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tv   The Situation Room  CNN  December 17, 2013 2:00pm-3:31pm PST

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overnight, 59 rare beatles recordings were released on itunes, called the bootleg recordings from 1963, mostly old school bbc performances from the moptop days. the tracks disappeared in several countries after only a few hours online. music insiders say it may have been a shrewd business move to extend 50 year copyrights on the songs. that's it for "the lead." i turn you over to wolf blitzer in "the situation room." happening now, breaking news. deadly plan. investigators reveal new details about the colorado high school shooter's murderous intent. what was the chilling phrase he wrote on his own arm? also breaking right now. u.s. troops killed. did they survive their helicopter's crash landing only to be attacked and killed by the taliban? and an unusual offer. nsa leaker edward snowden says he will help brazil investigate u.s. spying. what does he want in return? the former spy valerie plame is standing by to weigh in. i'm wolf blitzer. you're in "the situation room."
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we're following breaking news out of colorado right now, where investigators are revealing disturbing new details of that high school shoot that left one student gravely injured and the gunman dead. we're now learning that senior karl pierson had written about the attack on his own body and what he intended to carry out was so much worse. our crime and justice correspondent joe johns is working this story for us. what have you learned? >> these details about the shooting last week are simply chilling and a huge indicator of how much worse it could have been. authorities say the shooter had used an indelible marker to write a phrase in latin on the inside of his forearm which translates in english to "the die has been cast." along with that latin phrase, the shooter had also written five separate letters and numbers on his arm.
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investigators say those numbers correlate directly with the identification of the library and certain specific classrooms located in the immediate area near the library and media center of the arapahoe high school. the investigators say they believe the letters and numbers written on pierson's arm are an indication of the plan the shooter had laid out in his mind but is apparently a still little uncertain. they say they are trying to determine the relevance of the numbers and whether people in those classrooms may have also been targeted for harm by the shooter. >> how much fire power, joe, did he actually bring into that school? >> it's a little shocking. the sheriff's department says pierson also brought three functional molotov cocktails, a machete and scabbard and more than 125 rounds of assorted type of shotgun ammunition into the school. he had rounds of shotgun ammo and two bandoliers that were worn across his chest and waist and had even more in a backpack he was wearing. he walked right into arapahoe
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high school and began randomly firing that weapon, a 12 gauge pump action shotgun. he shot 17-year-old claire davis once in the head amid shots fired randomly in the school hallway before turning the gun on himself. now we know he was prepared to do a lot worse. >> could have been so much worse. joe johns with the latest on that story. thanks. other breaking news we're following, six u.s. troops have been killed after their helicopter crashed in afghanistan. it first appeared they died from the crash itself, but now we're learning it may have been an attack. our pentagon correspondent barbara starr is digging on this story. what are you learning from your sources? >> reporter: wolf, at this hour, military investigators are urgently looking into these reports that when the six troops were killed in southern afghanistan, that they might have survived that helicopter crash. the helo went down due to mechanical failure, they say, but there is a report they're looking at that once they were on the ground, they came under enemy attack. there was a mortar round fired
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and that it may have hit the helicopter. the question tonight is did any of those troops actually survive the helicopter crash, did this mortar round impact, were they all killed in the crash, what exactly happened here. that is the question and that, wolf, is the question to which right now, there are no answers. this has gotten the attention at the highest levels of the pentagon. there have been meetings about it throughout the day, even defense secretary chuck hagel, very aware of the uncertainty of this situation, and looking for answers about what happened. but the bottom line here, of course, is for six u.s. military families, this tragic news comes at the holiday season. there are still 42,000 u.s. troops serving in afghanistan. for them, the war is not winding down. >> do we know what their mission was, those six troops who were killed in that helicopter? >> reporter: well, this was in southern afghanistan, which is an area where troops move around
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frequently. sometimes they are on counterterrorism raids looking for specific targets. sometimes they are moving around to get into location and position to help afghan forces. so far, no word tonight on exactly what this helicopter was doing. >> barbara, thank you. we are also following another breaking news development right now. wildfire burning out of control along one of california's most scenic stretches of coast. it's already charred hundreds of acres, destroyed multiple homes, forcing residents to flee. cnn's dan simon is on the scene for us. dan, what's the latest on this dangerous wildfire? >> reporter: we are at the fire command center and among those who lost their home is none other than the fire chief. you'll be hearing from her in a moment. first, you can see some of this thick black smoke in the forest land. the thing everyone has been talking about around here is how unusual it is that you would have a wildfire like this in the middle of december. but this region is facing one of the driest seasons on record and
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that is why you have had 15 homes destroyed. we're talking about 550 acres. that is not an enormous fire in the context of these wildfires that we typically cover on the west coast. nonetheless, they are fighting this aggressively. about 500 firefighters on the front lines. you also have a number of water-dropping aircraft. as i said, the chief, she saw her home be destroyed by the flames, despite the fact that she tells me she did everything she could to protect it. some people would say it's just incredibly ironic that the chief's home would be destroyed by fire. >> yes, it is. the irony doesn't escape me. and again, i try to set an example for fire clearance and we do the best we can, but it's -- the situation was just too much, too hot, too fast, too soon. if i had had other resources, perhaps my home would still be there. until it happens to you, you feel sorry for them, but literally, i went out to fight a fire, i had my purse, had my cell phone and my glasses and i
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didn't know i was going to be trying to save my own home. >> reporter: the big challenge with this blaze is that it is burning in terrain that is very steep and inaccessible. that's why the helicopters are so key. of course, weather can always be a problem but right now, winds don't seem to be an issue. >> dan simon on the scene for us, thank you. speaking of weather, our meteorologist and severe weather expert chad myers is here in "the situation room" with us today. chad, this weather situation looks like it's going to get worse before it gets better? >> they have 36 hours to put this out, and then they get 35 mile per hour winds and it's going to get ugly. if they don't get every spark out, it gets very ugly and dan touched on this for a second, how dry it's been in california. san francisco should have 20 inches of rain by now. they have four. 15.12 inches below normal. it is just nasty out there. the wind is going to blow tomorrow night. we're talking about 6:00 p.m. tomorrow night all the way
