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Interview with Barack Obama; Verdict Reached in Nidal Hasan Case.

Aired August 23, 2013 - 13:30   ET



SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: President Obama says some Republicans see the budget battle as their last chance to get rid of Obamacare, his signature health care reform law. The president says he gets frustrated by the partisan battles and the gridlock in Washington.

Here is more from his one-on-one interview with our Chris Cuomo.


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST, NEW DAY: When they get back in session, do you believe you know the way to get things done for the American people so we don't have another shutdown of government which will punishes everybody else except the lawmakers?

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There's a very simple way to do it, which is the Senate passed a budget and the House passed a budget. And maybe you're not old enough to remember "Schoolhouse Rock," but --

CUOMO: I remember.

OBAMA: Remember how the bill gets passed? The House and Senate work out their differences. They pass it and send it to me and I sign it. We like to make things complicated but this is actually not that complicated.

Congress doesn't have a whole lot of core responsibilities. One core responsibility is passing a budget, which they have not done. The other core responsibility that they've got is to pay the bills that they have already accrued. If Congress simply does those two things when they get back, then the economy can continue to recover and folks out there, who are working hard and 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 we're competitive.

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

OBAMA: Ultimately, the buck stops with me. Any time 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 to think less about politics and party and think more about what's good for the country. Then finally, know 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 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 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.

And I've made this argument to my Republican friends privately. And by the way, sometimes they say to me privately, I agree with you, but I'm worried about a primary, from somebody in the Tea Party back in my district, or I'm worried about what Rush Limbaugh will say about me on the radio and so you've got to understand 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.


MALVEAUX: Well, first, she makes headlines for talking a gunman into surrendering to police and then she gets a very special call from the president. Her incredible story, up next.


MALVEAUX: Breaking news now. A military jury has reached a verdict. This is in the case of Major Nidal Hasan. He's the Army psychiatrist charged with 13 counts of murder and 32 counts of attempted murder. This is in the November 5, 2009, shooting rampage that occurred in Ft. Hood. They have reached a verdict.

Our own Ed Lavandera is in the courtroom here.

Prosecutors say Hasan targeted soldiers deployed to Afghanistan because he had a jihad duty to kill as many of them as possible. Hasan admits to the shootings, but under military law, defendants are not allowed to plead guilty in death-penalty cases.

But our own Ed Lavandera is inside of the courtroom. He will come out as soon as possible because that military jury has reached a verdict in this case.

It has also -- I understand that we had, Ed.

Ed, are you with us?


MALVEAUX: All right.

LAVANDERA: We just emerged from the courtroom. The jury here at Ft. Hood has found Nidal Hasan guilty on every count, the maximum charges of 13 premeditated murder charges as well as 32 premeditated attempted murder charges. That's for each of the victims and survivors in the Ft. Hood massacre. But more importantly, this now means that Hasan now qualifies, because of those murder convictions, that he is qualified for the death penalty. This now begins the second phase of this trial, the sentencing and punishment phase. I understand that they will reconvene on Monday to begin putting on that testimony as the same jury will decide if Nidal Hasan will been sentenced to death. AS we've been covering this story for the last three weeks, it's been clear to everyone that what Nidal Hasan wants, and even his own attorneys said he was working the prosecution in this case to ensure that he get the death penalty. As you mentioned just a short while ago, Suzanne, that he felt that jihad duty to carry out and hurt as many soldiers as possible and that's why he carried out this massacre at Ft. Hood.

It will be interesting to see what he does now. He's not really helped out his case in my kind of way. We understand from prosecutors they plan to call one family member from each of the victims that was killed in the massacre to testify in the punishment phase. But now we move on to that.

The headline here, Nidal Hasan found guilty of 13 premeditated murder charges as well as be 32 premeditated attempt murder charges -- Suzanne?

MALVEAUX: Ed, take us inside of the courtroom. Who was present at this moment? And tell us was he there? Was there reaction? Who was inside when this news came down?

