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GOP Wants Sebelius Out Over Obamacare; San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit Workers Strike; Manhunt For Two Convicted Murderers; Shutdown Delays Mortgage Refinance; Cruz Draws Cheers and Jeers From GOP; Spiders Blamed For Toyota Recall; Dick Cheney Opens Up About Heart Health; Government Reopens, Panda Cam Returns

Aired October 18, 2013 - 10:00   ET


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: He lost his battle to derail Obamacare, but did the Tea Party favorite still come out a winner? And later --


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Twelve million people have seen that video. You want to tell me it's just a little website?


COSTELLO: The "Fifth Estate" out in theaters today. But Julian Assange wants no part of it and he has a message for the actor playing him. This movie is toxic. The second hour of NEWSROOM starts now.

Good morning. I'm Carol Costello. Thank you so much for joining me. We begin with a renewed fight against Obamacare and a new target in the battle, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. The Republican National Committee launching an online petition urging President Obama to fire Sebelius because of the Obamacare web site glitches.

And on Twitter, the RNC is using the #firesebelius demanding she be held accountable and slamming her for the estimated $400 million cost of the website so far.

Brian Todd is in Washington with more for you this morning. Good morning, Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Carol. As you mentioned, Kathleen Sebelius, the critical mass is building against her by the day right now. Republicans are very publicly equating her with the roll-out mess, and they are turning up the heat.


TODD (voice-over): She's become the face of the Obamacare roll-out in all its technical problems, and there's intensifying pressure on Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to step down. She is the chief target of Republicans, including Senator Pat Roberts who is a long-time friend of Sebelius' family.

SENATOR PAT ROBERTS (R), KANSAS: Secretary Sebelius has had three and a half years to launch Obamacare, and she has failed.

TODD: Roberts is joined by Republican Congressman John Fleming of Louisiana. A long-time family practice doctor, Fleming says he'll soon send a letter to President Obama asking him to accept Sebelius' resignation. Fleming says he's gotten other House members to sign it. I presented the White House's defense of the healthcare sign-up website when I spoke to him.

(on camera): It is getting better. Those problems are being streamlined more and more each day. That's what they're saying. Not good enough for you?

REPRESENTATIVE JOHN FLEMING (R), LOUSIANA: Brian, that law was passed almost four years ago. They've had plenty of time to either roll this thing out properly, beta test it, make sure it works, or delay the implementation. They did neither.

TODD: Secretary Sebelius' aide said she was traveling and not available to go on camera. They didn't respond specifically to the calls for her to resign, but did refer to us comments from the White House earlier this week.

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The secretary does have the full confidence of the president.

TODD (voice-over): But President Obama's former press secretary said this. Quote, "I hope they fire some people that were in charge, and there are two House committees investigating the website launch."

A.B. STODDARD, "THE HILL" NEWSPAPER: They will make sure that Obamacare is the story of the day most of the days of the weak for months and months to come.

TODD: Sebelius said this on a tour promoting Obamacare this week.

KATHLEEN SEBELIUS, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY: I'll be the first to tell that you the website launch was rockier than we would have liked.

TODD: And potential customers are still shopping. A company that analyzes web traffic says after the first week online, out of all those who attempted to sign up through federal exchange, just 1 percent ended up enrolling in Obamacare.


TODD: Administration officials say that figure is not accurate, but they are not giving any official numbers on actual enrollments right now. They say that may come next month. We have to emphasize that one company's data is unofficial and it is just a snap shot. It doesn't include information on enrollments on state run exchanges -- Carol.

COSTELLO: So these problems are undermining a key goal of the president's health care law, right? TODD: They certainly are. You know, with all of these problems, the technical problems, and now the fact that Republicans are really turning up the heat very publicly on this, the administration is having trouble getting younger healthy people to enroll in this system. And they desperately need younger, healthy people to get in there in order to mitigate the cost of covering the older, sicker people who they want to cover. So this is not helping in that regard.

COSTELLO: If you hear the system is plagued with all of these glitches, you're not going to try to get on. Wait until later or maybe I won't do it at all.

TODD: That's right. Especially younger people may make that decision to postpone it indefinitely.

COSTELLO: Brian Todd reporting live in Washington this morning. Thank you.

TODD: Thanks, Carol.

COSTELLO: Thousands of people in the San Francisco Bay area are scrambling to find another way to work this morning after Rapid Transit workers went on strike for the second time this year. The sticking point of negotiations, BART officials want to change rules for things like overtime and scheduling.


ANTONETTE BRYANT, PRESIDENT, ATU LOCAL 1555: We were this close. Yet at the last minute they threw in a management rights clause to take away our rights as workers.

