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Legal View with Ashleigh Banfield

Government Shutdown Continues; Military Death Benefits Not Being Paid; Federal Debt Ceiling Approaches; Two Military Missions, Two Different Outcomes; Beaten in Atlantic City

Aired October 08, 2013 - 11:00   ET


ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN HOST: When U.S. troops pay the ultimate price, the government steps in to pay burial costs and other benefits to those grieving families. So what happens when the government shuts down? The sad and shocking truth as United States turns its back on our fallen heroes.

Also ahead, a college student calls it the worst thing that ever happened in his life. A police dog tearing at his neck, five officers pounding him down to the ground and all of it for mouthing off?

You'll see this exclusive video and you'll hear both sides of the story.

And police in Florida, making millions and millions of dollars by selling kilos of cocaine and then seizing all the money after the sale.

Is this really legal? And if it is, how on Earth is that possible?

Hello, everyone, and welcome. I'm Ashleigh Banfield. It is Tuesday, October the 8th. Nice to have you with us on LEGAL VIEW.

Leave it to Congress to engineer some mindboggling complications to basic ideas and then make the answers sound so simple.

You know, you've heard them again and again, even in the last hour, the House Republicans saying let's talk about the shutdown, the debt ceiling and ObamaCare, you name it.

Senate Democrats say, no, let's hold a vote.

Have a listen.


REPRESENTATIVE JOHN BOEHNER (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: You know, Americans expect us to work out our differences, but refusing to negotiate is an untenable position.

And frankly, by refusing to negotiate, Harry Reid and the president are putting our country on a pretty dangerous path.

Listen, there's never been a president in our history that did not negotiate over the debt limit. Never. SENATOR HARRY REID (D), MAJORITY LEADER: The speaker of the House of Representatives is still sitting on the one bill that can re-open the government.

Speaker Boehner insists that the Senate-passed bill to end the shutdown can't pass the House. Well, I'm not the first to issue this challenge. It's been issued all weekend and yesterday. And that is, prove it. Bring it up for a vote.

If he really believes the bill won't pass, he shouldn't be worried about bringing it up then.


BANFIELD: It just doesn't end. I want you to consider this as well. We've got a rolling CNN survey of the entire House of Representatives, and it shows that a clean, unencumbered, no-strings-attached spending bill would, in fact, today pass, but just barely pass.

But our count, there are 17 Republicans who are kind of breaking ranks. They're willing at least to join 200 House Democrats. And if you do the math, that makes 217 "yes" votes for what we call the clean continuing resolution, a clean spending bill.

Two-seventeen, that is just a bare majority. But still there are no signs that an actual vote is going to take place.

And this brings me to the ranking Democrat on the House budget committee, Representative Chris Van Hollen of Maryland.

Congressman, thanks for being us with. I want to ask you what it means when we get that vote of 17 Republicans who say they would "break ranks," and I say that in air quotes, because they also say they wouldn't break from their leadership and demand a vote.

So do you or don't you have this vote?

REPRESENTATIVE CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D), BUDGET COMMITTEE: We have the votes if you take those numbers at their word because those Republican members said that they would vote for a measure to immediately open the entire government without these preconditions.

But there's a simple way to find out, Ashleigh. The speaker could decide right now to hold a vote, and if it's defeated, then it's defeated.

But he knows there are the votes here to do it, and all he has to do is show us. And that's what's so frustrating.

I'm hearing from Republicans, Democrats, and independents that they thought you would at least allow a vote on something so important and where we have such an emergency.

But the speaker is listening only to the small reckless fashion that got all ginned up by Senator Ted Cruz.

BANFIELD: There's a lot of people across the country that do want some kind of movement, no matter what.

And you both seem to have dug in. And instead of talking to one another, you're instead releasing talking points and expecting that this is now going to be a marketing and branding battle for the hearts and minds of Americans.

I just want to read a couple of polls, Congressman, just to show you how things may have changed over the last week. It's a bit apples and oranges, so you're going to have to bear with me.