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through friday, it's going to get cooler, we will get a marine layer, and by friday it does cool down and the marine layer comes in and even brings up some of the humidity a little bit. that will help. but it's the wind that's going to get very bad. right now, five miles per hour. watch as we go from today to tomorrow to tomorrow night and all of a sudden, the wind gusts right there, 30 miles per hour on those ridge tops. it is going to get ugly and fast. the entire state of california is under a drought. much of it in severe drought. you can see this drought fire, basically contained fire here, we can see the smoke all the way to monterrey bay, the smoke from almost san francisco right here on the satellite. that's how big this fire has really grown in just one day. it's a full square mile. it's on both sides of the highway. that's part of the problem right now. u.s. 1 goes right through here. there you go. there's 1. then you have fire on that side, on the east side and on the west side of this system, right through here, this wind will blow across, it will make a lot more fire where this came from. this is a big fire if we don't
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get it out in the next 36 hours. this gets tragically bigger after that. >> chad, thanks for that report. we will continue to watch it together with you. up next, the nsa leaker edward snowden reaching out to brazil with a surprise offer. we will talk about the impact of his leaks with the former cia clandestine officer, valerie plame. she is standing by live. plus, george zimmerman trying to make money in a very unusual way. we have details of his new online venture. waffle bars... fancy robes... seems every hotel has something to love... so join the loyalty program that lets you earn free nights in any of them. plus, for a limited time, members can win a free night every day. only at i know. great gas mileage, this is nice. and it's fun to drive. well you know that beats great mileage or being fun to drive. yeah, that'd be like someone being loud or clear. we need to slap the slippery fish right in the gill hole!
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they're among the biggest names in tech, yahoo! apple, facebook, google, twitter, and today, top executives from those and ten other companies sat down
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at the white house with president obama, on the agenda the troubled obamacare website. one tech executive has been asked to oversee the massive repair project. but the meeting also covered controversial nsa surveillance programs which many of these companies have expressed deep concern over. just yesterday, a federal judge ruled one surveillance program probably unconstitutional and now in an expected move by the former contractor who leaked them to the world. cnn chief national security correspondent jim sciutto has the latest. >> reporter: edward snowden reaching out across the world. we have confirmed he's accepted an invitation to testify before the european parliament next month by video link to talk about nsa surveillance, but also today, reaching out to the people of brazil with an interesting offer. >> i'm willing -- >> reporter: six months after fleeing spying charges all the way to russia, today edward snowden made an offer back across the globe to brazil, help
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fighting nsa surveillance in exchange for political asylum. in a letter addressed to the brazilian people, snowden writes quote, many brazilian senators have asked for my assistance with their investigation of suspected crimes against brazilian citizens. i have expressed my willingness to assist. snowden appears emboldened by the groundbreaking decision by a federal judge monday ruling the nsa program that sweeps up americans' phone call records is likely unconstitutional. in a scathing ruling, judge richard leon wrote quote, the government does not cite a single instance in which analysis of the nsa's metadata collection actually stopped an imminent attack. throughout, u.s. officials have justified the nsa's mass surveillance program saying they have been successful averting acts of terrorism. 54 separate acts, to be exact, although over time, that figure has evolved from 54 plots -- >> 54 times this and the other
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program stopped and thwarted terrorist attacks both here and in europe. >> reporter: to 42 -- >> 42 of those 54 were terrorist plots. >> reporter: to 13 plots or cases involving americans. >> would you agree that the 54 cases that keep getting cited by the administration were not all plots and of the 54, only 13 had some nexus to the u.s.? would you agree with that, yes or no? >> yes. >> reporter: today, senator patrick leahy, chairman of the senate judiciary committee, told me the administration has overstated the program's successes. >> i believe nsa greatly exaggerated. we went from 54 which became sort of the symbol, then we get down to the substance which was really one. >> reporter: the one case the senator referencing, that' zazi who in 2009 plotted to bomb the new york subway system. u.s. officials have specifically
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cited a small number of other plots averted including that involving a yemeni extremist who targeted the new york stock exchange and there are other members of the senate who stand behind the program even after the ruling, including senator dianne feinstein, the chairman of the senate intelligence committee. she released a statement saying that quote, she believes the program is constitutional and helps keep the country safe from attack. >> jim sciutto, i know mike rogers agrees with her. let's get some more right now on edward snowden. valerie plame is joining us, the former cia clandestine officer whose cover was famously blown by the bush administration, a bush administration official, back in 2003. she is also the author of the spy thriller "blowback." she is joining us from santa fe, new mexico. i'm curious to get your thoughts on edward snowden. has he done more good or more harm to the united states? >> hi, wolf. what i would like to talk more
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about or rather less about edward snowden's character or what the appropriate punishment should be, but more about what are the issues at stake. it goes to the really heart of constitutional issues, how do we reconcile domestic surveillance with the constitution. and those, because of his revelations, that's why we're having this conversation now. >> so has he done all of us a favor by bringing these issues to the fore the way he did, or did he do grave damage to u.s. national security? >> i will tell you as a former intelligence officer, i'm deeply offended and upset at his defiance of authority but as an american citizen, i'm glad he did what he did, because now we do understand or are beginning to understand the incredible reach of the nsa surveillance, and is it compatible with what we want our america to be and our values. this country was founded on the
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best government is the least government, and i don't think that this pervasive surveillance state that we are -- the infrastructure is being set up by the nsa, it is in place. i don't think that that is compatible with what the original founding vision of what american freedom really means. >> i guess if you listen to nsa officials, administration officials or dianne feinstein or mike rogers, the chairs of the senate and house intelligence committee, they say even if it's only one or two incidents that are prevented, if you can prevent another 9/11, it's worth it to go through all of this. i take it you disagree with that. >> that sounds an awful lot like former vice president dick cheney's 1% doctrine. if there's a 1% possibility then we do everything, you know, some sort of terrorist attack, we would do everything to prevent it. i am not sure that is compatible. the question is, what sort of
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balance do we need to have in a healthy democracy between security and privacy. and as you -- as we saw in the setup piece you did, the number of attacks, it seems, that have been prevented has been completely overestimated or, you know, overdone by the administration, and i'm not just willing to take some politician's word for it that don't worry, we're keeping you safe. as we saw in a recent interview that general alexander just did the other night, he said, you know, well, we're just keeping americans safe and we're not keeping it secret from americans, we're keeping it safe from foreigners but i do have trouble with that construct. >> would you be open to granting him amnesty if he returned to the united states and returned all those documents, supposedly like 1.7 million documents that he stole? would you be able to grant him amnesty in exchange for that?