TOM RADULOVICH, PRESIDENT, BART BOARD OF DIRECTORS: There's room to move on financials, and there has been room to move on work rules. We want an agreement that works for everyone.


COSTELLO: BART is the fifth largest transit system in the United States; 400,000 people use it each and every day.

An intense manhunt now underway in Florida for two escaped killers, one of those men, Charles Walker was convicted of killing of man in his early 20s. That's him on the left and on the right is Joseph Jenkins. He killed a man in front of his 9-year-old son. Now the families of Jenkins' victim are terrified and demanding answers this morning how did this happen?

CNN's John Zarrella is in Rolando with more. Good morning, John.

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Carol. Authorities here really want to get these two guys. They've been tell us that they've been shown in the past a propensity for violence. They want to get them back in custody before anymore harm comes to the community. How did they get out? Well, basically they duped the Department of Corrections. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZARRELLA (voice-over): Nine years old, he was just 9 when Roscoe Pugh III saw his father gunned down during a home invasion robbery.

ROSCOE PUGH III, VICTIM'S SON: Our lives would be totally different. I said that since I was 9 years old, I said my life would have been different if I wouldn't have saw it. I saw it.

ZARRELLA: Now 15 years later, Roscoe is reliving the nightmare. On September 27th, this man, Joseph Jenkins serving life for the murder of Roscoe's dad, was mistakenly released from a prison in Franklin County in the Florida panhandle. For Roscoe's mom, it is impossible to comprehend.

CRYSTAL PUGH, VICTIM'S WIFE: It seems like my whole world came down on me. I thought I would not have to see them ever again in life because they had life sentence plus 100 years.

ZARRELLA: But the story doesn't stop there. A week and a half after Jenkins was released another convicted murderer, Charles Walker, was accidentally set free from the same prison. How is it possible? Forged documents sent to the prison ordered the releases and on both of them, the fake signature of Orange County Judge Belvin Perry. Because he is a high profile judge, Perry says he sees how it is possible no one would question it, and he is not entirely surprised.

JUDGE BELVIN PERRY, ORANGE COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT: People, particularly people with criminal minds, come up with ingenious ways to beat the system. They have nothing but time on their hands to think of things.

ZARRELLA: The Florida Department of Law Enforcement was only notified of the mistake a couple of days ago. Corrections officials say they followed department policy and procedures.

MISTY ASH, SPOKESWOMAN, FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS: Those inmates were released based on those court orders that we received. The orders were later determined to be fraudulent.

ZARRELLA: It's a snafu that has the Pugh family living in fear.

PUGH: To have to know that he's free on the streets is frightening. It's terrifying.


ZARRELLA: And authorities might not even know today that these guys were out if it wasn't for the family of one of the victims. That family notified the State Attorney's Office, saying, how come this guy is out of prison? He's supposed to be serving life. The State Attorney's Office takes a look into it and notifies the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Department of Corrections and just a couple of days ago, they realize these guys have been out on the lamb -- Carol.

COSTELLO: John Zarrella reporting live from Orlando this morning. Tomorrow night, we'll have more on these escapes Florida inmates and the week's other big crime stories, an hour-long special, "Making the Case," this Saturday, 8:00 p.m. Eastern on CNN.

It wasn't just furloughed workers whose bank accounts felt the sting of the government shutdown. Anyone who does business with the federal government got stuck in a 16-day holding pattern. That includes one homeowner whose refinanced mortgage was put on hold. CNN's Alison Kosik has more for you.


MARY BRADY, MORTGAGE DELAYED BY SHUTDOWN: I feel like I gave my checkbook to toddlers.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Mary Brady is feeling trapped. The refinance on her $260,000 mortgage is yet another victim of the government shutdown.

BRADY: I know my problem might seem like a small thing. I'm just a cog in the machine, but to me it's affecting a lot of different things.

KOSIK: The Connecticut nurse and divorced mother of two was scheduled to close on her refinancing last week, a run of the mill transaction that would save her almost $600 per month, according to Michael Menatian, her mortgage banker.

MICHAEL MENATIAN, PRESIDENT, SANBORN MORTGAGE CORPORATION: Credit history, job stability, equity in the home, you couldn't ask for a better loan.

KOSIK: At issue, a routine fraud report showed that her social security number might have been compromise requiring verification from the IRS. But furloughs at the tax agency meant there was no one there to do so.

MENATIAN: The form has been sent in and we can't get anybody.

KOSIK: That means Mary is missing out on cold cash. Money she planned to use to fund her Masters degree and home improvements.

BRADY: Unfortunately, with this kind of up in the air, I might have to put those plans on hold. You can see they are difficult to open. I do everything I'm supposed to do. I get my bills paid. I pay my taxes and all of the sudden I'm trying to do an improvement for myself, only have them to say, you can't do that.

