Return to Transcripts main page


Obama to Speak in Nevada; Too Early to Tell on Immigration Reform; Ray LaHood Stepping Down; Nick Wallenda Attempts Daring Feat; Winter Storms on the Horizon; This Week, Two-Year Anniversary of the Arab Spring

Aired January 29, 2013 - 11:00   ET


ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, ANCHOR, "CNN NEWSROOM": Look at how fast immigration reform went back on the front burner after President Obama won more than 70 percent of the Hispanic vote in November.

As we speak, the president is en route to Nevada. A state that he carried by more than six points over Mitt Romney despite an imploding economy there. Any guesses who kept that state blue?

The president is pitching a comprehensive immigration rewrite that may sound a lot like the Senate plan that was unveiled yesterday. However, it will not sound identical.

CNN's Brianna Keilar joins me from the White House now. So, will the president propose something completely different than what the Senate has already done and is there a risk of confusing everyone?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: No, I don't think he'll propose something entirely different from what the Senate has done.

So far, Ashleigh, the White House is welcoming the Senate plan, but we're expecting that the president will highlight a proposal that's actually been out for almost two years at this point, his blueprint for immigration reform.

But when it was put out in 2011, it was seen much more as a statement, I think, ahead of the election more than a genuine push for immigration reform. He didn't really push it forward in any real way.

So, we're expecting to hear him highlight that, and I will tell you that, obviously, the hottest button issue has to do with the pathway to citizenship, what it would be for millions of undocumented immigrants currently here in the U.S.

And the president has said he thinks they should register with the government, undergo background checks. They should pay taxes and a penalty, and they should learn English.

I think we're still waiting to see as the details are flushed out in these plans as they become more specific, Ashleigh. You would think obviously that whatever pathway the president is proposing is probably going to fall to the left of something that Republicans have signed to in the Senate. I think that's a fair assumption. And, also, the Senate planned like to tie border security directly to this pathway to citizenship and we don't think the White House is totally on board with that. But they're also not completely pooh- poohing it because they're trying to capitalize on this moment now when Republicans are also along with Democrats saying something has to be done on the issue.

BANFIELD: So, some are saying that this was thunder-stealing in terms of the senators announcing their proposals yesterday, the president announcing his proposals today, and that there was actually quite a bit of backroom dealing in order to convince the president maybe not to do certain things.

How did all of that play out?

KEILAR: Yeah, that's right. This is something that our Dana Bash reported on for CNN. The idea, obviously, a concern among some members, particularly Republicans, that if you say something is the president's plan, that there may be some sort of resistance to this.

It's easier for Congress, specifically Republicans, to have some of their own ideas that are separate and sort of champion those. And, obviously, I think that's not too hard to understand, right, Ashleigh, just because of the dynamics that we've seen politically between these two sides.

BANFIELD: And, also, what about the dealings about legislation, trying to convince the president not to actually come out with actual legislation because that could cause, you know, political rifts?

KEILAR: That's right, and that really speaks to the very same thing, that if he sort of comes forward and says, this is my bill, it's completely written, here you go, that there may be some initial resistance on the part of Republicans on Capitol Hill.

I think the thought is that if there is more buy-in, if there is more cooperation in the process of coming to some sort of legislative language that that may have a better chance of getting through Congress.

And it really speaks to just how sensitive of a subject this is. Yes, right now there does seem to be some momentum. There does seem to be more agreement than you have seen in some time about the fact that something needs to be done.

But make no mistake. This is treacherous political territory.

BANFIELD: OK. Brianna Keilar reporting for us live from the White House. Thank you.

It is way too soon to know whether this is really the year something gets done on immigration, actually gets done, but it's definitely got Washington talking.


SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: More and more Americans realize that we can't forever have 11 million people live in the shadows.

SENATOR DICK DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: We've invested some $18 billion in border security. We're spending more on our borders than we're spending in combination in the Secret Service and FBI and many law enforcement agencies.