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>> well, i think it's a moot point. i think the cat's out of the bag in that he's not the only one that has the documents now. we know that he has given some documents to greenwald and others. and as we go forward and think about nsa reform, the president's commission on this of five men that were appointed to that are going to put forward their report very soon, make it public. some has come out. but imagine if there were whistleblowers like snowden and others that were highly critical of the nsa, if they were at least included in the process, doesn't mean you take all their suggestions and incorporate them, but you know, what he did was -- snowden did was an act of civil disobedience and you can argue, we don't know all the facts yet where that will come out but what we do know is these
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programs deeply exceed what even the writers of the patriot act had in mind and now from yesterday, the federal judge's ruling that these in fact overstep legal boundaries despite what the nsa says. >> the other day, friday, when we spoke, we spoke about bob levinson, the former fbi agent who disappeared seven years ago in iran. we now subsequently have learned he was doing some work for the cia at that time. senator john mccain said this the other day. i want to play the clip and i want to get your reaction. >> -- to the american congress about mr. levinson. if that's true, then you put this on top of things that our intelligence committees didn't know about other activities which have been revealed by snowden, maybe it means that we should be examining the oversight role of congress over our different intelligence agencies.
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>> mccain said he believes the cia did not tell the truth to the american congress about levinson, what he was doing in iran, the connection he had to the cia, not necessarily as a cia employee, but as a contractor who was getting money from the cia to do certain so-called analytical work. what do you make of what senator mccain is saying? because that's a pretty serious charge. >> it is, and i think it's long overdue. we need to have much more stringent and robust congressional oversight. senators hate being lied to or when they find out that intelligence briefings have not been entirely forthcoming, and that's what's happened in this case. both the fbi and the cia were caught out, it took them way too long to investigate what happened to levinson. it took over a year for the fbi
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to look through his hard drive on his computer that they were given access to from levinson's family. over a year? it just doesn't add up. i want to hear more of how this is not going to happen again, how you don't have the analysts on the cia side of the house running operations which should be on the ops side. >> when you were working with the cia, did you have any such experiences where you knew for a fact, for example, or you suspected the cia was deliberately lying to members of congress? >> no. i did not -- i wasn't senior enough to see anything like that. i was very much involved in operations and the run-up to the war in iraq. i was deeply involved in trying to understand what is the state of play of the iraq alleged wmd program. so i didn't. but it's clear i would love to
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see a really stepped-up oversight over intelligence, because since 9/11, it has truly grown to now where i think of it as military industrial intelligence complex and it is vast. >> valerie plame, thanks so much for joining us once again. i want to remind our viewers, your new book is "blowback." it's a thriller. i think our viewers will enjoy reading it. we'll have you back soon. thanks very much. >> thank you, wolf. coming up, grim new poll numbers for president obama. is he going to end his presidency as unpopular as president bush did? that's what one columnist is suggesting. stand by. and a republican senator releases his annual so-called waste book. we will show you what's included in the $28 billion he says was totally wasted by the federal government. avo: the volkswagen "sign then drive"
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the bipartisan budget deal has been praised as a way to avoid a government shutdown but no surprise from many on capitol hill, it's more about party politics than potential compromise. let's go to our chief congressional correspondent, dana bash. what are you learning? >> reporter: well, so much of the dynamic that has created the atmosphere here on capitol hill really since maybe we can call it the tea party revolution back in 2010, when republicans took over the house, has been that grassroots conservative groups have been really trying to convince lawmakers on the republican side not to give up on party principles. that really has, for better or worse, led to some of the grid lock here. if you take a look at the procedural vote on this budget deal today, it really crystallizes that dynamic.
