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CNN NEWSROOM

John Boehner Talks Fiscal Cliff; Reporter's Month of Madness; Tax Relief for Sandy Victims; Intern of Robert Menendez Arrested.

Aired December 13, 2012 - 11:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(BEGIN LIVE FEED)

REP. JOHN BOEHNER, (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I've been pushing all year for us to address this problem. But here we are at the 11th hour and the president still isn't serious about dealing with this issue right here. It's this issue, spending.

Now, you go back to -- you want to talk about polling, most Americans would agree that spending is a much bigger problem than raising taxes. They want us to deal with this in a responsible way.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Whatever the issue, it takes as long as you're in December to (INAUDIBLE).

BOEHNER: Unfortunately, that is the case that we're dealing with today.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE QUESTION).

BOEHNER: I don't quite understand what the question is.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: You will not do thinking with the upper rates?

BOEHNER: The law of the land today is that everyone's income taxes are going to go up on January the 1st. I've made it clear that I think that is unacceptable. But until we get this issue resolved, that risk remains.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Could you describe how difficult it is to craft a deal that your conference will support while not jeopardize your job as Speaker?

BOEHNER: I'm not concerned about my job as Speaker. What I'm concerned about is doing the right thing for our kids and our grandkids. And if we don't fix this spending problem, their future is going to be rather bleak.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: They say they have put spending cuts on the table and that you know what they are. Do you?

BOEHNER: They have put some spending cuts on the tail. Unfortunately, the new stimulus spending they want almost outstrips all of the spending cuts that they've outlined.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE QUESTION). BOEHNER: There is no such list.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE QUESTION).

BOEHNER: Right after the election you said increasing tax rates was unacceptable and since then, you say things like you oppose that. That's do oppose the idea.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE QUESTION) -- to decouple that and then (INAUDIBLE QUESTION).

BOEHNER: Ifs ands and butts are like candy and nuts. If that were the case, every day would be Christmas. Listen, my goal is to get to --

(LAUGHTER)

I know, it's going to be here real soon. My goal is to get to an agreement with the president that addresses this problem.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE QUESTION).

BOEHNER: I have no idea.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE QUESTION).

BOEHNER: Do you think Senator Reid or then-Senator Obama would have ever given to President George W. Bush the unlimited ability to raise the debt limit?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: They're talking about doing it now.

(LAUGHTER)

BOEHNER: Oh, I know they're talking about doing it now. Dun do you think there's any chance that Senator Reid or Senator Obama would have done that? Zero. Congress will never give up our ability to control the purse. And the fact is that the get limit ought to be used to bring fiscal sanity to Washington, D.C.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE QUESTION).

BOEHNER: If the Justice Department is not going to enforce the law of the land, the Congress will.

Thank you all.

(END LIVE FEED)

ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: All right, there you have it as he walks behind the chart. It feels a little like Groundhog Day.

ALI VELSHI, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, a little.

BANFIELD: I'll agree with you there. Ali Velshi, our chief business correspondent, is still here. A couple of things we should highlight. Number one, he says that the new stimulus that the Democrats are proposing in the latest go-round, he suggests that it actually outstrips all the spending cuts.

VELSHI: Right.

BANFIELD: He's also saying a lot of what we've already heard, but he brought along wonderful props, that chart, which I heard you saying off camera saying, that's a great chart, but it's not all together --

(CROSSTALK)

VELSHI: It's inaccurate. It really troubles me that he's doing this. And he's depending on a lot of inaccurate facts and it really trouble me that he's doing this. He talked about the Ernst & Young study that says that --

(CROSSTALK)

BANFIELD: Let me just quote that. He suggested the Ernst & Young study says about 700,000 jobs would be at risk if the wealthiest 2 percent were not to continue having their tax cuts.

VELSHI: Correct.

BANFIELD: And the Ernst & Young report you suggested is commissioned --

(CROSSTALK)

VELSHI: By the National Federation of Independent Businesses and U.S. Chamber of Commerce. They have lobbied fiercely for not increasing taxes than any other organization.

(CROSSTALK)

BANFIELD: But there has to be a grain of truth to a report like that --

(CROSSTALK)

VELSHI: What he's saying is -- I've said it before, Ernst & Young needs to be very careful about allowing its name to be used for things like this because there is just nobody who corroborates this study. It doesn't transfer. Because -- everybody talks about small business as the engine of growth in this country.

Let's set the record straight. Small business does not create more jobs than big business does in this country. End of story. It is a myth that we've started to believe. Small businesses create more of the new jobs in this country under normal circumstances than large businesses do. Because large businesses layoff tons of people and hire tons of people. Small businesses are more consistent. That is not to say we shouldn't support small businesses. There is a myth that somehow -- here is the other thing. The percentage of small businesses, which transfer their wealth through their personal income and hence have to pay income taxes, who would be affected by this increase --

(CROSSTALK)

VELSHI: -- is a very small percent of businesses. And within that, the number of those that are actual real employers is yet substantially smaller. Most of those types of businesses are self- employed. They are partnerships, law firms, rock stars. They are not employers. So there is just no way you can get to that math that 700,000 people will be put out of work by an increase by the top 2 percent.