LAVANDERA: We're waiting on getting some of that detail from inside the courtroom. I watched it from a satellite courtroom that's been set up for news media to watch. We have one of our CNN producers inside the courtroom. They're still kind of locked down over there. That's probably about 300 yards from where we are. We'll get that as quickly as possible.

We do know there are several family members, which for victims and survivors inside that courtroom, it's been difficult for many of them. During the closing arguments that prosecutors put on, they played a video tape that FBI investigators had taken from inside the room where the massacre occurred and it's a gory, difficult video to look at. They just played it as the entire courtroom was silent. They played it for those jury members to watch before they went into deliberations. You can imagine the level of emotion and intensity this case brings out for them.

In fact, before they read the verdict the jury instructed -- the judge instructed everyone to remain calm and there could be no out bursts. From what I could here, everything sounded quietly. You know the intensity of this moment weighed heavily on a lot of people inside that courtroom -- Suzanne?

MALVEAUX: We want to welcome our viewers around the world as well as here in the United States, following this breaking news story.

Ed, I want you to give a recall, if you can, of what you know, what you have learned. I also want to follow up with some of the victims' families. WE know Nidal Hasan wants the death penalty. He wants to be put to death. Do they also feel the same way?

LAVANDERA: It's been difficult to speak with family members and anyone who testified throughout the course of the trial. The judge in this case instructed everyone who testified that they were not allowed to speak with the news media while these deliberations were not going on. We did get the chance to talk with some of the survivors before the trial started. I think a lot of people would very much welcome the death penalty in this case. There are some who are trying to move on and not focus on that and say we will accept whatever punishment is handed down by this jury. You can imagine, with the number of victims and the number of people impacted by all of this, there's a wider range but they want to see Nidal Hasan punished. I think a lot of people are comfortable with whatever the jury hands down in this case.

Ed, stay with us.

We also have on the phone, Eugene Fidell, the military law attorney at Yale Law School.

I want you to weigh in here, if you will. How likely is it that he would get the death penalty? This is something he's been asking for. And he's been found guilty on all charges.

EUGENE FIDELL, MILITARY LAW ATTORNEY, YALE LAW SCHOOL (voice-over): It's not unlikely that he's going to get his wish. There's no way to the place any confidence limits on that. Given the number and gravity that he's been found guilty of, he has to be considered a really viable candidate not only for a death sentence but to have the sentence carried out. There's been quite a number of death sentences in the military justice system over the last number of decades but there hasn't been an execution in over 50 years. He might be the next.

MALVEAUX: Does it make any difference this is an individual who wants to be put to death? If he fought this and said I deserve to live, do you think this outcome would be different?

FIDELL: I don't. I think his wishes have little to do with this. The jury has to be unanimous. But you can have a hold out, you could have a number of holdouts, people say it's worth it to sentence somebody to life in prison without parole rather than it is to execute them. It's very hard to handicap what happens next.

MALVEAUX: Tell us how this procedure, how this process has been different, this military jury, and how they handled this case? How is it different than civilian law?

FIDELL: For one thing, you have a jury that isn't selected at random. They have been selected by the convening authority, who is a military commander. You have a judge who is a military officer. Army judges have short terms of office, a few years, unlike federal judges who serve for life -- that's a significant difference -- or state judges who serve for rather long periods of time.

But in other respects, the rules of evidence are similar to what is in civilian trials. There are lawyers on both sides. Really what's different about this case is not the frame work in which it's been tried. It's been the quite strange approach of the defendant. I don't know what people were expecting but personally I think this is about the speech that Dr. Hasan plans to give when his opportunity comes in the next phase of the case.

MALVEAUX: Thank you, Professor. We're going to follow this up.

We'll take a quick break. We'll be right back. But again, this is Major Hasan, found guilty of all charges and could possibly face the death penalty for that massacre that occurred out of Ft. Hood, Texas, back in 2009.

