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Obama And Threat Of A Government Shutdown; Yosemite Threatened By Fire; Snowplows Needed After Hail Storm; San Diego Mayor Could Resign Today; World War II Vet Beaten To Death; Missing Fisherman Found; Microsoft CEO Ballmer To Retire; School Shooting Hero Speaks Out; Discounts For Medical Marijuana

Aired August 23, 2013 - 10:00   ET


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: -- the next hour of CNN NEWSROOM starts now. Happening now in the NEWSROOM, CNN's exclusive interview with President Barack Obama.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I can't force these folks to do what's right for the American people.


COSTELLO: His frustrations in working with Congress, the NSA's mistakes and his new plan to help college students.

Plus, d-day for San Diego's mayor. Just hours from now we'll learn his fate. It's Filner watch day 33. And --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Doctor's realize this is medication that can work for patients and they need to be able to obtain it whether they're rich or poor.


COSTELLO: It's one thing to legalize medical marijuana. It's another thing to subsidize it. But that could happen in our nation's capital. The great debate begins as Ben Affleck really Batman material. The second hour of NEWSROOM starts now.

Good morning. I'm Carol Costello. Thank you so much for being with me. One on one with President Obama, CNN's Chris Cuomo scores an exclusive interview with the commander in chief and we're breaking down the many highlights.

First off this hour, why another government shutdown may be looming?


CHRIS CUOMO, ANCHOR, CNN'S "NEW DAY": When they get back in session, do you believe you know the way to get things done for the American people so that that we don't have another shutdown of the government, which punishes everybody but the lawmakers.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: There is a very simple way to doing this, which is the Senate passed a budget and the House passed a budget, and you know, maybe you're not old enough to remember school rock.

CUOMO: No, I remember it.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Remember how the bill gets passed, the House and the Senate try to work out their differences, they send it to me and potentially I sign it. We like to make things complicated but this is not that complicated. Congress doesn't have a whole lot of core responsibilities. One core responsibility is passing a budget, which they haven't done yet.

The other core responsibility is to pay the bills they've already accrued. If Congress does those two things when they get back then the economy can continue to recover and folks out there who are working hard or trying to find a job will have some sense of stability and we can start thinking about things like college education and some of the big structural changes that we have to continue to make to ensure that we're competitive.

CUOMO: How much of the lack of action in Washington do you put on yourself in terms to have blame?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Ultimately the buck stops with me. So anytime we are not moving forward on things that should be simple, I get frustrated. I've said before and I continue to say, I'm willing to do whatever it takes to get Congress and Republicans in Congress in particular, to think less about politics and party and think more about what's good for the country. Then finally now what we've got is Republicans talking about the idea that they would shut down the government, bad for the economy, bad for not just people who work for the government, but all of the contractors and defense folks, everybody who is impacted by the services that they receive from the federal government we should shut that down because of Republicans after having taken 40 votes to try to get rid of Obamacare see this as their last gasp.

Nobody thinks that's good for the middle class. I've made this argument to my Republican friends privately. By the way sometimes they say to me privately I agree with you, but I'm worried about a primary from, you know, somebody in the Tea Party back in any district or I'm worried about what Rush Limbaugh is going to say about me on the radio. It's really difficult. I can't force these folks to do what's right for the American people, but what I sure as heck can do is stay focused on what I know will be good for the American people.

CUOMO: There's been a lot of discussion about what the NSA does and the surveillance programs. You have said it's not the business of the U.S. government to spy on its own people. The more that comes out, the more questions that seem to be raised. Are you confident you know everything that's going on in that agency and you can say to the American people it's all done the right way?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Yes, but what I've also said is that it can only work if the American people trust what's going on. And what's been clear since the disclosures that were made by Mr. Snowden is that people don't have enough information and aren't confident enough that between all the safeguards and checks that we've put in place within the executive branch and the federal court oversight that takes place on the program and congressional oversight, people are still concerned as to whether their e-mails are being read or phone calls are being --

CUOMO: Especially when they heard they are.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: What was learned was that NSA had accidentally pulled the e-mails because of technical problems that they didn't realize. They presented those problems to the court. The court said this isn't going cut it. You're going to have to improve the safeguards given these technical problems. That's exactly what happened. All these safeguards, checks, over sight worked.