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there were about seven republicans who voted no. every single one of them, in fact, every single republican senator who is up for re-election in 2014 and has a primary challenger from the right voted against this. every single one of them. including the top two republicans in the senate, the senate leaders, one of whom, mitch mcconnell, has been a leader on trying to find compromise on fiscal issues over the past few years, much to the chagrin of some of the conservatives. not so now. the primary reason, he certainly wouldn't admit this publicly, but a primary reason is because first and foremost, he has to make sure that he doesn't lose his seat because there is a republican running against him from the right urging him not to compromise and that is very much what you see from others. again, it really does help inform and explain a large part of the dynamic that has been going on here on fiscal issues in the republican party over the past couple years. '. >> given the fact they got over
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this procedural hurdle today, that filibuster, it will pass tomorrow, it will go to the president. he will sign it into law, there won't be a government shutdown in january or at the beginning of the next fiscal year in october so this two-year deal, it will now be the law of the land. >> reporter: it certainly is heading that way for sure. total 67 senators voted for this procedural vote today. it's likely to be a little smaller tomorrow when the final vote happens and certainly that sets the budget levels for the next couple of years. they still have to pass the actual bills that fund the government. but this paves the way for that to happen pretty easily because everybody who supported this did so because they don't want another government shutdown. at least they want to breathe a sigh of relief from the crisis to crisis we have been seeing the past several years. >> thank you, dana. republican senator tom coburn is out with his annual waste book. his breakdown of government spending in 2013 that he says was a complete waste of taxpayer money. it's worth noting that senator
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coburn is a devout believer in smaller government, supports deep cuts to the federal budget. cnn's tom foreman is looking at what made his waste book this year. give us some examples. >> you know, this is really one of the most popular bits of holiday reading around here. it is partisan in the sense it's his opinion, but the number one item in coburn's big bag of budget-busting surprises is this. $400 million paid to federal workers for no work during that government shutdown. he readily acknowledges it was not their fault but rather, the result of congress' inaction but that's a lot of money out the door. the national endowment for the humanities was looking behind closed doors to the tune of almost $1 million, specifically funding the popular romance project to look at how love is depicted in romance novels, movies and on the web. there are so many more in this collection. for example, a parking facility and transit hub in maryland made
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the list after receiving $50 million from the department of transportation. why does that matter? because it's been under construction for 16 years and it still hasn't opened. let's not even talk about the million dollar bus stop in virginia complete with heated benches and sidewalks and wifi. in arizona, about $1.25 million went to build an apartment complex for deaf senior citizens. look, this is a noble idea, he says. problem is, another department, hud, came along and said now you have too many deaf people living here. so a conflict between them. and several studies took aim at people who are being studied by the government, including a study by nasa on what happens when people spend weeks and weeks in bed. i'm pretty sure we know, they're called teenagers and it's very hard to get them up. then there was another study beyond that, the national institutes of health, about how marital harmony improves if wives get over being angry quicker. i think that's something most of
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us knew. >> given my experience in washington, these agencies, they usually have some explanation for these expenses. what are the defenders of these programs saying? >> it's interesting you should say that, because the defenders of these programs say that coburn is usually in this oversimplifying and exaggerating the idea that all this is waste. they do have explanations for these programs. for example, coburn says, he's a republican, implementing obamacare and the awful launch of that website was a waste of $379 million. of course many democrats and many others say no, that's not a waste. that's just the cost of operating government. that's what you have to do. and coburn lit into the military over wasting $7 billion by destroying military weapons and equipment taken to the middle east. but the pentagon looked at this issue and said actually, it would cost more tax money to bring all that gear home and refurbish it than it would be to leave it behind. nonetheless, it's entertaining reading for much of washington. i'm sure many people will pass
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part of their weekend looking through the waste book and deciding for themselves what's really waste and what's not. >> i'm sure they will. tom, thanks for that report. up next, president obama forced to play defense as he meets with some of his biggest supporters and tries to enlist their help. and will he leave office like his predecessor, george w. bush? stand by. our political experts are getting ready to discuss. ♪ by the end of december, we'll be delivering ♪ ♪ through 12 blizzards blowing ♪ 6 snowballs flying ♪ 5 packages addressed by toddlers ♪ ♪ that's a q ♪ 4 lightning bolts ♪ 3 creepy gnomes ♪ 2 angry geese ♪ and a giant blow-up snowman ♪ that kind of freaks me out [ beep ] [ female announcer ] no one delivers the holidays like the u.s. postal service. priority mail flat rate is more reliable than ever. and with improved tracking up to 11 scans, you can even watch us get it there. and look for our limited edition holiday stamps.
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we're just getting this into "the situation room." we're learning about what the white house plans for the olympics in russia that's coming up in a few months. brianna keilar is standing by
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over there. who's in the delegation? what's going on? >> reporter: well, this is fascinating. when you look at the delegation, we're finding out that leading the delegation to the sochi olympics on behalf of the u.s. will be janet napolitano who is a former homeland security secretary, but currently is leading the university of california. so you also have a number of athletes as well and i think what's fascinating is that some of them are openly gay so it seems in a way that you have a couple things going on here. when you look at the list of who's going to the ceremonies, for instance, in london, michelle obama led the delegation. you have a sort of lack of really important officials who appear to be going which could perhaps be a message when it comes to the fact that russia currently is giving edward snowden the nsa leaker temporary asylum. and then the fact you have a number of openly gay athletes really does seem to be sending a
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message as there have been a number of anti-gay policies that have come into place in russia. >> clearly they're trying to send some sort of message to the russians. the president had a major meeting today at the white house with some real senior technology executives, some of the biggest names in high tech. so what's going on? because he seems to be on the defensive right now as far as nsa surveillance and also the rollout of that health care website. >> reporter: that's right. ostensibly they did come to talk about the website, but really, the two hours that they spent with the president and the vice president, that was all about spying. so speaking of the nsa leaker, some of the things that he has revealed have created major concerns for these big names in technology. president obama today really trying to smooth over some of those concerns, at the end of what has been a year where he's had a hard time really sticking to his agenda. president obama spent two hours today with 15 leaders of the country's biggest high tech
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companies, many of whom had backed his re-election. the president playing defense, explaining the disastrous rollout of and trying to ease concerns over the nsa spying scandal, which has touched many of their companies. the president at one point joking with the ceo of the movie site netflix, admiring the efficiency of the lead character in that company's hit online washington drama, "house of cards." >> this guy is getting a lot of stuff done. >> reporter: if obama is jealous of spacey's character, because it's because he hasn't had much success this year. his approval rating above 50% this time last year is now near an all time low, a steep dive in just 12 months and a new poll shows more americans trust republicans over him to deal with the all important issue of the economy. critics on the left say the president also squandered the advantage democrats had after the government shutdown with the administration's poor handling of obamacare. >> where i see the president sort of ending up is in a place