We'll be right back.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

MALVEAUX: We're following this breaking news story. This is a military jury has now reached a verdict. This is in the case of Major Nidal Hasan. This is the Army psychiatrist who was charged with 13 counts of murder and 32 counts of attempted murder. This was in the November 5, 2009, shooting rampage that occurred at Ft. Hood.

I want to bring in our Ed Lavandera who is right outside the courthouse.

I understand you've got a little bit of color of what it's like inside there.

LAVANDERA: Our producer, CNN's Jason Moore, has just emerged from the courtroom and described a little bit of the scene that we weren't able to see. He said when the verdict was read, Nidal Hasan was stoic and looked directly at the soldier reading the verdict and was stroking his beard. He looked over at family members. Many had been the exact same family members who have been sitting in the courtroom throughout the trial. Several of them were crying and hugging each other and consoling each other, that everyone looked satisfied with the verdict. Suzanne, you can imagine how difficult this has been especially through much of the testimony, which has been very difficult, very graphic and painful to listen to for those folks.

MALVEAUX: Ed, what happens next? Do we expect to actually see Nidal himself, to see Nidal Hasan or any family members emerging from the courthouse to make statements or either side the prosecution or the defense?

LAVANDERA: Well, so far, the way the judge has worked here over the course of the last three weeks, she has not allowed any family members or anyone who has testified to make any kind of public comments about the case, or I should say the people who have testified not to make any public comments about this case while the trial has been going on. I suspect that that will continue now that the verdict has been handed down and we move in the sentencing phase of this, and that those rules will remain in place. But we do know that there have been either family members of the victims or survivors who have been wanting to make comments. One of the tensions underlying all of this is the lawsuit and fight over military benefits that many of these survivors are engaged in with the Army at this point. While all of this is going on, that's been one of the underlying issues percolating under all of this story.

But right now, they're focused on this verdict, the guilty verdict that has come down for Nidal Hasan after he basically spent three weeks not putting up any kind of fight against prosecutors who laid out gruesome and very convincing testimony. It was Nidal Hasan from the get-go who admitted from the beginning he was the shooter in this case. So all of the drama and suspense went out the door with that.

MALVEAUX: The next drama, whether he will be put to death because of this.

Ed, we want you to hang on if you will.

We're going to take a quick break. We'll have more details on the other side.

Thanks, Ed.


MALVEAUX: College tuition, of course, can be a huge financial concern. Our Christine Romans has some advice on how to save for your child's education in "How to Speak Money."


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Suzanne, the best way to pay for college? Start saving early, very early. A small number of companies offer their employees a 529 college plan in their benefits package. With the 529 it's pre-tax money that comes out of every paycheck into a fund that will grow tax-free and can be taken out tax-free if used to pay for college tuition or other higher education expenses. Some companies even do a match. Until it becomes more popular to offer an open enrollment time, you're going to have to it to do it on your own. Begin with your state-sponsored 529.

LYNNETTE KHALFANI-COX, PERSONAL FINANCE EXPERT: One of the best things about 529 plans is that they're very flexible. So you can transfer these funds among individual users if your son opts not to go to college, for example, your daughter can use the money. You can also use them in different states and in different schools.

ROMANS: You can't save too much too soon, because college costs are rising fast. According to the College Board, the average 2012-2013 tuition increase was 4.2 percent at private cools, 4.8 percent at public universities. And that's actually slightly lower than the historical rate of 6 percent a year.

College costs are rising faster than just about anything else, including how much money you make. Take a look at this. In 18 years, it will cost more than twice as much for your child to attend college than it does today.

Here's what you should consider before opening a 529 plan. Check out the plans offered in your state first, since they may provide an extra tax savings. Make sure there's no up-front commission and that expenses, expenses and fees, are relatively low. Consider getting a rewards credit card that go directly into a 529 plan instead of signing up for airline miles. American Express offers an especially lucrative card that puts 2 percent of every purchase into a Fidelity- managed 529 -- Suzanne?


MALVEAUX: Thanks, Christine.

That's it for me. Brianna Keilar takes it from here, including the latest on the breaking news -- Hasan found guilty.

We'll have more after the break.