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Women Named to White House Jobs; North Korean Nuclear Threat; Friendly Persuasion on Guns; Amid Explosions, Order in the Court; Veteran GOP Senator Won't Run in 2014; Chances for a "Big" Deal in Washington; Icy Storm Hits South, Mid-Atlantic; Sandy Victims Suffer in Cold Snap; "I Didn't Know It Was a Prank"; A Super Bowl Player's Political Agenda; Living in About 300 Square Feet

Aired January 25, 2013 - 16:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: Don't let today's pictures fool you. President Obama has decided to give some top-level White House jobs to women.

We are also looking at how the Pentagon is planning to respond to North Korea's new round of threats, including a possible nuclear test.

And the vice president's so-called sneaky strategy to try to pressure gun owners to support the administration's push for new gun control laws.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You are in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We begin with today's reshuffling over at the White House. A few hours ago, President Obama announced he is moving his deputy national security adviser, Denis McDonough, into the position of White House chief of staff. But today's big news is the president's clear response to complaints that women were not getting enough top-level jobs in his second administration.

Our White House correspondent, Jessica Yellin, is standing by. She has got the latest information.

Jessica, update us on what's going on. It's a very sensitive subject.


And in choosing Denis McDonough, the president chose comfort, friendship and trust over political pressure and the chance to make history which would have come for naming the first female chief of staff to the post. Denis McDonough is a longtime trusted aid. Here's what the president said when he announced the choice.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have been counting on Denis for nearly a decade since I first came to Washington, when he helped set up my Senate office. Along with Pete Rouse, he was able to show me where the restrooms were and how you passed a bill. I should point out that even then Denis had gray hair. I have been trying to catch up to him. But at that time I relied on his intellect and his good judgment. And that has continued ever since. He has been one of my closest and most trusted advisers on my presidential campaign, on my transition team. He has been an indispensable member of my national security team as well. Denis has played a key role in every major national security decision of my presidency.


YELLIN: Wolf, in addition naming Denis McDonough, the president's chief of staff has also named four women to senior posts inside the White House, among them, a woman named Lisa Monaco, who is currently at the Justice Department, a former federal prosecutor, is being tapped to become the president's senior adviser as his homeland security adviser, taking the place of John Brennan.

As you know, Brennan is being moved over to the CIA and if Brennan is confirmed there, he will now have a woman advising him on homeland security matters. It would not be the first time a woman would fill this role. Fran Townsend, now an adviser to CNN, previously held that post for the Bush administration, but it would be a woman taking a senior post.

We have learned that Sylvia Mathews Burwell, who previously worked in the Clinton administration, is the top contender to become OMB director for the administration, although that is not done.

BLITZER: And let's not forget Janet Napolitano is staying on as secretary of homeland affairs as well. Thanks for that, Jessica Yellin over at the White House.

Let's dig a little bit deeper right now with our chief political correspondent, Candy Crowley, the anchor of CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION."

Women are coming in. There are women in the administration. Does he still though have a gender diversity problem?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Let's ask those women when we get a little further down the line.

Listen, this is not about the title, because when you look around and you look at chief of staff, secretary of state, Pentagon chief, those are -- and the treasury secretary -- those have all gone to white men -- those are the most powerful Cabinet level -- chief of staff obviously is not -- but positions.

The question is and the complaint has been at least previously, we will have to check what it is now, but the complaint previously from women inside the White House has been they don't listen to us. It's not about the title, it's about the proximity.

BLITZER: That's a serious complaint. We will see what happens on this front. McDonough coming in as the White House chief of staff, a lot of national security and foreign policy experience, not a whole lot of domestic policy experience. How do you read this announcement?

CROWLEY: I read it that he has Jack Lew, who is going over to the Treasury Department to be Treasury secretary. He certainly knows monetary policy and fiscal policy.

He has Joe Biden that he can send up to the Hill for those all- important relationships on Capitol Hill. I think this was sort of a legacy pick. The president now has as we know an ambitious agenda that he laid out in that inaugural address. The question is, who is going to protect those goals for him?

And it's someone he has been with ever since his federal public life has started. That's McDonough. I think this is somebody he trusts to protect not just himself, not just to run the staff, but to get -- move that legacy, move -- the Obama era sooner or later will come to an end. The president clearly wants to make its major shape now. I think that's why he picked this man that he trusts and has known for so long.

BLITZER: The John Kerry confirmation hearings before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee pretty smooth. He will be confirmed. I don't think there is any doubt about that.

Chuck Hagel, though, next week as defense secretary that could be a little bit more lively.

CROWLEY: I think they will rough him up. It certainly will be more lively than the John Kerry hearings. But, in the end, the numbers -- I think once Senator Schumer, Democrat, said he has answered all my questions -- we know there have been meetings with others who have been critical of him. We know there's been meetings with John McCain.

