion for Oscar Pistorius, tough for the court, tough for everybody.

But showed that the gunshots happened in a way that may be the victim could not have screamed when ear witnesses say they were hearing her, which leads the odd suggestion that Oscar Pistorius may have been screaming like a "woman" in quotes according to his defense attorney.

Botched investigation. All right, you have the cell phone records that the prosecution seemed to have not gotten right with security officials. The investigator himself who wound up being in criminal trouble who was running the case early on that's a problem.

And then the last point as we bring in, Sunny Hostin, the former prosecutor and obviously CNN legal analyst and Mr. Danny Cevallos, defense attorney, is that to this point I would say that the prosecution has not put forward a theory of the case that is better than Oscar Pistorius' and obviously they must to meet their burden.

But we will have you two discuss. Sunny, I'll start with you. You see what has been the high point of this trial. Oscar Pistorius, emotional, vomiting, retching, has proof that he may have done it. Please explain.

SUNNY HOSTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Absolutely. Because we're talking about a case that's before a judge, not a jury. I think that kind of emotion maybe plays well to a jury, not so much for a judge. So you're seeing someone who has his hands over his ears and plugging his ears with his fingers, and vomiting in court. That's something that's very unusual. And I think in front of a judge, more so may say this is a guy who is emotionally unstable.

This is a guy who can't even listen to testimony. This is a guy that's not that coherent. Does that then mean that this is a guy that's angry that's likely to fly off the handle? I think, yes. When you listen to the conversation between the attorneys and the judge, the judge has said repeatedly, is your client OK, he needs to be aware of what's going on. Can he continue? She is not swayed by the emotion and I think actually it will hurt him.

CUOMO: You used the word colloquy to confuse me. Tell me what that is and how Pistorius' demeanor may impact the trial.

DANNY CEVALLOS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think she's starting from guilty and working back from there. You're darned if you do and darned if you don't. If Oscar Pistorius was standing there like mount rush more like stone hinged then Sunny would be telling us about how he's a cold-hearted killer. The bottom line is the best the defendant can do is sit there and look not guilty.

What that means I still have no idea. But it is true that this retching, I will concede that after a point, it may become irritating to either a jury or a judge. But you have to trust that the judge has seen this kind of behavior over and over and over again in courtrooms.

HOSTIN: I doubt that.

CEVALLOS: And will give it its due weight. Although I will concede, it is a little over the top. I don't know that it means he's acting, but I know critics will say that this is something he's conjuring up because he thinks that's what the judge wants to see.

HOSTIN: I have a confession off Danny. Did you hear that?

CUOMO: I think he was thrown. This is up usual. One of the reasons it's so interesting for us here is all this other information coming in about Oscar Pistorius. He's being tried for a crime that has nothing to do with the killing. How do you think it helps the prosecution playing into the idea again, it's not someone sophisticated jury. You've got a professional judge obviously.

HOSTIN: I actually think it's very helpful to the prosecution because you're right. In the United States, a lot of stuff when I was prosecuting, I wouldn't have had that to my disposal. You have witnesses and ex-girlfriends saying, you know, this guy is angry and screamed at me, my family members, my friends. He's a gun toting angry guy. He got angry when a guy shot a gun through the sunroof. I think that's persuasive in front of the judge.

CUOMO: Sunny makes a good case. Let me end with you, Danny, on this point. Do you think the defense can make the case or argument to the judge and the fact assessors that this is a lot of nothing that has to do with what they're supposed to prove?

CEVALLOS: You're seeing the problem with cooperating witnesses here. Be warned everybody that dear friend or ex-girlfriend that you used to think you were so loyal to, watch what happens when a prosecutor dangles a deal in front of them. They'll get on the stand and talk about you doing all manner of things. Also the risk to the prosecution, to the prosecution. Now these two witnesses don't have consistent stories with each other.

The ex-girlfriend implicates Fresco. Fresco gets up there and says not so fast, it's not the way she said because she is talking about me wanting to shoot a gun at a robot, which is a traffic signal in South Africa. So you see the danger of using these cooperating witnesses. They can't get stories aligned at each other. They're pointing the finger at each other.

The bottom line is when the prosecution does a deal with the devil, hands out deals like this. There's risks of that. We're seeing inconsistent testimony this morning.

HOSTIN: I got to stop you there, Danny, very quickly. There's no indication that these other witnesses would be charged with anything or there's any kind of deal. I actually think that bottom line their testimony supported each other rather than contradicted each other.

CEVALLOS: Testimony this morning.

CUOMO: Yes, the testimony this morning is a little different. Danny Cevallos, appreciate the point. Sunny Hostin, you had the home field advantage of being right here. Great word. Explain what colloquy means. It's a complicated case. Good to have them through it. It's going to be going for a long time -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: All right, Chris, thank you. This next story I'm watching like this because it involves a very large snake, a six-foot pet boa constrictor named Killer undergoing an hour long emergency surgery because of something he ate. What was it? Here's CNN's Jennie Moos.


JEANNIE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Wondering where the missing towel went? Maybe it's in the snake.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The entire length of the snake had towel in it.

MOOS: Veterinarian, Dr. Julia Shakiri should know. She surgically removed the towel through a two inch incision pulling it out inch by inch with the help of lubricant and water. The pet boa constrictor's name is Killer. The towel could have killed him.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It causes an obstruction which is life threatening.

MOOS: The doctor thinks a live rat the snake was being fed was clinging to a towel so both ended up down the hatch. It's roomy down there. The other day we saw a snake swallow an entire crocodile. We've seen dogs mistake a golf course for a main course. Had to have nine golf balls removed from her stomach.

While Penny here preferred pennies. She swallowed 75 plus change. This poor guy was used as a drug mule carrying cocaine filled condoms. As for a towel, a towel is perfectly an appetizer compared with what people. Instead of plugging into the wall, imagine flagging an electrical cord into your rear socket. Don't expect to pass the salt or egg beater.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I accidentally fell on an object. That's the most common accidental story you'll hear.

MOOS: Three doctors compiled x-rays of 100 objects from a cassette tape to a tuna can lid rolled like a cigar to a light bulb. The TV show "Scrubs" accurately portrayed one popular removal technique.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All we need to do is thread a bulb through the blade and pull hit.

MOOS: From a Barbie doll to a hand gun, nothing good about this draw.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was not loaded.

MOOS: A concealed weapon even a snake would not carry. Jeannie Moos, CNN.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This kid has a light bulb up his butt or his colon has a great idea.

MOOS: New York.


PEREIRA: She literally left us all speechless.

BALDWIN: People are eating breakfast.

CUOMO: That threw me. I thought it was a story about eating things because of the snake.

PEREIRA: She kind of went there.

CUOMO: Yes, kind of backdoored us.


BALDWIN: Let's move on.

CUOMO: It's better than a snake eating a towel.

Coming up on NEW DAY, new information about the two passengers traveling with stolen passports aboard the missing Malaysian airliner. What does it mean in terms of questions about terrorism? We'll take you through it.