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Mass Protests in Egypt; Real Story Behind Resignation of Jesse Jackson Jr.

Aired November 23, 2012 - 15:00   ET


VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Top of the hour, I'm Victor Blackwell in for Brooke Baldwin. Mass protests are erupting in Egypt after a sudden power grab. That's what Mohamed Morsi's opponents would say.

In Cairo's Tahrir Square, thousands are chanting for regime change. They say Egypt's new president is acting like a dictator. President Mohamed Morsi granted himself sweeping new powers yesterday.

Basically Morsi now has absolute power for six months. His opponents say he's acting like a new pharaoh. The U.S. State Department is now calling for calm and encouraging all parties to work together.

Morsi declared all his laws, all the decrees are final and cannot be overturned or appealed until Egypt's new constitution is put in place.

Now, today, protesters set fire to a symbol of Morsi's power, the Muslim Brotherhood headquarters in Alexandria, Egypt. Morsi supporters clashed with protesters there. And Morsi is defending his new powers. He says he's not taking sides and the steps he took are meant to achieve political and social stability.

Reza Sayah joins us live in Cairo.

Reza, is Morsi's government strong enough to withhold -- withstand, rather, we should say, the level of protests? Because they're huge.


Victor, before we get to that, we're going to bring you up to speed with some new information that we have. There has been another clash right below us, under our hotel balcony, where we believe protesters have set fire to a police vehicle. You can't see the police vehicle, but you can certainly see the thick black plume of smoke that is going into the air.

Behind that smoke is the Nile River. Tahrir Square, where these demonstrations are taking place, are a couple of blocks away from us. Throughout the day, there have been clashes in artery streets that lead into Tahrir Square.

This is one of them, right below us, the hotel we're staying at. And what happened about 30 minutes ago, we heard some commotion, people rushing to the scene. Apparently, they targeted a police vehicle, they set it on fire, and what happened next was security forces came by, shot warning shots in the air, tear gas and the protesters dispersed.

These are the types of clashes we have seen throughout the day, as angry demonstrators continue to voice their outrage against Mr. Morsi after these controversial decrees that he announced last night, Victor. Does he have the power to withstand these protesters? Certainly the political landscape is in his favor. The security forces certainly back him.

But these types of scenes will probably concern him if they last in the coming days. These are protesters, Victor, that are determined to make their voices heard.

BLACKWELL: Reza, of course, this is very reminiscent of what we saw during the Arab spring and the ousting of Mubarak. Is it enough for the protesters that if Mohammed Morsi would just reverse his assertions or do they want him out altogether?

SAYAH: They're calling for his ouster all together. The same calls they made in 2007 of the ouster of Mr. Mubarak, you're hearing the same chants, the same demands again. You would think maybe if Mr. Morsi reverses his decisions, maybe that would placate these demonstrators.

But I don't see Mr. Morsi doing that. That would be a sign of weakness, certainly not 24 hours after he made those announcements, and we should also tell you that earlier today he came out and defended his position. He said he's a defender of the revolution, he supports the principles of the revolution, and for now, he's sticking by his decisions.

BLACKWELL: Now that we see as you report that car burning in Tahrir Square below you, are we seeing any response of force from the government, from police in Tahrir Square?

SAYAH: Well, what we're seeing when it comes to the response are warning shots in the air, lots of tear gas. We're on the 14th floor right now.

And we can feel the effects of the tear gas where we are. So you can imagine what is happening down there in the streets, down there in Tahrir Square. You can see more people gathering. They're trying to find out what happened. Again, this is a police vehicle. It pulled up probably about 40 minutes ago, right in front of the hotel we were staying at, a couple of blocks away from Tahrir Square.

In came some protesters, and they apparently surrounded the car, set it on fire. There was a lot of commotion. And then in came security forces, police officers, firing several rounds of tear gas and gunshots in the air. The crowd dispersed. And now you have the fire department on the scene trying to put this fire out, Victor.

BLACKWELL: Reza Sayah, thank you for that. We will check back. What a difference 48 hours is.

Just days ago, people around the world were praising Mohammed Morsi for his pivotal role in negotiating the Israel-Hamas cease-fire. And now he's facing these mass protests in his own country. What happened?

Paula Newton joins us now.

Paula, why does he think this is the right time to assert this, especially after this meeting he just had with Secretary of State Clinton?