Now I think there are legitimate concerns that people have that technology is moving so quick that at some point does the technology outpace the laws that are in place and the protections that are in place and do some of these systems end up being a loaded gun out there that somebody at some future point could abuse? Because there are no allegations and I am very confident knowing the NSA and how they operate is purposely somebody is out there trying to abuse the program or listen in on people's phone calls.

CUOMO: You're confident in that in.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: I am confident in that. But what I recognize is that we're going to have to continue to improve the safeguards and as technology moves forward, that means that we may be able to build technologies to give people more assurance and we do have to do a better job of giving people confidence in thou these programs work. So what I've said is that I am open to working with Congress to figure out can we get more transparency in how to oversight court works, do we need a public advocate in there who people have confidence in. But we have to do it in a way that recognizes that we've got some hostile folks out there potentially trying to do us harm.


CUOMO: So you can see there it is complicated situation but the president very strong about his feeling that congress should be doing its job. Now how that message is received and what dynamic they figure out this fall in order to get the people's work done remains to be seen.

COSTELLO: Yes, because one thing is clear, the people's work is not getting done. Hopefully they'll come to, I don't know, some sort of day taunt maybe?

CUOMO: The way our process works, it's supposed to swing back and forth, right? We want ideas on both sides and they fight it out and find compromise that way. Immigration is a really big instruction, a big example of what needs to happen. We didn't get to talk to the president about it and frankly his position really hasn't moved. It wasn't a news making opportunity in our judgment, which is why we spent the time in other places where we needed to show where the president was at this particular point in time. That's an issue, Carol, where you have almost diametrically opposed ideas of what the law should be about regarding immigration. They need to know how to work about. They need to remember it's about us, not them.

COSTELLO: That'll be nice. Chris Cuomo, thanks so much. It was a fascinating interview. At the bottom of the hour, we're going to have more of Chris's interview with the president. The next topic, one of the biggest financial worries of the middle class, what Washington can do to reign in the skyrocketing costs of a college education?

In other news this morning, a national treasure threatened as the California wildfire rages out of control just outside of Yosemite Valley. Nearly 2,000 firefighters worked overnight trying to get the upper hand on a blaze that's now less than 1 percent contained. CNN's Indra Petersons is following that story. Good morning.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning. The toughest thing they're dealing with, Carol, really is the extreme terrain in the area. The weather, we do have some dry spots out there, but that's really their biggest concern. At one point, it was 5 percent contained and now it's back to just 1 percent. Take a look at where the moisture. They're not seeing the moisture in the area. Also in the afternoon as the sun heats the area up we're talking temperatures 80s and 90s, so not extreme.

They do not have red flag warnings but they're getting close. We're talking about just teens. Also the winds generally calm. You can see this. This is actually a shot from space. You can actually see the smoke out there. Without the winds being strong enough we're talking about the air quality alerts and having to deal with all of that smoke.

COSTELLO: All right, Indra Petersons, thanks so much. Snow plows are getting some rare summertime work in Colorado as heavy rains and hail make it look like wintertime. Six inches of hail piled up in some places outside of Denver. It literally covered roads and sidewalks. They actually had to call out the snow plows to clear a path. The hail was up to an inch in ie yam ter. It completely covered this football field.

The career of San Diego Mayor Bob Filner could be over in just a couple hours. The sexual harassment scandal that surrounded Filner could end with his resignation. At 4:00 p.m. Eastern the San Diego City Council will privately hear details of a proposed settlement worked out between the mayor and the city. Twice the week Filner has left city hall reportedly armed with boxes and other personal items.

But the biggest question still remains, how much could San Diego taxpayers be forced to pay to make Mr. Filner go away. Casey Wian is live in San Diego this morning. Good morning.

CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Carol. That is the big question. We don't know how much San Diego taxpayers are going to be on the hook for Bob Filner's alleged misdeeds. The details of this proposed settlement that the city council will consider this afternoon remain confidential.

I want to read you a statement that was put out late yesterday by one who helped negotiate the deal. He said I joined these mediation discussions to ensure the city gets the best possible deal for the taxpayers. We must put this civic dysfunction behind us. How much do they pay him to go away in terms of covering his legal costs for the sexual harassment suit that has been filed, in terms of his pension benefits.

He already stands to collect somewhere in the neighborhood of $95,000 a year in pension benefits. About 20,000 of this is from the city of San Diego. The cost of him staying in office is significant. So that is something the city council will be considering. We will point out that all nine city council members have publicly stated that they believe it is time for Filner to go.

COSTELLO: So there are rumors floating around that Bob Filner is actually going to hold a news conference later today?

WIAN: We've heard those same rumors. We have not been able to confirm anything. Filner's attorney put out that statement saying that after the city council has this closed session meeting to consider this negotiation there will be a public statement. They didn't say who that public statement would be from. We know the city councils are planning to talk, but we don't know where Filner is -- Carol.

All right, Casey Wian, reporting live from San Diego this morning. Still to come in the NEWSROOM, Antoinette Tuff didn't run from a school shooting. In fact he asked him to come in the room and stay with her.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Come stay with me we're both going to be safe. Bullets tonight have no name and if they shoot you, they're going to shoot me.


COSTELLO: Checking our top stories at 16 minutes past the hour. Shocking death in Spokane, Washington, a World War II veteran has died after he was beaten to death on Wednesday. He was called Shorty by his friends. The friends and neighbors are expressing their outrage.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To be caught period because that's senseless. Man, beating an old man, what kind of person does that but A, excuse the expression, a wimp.


COSTELLO: The police are searching for these two men seen on surveillance footage and for now the attack appears to be random. A missing fisherman lucky to be alive, according to affiliate Bay News 9, the 51-year-old man has been floating in the Gulf of Mexico for about 24 hours before he was found and rescued. He had gone on a fishing trip and he fell out of his boat during a storm. He didn't have a life jacket on. Amazingly, he's in good condition this morning.

A major shakeup at Microsoft, the company has announced its long time CEO Steve Ballmer will retire in the next 12 months. Microsoft shares are surging right now in the news. Ballmer has been criticized for Microsoft's lack of innovation when it comes to new devices.

An emotional reunion you will only see here on CNN. School shooting hero Antoinette Tuff meets the 911 operator who helped get her through that frightening confrontation with the gunman.


ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, CNN'S "AC 360": This is Kendra McCray.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How are you doing?




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Good to see you. It was really a moment.


COSTELLO: It was really a moment. When the two women first met it was by phone on Tuesday when police say a man with an assault rifle and 500 rounds of ammunition entered an elementary school in Decatur, Georgia. Tuff convinced that man to surrender without a single person being injured. Her courage possibly best displayed when she demands the gunman stay in the room with her.


ANTOINETTE TUFF: He went out there to shoot at the police and they were shooting back at him. The bullets were coming from everywhere. I said come back in here right now. Don't worry about it. Come back in here and stay with me. We're both going to be safe. Bullets don't have no name and if they shoot you, they're going to shoot me. Come back in here we're going to work this out.

COOPER: That's amazing that you were encouraging him to come back into the room where you were. A lot of people would be happy he's out of the room where you are.

TUFF: He was firing bullets with him and they were firing them back and they knew that they were going to kill him. And I knew that he was not in his right frame of mind and he had all those magazines on him and I know he was going to light it up.

COOPER: How did you remain so calm through this?

TUFF: I was actually praying on the inside. I was terrified but I just started praying knowing that if I get as hysterical as I was on the inside on the outside that he would wind up panicking.


