January 31st, 2014
08:31 PM ET

Ex-Official: Chris Christie knew about bridge lane closures

The New York Times says there's "evidence" New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a likely 2016 Republican presidential candidate knew about the lane closures on the George Washington bridge - the scandal threatening his political career.

The big question is: Where is the proof?

The headline the New York Times first posted Friday read: "Christie Knew About Lane Closings, Ex-Port Authority Official Says"

That headline implies, he knew about them before they happened. Now, they've toned that down to:

"Ex-Port Authority Official Says 'Evidence Exists' Christie Knew About Lane Closings".

The implication relies on the two and a half page letter from Steve Wildstein's attorney. Wildstein is the man at the center of Bridgegate.

The now former Port Authority official, David Wildstein authorized the lane closures allegedly to punish a local mayor for not endorsing Christie in the governor's race. The Times cites a letter written by Wildstein's attorney describing the move to shut down the lanes.

Here is the key part of the letter:

"It has also come to light that a person within the Christie administration communicated the Christie administration's order that certain lanes on the George Washington Bridge were to be closed, and evidence exists as well tying Mr. Christie to having knowledge of the lane closures, during the period when the lanes were closed, contrary to what the Governor stated publicly in a two-hour press conference he gave immediately before Mr. Wildstein was scheduled to appear before the Transportation Committee."

The Christie administration initially said the lane closures were part of a traffic study, which has since been called into question by e-mails suggesting key advisers carried them out.

Lawyer for scandal figure: 'Evidence' disputes Christie on bridge lane closures

"I knew nothing about this," Christie said at the press conference. "And until it started to be reported in the papers about the closure, but even then I was told this was a traffic study. I had no knowledge or involvement in this issue, in its planning, or its execution or anything about it."

There are two big questions.

Did the governor know about the lane closures before they happened? And did he order their closing?

A source in the governor's office tells CNN's Erin Burnett that Christie stands behind what he said at that press conference. The source says categorically that while the governor has not been specific about the exact date he learned about the lane closures, he heard about them through press reports.

The source says Christie stands by his earlier remarks that he did not direct Wildstein to close the lanes and he knew nothing about the closures prior to the event.

So is this latest development damaging to Christie?

OutFront: Political analyst Steve Adubato and CNN political analyst Paul Begala.

Filed under: Bridge Scandal • Chris Christie • News • Politics
January 30th, 2014
09:53 PM ET

Glenn Close on family's struggle with mental disorders: We had no vocabulary for mental illness

"I think our family is like a lot of families. We had no vocabulary for mental illness," Glenn Close says.

Joined by her younger sister, Jessie Close, the six-time Oscar-nominated actress spoke to CNN's Erin Burnett about her family's struggle with mental illness.

Close recalls, "Jessie would do things when she was little that would have been red flags if we had been more knowledgeable."

One of the red flags includes her sister rubbing her fingers together until they would begin to bleed.

Close expresses regret that her family didn't question her sister's behavior.

"We just thought she was wild and irresponsible," Close says. "So when she was finally diagnosed, which was not until she was 50, she had lived a life, which she needn't had lived."

Jessie was diagnosed with bipolar 1 disorder, also known as manic-depressive disorder. According to WebMD, a person affected by the disorder will experience a manic episode, a period of abnormally elevated mood, accompanied by abnormal behavior.

Jessie shared with Burnett how she felt when she found out about the diagnosis.

"When I was finally diagnosed, I went through a long period of grief, because I had so many instances where I was manic and not in my right mind," she says. "It's a difficult thing to look back on a life when you're already 50 years old."

Close is one of the biggest advocates for changing the stigma around mental illness. She started the non-profit, Bring Change 2 Mind, with a mission to raise awareness about the misconceptions associated with mental disorders.

"Four of five of us are touched in some way by mental illness," Close says.

In December, Close was in Washington to work with a bipartisan group on the Excellence in Mental Health Act. She tells Burnett the law will get government funding for behavioral and mental health organizations that are already working on the ground in communities.

