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GOP Gives Up On Debt Bill Conditions; Shooter To Testify Today In "Loud Music" Trial; Christie To Appear At Chicago Fundraisers; States Of Emergency, Winter Storm Slams South; Hollande To Be Honored At State Dinner

Aired February 11, 2014 - 10:00   ET


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: We are learning the House GOP will abandon its current debt bill and vote on a clean one tomorrow. In other words, it will vote to raise the debt ceiling, no strings attached. Political director, Mark Preston, is in Washington. This is a big deal.

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: It is a huge deal right now. Of course, we want to see what the markets and how they will react to this news now coming just now out of Washington. What we've learned, Carol, is that the House Republican leadership has agreed to move forward and do a clean vote on increasing the debt ceiling. What does that mean?

It means that, in fact, we will not have any political gamemanship between Democrats and Republicans in the ability for the federal government to pay its bills. The Treasury Department has said, that by the end of the month, had the federal government not increased its spending power that in fact, we would start to begin defaulting.

Now Republicans had been trying, Carol, to find some way to offset the increasing of this debt limit by doing some things to decrease spending on some levels. They were unable to do it. So what they have decided to do is to try to put this off until after the election.

COSTELLO: So is this a victory for House Speaker John Boehner. Did he beat the more conservative elements in his party?

PRESTON: Well, in many ways, I think what he's done is that he has punted until after the election and Democrats will say that it's a victory for because this is exactly what they wanted. But I just got off the phone with a House Republican source who told me that in many ways that they needed to do this. They needed to move beyond this issue.

They couldn't allow this issue to define them at this point especially as we are heading into campaign season. What they want to see now is they want to see the Republicans take back the United States Senate. They think that they are going to be in a better position after the election to force some spending cuts upon Democrats, especially if Republicans are able to control the House of Representatives as well as the United States Senate.

So in many ways, Republicans, Carol, are in a very good position to control Congress after the November elections, of course. President Obama will still control the White House. But of course, we'll have very much gamesmanship if that happens.

COSTELLO: All right, Mark Preston with our breaking news out of Washington, D.C. many thanks.

Breaking news now in Jacksonville, Florida too, Michael Dunn, the man accused of killing a teenager, he says it was self-defense. As you could see he is standing now in court ready to take the oath. He is going to testify in his own defense. Let's head to Jacksonville for just a minute to check in with Ashleigh Banfield. Kind of surprised?

ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No, actually, not at all. But I'll tell you something, Carol, this is a really great moment. If we can turn it up for our viewers, this is when the judge asks him, are you absolutely sure you know what you are doing? If you're able to turn it up. Have a listen --

COSTELLO: Let's do it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- you don't have to present or prove anything. The state has the entire burden of proving the case against you. So you understand that?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can become a witness if you wish. If you do, then you will be treated like any other witness. Meaning you will be put on the witness stand. You will be examined by Mr. Strolla on direct. You'll be cross examined by one of the assistant state attorneys or Ms. Corey herself on cross examination so it will happen just like the other witnesses. Do you understand that?

DUNN: Yes, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't need to know the discussions between you Mr. Strolla, but experience tells me that there are many occasions where a lawyer might say to their client, you know, I really think you need to testify in this case. The client might feel differently. There are cases where a client would say, I want to testify in my case and the lawyer says, I don't think that's a good idea.

There may be occasions when both of you are on the same page, either to testify or not to testify regardless of what Mr. Strolla's advice or counsel has been, do you understand that taking the witness stand is completely your choice? It is an independent decision that you make on your own?

DUNN: I do, Your Honor.

COSTELLO: You make it with advice from family, friends, Mr. Strolla, whomever, ultimately, it is your choice to decide one way or the other? What I am told that you have made the decision to wave your right to remain silent and become a witness in the case. You are making this decision to become a witness in the case independently of your own free will. You are making that decision freely and voluntarily?

DUNN: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nobody has threatened or coerced you or anything like that to get you to wave your right to remain silent?

DUNN: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Any further inquiry from the state?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, just before we do that, so Mr. Dunn, have a seat. What we'll do is when we bring the jury back in, I'll ask Mr. Strolla if he is ready to proceed. I will say yes. I will say call your next witness. You will come up. I will have you raise your hand I want it to look exactly the same. You come up have you raise your hand. The clerk will administer the oath. You come around and have a seat and off we go.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does the state have any objection to him being over here already?

DUNN: Yes, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you want him already under oath or to stand up over there and be sworn?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't want the jury to infer that he is a -- I think this will look like pre-trial proceedings.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What I'll do if you want, when we are finished with his testimony, we can take a break and he can get off the stand.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That will be great, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your other matter.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They have filed a motion with the trial beforehand. I wanted to address that in some respects. I think Mr. Strolla and I may be in agreement.