COSTELLO: There were also some light hearted moments during that interview like when Anderson said he wanted his own Antoinette ringtone.


COOPER: I want to have you on my speed dial. Whenever I'm down, I want to talk to you. You're great.

TUFF: Thank you.

COOPER: I want you to call me sweetie and tell me everything is going to be OK.

TUFF: It's going to be OK.

COOPER: I'm going to get a ring tone with your voice saying sweetie, everything is going to be OK.

TUFF: It is.

COOPER: It is.

TUFF: I was actually telling God that even though it seemed like I've been through hell and back, I promised him December the 31st that if he allowed me to live that 2013 would be heaven for me. And so I know today that all that I went through was actually for that one perfect day.

COOPER: There is such an outpouring of people saying how amazing you are. I think you're incredibly heroic. You saved people's lives. Would you just say to me one more time, baby everything is going to be OK?

TUFF: Baby, everything is going to be OK.


COSTELLO: I feel pretty good myself now. A lot of people are saying they want to support Antoinette. You can support for her page on She raised more than $58,000 for underprivileged children so they'll be able to travel and see the world.

Still to come in the NEWSROOM, the higher benefits of medical marijuana come with a price tag, but the nation's capital has a plan to cut pot prices. It's blew light special next.


COSTELLO: Medical marijuana is now legal in 20 states and the District of Columbia. Even if you have a doctor's prescription, that weed can get pretty pricey. But now D.C. is weighing a proposal to allow some patients to get a price break. Athena Jones has more for you.


ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Discounts for weed? Washington, D.C. could soon become the first jurisdiction in country to require medical marijuana dispensaries to subsidize pot for low income patients.

DAN RIFFLE, DIRECTOR OF FEDERAL POLICIES, MARIJUANA POLICY PROJECT: Doctors realize that this is medication that can work for patients and those patients need to be able to obtain it whether they're rich or poor.

JONES: Under the proposed rule, dispensaries would have to set aside 2 percent of their annual gross revenue to provide discounts of at least 20 percent to patients who earn less than double the federal poverty level. Dispensaries that don't comply would face a fine of $2,000 per offense and risk losing their license to operate for multiple offenses. The Marijuana Policy Project, which advocates for legalizing and regulating weed says these discounts are a good idea.

RIFFLE: I think the original plan was to have the dispensaries contribute to a fund that the city would maintain and this just puts the onus on the dispensaries themselves. But the bottom line is for the patient at the end of the day, if you're on a low or fixed income you need to be able to obtain medication.

JONES: Pot can cost a pretty penny. At the recently opened capital city care dispensary, an ounce cost $380 to $440. I first visited the dispensary a few weeks ago, they already offer discounts of 10 to 15 percent to seniors, veterans and low income patients and they say they are happy to do their part to ensure that all patients have access to the medicine they need. Metropolitan Wellness Center in southeast Washington also offers some discounts, but says the proposed rule isn't the best approach.

MIKE CUTHRIELL, PRESIDENT, METROPOLITAN WELLNESS CENTER: I support the idea of a reduced cost, you know, access to cannabis, but I think the approach of 20 percent discount or this 2 percent that would be contributed to by the business isn't the best or most creative process.

JONES: The proposed rule is still undergoing the required 30-day comment period. It's not a done deal yet. Athena Jones, CNN, Washington.


COSTELLO: Still to come in the NEWSROOM, as millions of Americans struggle with student loan debt. President Obama unveils a plan he says will help cut college costs but will it work? We'll talk about that after the break.


COSTELLO: Happening now in the NEWSROOM, 37 million Americans with a combined $1.1 trillion in student loan debt. What President Obama wants to do to relieve the burden? Plus --


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Justice requires him to step down.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We don't think he can govern.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bob, it's time for you to resign.


COSTELLO: For months San Diego Mayor Bob Filner has been urged to step down. Today we may finally learn if he will. And this -- love that, the cape crusader unmasked. The new Batman will be played by Ben Affleck. Some critics are already predicting another dare devil disaster.