He has done a lot of legwork. Chuck Hagel has done a lot of legwork going into it. I don't think that means that it will be smooth sailing, hey, good to see you kind of hearings. I think there will be very tough questions. In the end they, I think they have thought from the beginning that certainly he would be confirmed.

BLITZER: Yes, I suspect he will. The question is how many Republicans will vote to confirm him. We will find out.

Candy Crowley, who is coming up on "STATE OF THE UNION" Sunday morning?

CROWLEY: Dianne Feinstein will come on and talk about a number of things, including her automatic weapons ban.

But we will have on as General McChrystal, Stanley McChrystal, as well as former General Hayden, because we wanted to talk about women in the military. We thought those were two men sort of uniquely qualified to look at this and say how does it change things and that sort of thing. We will have that. And then we have a group of Republicans that are going to come on from the outside, among them, the Virginia governor to tell us how they think they can fix the Republican Party from the outside in.

BLITZER: And 9:00 a.m. Eastern Sunday morning we will be watching "STATE OF THE UNION." Thanks, Candy.

Today, an appeals court handed the president a stinging defeat. The three-judge panel unanimously ruled three people named to the National Labor Relations Board were appointed unconstitutionally. The president used his recess appointment power, even though the Senate technically was holding pro forma sessions just to prevent such appointments.

CNN's legal, senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin, will be here in our next hour and we will go in-depth and explain what's going on, potentially a huge constitutional issue, almost certainly will have to go before the United States Supreme Court.

Now we move to the increasing tensions in one of the most dangerous parts of the world. On the Korean Peninsula, a million North Korean troops face nearly as many South Korean forces along with some 30,000 U.S. troops along the demilitarized zone.

Today, North Korea warned of what it calls strong physical countermeasures if South Korea takes direct part in new U.N. sanctions. This comes in the wake of new North Korean threats against the United States.

CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr is looking into how dangerous the North's nuclear capability really is.

What are you hearing over there, Barbara?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, Wolf, the rhetoric out of Pyongyang is very hot. But the question you raise is the one the administration has to take a look at. How real, how dangerous is the nuclear threat?


STARR (voice-over): North Korea's latest saber-rattles threatening the South just one day after Pyongyang said it will lob missiles at the U.S. and conduct a new nuclear test, leaving no doubt leader Kim Jong-un is not giving up his father's nuclear program.

The U.S. might not have advance warning of a new underground test.

LEON PANETTA, U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: They have the capability, frankly to conduct these tests in a way that make it very difficult to determine whether or not they are doing them.

STARR: But there signs they are ready to test if ordered.

JOEL WIT, JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY: The North Koreans are maintaining a fairly high state of readiness at the test site. And that means that if the order is given from Pyongyang to go ahead, they can probably conduct the test in a few weeks.

STARR: Satellite shows a tunnel entrance where the device may undergo final assembly, a bunker for personnel and equipment and a communications network to make sure the order to detonate can be carried out. North Korea's weapons-grade inventory is believed to include plutonium for up to 12 devices and enough enriched uranium for six more.

How dangerous is all of that?

JOSEPH CIRINCIONE, PRESIDENT, PLOUGHSHARES FUND: I still think we are years away from North Korea having a capability to deliver a nuclear warhead on a missile even to a country as close as Japan or South Korea and they're even further away from having a long-range missile that could hit the United States.

STARR: But North Korea's nuclear threat is closer, a lot closer than Iran's. North Korea has nuclear devices. Iran does not. North Korea has weapons-grade material. Iran does not. And North Korea has tested long-range missiles that could carry a nuclear warhead. Iran has not.

In a new test, the North Korean regime has to show its bomb design actually works. A 2006 test basically fizzled. A 2009 test worked better. It was half as powerful as the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima. If it went off at the U.S. Capitol, it would obliterate two square miles.


STARR: And, Wolf, I have to tell you that some of the experts we are talking to say if the pace of activity continues at that North Korean site, basically, a test could come at any time -- Wolf.

BLITZER: It's a very tense situation. We will watch it with together you, Barbara. Thank you.

The Obama administration's fight for new gun restrictions is not just aimed at Republicans. Up next, the vice president targets a state where both senators are Democrats.

Plus, a harrowing look at how law and order actually is being maintained right in the middle of a war.


BLITZER: The White House is following through on its promise to take the fight over new gun restrictions directly to the American people.

The vice president, Joe Biden, is trying some friendly persuasion in Virginia, a state where two Democratic senators are caught between party loyalty and pro-gun voters.