COSTELLO: All right, we are going to step away from this and bring back in Ashleigh Banfield. You heard what the judge said. It was interesting that Mr. Dunn has a leg brace. Did you know that?

BANFIELD: I did not know that. It is hard to make that out. There are a couple of really key things that happened just before we went to that live. Let me get you up to speed on why this is so critical. He is going to testify. We all came to the conclusion that if he doesn't, this thing is over.

There has been so little, if any, evidence that's been presented that shows that he was in fear of his life or great bodily injury. That's why he had to open fire on a carload of teenagers. He is going to be the one to describe to this jury what was going on inside his head and why he was so afraid.

COSTELLO: What about the jury buying that?

BANFIELD: You need an expert to talk about why you behave a certain way and why he would think to drive off and go to a hotel and order pizza and have a rum and Coke and not call police. That expert that this defense attorney wants to put on the stand has been shot down. That judge is not going to allow it. The state said no. They had reservations about the quality and the ability of this expert to actually be relevant in this particular case, the background, history and precedent of this expert.

Michael Dunn is going to be the only one to describe why Michael Dunn did what he did. He is going to have to be the only one to explain why it was significant and explain away why he did the things he did without the benefit an the bull string of an expert to get inside his head and help the jurors believe what he was saying.

COSTELLO: Well, he appears to be ready and the expert you were talking about was Dr. John Abruso, he was going to talk about acute stress disorder. This is a relatively new disorder that hasn't been used in court many times. We await the testimony of Michael Dunn. I am going to take a break and maybe he will be on the stand. We'll be back.


COSTELLO: We've been covering this trial out of Jacksonville, Florida, the loud music trial as what they are calling it. Michael Dunn is accused of killing a teenager. He says it was self-defense. It happens after or during an argument over loud rap music.

I want to bring in our legal analyst, defense attorney, Brian Claypool and CNN legal analyst Joey Jackson. Welcome to both of you. So Michael Dunn is going to testify. Before he takes the stand, the lawyers are talking a lot to the judge, Joey. What are their concerns?

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, there are a number of concerns. What you want to do. In court, there are some things called motions in lemine. You want to preclude certain evidences and introduce certain evidence. There needs to be limits on his testimony -- there doesn't need to be limits, Carol, but from a defense perspective, you want to be able to say, he should be able to testify about some things and not as others.

I did hear the judge talk about the thug music and that will play huge. In cross-examination, that should be a doozy. When the prosecution gets to him, they are going to make a lot of headway in my view on that issue. Beforehand, he was talking about thug music. He has to explain that -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Yes, Brian, just to expound on what Joey is saying, Mr. Dunn's fiancee took the stand. When they pulled him to that gas station and heard the loud music, he supposedly said to her, I hate that thug music and then she went into the gas station to get a bottle of wine. There are also letters that Mr. Dunn wrote to his family from jail where he talked more about thug culture and thug music and how people had already made up their mind about him, because he was a white man. The teenager killed was a black kid.

BRIAN CLAYPOOL, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Carol, that's right. I think the letters that Mr. Dunn wrote from jail might come in on the rebuttal case. If Dunn takes the stand and says, I was in reasonable fear for my life because the prosecution is going to want to take the position that this was a racially motivated killing.

The fact that Dunn's lawyer was trying to get in this expert witness on acute stress syndrome, I think, might have been an angle to not have Dunn testify. If the expert would have been able to come in and testify, what Dunn was experiencing, the trauma he was experiencing, to try to show he was in reasonable fear and that here is how he reacted to this situation, that might have then usurped the having Dunn have to come in to testify. That was a huge loss for the defense.

COSTELLO: We're still awaiting Michael Dunn to take the stand. I want to move on to a breaking story we have out of Chicago with Dana. Lots happening today, thanks, guys, but standby.

Today Chris Christie heads to Chicago where embattled New Jersey governor -- where the embattled New Jersey governor will participate in a series of fundraisers and a speech at the Economic Club of Chicago. Our chief congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, is there. Dana, what do you have for us?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, what's going to be fascinating is to see how Chris Christie handles first and foremost what is going to be the first time he has had a real public appearance since this whole scandal broke. That's what's going to happen in a couple of hours at the economic club. It is going to be an audience of over 1,000 people, the movers and shakers in the Chicago business community.

How he handles that again publicly. The questions he might get about the issues we have been focused on will be fascinating. The other big thing he is doing, probably the big reason he is in Chicago is to raise money for the other job that he has, which is the chairman of the Republican Governor's Association. The RGA is telling us last month in January, he was responsible for raising $6 million, which they say is a one month record.

This is told to us as you know, Carol, you can imagine why, to underscore the fact that they believe he is not damaged by the scandal for doing the job he has to do as RGA chair, which is to raise money for all the gubernatorial candidates around the country. He is also against a lot of Democratic criticism, ads that say he is a pariah.