PAULA NEWTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Despite what went on in terms of him brokering this peace deal, look, Mohammed Morsi has a tall order on his hands. Even if he had the complete support of the majority of the country, this would be a tall order.

But instead, he needs to really bring together disparate groups of people, and right now the people that are in Tahrir Square do not believe he's going to be everything that they wanted from the revolution, and that means a complete departure from the regimes that come before.

It is very clear this is a power grab. What is Morsi saying? He's saying, trust me, something very difficult to do, trust me, this will be over as soon as we have a constitution. I want you to hear now from Mohammed Morsi himself, what he said to the crowd just a few hours ago.


MOHAMMED MORSI, EGYPTIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): I have said before and I repeat again I would never use legislation against individuals, parties, men, women, or Muslims or Christians for personal gains and to settle scores.


NEWTON: People in the street are saying, this is what we fought for? People died in Tahrir Square so we could have somebody that was no better than the last?

Look, there was a reason that President Obama at the time, when he said, look, Egypt is nor an ally or an enemy, very, very cautious despite what happened. This was a pleasant surprise he actually had the leverage to broker that deal. Does not change, though what is going on in Egypt at this moment.

It is a good reminder for people, too, and this is a guy who was educated at the University of Southern California. He does have that Western sensibility, but, Victor, make no mistake, his allegiance is to the Islamist party. He has people that are far more radical than he is, but he also has many liberals, like Mohamed ElBaradei, the Nobel laureate, saying he's the new pharaoh.

This will continue to go on and especially when you don't have that outlet of a parliament, a constitution to go to and actually vent and have all those debates. There is going to be a lot of frustration in the streets. You will see that, I'm sure, for months to come.

BLACKWELL: Christiane Amanpour after the cease-fire was brokered said just said full stop, short sentence, Israel has made a deal with an Islamist government and how much of a landmark that was.

And now it appears that Mohammed Morsi may have gotten peace for another country, while losing it at home. We will of course continue to follow the live pictures here. This is Tahrir Square. Our Reza Sayah is there live in Cairo, as he is reporting that a police car pulled up and was set on fire. You have got the protesters there who are just downright angry at these assertions that President Morsi has made, saying that his decisions, his decrees, his decisions over the past few months cannot be overturned until there is a new constitution, the new parliament.

Paula Newton, thank you very much.

Back here at home, shoppers head to the stores, unions are taking on Wal-Mart, and some workers are walking off the job.

Plus, the real story behind the resignation of Jesse Jackson Jr. And what happens to the investigation into the positioning to get President Obama's former Senate seat?


BLACKWELL: Mexico's outgoing president has an ambitious task, as he finishes out the final week of his term, changing his country's name. Here's something you may not know. Mexico's official name is United Mexican States. And the idea of dumping the words United States from its name is getting a lot of support south of the border.

Our Rafael Romo joins me now.

This has been the official name since 1824. How many just average everyday Mexican citizens even knew that?


You never say I'm going on vacation to the United Mexican States, right?


ROMO: It is only people who work in diplomacy, maybe an ambassador who has to deal with official documents, where the official name is only used. But the reality is that everybody in the world knows Mexico as Mexico, and the Mexican president, the incumbent Mexican president, who, by the way, only has a few more days in office, the new president takes office on December 1, it's one of the things he wants to do and may be part of his legacy.

BLACKWELL: OK. Here is the big question. Why?

ROMO: Well, what the president says is that when Mexico took the name officially as the United Mexican States in 1824, the United States had only been an independent country for a few decades.

And Mexican leaders of independence back then were very much admirers of what had happened in the United States. but that's way before -- two decades before the Mexican-American War, the relations between Mexico and the United States were good, and it was a way to emulate, try to emulate what had happened here in the United States.

But President Calderon says that no longer applies, we're in a different world now, and the reality is that nobody really knows Mexico as the United Mexican States, but as Mexico.

BLACKWELL: If the politics in Mexico move at the pace of politics in the U.S., he has a few days left, what is the likelihood that this is going to happen?

ROMO: That's the big question.

I don't really know that the new Mexican congress with the issues of security, the economy, is really going to focus on this right away. The new president, Enrique Pena Nieto, takes office on December 1. I don't know that this is going to be one of his priorities. But I think President Calderon still wanted to make sure that at least it went through so they can consider it.