But, last week, we had, due to the government shutdown -- pardon me. Last week we asked people if they thought congressmen were behaving like spoiled children, and 69 percent said that Republicans were the ones behaving like spoiled children.

Fifty-eight percent, that's an 11-point spread said it was the Democrats fault. And way down at the bottom, President Obama was taking it on the chin at 47 percent.

So this week we asked the question, due to the government shutdown, are you angry at, and when it comes to the Republicans, that number has gone down to 63 percent, and to Democrats it's gone up to 57 percent.

So that was now a six-point spread. It was a kind of an 11-point spread at the "spoiled children" question. It's a six-point spread now when it comes to people being angry.

And the president has come up as well, drawing may of the anger of Americans.

So if it is in fact now a battle for the hearts and minds, the Democrats don't seem to be doing so well. Have you made a grave error by digging in?

VAN HOLLEN: Ashleigh, we're not digging in, and what I would ask the American people to do is continue to follow this conversation very closely.

You played a clip of the speaker saying he just wanted to talk, but on Sunday, on ABC, he told the country that he had talked with Harry Reid in the Senate, that they had negotiated an agreement.

The agreement was that Democrats would agree to the lower funding levels for the government for the short period of time, and in exchange, the speaker would not add on these unrelated provisions.

That was the result of exactly the kind of negotiation the speaker says he wants. He walked away from the agreement.

Why? Again, he told us. He said he walked away because he had this faction within his own party who wouldn't go along with this.

Look, this is a moment for the speaker of the House to exert a little leadership for the good of the country. Nobody is winning by this.

There are all sorts of polls out there, Ashleigh, but the important thing is get it done and --

BANFIELD: OK, I hear you. Get it done.

I'm going to reintroduce myself to you as Solomon's baby, and if I and the public watching the public right now are Solomon's baby, which one of you two parties is going to let go so that you stop tearing us apart?

VAN HOLLEN: I'm not sure -- why isn't a bipartisan vote letting go? In other words, why isn't allowing the House of Representatives, Republicans and Democrats alike, letting go?

Why is it -- when did it become the case when allowing the democratic process to work is somehow a Democratic thing or a Republican thing as opposed to an American thing?

That's what -- and that is what I'm hearing from people across the political spectrum. Why is -

BANFIELD: We'll see how today goes.

VAN HOLLEN: You make it sound like it's a big concession to for the speaker to allow democracy to work its will. That's not a concession.

They actually changed the rules to prevent individual members of Congress from calling up a vote on the clean c.r., on the one that would immediately open the government.

They changed the rules on October 1st to prevent that from happening, to saying that only the Republican leader's designee, like the speaker, only they could call for a vote. And now they've refused to do it.

And, so, this is not a Democratic or a Republican thing to allow democracy to work its will.

BANFIELD: We'll see how it goes today.

All right, well, listen, I appreciate you taking the time. As always, it's great to talk to you, and so frustrating to talk to you and your colleagues at the same time.

Congressman Van Hollen, thank you.

Listen, you have heard a lot about who is working, what's working, what's not open because our elected leaders can't seem to find a way to fund the government.

And if you're outraged already, prepare to be outraged a lot more, because, yes, Congress and the president did agree to continue paying the troops, but what's not being paid for now are the military death benefits.

CNN's Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr joins me more -- joins me with more on that. This is something that you have discovered. Literally troops who are dying overseas are effectively having American government turn its back on them and their families.

Can you explain?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ashleigh, for anyone who dies on active duty right now with the government shutdown, the death benefits are not being paid to their families.

This is something that has been a foundation of the United States military's relationship with the government forever, that the fallen will be taken care of, that their families will be taken care of.

But here's what's going on right now during the shutdown. First of all, a cash payment of a hundred thousand dollars that is supposed to be paid within three days of a death is not being paid during the shutdown to families.

Reimbursement for funeral and interment of remains, not being paid.

Travel to Dover Air Force Base to meet the flag-draped casket coming off the plane, not being paid.

And travel for some families when their loved one might be on life support at a military hospital and they want to get there before that life support ends, that travel not being paid.