MENATIAN: Here is somebody through no fault of their own because of the government shutdown, who would have thought can't go forward with their lives.

KOSIK: Even with the shutdown lifted, a massive backlog at the IRS means a simple social security verification, a process that normally takes a few days, could take a few weeks.


KOSIK: And we did call the IRS for more information. No word on exactly how long these delays are going to be, Carol, but you think about it, you know, mortgage rates are so low so many people trying to refinance. So this is one case. There could be millions of people deal with these delays because of the dysfunction in Washington -- Carol.

COSTELLO: My heart hurts for them. Before you go, Alison, Google just made history and I would like for you to tell folks about it.

KOSIK: Google in the past few minutes topping $1,004 for one share. It's kind of a new Apple, meaning the stock that we love to watch. It is a new record high and this is on the back of some solid quarterly earnings coming from Google. You talk about a return on your investment. Google shares traded at $85 nine years ago. Could you imagine if you held on to it? Darn.

And you know why Google is doing well? It's because more people are clicking on their ads. That is their core of business. It makes up a bulk of its revenue. It had a great earnings season. Nothing too stellar or overwhelming and look how well the stock is doing today. It did have a good earnings report this morning -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Alison, thanks so much.

Still to come in the NEWSROOM, the man in the middle, Ted Cruz, fresh off the bare knuckle fight in Washington and ready to fight another day. We'll be right back.


COSTELLO: As government operations rumble back to life from the shutdown, the man at the center of the two-week stalemate is facing passionate reviews. Republican Senator Ted Cruz is enjoying a big boost from his fellow conservatives and Tea Party loyalists. But other Republicans say he's grandstanding at the expense of his party.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think the only thing he accomplished was gaining more supporters and fundraising for himself, but did absolutely nothing for the country and did a lot of harm to the Republican Party.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What he accomplished is bringing together people from all over the United States and he led and showed his leadership in organizing all of those people is a huge accomplishment particularly since the conservatives have been crying out for leadership for many, many years and he filled that void.


COSTELLO: CNN's Athena Jones is on Capitol Hill to break it all down for us this morning. Good morning, Athena.

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Carol. Well, Ted Cruz has certainly made a name for himself, as you can see there. And we've been talking a lot about who won and who lost in this 16-day shutdown battle. Senator Cruz is being called both a winner and loser, and someone folks in both parties will be watching closely.


JONES: Failure has never looked so good.

SENATOR TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: This is a terrible deal.

JONES: Perhaps that's because Senator Ted Cruz does not feel beaten. The day after Cruz was defeated in his battle to defund Obamacare, he was out shaking the hands of World War II veterans.

CRUZ: The American people continue to rise up. We're going to turn this around.

JONES: Cruz has energized his base. A Pew Research Center poll released this week shows his popularity soaring among Tea Party Republicans, jumping to 74 percent from 47 percent in July.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Out here in the real world, outside of New York and Washington, D.C., these people think Ted Cruz is a hero.

JONES: And donors are supporting him in a big way, to keep his fight going. Cruz has reportedly raised $750,000 these last few weeks. The president may think he silenced Cruz who famously spent 21 hours on the Senate floor railing against Obamacare.

CRUZ: I do not like green eggs and ham.

JONES: Cruz's Obamacare fight has not been without a price.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: His colleagues in the Senate look at him as an adversary, a troublemaker, as a problem child. Not as somebody they want to cooperate with.

JONES: His hometown newspaper sharply critical of his performance since their endorsement last year. The Tea Party vows to fight on. The damage for Republicans is undeniable.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He may end up leading a party, the question is, is it a party that can compete nationally either for control of Congress or the presidency?

JONES: The Cruz factor giving late-night comedians plenty of fodder.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Obama has said that the day after the budget deal is made he's going to concentrate on immigration. Yes. He says he'll start by deporting Ted Cruz.


JONES: And one more word of warning for both parties, Cruz's aides says he hasn't ruled out forcing a government shutdown all over again a few months from now over Obamacare -- Carol. COSTELLO: Can't wait. Athena Jones reporting live in Washington this morning. Thank you.

Checking other top stories this morning, are spiders invading your car? Toyota is recalling almost 900,000 vehicles because of potentially dangerous problems triggered by spider webs. The car maker says spider webs can cause a short circuit that could make the power steering fail or force the driver's air bag to deploy. The problem affects 2012 and 2013 Camrys, Venzas and Avalons.

Throughout his career, Dick Cheney's heart health has been documented. Well, now Cheney is opening up about his deteriorating health in a new book. He has had several heart attacks as you know including one, which you probably didn't know days after he was elected vice president. He recalled to CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta.