SENATOR MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: I think we need to be honest with ourselves about how important immigration is for our economy, for agriculture, for guest workers and other laborers.

REPRESENTATIVE MARSHA BLACKBURN (R), TENNESSEE: If you grant amnesty, what do you get? More amnesty. More illegal entry.

REPRESENTATIVE JOE GARCIA (D), FLORIDA: Obviously, we need to know who's here, why they're here and whether we want to keep them. We get to choose, as Americans, not them.


BANFIELD: Well, earlier this month, we asked Americans what the main focus of U.S. policy on illegal immigrants should be.

Fifty-three percent said we should focus on a plan for legal residency. Forty-three percent said that the focus should be deportation and keeping would-be illegal immigrants out.

And you can watch the president's remarks live on immigration reform. We're going to carry those remarks at 2:55 Eastern time right here on CNN.

Another cabinet member is leaving President Obama's side. We are now hearing that Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is stepping down.

He sent this letter to Department of Transportation employees saying in part, "I've told President Obama, and I've told many of you, that this is the best job I've ever had.

He goes on to say, "I'm grateful to have the opportunity to work with all of you, and I'm confident that dot will continue to achieve great things in the future."

One out and another one in. Well, almost anyway. Last hour, the Senate foreign relations committee voted to confirm John Kerry as the new secretary of state.

He'll replace Hillary Clinton once he gets the full nomination and that full Senate vote is not expected until later today, but that's considered more of a formality.

And then this afternoon, CNN's exit interview with outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is on our docket, so make sure you tune into "The Situation Room," live at 5:00 Eastern for Wolf Blitzer and the secretary.

And now to a balancing act, a literal balancing act in Florida from the famed Wallenda family. Nick Wallenda is going to try to walk across the street in his hometown of Sarasota this hour, a little different from the way you and I do. Like a true Wallenda, he will not use a crosswalk. He instead will be on a wire 180 feet in the air.

And just for excitement, no safety net. And for more excitement, no safety harness either.

You'll probably remember that Nick Wallenda walked across Niagara Falls the very same way last year, so stay tuned. We're going to update you on the Wallendas' progress.


BANFIELD: Thunderstorms and strong winds, hail and sadly to report even tornadoes expected for people living between Texas and West Virginia. I know that's a really wide swath. The radar is not looking pretty.

And our severe weather expert, Chad Myers, has been keeping track. I can't remember a time when you and I did so many segments it bad weather all over the place.

It was a freezing cold chill for a lot of the country. Now, this severe weather. How bad is it going to be for people in that area?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: You know, that big, cold air mass that we talked about and the warm air in the West ...

BANFIELD: Blue Blob. We called it the Blue Blob.

MYERS: Yeah. This is all part of that pattern. We talk about the up and down of the jet stream. Well, now, the jet stream is going back down again, turning up to the north, right in this severe weather center.

And then right here from the one side, the east part of this is going to be warm, the west side of the storm is cold and they don't like to match. They don't like the mix-up here.

When you get cold this way and warm up this way, you will get a line of severe weather whether it's winter, spring, summer or fall. And that's what we have today. This severe weather effort here.

Now, here, it's going to be all the way from Memphis right into Little Rock, down into even almost Dallas, Texas, today.

So, here's -- there are some big cities in here. A lot of time we have severe weather, and it's in the middle of nowhere. This isn't nowhere today. This is a real threat for big cities, including even St. Louis, Kansas City.

You can see all of the lightning here, through Oklahoma City, moving into Tulsa. That's Broken Arrow, right on up even just to the northwest of I-44, just finally rolling through Kansas City right now. The weather does eventually move on by, and even for tomorrow, the weather moves into the southeast where we could have some severe weather. But the threat today will be an isolated tornado or two.

Not talking about a lot of big F4, F5 tornadoes, but if you get tornadoes that are wrapped in rain, we call them, because there's rain all the way around the tornado and you can't see it out there and take cover, sometimes those are the most dangerous.