The thinking is that this will be paid after the shutdown is over, but for a lot of military families, that's just going to be too late.

The -- later today, we will learn the names of four more fallen troops in Afghanistan. There was a Marine who was killed a few days ago, so you are seeing a number of military families and those who die perhaps of a traffic accident or an illness, a great loss to their families as well, the benefits, not being paid until the shutdown's over.

BANFIELD: That's just sickening. There's no other way to put it.

Barbara Starr, thank you for that, keeping an eye on all the things that are being affected, and that's just one major one.

Democratic leaders in the Senate are putting forth a clean increase in the debt limit.

As you've heard, without some sort of hike in the government's authority to borrow, the Treasury warns it will come up short on or about October 17th. By counting, that's nine days away.

What exactly does that mean for the country and for you? My colleague Christine Romans is going to break it down for you.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS ANCHOR: The Treasury Department is about to run out of money to pay all of its bills. Why? Because it can't borrow more money.

The United States government is financed. It wouldn't be able to borrow more money. And unless Congress raises the debt limit, there wouldn't be enough. It would have to rely on $30 billion in cash that's in the Treasury's coffer right now.

There's also daily revenue coming in, but that fluctuates, so we can't really count exactly on how much is coming in, and that's not enough to pay everything.

That means there's some very tough decisions. I want to show you what the biggest bills we have are coming due, OK?

November 1st is the day I'm concerned about. That's the day you have Social Security, veteran's benefits, military pay and Medicare, all coming in at the same time.

You want to pay those, right? These seem like kind of priorities for the government, and then what happens? You don't have any more money. You have to pay, what, IRS refunds? Those would be IOUs. The government workers, maybe IOUs.

This is what you cannot do. You cannot give IOUs for your interest payments. Those absolutely must be paid. That's what's really crucial here. Even China, overnight, warning the U.S. that it expects to get paid.

Here is what the big risk is if you don't. Stock markets would most likely plunge here. The value of the dollar would crash.

Experts say that, just like when you don't pay your credit card bill and it takes a ding on your credit score, interest rates would rise for the country. Our borrowing costs would increase.

That means credit card rates, mortgage rates, car loan rates and, ironically, our debt-to-deficits would explode because of those other higher borrowing costs.

It's really simple. The United States has always paid its bills on time. We don't have a budget, haven't since 2009.

The budget, the spending and taxing and priorities of a government are put in a budget, not the debt ceiling. The debt ceiling is the credit limit. It's the budget that you need. That's where you put your priorities.


BANFIELD: Christine Romans, who always breaks it down, it is just so simple. Are you listening, Congress? It's so simple.

In other news, and this is astounding, a college student, brutally beaten by five police officers, even bitten on the neck by a police dog, all of it caught on surveillance video.

What prompted this sort of response from the officers? And what is that man doing now because of it. That's coming up in just a moment.

Also, those military raids in Africa over the weekend drawing some tough scrutiny now, but is this the new normal? Could we expect more raids like this in the future? Rendition?

That's next.


BANFIELD: Big new developments in those two terror raids by American forces over the weekend. The U.S. military is taking steps to prevent any kind of possible violence that might come up in the American embassy in Libya now. Two hundred members of the U.S. Marine Rapid Response Team are now being moved to a base in Italy. They are at a base in Spain, but now they're in Italy just in case of any kind of an attack.

This comes after a special ops mission that captured an alleged al Qaeda operative in Libya over the weekend. Abu Anas al Libi is now in the probably less than comfortable confines of a U.S. officials on a U.S. Navy ship.

This morning, a senior State Department official confirmed that Libya's justice minister summoned the American ambassador for questioning over what that country is calling an abduction of al Libi.

We're also learning more about a Navy SEAL mission right around the same time, a long way away on an opposite coast. In fact, a mission aimed at capturing a top operative of the terrorist group al Shabaab. Now, that was not a great mission; it failed to actually make the capture of the suspect because the SEAL team reports that it came under heavy fire and also spotted children nearby.

Because of that that they say they aborted the mission. Joining is CNN military analyst General James "Spider" Marks, and also CNN's senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.