John Boehner has problem because he has to go back to his caucus and sell this. This part is a done deal. The top 2 percent getting -- they say the president is not putting forward an offer, and he's right about that. The White House is playing a weird game. But these guys don't understand the polling is against them. The facts are against them and election has been won. Top 2 percent will pay more tax. End of story. Let's spend our time talking about the rest of the stuff.

BANFIELD: And I didn't hear the Speaker address that 75 percent of Americans say the top 2 percent, we should take it of the table.

Thank you.

VELSHI: All right.

BANFIELD: It's great you stayed around for some reaction to that. Do appreciate it, Ali Velshi. You've got your work cut out for you.

Also remember to keep your tweets coming into us, too, because we will keep Ali on the hot seat to answer your questions. Tweet me @CNNashleigh with all your personal questions about the fiscal cliff and the things that you're concerned for your own personal economy. We'll respond to as many as we can.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: So every day I get a stack of newspapers. This is one that I am absolutely into every day. Picked up my copy of the "New York Post," read through it, and oftentimes, I see the work of one of the bright young reporters there, Susannah Cahalan. So I spotted a story written about her. It was a story that she had gone mad, like stark raving mad, was being hospitalized and restrained in a hospital.

Look at these pictures. This is the beautiful reporter I'm reading every day in the post in a hospital bed. It's pretty shocking stuff because the things that she was doing sounded like the behavior of those back in the 17th century who were accused of being witches, burned at the stake, demonic possession. But the cause is astounding. Mere antibiotics saved her from what might have been a lifetime of lunacy or worth, death.

Susannah Cahalan wrote a book about the entire ordeal called "Brain on Fire."

And kind enough to be with me now to talk about this. This is a mouthful. I have to say what the name of this disease is, anti-NMDA receptive auto immune encephalitis. What is that?

SUSANNAH CAHALAN, AUTHOR & NEW YORK POST REPORTER: Wow. It is a mouthful, but, in short, it's when your body's immune system attacks your own brain.

BANFIELD: And you're fine. You are over this.

CAHALAN: Yes. Yes. I'm not on any medication. I'm back to where I was before.

BANFIELD: So you're at work. Everything is going fine. What all of a sudden happened that you ended up in a condition that we saw you in?

CAHALAN: It started suddenly. I would act kind of paranoid, but it started just little things. Like little paranoid thoughts started seeping in. And then it started to progress.

BANFIELD: You thought your father had murdered your stepmother?

CAHALAN: Yes.

BANFIELD: And you thought you could age people with your mind if you were looking at them?

CAHALAN: Yes.

BANFIELD: These are huge delusions. So did anyone right away say you're sick or were you written off?

CAHALAN: I was actually given a diagnosis of alcohol withdrawal. So that was the first diagnosis I was given. And then when I was in the hospital and my delusions got worse and worse, I was given the schizo effective disorder.

BANFIELD: Were you actually fighting and kicking the nurses?

CAHALAN: Yes. As the disease progressed, I became catonic, I could hardly walk.

BANFIELD: Could you speak?

CAHALAN: Hardly. Almost mute.

BANFIELD: And here you are today, so I don't understand how you can go from that to this. How did they figure it out?

CAHALAN: Basically what happened was they did a spinal tap that proved what I had. And the cure is really simple. It's steroids, immune therapies, pretty fairly simple.

BANFIELD: So how often -- now that this is quite a passion of yours having lived through this, how often do you see this is never diagnosed and people go through their lives like this and it's lethal?

CAHALAN: It can be. And I've gotten e-mails from people who had the same symptom, same kind of presentation in the 1980s. And they kind of had to go through life with this. And they still have cognitive deficits.

BANFIELD: Can they be cured this far along or is there permanent damage?

CAHALAN: I'm not a doctor, but I think there's likely permanent damage.

BANFIELD: What about you? Do you live in fear of a relapse, that this could all happen again?

CAHALAN: There is about a 19 percent chance that it could come back, but the fact is with early intervention, you can cure it again. That eases my mind a little bit.

BANFIELD: And because you wrote the book and you've been doing some media coverage on this, you've had people come to you and say because of you, I asked my doctor to give me another look.

CAHALAN: And even since the book has come out, I've gotten several e- mails of people who have been tested and diagnosed.

BANFIELD: It makes you think of the hundreds of years of people who have been locked up, just written off as lunatics. And ultimately suffered through it until death, that it could have been as simple as this, a mere brain disease?

CAHALAN: Entirely. I think about exorcisms. In a different time or place, I looked possessed. Like the devil was inside of me.