And they're only F1, or F2s, maybe 80-, 90-, 110-miles-per-hour, but if it hits your house, that's a big deal. Make sure you have your NOAA weather radio on today or watch us right here. We'll take care of you all day long. We'll be right here.

BANFIELD: Hey, Chad, just a couple of seconds, you know, I always lose track of the in-and-out dates for hurricane season and tornado season, et cetera, but this is almost February, I didn't think we were anywhere near tornado season.

MYERS: Well, tornado season follows the jet stream and, even January, February, they're down across the south. And then you get March, April, May.

And then by June, July and August, you can even get tornadoes in Calgary and Edmonton. I've seen that up way up into the middle of the summer because that's where the jet stream is.

Follow the jet, follow the tornadoes.

BANFIELD: Makes sense. Chad Myers, thank you.

MYERS: You're welcome.

BANFIELD: Back in a moment.


BANFIELD: It's hard to believe it was two years ago this week that tens of thousands of people converged on Egypt's Tahrir Square to kick off a revolution that led to the downfall of Hosni Mubarak and an Arab Spring that inspired hope across the Middle East.

That hope, though, has given way to utter chaos and deadly violence. So much so that the defense minister there in the new government is today warning that it could lead to the collapse of the state.

Protesters, this time unhappy with the Mohamed Morsi government, have defied a curfew and instead have been fighting openly with police along the famed Suez Canal. Cairo, also, has erupted into violence. Dozens of people have been killed.

Our Ben Wedeman is live in Cairo for us. This is democracy, and democracy, Ben, is not pretty. But at the same time, why is it that we're seeing so much violence instead of a political action to try to change the government that's currently in place? That was elected by them? BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think it's important to keep in mind that this is a revolution. Revolutions don't last 18 days. They can go on for years.

This country was essentially under military rule for about 60 years. Therefore, when all the controls go, when people take to the streets and fight against the military and against the police, forces are let loose that are very hard to control.

There is political movement going on. There are politicians talking with the government trying to resolve this crisis over a variety of things, over the new constitution, over the actions of the Muslim Brotherhood since it came to power.

There are many young people who have discovered the power of numbers, the power of crowds, their ability to fight the state in its broadest sense, and that's what we're seeing in places like along the Suez Canal, in Alexandria, in Cairo.

And it's also important to keep in mind that it's a relatively small number in Cairo who are actually confronting the security forces. Many Egyptians desperately worried about the state of the economy, desperate for some sort of resolution of this political security crisis.

BANFIELD: Ben, when so many Americans think of Egypt, they think of, you know, Cairo and its spectacular museums and the pyramids and a terrific vacation spot.

But I think a lot of people wonder if that's a safe place to go, especially when you have a defense minister warning of the collapse of a state. What does that mean?

WEDEMAN: Well, today I spoke with a former general who's in close touch with senior officers in the military, and he said that their real concern is that this security vacuum, the chaos in the streets, the political disarray could lead to a civil war.

At the moment, nobody sees it happening soon, but if this goes on for much longer and this is two years now, regular outbreaks of violence, the worry is that it could collapse into a state of mere anarchy or, as I said, civil war.


BANFIELD: Incredible.

Ben Wedeman live in Cairo. Stay safe yourself. I know you called that home for a long time.

If you want more information on this developing story, and it does develop day-by-day, check out, where we have up-to-the-minute reporting from Cairo and around Egypt.

Also, want to tell you about North Korea today. It is one of the most secretive countries on the planet, but its cover is being blown a little bit, all thanks to a new Google map that's being unveiled today.

Here is Google's previous map of North Korea. Pretty plain vanilla, blank slate so to speak. And now this is what you see when you tune in. It's changed.

Now, labels are on everything from Pyongyang's subway stops to monuments and hotels and department stores. Google says the project has been in the works for years, but don't jump to any conclusions.

Even though the map shows the location of one of the gulags, the huge prison Camp Number 22, a gulag spokesman says there's absolutely no connection between this brand-new map and all of its details and that trip to North Korea that just -- we just witnessed by the Google chief, Eric Schmidt, three weeks ago.