Spider, if I could start with you, this notion about the SEAL team abandoning its mission in the middle of it, amid gunfire because children were spotted, I'm a little confounded by it only because everyone knows this is close quarter combat. Everyone knows there are children involved in close quarter combat. Women and children are in these towns. When it came to the capture and the killing, actually, of Osama bin Laden, there were children and women in that compound too.

GEN. JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS, U.S. ARMY (RET.): Yeah, Ashleigh, I think the difference is that a decision was made al priori that this was not going to be a strike from a drone or from over the horizon, that they in fact wanted to go in, get Ikrima, and then try to extract him and then try to get some intelligence from him.

So, there was a clear understanding that the strike would not be made by a drone, or by some other means because of the potential for collateral damage. Clearly, the profile for the insertion of the SEALs and operational rules of engagement were such, that there was a hope based on pretty good intelligence that they would be able to get in and maybe have some contact, get him during the hours when they weren't particularly repaired and then extract the guy.

Let me tell you, if the SEALs had gotten farther into their engagement before the volume of fire from the insurgents took place, we probably would have seen an extraction of several folks, and there probably would have been some collateral damage that we would be talking about right now. But they were able to determine the level of resistance before they got too far. So the commander on the ground made the decision it's time to abort and we've got to go.

BANFIELD: All right. And Jeff Toobin, if you can weigh in on the other operation. They're two entirely separate situations we're dealing with and circumstances. Now we have al Libi, sitting as I said, uncomfortably, more than likely on a Navy ship in international waters somewhere. Some have said this means that international laws apply and others said American laws apply to him because he's on American turf on that ship. But what exactly does apply in terms of the rules in interrogating al Libi?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, we now have arrested a lot of terrorist suspects. And there is a procedure in place. What happens initially is that they are interrogated to see if there is anything they can provide that would help catch terrorists right now.

Once that process is over, they are turned over the to criminal justice system where is he already under indictment here in New York. So he will be tried in New York. He's not going to go to Guantanamo. Obama is trying to close Guantanamo, not add more prisoners to it.

BANFIELD: Tell me right now, how far can interrogators go onboard that ship? Are there different rules that apply because they're in international waters, or is it just as though he were sitting in a New York cell?

TOOBIN: It's different in the sense that there are no Miranda rules. It's 'not like he can say, I want a lawyer. The interrogation can end. He certainly can't be tortured. The Obama administration has said from day one --

BANFIELD: It's not a black site?

TOOBIN: Right. It's not a black site. He's not going to be water- boarded, but he is going to be questioned even if he asks for a lawyer. It is very likely that what he says in the course of this interrogation will not be able to be used against him in his criminal case.

BANFIELD: Because it's a civilian trial.

TOOBIN: Right. And he will not have receive his Miranda warnings. However, it is also true that there is other evidence against him, and there will probably be other - there will certainly be other evidence that can be used. This is really a terrorist investigation first, and the criminal investigation will take place once he gets back to New York. BANFIELD: So you and I have a lot more to talk about, because it feels like shades of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed sort of all over again and obviously there's --

TOOBIN: Except, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed , he never got to New York.


TOOBIN: We'll see whether al Libi gets here.

BANFIELD: Right. We'll see whether al Libi gets to New York at all, but like I said, I don't think that I Navy destroyer or ship or whatever he's on is going to be a very comfortable environment for a while.

TOOBIN: I thing he'd be happy to leave.

BANFIELD: Jeffrey Toobin and Spider Marks, always great to talk to both of you. You are so much smarter than I at all of these topics.

BANFIELD: Coming up, a new arrest in the Steubenville rape case. Why an official at the high school has been taken into custody and why IT is now at issue.

First though, caught on tape a brutal beatdown by police. The person and the subject of that video, the center of it, the subject of the dog attacks, a student in Atlantic City. Five officers, a police dog, and now that student, fighting back in court. We'll explain.