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of math. he's not really good, he's not really bad. he's just sort of there. and it's not helping his party. >> reporter: the white house trying to change that narrative, continues retooling the president's staff, appointing a former microsoft executive to oversee improvements to the health care website and reaching out to high tech executives behind closed doors. advisors realize if he doesn't turn things around quickly, he could drag down fellow democrats in next year's midterm elections. >> the only question now is whether it gets worse for him because then he loses control of congress and is forced to spend his last two years in office just simply playing defense. >> reporter: president obama's second term approval ratings dip sort of mirrors what we saw with george w. bush. he saw his ratings dip amid two wars so a very different situation, but you'll remember the midterm election that he faced in his second term, 2006, where democrats took over the
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majority in both the house and senate. certainly president obama doesn't want the reverse of that. >> certainly has his hands full right now. brianna, thank you. let's dig a little deeper right now. joining us, our chief political analyst, gloria borger. ron fornier from the national journal and our chief national correspondent, john king. she referred to this poll in the "washington post," who do you trust to do a better job on the economy, issue number one. back a year ago, 54% said obama. 36% said republicans. now look at this. 41% say obama, 45% say republicans. that's quite a swing. >> it was up 18 points, now down four, right? it's crazy how this has switched, even given the fact that the republicans blew the government shutdown in october and you would think the president might still be riding on that but he's not, for a variety of reasons. one is people don't think he's as competent as they used to think. they don't think he's as trustworthy as they used to think. one of the poll numbers also
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shows that they don't believe he's going to protect the middle class as much as they once believed and we all know that's his bread and butter, when he ran for re-election, that was it. i'm all about the middle class. >> is it simply the rollout of the affordable care act, the health care website, the promise if you like your health care plan, you can keep your health -- is it simply, is that largely the reason these numbers have dropped like that? >> it's not just that but there was a small snowball rolling down the hill, then you had the rollout that made it giant because that not only undermined his approval rating, it undermined people's view of number one, his competence, can he effectively manage the government and can the government do anything right. so you're left of center president, you believe in progressive, and here he is, go back to the state of the union at the beginning of the year. he's 0 for 2013. he wanted jobs programs, he wanted to raise the minimum wage. go back through the policy list, then add gun control after newtown. nothing. nothing. so now you have him around 40. what does that mean? the republicans will look at
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2014 and think we will gain seats in the house and perhaps get the senate. it causes jitters and in some cases panic among the democrats which makes it hard to get things done. >> ron, you wrote an article about this in the national journal, entitled provocatively this is the end of the presidency. you wrote among other things, obama needs to shatter the cycle of dysfunction, his and history's, or risk leaving office like bush, unpopular and relatively unaccomplished. >> that was a quote from steve schmidt right in the middle of the katrina collapse and disaster that bush was going through in his fifth year. he wrote to his colleagues the presidency is over. >> republican operative who worked in the bush white house. >> obviously there's no comparison between a war and a natural disaster to what president obama is going through but there is a comparison between how they handled the crises starting with coming into their first term, overrating their mandate. then not realizing the trouble they're in, and then not responding forcefully to that trouble by fixing the way
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they're leading. >> i think you made the point in the column which was so good, which was about when the president won, the first thing he did was avoid the fiscal cliff by doing the tax cuts for -- i mean, the tax increases on the wealthy. he sort of jammed that down republicans' throats. it was a huge victory for him, but then -- >> his prerogative. >> his prerogative, right. he won. but then ever since that point, to john's point, it's been downhill. >> how does he turn this around? >> he has to be modest in the state of the union, number one. he has to hope probably that republicans misplay their hands again and give him an opening to seize the opportunity. still the president, he's a good politician, a good communicator and has the power of the bully pulpit. however, when his own party is nervous, what can this president propose in the state of the union that republicans are going to embrace. are they going to do comprehensive immigration reform right now? i think not. will the president accept a major compromise? the liberal base would revolt on him. once we turn from 2013 to 2014,
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a very difficult situation gets harder because of the election year components. >> it's more fundamental. president clinton went through a terrible time in 1994. what did he do? he changed the way he led. he fired a bunch of people who weren't serving him, brought in some people who changed the way he managed the white house, the way he ran -- >> that's not happening. >> that's what barack obama has to do. he's layering people now. where are the people who have been giving him bad advice? why haven't they been shown the door? why not bring in people who change the way the white house is run? >> this is a president who seeks out his comfort level. >> his comfort level isn't working right now. >> he's bringing back some people he's very comfortable with. so i think he's just -- he's going for his comfort level -- >> mistake. >> i would argue, yeah. >> we will continue this conversation, guys. thanks very much. just ahead, george zimmerman all of a sudden back in the news. this time it's because he's selling his own so-called original artwork. you won't believe how much it's going for. and pope francis invites
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some surprising guests to celebrate his birthday. we will tell you who's on the list. stand by.
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appears that george zimmerman may do just about anything to make some money. he's $2.5 million in debt. he's trying to sell an original painting. you won't believe how much it's going for. martin, what have you learned?
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>> having covered george zimmerman for two years, i'm not sure which surprises me more, one, that he is an artist, two, that there are people who are willing to bid for his painting. it is a blue american flag sway oil on canvas. it's done with house paint. and there's george zimmerman holding it. that photograph of george holding the artwork appeared on the ebay site apparently to dispel any concerns that this was a hoax. it has been confirmed that this is a piece of artwork done by george zimmerman. it appeared yesterday. the first bid initially, 99 cents. it's right now at $99,966. again, that is the bidding. that is not necessarily where
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it's going to end. but i think many people were surprised by this. our critics who have looked at it said yes, there is some talent there, but more than likely, what's really driving the value is that it's coming from zimmerman supporters. george put a note on there and it says my artwork allows me to reflect and allow please to remain indoors, smiley face. of course that's a reference to the death threats he's been under. if this works, you can bet there's going to be a lot more art from george zimmerman to come. >> thank you. this is cnn breaking news. all right. there is some breaking news coming into the situation room right now. we've just learned there's been a shooting at a medical center in reno, nevada. the situation is active right now.