It is true we had no public events we saw with the governor in Florida when Christie was there, with the candidates and officials in Texas where he was last week, but in terms of this state and this visit here to Illinois. It might not be the case. The governor here is a Democrat. The candidates to replace him have not yet had their primary, the Republican primary. I am told it is possible that at least a couple of those candidates might show up at this economic club meeting, which is a public meeting today. COSTELLO: We'll check back. Dana Bash reporting live from Chicago. We're going to take a break and be right back with much more in the NEWSROOM.


COSTELLO: Checking our top stories at 20 minutes past the hour. At least 11 are dead after an attack on an adult movie theater in Pakistan. They happened in the northwest city of Peshawar. At least 18 people were injured, two are in critical condition. Police say the theater had received security threats in recent weeks. No group or individual has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Remarkable new security video of a U.S. military raid against alleged terror suspects, Anas Al-Libi. This video published by "The Washington Post" shows U.S. commandos descending on the target and then within seconds capturing him from outside of his home. The capture took place in Libya in October. He is being held in New York is accused of the deadly bombing of two U.S. embassies in Africa.

Schools closed, store shelves picked clean and states of emergency throughout the southern states. Within two weeks after a winter storm paralyzed Atlanta, more snow and sleet and freezing rain are going to hit the southeast. By tomorrow morning, ice conditions could be, quote, "catastrophic."

The new CEO of General Motors is getting a raise, $14.4 million to be exact. Last week, critics slammed the auto giant for paying Mary Barra less than the former CEO, Dan Ackerson. That prompted GM to release her total compensation for 2014, which turns out to be 60 percent more than what her predecessor made. She is the first woman to lead a major auto maker.

If you are one of the 350 people invited to tonight's state dinner, you can expect this winter garden salad made like in a terrarium. The French President Francois Holland is going to have dinner with President Obama and the first lady. Earlier, there was a beautiful ceremony welcoming the French president. Here's more now from Jim Acosta.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: With the state visit of French President, Francois Holland, President Obama is doing more than toasting a close U.S. ally, which is why within moments of Holland's arrival, they were off to Thomas Jefferson's Monticello and a joke there would be no returns on whatever he purchased.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Today, we are not demanding anything.

ACOSTA: Back at the White House, staff members were showing off preparations for the upcoming state dinner. From the elaborate place settings to eye-popping samples with the French in town, the pressure is on the White House chefs including a meal with caviar, quail eggs, dry aged beef and chocolate ganache for desert. The guests will be gathered under a heated tent on the south lawn of the White House, an event too big to hold inside, especially with Mary J. Blige providing the entertainment. Among the finishing touches, just where to sit the French president whose public split with his long-time girlfriend means he is flying solo at the state dinner.

CAPRICE MARSHALL, FORMER STATE DEPARTMENT CHIEF OF PROTOCOL: I am sure they will have an imaginative way to do the seating that is absolutely appropriate.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I thought this was an appropriate way to start a state visit.

OBAMA: Before dinner, officials say the two leaders have plenty on their diplomatic plates. With European concerns about U.S. surveillance activity, the civil war in Syria and the effort to contain Iran's nuclear program.

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We have a broad and deep relationship with our oldest ally and there will be many issues that the two leaders will discuss.


COSTELLO: That was Jim Acosta reporting. We will be back with much more from Jacksonville, Florida in a moment.


COSTELLO: Back to Jacksonville, Florida. This is Michael Dunn, the man accused of killing a black teenager, he says, in self-defense. He has taken the stand. Let's listen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Any type of physical work or manual labor or anything like that?

DUNN: No, unfortunately, I had a motorcycle accident as a young man and I am fairly sedentary. Not too much sports, things like that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Based on that motorcycle, did you sustain pretty good injuries?

DUNN: Yes, to my low back.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was that with your now ex-wife, Felice?

DUNN: Yes, it was. That's Christopher's mom when she and I were both teenagers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now fast forward a little bit, do you still have the recollection of the week and the week end of November 23rd, 2012?

DUNN: Absolutely.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you tell the jury prior to coming to Jacksonville -- let me ask you this. Why did you come to Jacksonville that Thanksgiving weekend?

DUNN: For my son's wedding, specifically.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That was Chris Dunn?

DUNN: Yes, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you make any arrangements with Miss Rouer?

DUNN: Well, we came together.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But did you make arrangements for the whole weekend?

DUNN: Absolutely. We were going to be up Thursday night to attend the wedding Friday and then Friday night, we were going to -- I'm saying it wrong. We were going to stay in town two nights. Saturday night, we were going to be in St. Augustine at a bed and breakfast that was also pet friendly.

COSTELLO: You just mentioned pet friendly. Did you choose a hotel in Jacksonville for that reason?

DUNN: Yes. We found a website that listed all the pet friendly hotels in the area where our wedding was in Orange Park. We actually found the hotel that was a little far away just because it was pet friendly.