BANFIELD: I love those graphics. It's Super Bowl week. Today's activity is talking to us, the media.

Super Bowl media day is a world unto itself. All of the players are made available, and they're asked pretty much everything from game strategy to questions about their love life. They choose to answer or not.

Today, there's one thing that they're more than likely to be asked about, some comments made by President Obama earlier on this week.

This week we're actually going in-depth on the future of the NFL and the remark from the president has a lot of people talking. It's in the "New Republic" magazine.

He said, "I'm a big football fan, but I have to tell you, if I had a son I'd have to think long and hard before I let him play football. And I think of those of us who love the sport are going to have to wrestle with the fact that it will probably change gradually to try to reduce some of the violence."

That didn't go over quietly. A few of the players and coaches are already weighing in. They say they understand the president's concerns, but that they wouldn't keep their kids from playing the game.

As for the 49ers' coach, he said he saw it as an actual opportunity for his own little boy.


JIM HARBAUGH, HEAD COACH, SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS: Well, I have a 4- month-old, almost soon-to-be 5-month-old son, Jack Harbaugh. And President Obama feels that way, then it would be less competition for Jack Harbaugh when he gets older


BANFIELD: That's Jim Harbaugh having a little bit of fun with the question, but let's remember this.

The president said that he wasn't so much concerned about NFL players. He said that they've got unions, they've got big money contracts to take care of them.

He's really more worried about college kids who have nothing to fall back on.

But Ravens' coach, John Harbaugh -- yes, brother -- is important, as well, he says that football is important, as well, for youngsters.


JOHN HARBAUGH, HEAD COACH, BALTIMORE RAVENS: Football is a great game. And anybody that's played knows what a great game it is and what it provides for young people, what it provided for people like me, you know, an opportunity to grow as a person.

It's challenging, it's tough. It's hard. There's no game like football. It's the type of sport that brings out the best in you.

It really -- it kind of shows you who you are. I think it's a huge part of our educational system in this country. And it's going to be around for a long time.


BANFIELD: And they even look alike, right? John Harbaugh says the game is not going anywhere.

But one of his players, Bernard Pollard, says otherwise. He says he thinks safety rules and changing attitudes could actually kill the NFL. He says he thinks the league could be gone in 30 years.

And on the eve of Super Bowl XLVII, CNN is live in New Orleans with our take on the biggest sporting event in the country, what it means to the city, how it became such a cultural phenomenon, and a lot more, too.

Our kickoff in New Orleans, "CNN Bleacher Report Special," airs Saturday, 4:00 p.m. Eastern time.


BANFIELD: Now to a balancing act in Florida from the famed Wallenda family. Just moments ago, Nick Wallenda made it across the street in his hometown of Sarasota this hour.

I know that doesn't sound like much, but look how he crosses the street. Like a true Wallenda, did not use a crosswalk. Just walked across a 180-foot-high wire. No net. No safety harness.

This is kind of his M.O. Remember that he walked across Niagara Falls the same way last year?

I am so glad that he made it because that is something to see, I'll tell you. No harness, he always insists on that. Even the broadcasters covering it hate that he has no harness.

I'm going to throw a couple names your way -- actually, before that I want to tell you about this plane crash that happened. We here in New York City are almost used now -- used to hearing about a plane crashing in the Hudson.

Believe it or not, it happened again. This time, a small plane, an engine gave out shortly after takeoff, and two people were on board a small plane, the pilot and one passenger.

The video is kind hard to see, but the plane went into the dark water, began filling with water. And one of the passengers had the wherewithal to grab a phone and make this incredibly desperate call to 911. Listen.


CHRISTOPHER SMIDT: Can you open this door?

We're going to go to see the rear. We're going to the rear of the plane.


SMIDT: The plane is filling up.

911 OPERATOR: OK. Try and keep me on the phone. Where in the Hudson, sir?