DICK CHENEY, FORMER U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: Basically what I did was resigned the vice presidency effective March 28th of 2001.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: So nearly for you entire time as vice president, there was a letter of resignation sitting there.

CHENEY: Pending.

GUPTA: How did President Bush react when you told him about this?

CHENEY: He was supervised, but he thought it was a good idea.


COSTELLO: You can see Sanjay Gupta's full interview with Dick Cheney Sunday night on CBS's "60 Minutes" and Tuesday night on CNN's "Anderson Cooper 360."

When it is a rock more than a rock? Answer, when you're in Goblin Valley State Park. Three Boy Scout leaders in Utah could face felony charges after they pushed over a 200-million year old boulder. The men say they pushed over the boulder because it was wobbly and they feared it might fall and hurt hikers.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A kid was about ready to walk down here and die and Glen saved his life by getting the boulder out of the way.

DAVE HALL, FILMED INCIDENT: That thing wobbled. I looked at that main path and walkway and thought, one gust of wind and a family is dead.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He had to brace himself. He had to get into position. That's more than a gust of wind. You've got to admit.

HALL: You know what? That earth, that dirt wears away every time there's a rainstorm.


COSTELLO: But that's a big no-no in this park. It's against the law to deface state parks. No charges have been filed yet.

The symbolic image of the shutdown, panda cam and now a grown man in a panda suit giving out hugs and photos at the National Zoo. The pandas are back. The shutdown is over. Life is good. We'll be right back.


COSTELLO: All is right with the world again this morning. The panda cam is back on and now this -- and now this, somebody dressed up like a panda standing outside the national zoo. I'm telling you, this panda is dancing alone right now. But hordes of people have been posing with this man dressed as a panda, and I'm not talking about children, I'm talking about grown men and women.

Anyhow, the most unlikely hostages of the partial shutdown are once again free to enjoy their celebrity and eat all the bamboo they want. CNN's Rene Marsh is at the National Zoo. I cannot believe you're not by the dancing panda.

RENE MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Man, Carol, like two seconds ago. He's walking away. He's probably enough dancing for the day. He is there, or she, I don't know. But we're at the Smithsonian National Zoo. As you know, they've been shut down during the government shutdown. Just minutes ago they opened up the gates. People flooded in, the wheels of Washington slowly turning once again and lots of the local businesses across the country, they're getting back into high gear.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.

MARSH (voice-over): Tourists lined up as the nation's parks, museums and memorials re-opened for business, from the Florida Everglades to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.

(on camera): How does it feel to be inside today.


MARSH: How does it feel to be inside?


MARSH: Employees are back on the job after three weeks of forced time off.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's good to be back at work.

MARSH (voice-over): On Capitol Hill where most members have fled for their home districts, the furloughed staffer got the historical clock ticking again. But as the vice president greeted returning EPA employees with muffins, he warned all that time off would mean a backlog of paperwork.

JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Now they're back and they have all that work piled up. They have a lot to do. I'm not going to hold them up anymore.

MARSH: For the first few days back, federal employees say they'll be playing catch up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What did go on work wise for the past couple weeks.

MARSH: This FAA employee told us it could take him a week to clear the backlog. In Alaska, king crab fishermen could lose tens of thousands of dollars a day waiting in the harbor while returning federal workers sift through their catch permit requests.

MARK GLEASON, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ALASKA BERING SEA CRABBERS: I'm very hopeful that when the government opens, the agency will make it a top priority to get that crab issued -- get that quota issued.

MARSH: Medical researchers say it will take time to ramp up their projects again. The good news, once again, Americans can tune in to the National Zoo's panda cam, which is broadcasting online with heightened interest, causing some delays. One thing on the minds of many, hoping Congress doesn't force them through another shutdown in a few months.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My understanding is this is just for 90 days. After 90 days, then what?


MARSH: Well, Carol, you want pandas. They're right there for you. When we talk about this government shutdown, it really is ultimately about the bottom line. The National Zoo here says that because they were shut down for the 16 days, they missed out on some 85,000 to 95,000 visitors. Those are real dollars that they can't get back -- Carol.

COSTELLO: That's just a beautiful facility. It's free. But of course, they make their money off concession and things like that. If you ever get a chance to go to Washington, D.C., everyone, go to the national zoo. It is worth it. You can see what the pandas -- why don't they name pandas things like Ralph and Pete? It would be so much simpler. Rene Marsh, many thanks.

Still to come in the NEWSROOM, the Obamacare website cost a whopping $400 million. But some tech experts say the Obama administration need millions more to fix the web site's problems. That's next.