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we're going to take a quick break to gather some information. we'll be back with more details in a minute. a shooting at a medical center in reno, nevada. more details right after this. [ male announcer ] you've got to try red lobster's four course seafood feast, just 15.99. start with soup, salad and cheddar bay biscuits then choose one of eight entrees plus dessert! four perfect courses, just 15.99. come in to red lobster today and sea food differently. four perfect courses, just 15.99. life with crohn's disease ois a daily game of "what if's". what if my abdominal pain and cramps come back? what if the plane gets delayed? what if i can't hide my symptoms? what if? but what if the most important question
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once again, we're looking into the breaking news coming into the situation room. we've learned there has been a shooting at a medical center in
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reno, nevada. police say the situation is active right now. we're checking all of our sources, our affiliates in reno right now. we're going to update you with more, but there has been a shooting, this according to dawn damon with the communications center. there's been a shooting at the renown medical center. the verified twitter account police stai say there is an act shooter and students asked to shelter in place. as soon as we get more information we'll share with you. 13 people are on a fin hosp after a ferry ran aground. the adventure slammed into a sandbar. one woman was airlifted to a
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hospital. the coast guard is investigating. we've just learned nasa is resupplyi resupplyi resupplying the space station. hopefully everything will be okay there the megamillions jackpot rising to $636 million. the drawing will be held tonight and millions of americans are playing in this lottery. if a winner doesn't step forward, the jackpot will start at almost, get this, almost $1 billion. we're talking 950 million. that would be on friday. and the pope is celebrating his birthday in what's become his trademark style, with the people. pope francis turned 77 today and hosted four homeless men at the vatican for mass and a meal, along with top aides and the staff of the vatican guesthouse,
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the men sang happy birthday to francis and shared breakfast with him. one of the men also brought his dog. the pentagon is investigating the deadliest incident on u.s. forces in a year. what are you learning? >> military investigators looking at these reports when a helicopter went down in afghanistan earlier today. six u.s. troops killed. were they killed in the crash? there is a report they are looking at that it's possible the helicopter came under enemy fire after it crashed onto the ground. so the question for investigators is how exactly did the six u.s. forces die? did they perish in the crash? were they alive when the helicopter hit the ground? did a mortar round hit the helicopter. they are talking to the crew of another helicopter flying in the vicinity to see what they saw,
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what they heard. they're talking to a survivor, trying to piece all this together for six military families. a very sad christmas for them. >> this is a tragic incident, but do we know specifics what these troops were up to, did they have the backing of afghan authorities? what are we learning? >> there are about 42,000 u.s. troops as you well know better than anybody in afghanistan right now. most of the troops are helping to train and equip afghan forces. they move around by helicopter doing that. there are a number of special forces there that go on counter terror raid, hunting down terrorist targets. we do not know exactly which mission this helicopter had. we don't know the circumstances. very tough now for investigators
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to determine what exact ll llil happened, wolf. >> i know you're working it. we'll get more information, thank you. this is cnn breaking news. i want to update you on the disturbing news. there's been a shooting at a major medical center in reno, nevada. police say the situation is active. we're gathering information. there you see some pictures. this is the renown medical center in reno, nevada. the authorities there say there has been a shooting. we don't know details. we know that police are there on the scene. the renown medical center is the only level two trauma center. provides a wide variety of specialties, including cancer, intensive care, women and children's services. it is also the home to the area's only children's hospital, fellowship trained and board certified radiologists are there
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as well. it offers access to the largest number of clinical research trials in the region. there's an active shooter, we're told, at this hospital right now. in addition to the medical center, renown medical is comprised of two other centers that house medical practices from dozens of medical specialties and sub specialties. the police now are telling us there are casualties in this hospital shooting at the renown regional medical center in reno, nevada. the chief of police tells cnn there are casualties as a result of what's called an active shooter. the shooter is on the third floor of the renown medical center campus. they're in the process of evacuating this hospital right now. quote, we have had an active shooter at the third floor of the campus. i don't have the number of
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casualties. there are casualties. i don't know the extent of the casualties or the people injured or how many were injured. he goes on to say we are working with reno police department in evacuating the building. we'll have additional information as time allows us to release it. we don't know if the suspect is dead. but there is a shooting incident, very disturbing incident coming in from reno, nevada. we don't know if the shooter is shooting or if the shooter is dead. all of this information coming in piecemeal which is often the situation like this. this is the renown medical center in reno, nevada, the second largest city in nevada after las vegas. this is the major medical facility in that area. and on the third floor, we are told, there is a shooter. we don't know the condition, once again, keith garcia, the chief of police of the university of nevada reno on the
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scene is saying there are casualties as a result of this shooter, the shooter being on the third floor of the medical center campus. the hospital, we are also told from the chief of police, from the chief of police, keith garcia that they are in the process of evacuating the hospital. and once again, he says there are casualties. there are people who are injured. four people, we are now told have been injured in this incident in reno, nevada. once again, the information is coming in slowly, but it's very disturbing information coming in from reno, another shooting incident. this time at a medical center in reno, not far from the campus of the university of reno. this is the hospital that serves this area. we're getting some more information thanks to joe johns who's joining us right now. i know the information is coming in. disturbing piece of information, what are you learning, joe? >> it is, wolf, and i have to tell you. there are conflicting pieces of
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information coming in out of nevada at this hour. we've got the one report of an active shooter. there are also unconfirmed reports that the shooter may already be down. and some suggestion that, yes, there are some casualties, we're told, talking to law enforcement sources. and the question is how severe is it. but mixed information coming in. the bottom line is unconfirmed reports coming in to us that the shooter may already be down. back to you. >> we are getting this information, joe, from authorities in nevada. four people confirmed injured. and the words of the authorities in nevada, the shooter has been contained. not exactly sure what that means. but earlier, the chief of mess of the university of nevada reno saying we don't know if the suspect is dead. but now the new information is the shooter is contained. i assume that means the shooter is either dead or has been