"Mental health has always been the least funded of all the departments in our government," Close says. "There's been such a cutback on funds for organizations like that - we are suffering from it."

In a public service announcement, Close stands by Jessie's son Calen (he suffers from schizophrenia), and urges people to start talking about mental illness as a way to end the stigma.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zn6yw2KUIwc?rel=0&w=560&h=315%5D

"I think we're probably tighter because we've been through a war, a war on mental illness," Jessie says.

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Filed under: "Kids in Crisis: Fragile Minds" • Mental Health • News
January 30th, 2014
09:17 PM ET

Is the Republican party leaderless?

Is the Republican party leaderless?

That's the question Erin Burnett posed Wednesday night to Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, after watching four separate GOP responses to President Obama's State of the Union speech.

Priebus got pretty fired up over her question - as did a whole lot of you on social media.


BURNETT: That seems like a party that doesn't know who in the heck is in charge, it seems leaderless.
PRIEBUS: I think that's a pretty silly comment. And I know it's your first day back.
BURNETT: All right. Tell me why I'm silly, Reince.
PRIEBUS: Because there were probably 300 responses yesterday. Every member of Congress, when you say Rand Paul gave a response, I would imagine almost every senator gave some kind of response yesterday...  this is just - it's ridiculous.
BURNETT: But doesn't a party usually come up with one -
PRIEBUS: Cathy McMorris Rodgers was the responder, and she gave the official response.
BURNETT: But official response and then there's all the other splinters. I mean, I'm not the only one - I'm not alone.
PRIEBUS: Every member of Congress is in the studio giving a response. Rand Paul was not the only senator giving a response.
BURNETT: I hear your point, but (INAUDIBLE) of BuzzFeed framed it this way. He said conservatives are competing for air time.
PRIEBUS: I don't care how he framed it.

So, who is the leader of the Republican party?

OutFront: Reince Priebus's communications director at the RNC Sean Spicer, and CNN Political Commentator Hilary Rosen.

Filed under: GOP • News • Politics
January 30th, 2014
09:00 PM ET

Inside the site of the the 1979 Iran hostage crisis

CNN has a rare look inside the former U.S. embassy in Iran where dozens of American diplomats were held and tortured by Iranians for 14 months in 1979.

Many may remember it from the Hollywood hit, Argo.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w918Eh3fij0?rel=0&w=560&h=315%5D

Today, the embassy is an anti-American museum, but it looks almost exactly like it did 34 years ago.

CNN's Jim Sciutto has the exclusive footage.


Filed under: International • Iran • News
January 30th, 2014
08:57 PM ET

Kids in Crisis: Family struggles with mentally ill son

Everyday, it seems there's another story or another headline about a young child who didn't get help they needed in time because the system has failed them.

Adam Lanza shot 20 children and six adults at a Newtown, Connecticut elementary school. And two months ago, Virginia State Senator Creigh Deeds was slashed, stabbed, and nearly killed by his mentally ill son, Gus, who took his own life.

The day before that attack, Gus was released from a hospital because there were no psychiatric beds available. It's become a common problem in America, and it is getting worse.

CNN's David Mattingly met with a family who struggled to get the right care for their son.

Mattingly is OutFront with the story:

Thom and Bonnie Shuman dealt with the sorrow that entered their lives by encouraging parents of mentally ill children to fight all they can and never give up.

The Shumans fought for years for their son, Teddy. They worked diligently to raise him through a variety of severe developmental problems but were overwhelmed when he began lapsing into unpredictable and violent rages.

It took more than a decade to finally get him into permanent care at a residential facility. Even then, it took a judge's order after Teddy killed another patient in 2006.

The Shumans try to see their son every weekend and are comforted by the idea that he is finally in a facility equipped to handle him. They say they are no longer "walking on egg shells" in fear of their son's violent outbursts.

But now at retirement age, The Shumans are in debt, their savings are exhausted - and so are they. They want their story known so that mental health care for children might one day be more accessible and affordable.

The numbers suggest their story is being ignored. The state of Ohio has fewer beds available today for psychiatric care of children than it did six years ago.

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