BANFIELD: I'm about to introduce you to a young man by the name of David Castellani, who admittedly got a little too mouthy to the police the last time he was in Atlantic City. What he never could have expected is what was going to happen next. Some of this video is exclusive. I'm going to warn you right now, it is disturbing, and it has led to a can of worms. Jason Carroll is going to explain right now.


JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Surveillance video shows what happened minutes after the Tropicana Casino kicked Connor Castellani out for being underage. The 20-year-old is surrounded by at least five Atlantic City police officers in the early morning hours of June 15th. His hands behind his back. Then he empties his pockets. Minutes later, he walks away.

It all seems fairly routine, then the situation escalates. Castellani crosses the street, yelling at police. There is no audio on the surveillance video and Castellani's attorney would not allow them to comment on specifically what was said during the verbal exchange.

One minute later, still yelling, officers still holding back. Then approximately 1 minute, 40 seconds into it, police have had enough. It takes four officers to wrestle him to the ground. For the next 45 seconds, they knee and strike Castellani with batons as they try to handcuff him. A fifth officer arrives.

CONNOR CASTELLANI, SUING POLICE OVER BEATING: I was basically rolling up in a ball. I said I wasn't resisting. I told them that. And they continued to beat me.

CARROLL: You can see at this point on the tape they managed to get Castellani on his stomach, one hand almost behind his back. Five seconds later, a canine officer pulls up, jumps out of his car and immediately sets his dog on Castellani.

CASTELLANI: When the dog actually chomped on the back of my neck, I was receiving blows to the back of my head with a fist.

CARROLL: Police arrested Castellani, charging with him resisting arrest, disorderly conduct, and aggravated assault on a officer and a canine. Hospital pictures show he needed 200 stitches to close his wounds, and multiple dog bites on his head and neck.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I walked into the room, and he was shackled to the bed by his feet. He was -- it looked like he was in shock. He was bleeding and oozing everywhere.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Worse thing a parent could experience.

CARROLL: Then Castellani's parents saw the surveillance tape of what happened.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was just numb. I actually went home and got sick. It was really, really terrible.

CARROLL: The Castellanis are suing the Atlantic City Police Department as well as the city.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's one of the most egregious examples of excessive force, police brutality that I have ever seen.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You can't just bum rush a kid who has said something offensive to you.

CARROLL: The Castellanis point to court records, which show the canine officer involved had 15 prior complaints related to excessive force or assault. He was exonerated in all those cases. That officer, Sterling Wheaton, still has five additional suits pending against him.

The Atlantic City police would not make Wheaton or any of the officers involved in the Castellani case available, but the chief of the department says, it's too early for judgment.

CHIEF ERNEST JUBILEE, ATLANTIC CITY POLICY: All I can tell you is that there's an internal investigation and that when it's over, I'll be able to speak about the results.

CARROLL: At this point, though, you're standing by the officers?

JUBILEE: Absolutely. And at the conclusion of the investigation, then we'll move forward from there. CARROLL: The mayor of Atlantic City called the video disturbing and asked the state's attorney general to oversee that investigation. We showed the tape to former police officer and law enforcement expert Lou Polumbo.

LOU POLUMBO, LAW ENFORCEMENT EXPERT: I have to say the amount of force that they used here was appropriate, yes.

CARROLL: John Shane, professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice says from his perspective the use of the dog was an unnecessarily and potentially deadly use of force.

PROFESSOR JOHN SHANE, JOHN JAY COLLEGE OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE: I don't know of any training that allows police officers to launch the dog onto somebody's neck, which is right where the dog went.

CARROLL: Do you believe there could be any justification for the officer's actions that night?




CARROLL: Castellani showed me the scars he will now have to live with. But he says the experience has not shaken his trust in law enforcement.

CASTELLANI: Yeah, I'm not saying all cops are bad. The majority of them are good people here to protect us. But there are some I guess have to be looked out for.

CARROLL: Jason Carroll, CNN, Atlantic City, New Jersey.


BANFIELD: Well, so who do you think has the better case here? A kid suing in federal court with stitches all up his neck, or the police who say, you didn't hear or see everything on that tape? The legal panel is going to weigh in next. You might be surprised at what you hear.