CNN crime and justice correspondent Joe Johns is walking into THE SITUATION ROOM. He's got more on the Obama administration's latest tactics in dealing with a very, very sensitive subject. JOE JOHNS, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Talking gun control, Wolf, in the heart of gun country. The vice president prefers to call it gun safety, of course.

He took his show on the road to Richmond, Virginia, today as backers of the newly proposed assault weapons ban try to figure out some messaging that could help gin up badly needed support in the Congress.


JOHNS (voice-over): In the uphill battle to sell the assault weapons ban, both Vice President Biden and Democrats in Congress are making one thing loud and clear.

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: The bill protects hunters and sports men by protecting 2,200 specifically named weapons used for hunting or sporting purposes. They are by make and model exempted from the legislation.

JOHNS: The goal is to get hunters on board early by assuring them their guns are safe.

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: None of us want to take away the hunting rifle that uncle Tommy gave you when you were 14 years old. We don't want to do that.

JOHNS: It's seen by some pro-gun rights advocates as divide, a strategy to splinter a key part of NRA's constituency and possibly persuade members of Congress from pro-gun parts of the country to sign on.

ADAM EISGRAU, FORMER LEGAL COUNSEL TO SEN. FEINSTEIN: The ability of a member struggling with what they think as difficult politics back home, the ability of that number to go home and have that factually based conversation with people in the audience who they start out angering, but to get them to feel better when they know they are protected makes a big difference.


JOHNS: Here's the problem: for the growing number of sports shooters who use so-called assault weapons and extended magazines at firing ranges or for hunting, they wouldn't be able to buy AR-15s and many other rifles anymore.

GASPAR PERRICONE, CO-DIR., BULL MOOSE SPORTSMEN'S ALLIANCE: While most are using another type of weapon, they are also recreational shooters. And many of them engage -- and myself included -- in the occasional shooting of an AR-style rifle.

JOHNS: It's clear the National Rifle Association isn't getting onboard with any of this. As executive vice president Wayne LaPierre said in a speech this week.

WAYNE LAPIERRE, NRA EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT: That means we believe in our right to defend ourselves and our families with semiautomatic firearms technology.

JOHNS: Which raises doubts whether the proposal can even pass in Congress. Biden and others have a fall back position, focusing on magazines and ammunition instead of the weapons themselves which could also affect hunters and sports shooters.

JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm less concerned, quite frankly, about what you call an assault weapon than I am about magazines and the number of rounds that can be held in a magazine.


JOHNS: The big picture, the question is whether this divide-and- conquer strategy is working in order to get support for the assault weapons ban. The NRA says the answer is no. They say their own phone survey of 1,000 members which was done a month after the Newtown shooting showed the vast majority of respondents still opposed to banning semiautomatic weapons, Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: It will be a huge battle for the administration and Dianne Feinstein and a lot of the Democrats up on Capitol Hill. The outcome very much uncertain.

JOHNS: Very much uncertain, even in the Senate where there a lot of Democrats from red states, Republican states.

BLITZER: To be sure. Thank you, Joe.

Other news we are following: a fight over gun control seems a world away from the dangers of the Syrian city of Aleppo. But on the frontlines right now of the war between the rebels and the Syrian government forces, a surprising part of the city's normal life, the courts, the trials, they apparently continue to function.

CNN's Ivan Watson takes us inside Syria.


IVAN WATSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Aleppo -- a city at war. Despite constant danger here, hundreds of thousands of Syrians cannot afford to flee. Somehow, life has to go on.

(on camera): Some Syrians have clearly gotten used to living in a state of war. But that doesn't mean they want to live in a state of anarchy. And some -- judges, lawyers and clerics -- have gathered to create a system of courts in rebel-held territory.

(voice-over): At the offices of a group that calls itself the United Courts Council, officials signed documents and shuffled papers.

(on camera): Is it a real court here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here the first court in Aleppo, a big court, because it's a big, big city. WATSON (voice-over): When explosions rocked nearby neighborhoods, these legal workers don't even flinch. This self-appointed court opened only four months ago.

Locals lineup for birth and death certificates even though this place operates without authority from any central government. In the partial personal affairs court, lawyers argue over who gets custody of a house in a family dispute. Marwan Gayed is a former judge. He defected from the Syrian government and is now the general prosecutor for this fledgling rebel judicial system.

MARWAN GAYED, GENERAL PROSECUTOR, UNITED COURTS COUNCIL (through translator): This is a temporary council, an emergency solution. We came to work here to maintain law and order inside liberated areas.

WATSON: But even a temporary judicial system needs jails. There about 100 people detained downstairs in what looks an awful lot like a dungeon.

(on camera): The prison guards of divided cells in this basement, they established the cell for female prisoners, for male civilian prisoners and down at the end of this hall, for military prisoners, some of whom come from the government army and some from the rebel- free Syrian army.