BANFIELD: Did you think that you were possessed? Or did you know somehow it was more than that?

CAHALAN: I didn't have a religious upbringing, so that wasn't part of my identity. I believed the media was following me, but other people I talked to actually did believe that the devil was inside them.

BANFIELD: It's a remarkable story from start to finish. I'm glad you did the book because that can really help a lot of people who may be suffering through these strange diagnoses.

Susannah Cahalan, "Brain on Fire." Thank you so much.

CAHALAN: Thank you for having me.

BANFIELD: Nice to meet you finally. I read you all the time. So there you go, "Brain on Fire, My Month of Madness."

We're back right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BANFIELD: Some bipartisan agreement today on taxes. I'm not kidding. I know you just saw that whole segment with Ali Velshi, but at noon today, a bipartisan coalition of congressmen are planning to announce a new tax relief legislation to help victims of Superstorm Sandy. You know that storm did tens of billions of dollars in damage and killed at least 113 people across the U.S. And CNN will bring you the information just as soon as it happens.

And speaking of storm relief, this is big. Check it out. Rock royalty taking over Madison Square Garden. The Boss and Jon Bon Jovi, Paul McCartney, Roger Waters. I'm going to shut up so you can hear them.

(SINGING)

BANFIELD: Sweet sounds. Proceeds from this incredible concert going to the Robin Hood Relief Fund. It's working to bring much need help to the storm victims. And the concert organizers tell CNN that the concert was accessible to two billion people via TV and the Internet. No word yet on the total amount of money that was raised, but you can say this about these guys, rock on.

(MUSIC)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez is considered a proponent of immigration reform. He's used his voice in the past on Arizona papers please law. Yesterday, he was caught on a different side of the issue. There are several media reports that his office had a college intern working for them, but that intern was in the country illegally and also an alleged sex offender. The 18-year-old has been arrested. And when Senator Menendez was asked on MSNBC why they didn't do a background check on the young man, here's what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. ROBERT MENENDEZ (D), NEW JERSEY: There's no way we could know about status. We asked about status. There's no way we could know about any allegation as a juvenile of what his background would be in terms of any credibility.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BANFIELD: Senator Menendez's office released this statement, and I'll quote for you. "Louis Sanchez was an unpaid college intern in our Newark office for approximately two months. No staff member responsible for managing the internship program had reason to believe, based on the interview process, that Sanchez had any criminal background or immigration issues. Clearly, Mr. Sanchez sought to deceive our staff. Upon notification from authorities of his arrest, Mr. Sanchez's relationship with our office immediately ended."

Senator Menendez was briefed on the situation today. And he is appalled. He has no tolerance for those who invite the law and expects the authorities to continue to prosecute the case. Senator Menendez believes this incident under scores the reason we need comprehensive immigration reform that provides zero tolerance for those who have criminal records.

Joining me on set is CNN's legal contributor, Paul Callan.

Paid or unpaid, you would assume that any government office would require a background check.

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL CONTRIBUTOR: I wouldn't assume anything about the government, Ashleigh. They're pretty lax in a lot of respects, and you know, I think the Menendez people are ultimately going to say, hey, this is a volunteer. This is a volunteer intern. We don't -- it's not employee so --

(CROSSTALK)

BANFIELD: You don't have to be paid?

(CROSSTALK)

BANFIELD: -- you can't volunteer. You have to be part of a paid program.

CALLAN: I'm looking at the statutes in this area, and it's clear that federal law requires you to confirm that somebody has the right to work in this country when they're an employee. I don't see anything that says an intern or a volunteer is an employee. So I think if somebody walks into your office and says, hey, I'd like to volunteer and see what it's like for me to be working in a law firm, I don't think I have to run a background economic.

BANFIELD: We have talked about juvenile offenders before, and apparently this allegation of a sex offense was born of a juvenile action, OK? Some of the reporting suggests that the prosecutor's office in New Jersey where this happened said that this young man registered as a sex offender but he doesn't appear on any national registry or any kind of registry. Is that odd? Is there a juvenile component where you register and don't appear, and what's the point of that?

CALLAN: The law in this area is very complicated, because each state has a different mechanism and different rules requiring who has to register and not. Then the states all try to coordinate with each other so that there's some sort of viable national registry and national way to pick this up. Frankly, it's very complicated and it's very hard to track down a juvenile in particular. Plus, this was out of --

(CROSSTALK)

CALLAN: Plus, I think the allegation here is that he was a sex offender in another country before he came to the United States.

BANFIELD: But definitely there was this case that emanated from New Jersey, so there should be something on the books? CALLAN: Yes. There was something on the books he was a sex offender. He volunteers to work someplace. I'm so clear that the law requires a background check.

BANFIELD: Well, we'll determine what else is coming out of the Senator's office.

Thank you.

CALLAN: Nice being here.

BANFIELD: Paul Callan, always good to have you.

We're back in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)