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arrested or is no longer a threat to the hospital and the people there. university of reno saying there had been an active shooter on the third floor of the renown medical center campus. the other sources now telling us there are four people who are injured. four casualties. we don't know the extent of the casualties. we do know the shooter has been contained. this is disturbing, joe. and i know you're getting more information even as we speak right now. >> we also have to just talk about these active shooter situations. and they seem to be coming now, more and more frequently, as some people have actually suggested, wolf. and in one of these situations, there's a certain amount of time. some say about menine minutes o average before that shooter is actually contained. and typically, in most cases it's the shooter who decides to
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give himself up or in many other cases actually to shoot himself as we saw in the colorado arapahoe situation just last week. so it takes a lot of time for authorities to go from room to room, door to door to try to figure out who's where, who's injured, and where the shooter is. and then to try in one form or another to contain him or take him out. so i would imagine there are a number of authorities there, even if we have this report of a person being contained. a number of authorities moving through that building very methodically to see if there are any other surprises, if there might be another shooter, for example or are there people holed up and need to get out. a lot of questions for authorities to handle in generally a short amount of time. because a person in this kind of situation can do so much damage before the authorities even arrive, wolf. >> all right. so now we have four people injured. we don't know the extent of the
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injurie injuries. but the shooter has been contained. the shooter had been spotted on the third floor of that campus. this is a major hospital in the reno, nevada area. we'll stay on top of this story, bring you all the day's other important news. let's take a quick break. we'll recap right after this. ♪ [ male announcer ] if we could see energy... what would we see? ♪ the billions of gallons of fuel that get us to work. ♪ we'd see all the electricity flowing through the devices that connect us and teach us. ♪ we'd see that almost 100% of medical plastics are made from oil and natural gas. ♪ and an industry that supports almost 10 million american jobs. life takes energy.
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once again, we've been following the disturbing breaking news coming into the situation room. we learned about a shooting at a major medical center in reno, nevada. four people have been confirmed injured according to the police chief. they're in the process of evacuating the hospital.
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reno police say they believe the shooter is down from what they describe, a self-inflicted gunshot. you're looking at live pictures coming in from reno, nevada. shooter went to the neurology department at the advanced medical center. that would be on the third floor, and opened fire. four people injured. but the shooter has been contained. the suspicion is, the suspicion is that the shooter died from a self-inflicted gunshot after shooting four individuals. more information coming in, but this is the latest information we're getting from reno, nevada. looks like the authorities say the incident has been contained. but it's very disturbing. they believe the shooter is down from a self-inflicted gunshot. the four people are injured. once again, we're going to try to find out how seriously they are injured. those are live pictures. we will stay on top of this situation and get you more information as it becomes
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available. other news we're following, members of north korea's military are vowing to protect kim jong un to his death. he is trying to show the world that he's in charge as he marks two years since the death of his father and his own rise to power. the state's ceremonies comes days after the execution of his uncle and the arrival of a surprising new pal, dennis rodman. these are strange times to be sure. ryan todd is here. we're going to get to him in a minute. but let's get to our pentagon correspondent, very disturbing developments coming out of north korea. >> there were extraordinary pictures out of pyongyang today and u.s. intelligence is scratching its head trying to figure out what it all means. thousands of north korean
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military personnel swear their loyalty to leader kim jong un. at a massive ceremony, marking the second anniversary of the death of his father. kim surrounded by senior officials to show he is in full command days after executing the second most powerful man in north korea, his uncle. >> the threat is continuing to glow. we have a man more dangerous than his father, more unpredictable and more erratic. >> reporter: what comes next is the big worry. >> translator: we consider that it is highly likely the north would attempt provocations next year between late january and early march. >> reporter: u.s. satellites are watching for any signs of troops on the move or weapons testing.
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>> we should be very concerned. because it's very likely that he will do a fourth nuclear test, perhaps this time using uranium-based weapons. the other ones were plutonium. if it is uranium, it shows they have another path. >> reporter: and u.s. intelligence analysts are scouring these images for clues about the regime after jiang's execution. kim's young wife has suddenly reappeared after several weeks. is kim now more confident with his uncle dead? >> the wife was rumored to perhaps have had an affair with jiang before her marriage while she was still a member of a dance troupe. >> reporter: we are looking at reports that north korea dropped leaflets on a south korean
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island threatening attack. >> barbara, thanks, very much. and amidst all of this, a nba former star is getting ready to arrive in pyongyang. brian todd is picking up this part of the story. dennis rodman making another trip. >> this is all about basketball. rodman says he's not going to pris t press the case of the american detained in north korea. but people say there's an opening there. he's had his uncle executed. purged other top officials. but he's about to warmly receive, for the third time, an eccentric exbasketball player nicknamed the worm. the latest chapter, another visit from former nba star dennis rodman. >> it's bizarre, and it raises
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questions about kim jong un's judgment. >> reporter: it was rodman's idea, a company spokesman says, and he'll be there only to talk about organizing a basketball exhibition that rodman hope also bring former nba stars to north korea next month. the white house is not commenting, saying he's going as a private citizen. he once tweeted a call for kim to release the man held in north korea for more than a year. but analysts say this colorauld an opening. >> they will me gestures like this to a celebrity. i've seen this over and over again. >> reporter: the agency will likely want to ask questions after his visit about conditions there. conditions now prompting serious questions about the kim family
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dynamic. why did kim jong un have his uncle executed? the regime says it was for treason, but the plot may be thicker. >> here's a guy who knows where all the bodies are buried. he knows everything about relationships in this system. and at the end of the day, that may be why he was shot. >> reporter: a kind of palace intrigue consistent in this clan. >> the violence in the kim family can be compared to ca lig la. the oldest brother to the current leader is named kim jong nam. he is protected by the chinese from assassination because he has told secrets and been critical of the regime and his family. >> there's a mysterious middle brother. there's a picture of him.