Now, you ask regular Mexicans on the street, most of them don't even know that that's the official name of the country.

BLACKWELL: Yes. I'm just -- I'm amazed that this is the last few days, let's change the name.

ROMO: That's right.

BLACKWELL: All right, Rafael Romo, thank you very much.

ROMO: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: Illinois Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. never campaigned for reelection, but he still won by a landslide this month, despite being under investigation by the FBI and the House Ethics Committee. Now Jackson has resigned, citing concerns for his health, but his resignation does not come without questions, including about the allegations of possible misuse of campaign funds.

"Chicago Sun-Times" Washington bureau chief Lynn Sweet joins me now from Chicago.

Lynn, good to have you with us.


BLACKWELL: Lynn, first, can you tell us if we know any more about what exacerbated the health problem back in June? Because it seems like a lot of the variables, a lot of the root causes had been in place for some time before June.

SWEET: Well, you know, there were investigations of him. There is another figure that was a player in the overall broader investigation of former, now imprisoned Governor Rod Blagojevich that had pled guilty to a charge at about the time that Jesse Jr. was -- started being absent and eventually checked into Mayo.

So we don't know exactly when he knew about this second criminal probe, the one dealing with his campaign finances, but it was just a -- it is the -- when he went into treatment for his mental health, we do know that it is after being under extreme pressure for years dealing with his personal problems. And even though he had a political triumph in March, he beat a primary challenger, you know, that triumph obviously was not even close to being enough to deal with the personal demons he was wrestling with.

BLACKWELL: As we said, there are two investigations, the FBI investigation and the House ethics investigation. Now that he has resigned, what happens to those?

SWEET: Well, I believe, and I don't know this for sure, but it looks like the House ethics panel might just stop its work.

They had never issued a final report that that -- that investigation stopped for a few years during the height of the Blagojevich trial and retrial. What we're waiting for now is this Washington-based probe, the one dealing with campaign finances, and we learned for the first time in the resignation statement from Jackson that he was cooperating with the authorities, acknowledged it for the first time, and his lawyers said in another statement that these talks will be going on probably for months.

BLACKWELL: And he also acknowledged some mistakes and saying those mistakes were his own.

I want to read something, your words, actually, from "The Sun-Times," published this week.

You say: "I always sensed his agony was that he could never get out of the shadow of his father," and then you go on to say a few graphs later, "I was struck that almost every job he had had was because he was his father's son," after you first met him back in 1995.

You covered the Jackson family for some time. What is your sense of Reverend Jackson's sentiment about this? Does he feel some guilt, some responsibility for this problem, for the resignation?

SWEET: I would use the word pain and anguish as any parent would when a child has such a downfall, not only the career ended, but he has severe mental health problems. He has been diagnosed as having bipolar and depression.

So I think the pain is what is at issue now for Reverend Jackson, not the blame. One of the things I also said in that column is that growing up for now former Congressman Jackson, having the name Jesse Jackson has been his blessing and his curse. It opened doors for him. But he also had to live, you know, knowing he wasn't as self-made as his father, the two-time presidential candidate and internationally famous civil rights leader.

BLACKWELL: All right, Lynn Sweet with the "Chicago Sun-Times."

Of course, more to come on this. Thank you so much.

SWEET: Hey, thanks.

BLACKWELL: Think the competition among Black Friday shoppers is tough? Well, it is nothing compared to the battles between online retailers and those brick and mortar stores for your holiday dollars. Up next, why old-fashioned retailers have a new reason to worry.


BLACKWELL: Protesters calling for better pay and benefits greeted shoppers at some Wal-Mart stores around the country today. CNN cameras were at protests at both ends of the country, Paramount, California, Landover Hills, Maryland. Wal-Mart says protests were held at only a handful of stores and only a few dozen workers took part.

And it says about 22 million people shopped Thursday evening and snatched up almost 5,000 items per second. Many of the protests were organized by a union-backed group called Our Wal-Mart. A union representative would not say how many people in this Landover Hills, Maryland, protest, were Wal-Mart workers.

Love to shop? Hate the crowds? Join the club. IBM reports online shopping is up 17 percent over last year. And now online retailer Amazon is upping its game with an eye toward offering same-day delivery. But there is a trade-off.

Dan Simon looks at what all this means for you and your local stores.


DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Online versus brick and mortar. It's a battle for your holiday dollars perhaps has never been so intense. For years Internet merchants like Amazon had a key advantage in states like California. No sales tax. Local bookstores already under pressure by the rapid rise of e-books and large bookstore chains, though particularly squeezed.

Michael Tucker owns a chain of bookstores in San Francisco.

MICHAEL TUCKER, BOOKSTORE OWNER: If you can save 10 percent, why wouldn't you?

SIMON: But Amazon's tax advantage recently disappeared in California, adding seven to nearly 10 percent to the cost of each other. It also began taxing this year in other states like Pennsylvania and Texas. Online retailers collect tax only for states where they have a physical presence.

Now here in California, Amazon is building two giant warehouses. Including this one near Los Angeles. It's a million square feet. And for the old fashioned retailers, it's another reason to worry.

(On camera): Why? Because Amazon's goal is to get items to customers faster and to be able to offer same-day delivery. That's right. You can avoid stores if you want and have a package delivered to your house in a matter of hours.

(Voice-over): A win for consumers, but tough for local retailers.

COLIN SEBASTIAN, BAIRD RESEARCH: If Amazon creates distribution centers and facilities on their turf locally that takes away the one advantage that we see retailers have left to compete against Amazon. So it is a big deal. SIMON: Internet analyst Colin Sebastian says that means retailer need to up their game.

SEBASTIAN: Retailers need to take a lesson from Amazon. They need to focus on the consumer experience. They need to become more sophisticated both offline and online.

SIMON: Those who want a lesson on how to thrive could learn from Books, Inc. in San Francisco.

TUCKER: We've had almost everything that comes down the pipe that could flatten an industry.

SIMON: Amidst a tidal wave of change in the industry, Michael Tucker's dozen stores are thriving.

TUCKER: Everybody can get the books. But the staffs that we have really and the readers that we have that are working with the public, that's the difference. That's the different factor we have. Tremendous staff that are engaged with those communities.

SIMON: A basic reminder to all retailers Internet and otherwise that good customer service could be the decisive factor in winning over business.

Dan Simon, CNN, San Francisco.


BLACKWELL: The truce between Israel and Hamas facing a tough test today with reports of a deadly shooting. Hamas claims Israeli troops opened fire, killing one Palestinian and wounding others. The latest from the region is next.


BLACKWELL: Back to the Middle East, where a two-day-old cease-fire between Israel and Hamas is being tested. Hamas says the bloodshed is continuing. But a young Palestinian was shot to death today, 25 others wounded.

CNN's Sara Sidner reports that the two sides disagree over how this started near the Gaza border city of Khan Younis.

SARA SIDNER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Victor, an incident on the Israeli-Gaza border that has some worried that the cease-fire may not hold for long.

Here is what we're hearing from both sides of the fence. The Health Ministry is Gaza is saying one person was killed, 25 people injured when Israeli soldiers opened fire on farmers in that area east of Khan Younis. However, in talking to the Israeli military, they have a very different story, saying there were groups of men protesting, coming very close to the fence, trying to enter Israel.

They say the soldiers fired a warning shot in the air, but when they did not heed the warning, they fired toward the men's legs. So far, the Israeli military has not confirmed the death or injuries, but they are investigating.

The reason why this is such an incident is because incidents like these happen often. On and off over the past months, we have seen them ourselves. However, because it is happening now and we're talking about 48 hours after this very fragile cease-fire was agreed to, one of the conditions was that there would be no aggression from either side.

Now, we're hearing only from the Palestinian Authority at this point in time, and they're saying that this action by Israel did break that cease-fire. However, we're not hearing that from Hamas, which is in control in Gaza, or Israel. People are hoping on both sides of the border, the civilians who have been going through the stressful time who have been dealing with injuries, been dealing with the sirens, also in Gaza, dealing with the death and the terrible maiming that some of these airstrikes and rockets have had, hoping that the cease- fire holds for some time, but ultimately people here want to see a permanent solution.

And that -- they do not have a great deal of faith that that will happen anytime soon -- Victor.

BLACKWELL: Sara Sidner, thank you.

The protesters livid after a pregnant woman dies because she's denied an abortion.


UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: Our bodies, our lives.


BLACKWELL: Now her husband is telling CNN the truth about what his wife -- her death, rather, being covered up.