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they found him to be too efemme nat to be the country's leader. he has rarely been seen in public. >> it would be funny if it weren't so serious right now, given the fact that there are so many u.s. troops along the dmz, so many north korean troops facing south korean troops. it's a serious situation. thanks very much for that. we're hey following once again that breaking news out of reno, nevada. authorities say four people are injured at a shooting at the reno medical center. there's a picture of it. we're continuing to gather information. we'll share what we know. also senator bill nelson is standing by. i'll ask him about the offer to go to iran right now if it will help bring back an american home. ♪ i love it! ♪ thank you grandma for the dolls. ♪ ♪ i love it! ♪ i'm ninja kicking through the halls. ♪ ♪ i love it! ♪ mom's posting pictures on your wall. ♪
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we're following the breaking news coming into the situation room, and we have some new information about that shooting incident at a major medical center in reno, nevada. joe johns has been following the latest information. what do we know? >> we just learned that two people are dead, this according to reno police. they believe the shooter is one of those people and that he died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. four people are injured, according to the university of nevada chief of police. the shooter went to the neurology school of advanced medicine on the third floor and opened fire, which police say they are now in the process of evacuating. >> we'll stay on top of this very disturbing story, another disturbing shooting incident.
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other new wees we're follow we're joined by senator bill nelson, i want your quick thoughts. do you believe this case, how far the nsa can go in its surveillance should go up to the supreme court, given what the judge, that federal judge decided yesterday, that it was probably unconstitutional? >> i think it will go to the supreme court, because you have a completely contradictory opinion by federal judge in california a few months ago. he said it was constitutional, so i think the issue will go to the supreme court. >> let me talk about one of your constituents from florida, bob levinson who's been missing. he's been somewhere we assume in iran for seven years. he disappeared. he was a former fbi agent, spent almost three decades as a fbi
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agent. now it's been disclosed when he went missing he was actually on some sort of assignment for the cia, and you have now come forward, senator, correct me if i'm wrong. you now say you're willing to go to iran to bring him home. tell us what's going on. >> well, i've been involved in this from the beginning. because christine levinson and seven children are from florida. and i happen to be on the intelligence committee at the time that all this started seven years ago. and as reported in some of the newspapers, the case, we started up to start searching for levinson, and there have been high-level contacts between our government and the government of iran. so my call two nights ago with
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the iranian ambassador to the united nations was, look, at a time where there is success between our two governments in starting to negotiate on a nuclear agreement, you could really step forward and offer a gesture of humanitarian goodwill to return this father and dad to his family. the ambassador said he would pass that on to the foreign minister who i had talked to back in september as well, making the offer. so we'll see what happens. >> when did you know, senator, that he was really on some sort of assignment for the cia, when he disappeared in iran? >> wolf, i cannot confirm that, because as a member of the intelligence committee, all of that is classified information. but obviously, what has been reported in the newspapers, and by the way, the new york times,
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barry meyer has it the most accurate. he disappeared seven years ago. it was according to the new york times a rogue operation. and the higher ups supposedly did not know. >> we'll stay in very close touch with you senator nelson. let us know if you're going to make that trip to iran and good luck. we'd all like to see levinson back in the u.s. i'm going to check in with joe johns. he has more information on that disturbing shooting incident in nevada. >> this goes back to how fluid these situations become. police had initially told us that they believed two people were dead including the shooter. now police are revising that saying they believe the shooter is dead, but another person they thought was dead turns out to be alive. so we do know several people we
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believe shot. we don't know the severity of the other two people who may have been injured. that's about all we know from nevada right now. we do know that the active shooter situation, apparently, is over. and now the investigation begins, wolf. >> and we believe the shooter died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, that's right? >> yeah. that's our understanding. the shooter died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound which is so common in these active shooter situations because the shooter can do so much damage, but he is the one who decides whether to give himself up or shoot himself. >> we'll stay on top of this. very disturbing information. joe johns, thanks very much. that's it for me. i'm wolf blitzer in the situation room. crossfire starts right now. tonight, on crossfire. one of the least productive congresses in history finally does something. >> everybody's hell bent to get
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out of town. >> but is saying yes to the budget deal the wrong answer? >> the choice between keeping the government open and screwing all the military retirees? is that the deal? in the crossfire, senator jon tester, a democrat who supports the budget deal and senator roger wicker, a republican who doesn't. is the compromise budget deal a bad deal? tonight on crossfire. welcome to crossfire. i'm donna brazil on the left. >> i'm s.e. cupp. >> senators on different sides of the budget vote. this was a big week. thanks to paul ryan on the right and patty murray on the left, the budget deal cleared a major hurdle in the senate and the final vote comes tomorrow. it's not a great deal, it's arguably not even a good deal. i understand why some
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republicans are unhappy about this. voters would rather be angry with their representatives for doing something they don't like than for not doing anything at all. we'll see if our guests agree. >> after the fiscal cliff, the government shutdown, we have a bipartisan budget deal that everyone should be proud of. it's not perfect, but we should be proud of. >> there we go. >> in the crossfire, jon tester and senator wicker. >> we are joined by the mississippi river. senator wicker, i know you don't like this deal, but there are a lot of people in mississippi hurting right now. why are you going to oppose this good bipartisan deal? >> let me say, i liked your lead in. my friend lindsey graham knows how to turn a phrase. and i, this is a compromise. i e


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