(voice-over): A court founded by rebels -- has imprisoned rebels accused of war crimes.

A fighter named Abu Yunis (ph) swears to God he is innocent and then collapses on the floor. The warden says he is accused of leading fighters into a battle that resulted in the friendly fire deaths of many rebels.

Like most of the inmates, this imprisoned rebel does not want to show his face.

PRISONER (through translator): I'm a member of the Free Syrian Army and a captain of the battalion. I tortured a pro-government fighter and he died.

WATSON: The conditioned here are cold, dark, and grim.

In the women section, we find an inmate accused of being a government spy. She repeatedly salutes Syria's embattled president.

"May God give victory to Bashar al-Assad," she says.

The scene down here isn't pretty. But one of the Muslim clerics who has been a pointed a judge for military crimes insists these temporary measures are necessary.

MUSLIM CLERIC (through translator): We believe that our work now will prepare us for the day when the regime falls, because then, there will be anarchy. WATSON: The judges say they are using a criminal code based in part on Sharia Islamic law. And they are trying to export their experiment in law and order to other rebel-held cities and towns. It is a desperate plan, they admit, to stop Syria from descending further into chaos.

Ivan Watson, CNN, Aleppo, Syria.


BLITZER: In a related story affecting Aleppo, the U.S. today announced it's providing an additional $10 million in humanitarian assistance -- money to help Aleppo's bakeries buy flour for bread. The money should help feed at least 10,000 people for the next five months.

It's being called the Title IX for students with disabilities. Coming up, a landmark decision from the Obama administration that evens the playing field for school sports.

Plus, Apple takes a fall. You're going to find out which company dethroned the tech giant as the most valuable company.


BLITZER: New violence in Egypt on the second anniversary of the revolution that toppled Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

Lisa Sylvester is monitoring that and some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

What's the latest?


Well, protesters have been setting fires and throwing rocks at police in Cairo's Tahrir Square. More than 200 civilians and dozens of officers have been injured in clashes across the country. Four people are reported dead in Suez (ph). Egypt is deeply divided between supporters of President Mohamed Morsy and those disillusioned after the revolution. They claim Morsy has hijacked the new democracy and its ideals.

And the federal government wants students with disabilities to have access to sports. New rules from the Education Department mandate that disabled students must be given a fair shot to play on traditional sports teams or be given their own athletic programs. The guidelines are being compared to Title IX, the law mandating equal opportunity for women in sports.

And another bruise for Apple. Exxon-Mobil edged out the tech giant today to become the world's most valuable company. Apple shares continue to take a dive, sliding more than 2 percent today. The company's value has now dropped just below Exxon's, to about $415 billion. And in Britain, a soccer player has been charged with violent conduct for -- look at this, wow -- kicking a ball boy. We showed you this video yesterday in which Chelsea Eden Hazard kicks the ball boy for not releasing the ball fast enough. The charge comes with a three- game suspension. Look at the video.

The football association has suggested that they may increase in the penalty, that fine. Hazard has until Tuesday to respond to those.

It's pretty clear to me when you look at that video. I'm just -- you wonder, what was this guy thinking, Wolf?

BLITZER: Kicking a ball boy, not a good idea.

SYLVESTER: It's awful, awful.

BLITZER: It could have been worse.

Thank you.

Jeb Bush stepped into the reform today and said the Republican Party should go for a big deal on comprehensive immigration reform. We'll discuss that next in our strategy session.


BLITZER: Take a look at this. It's snowing here in the nation's capital. The snow is coming down. Not huge amounts, but it is definitely snowing, definitely cold here in Washington, D.C. We're going to have a full report in our next hour on weather around the country. Stand by for that.

In the meantime, let's get to our "Strategy Session." Joining us our CNN contributor, the Democratic strategist Donna Brazile along with our CNN contributor Ari Fleischer. He was the White House press secretary during President George W. Bush administration. Guys, thanks very much.

Ari, let me start with you. Saxby Chambliss the incumbent senator from Georgia announces today he will not seek re-election in 2014. The speculation being there were a lot of Tea Party-type conservatives who are going to primary him, going to challenge him in a primary.

What is this decision by Saxby Chambliss because he supported some tax increases in effect, what does that say to you?

ARI FLEISCHER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, two things, Wolf. One, he joins a growing list of senators who are frustrated with the Senate. That's a real problem. That's a real governing problem for all Americans. Not one party or another party, but the Senate has got to become functional again.

Two, politically speaking, Georgia is not a pretty safe Republican state, but it's not a totally safe Republican state. I think that this is a race people have to keep their eye on. The Republicans are going to lean as the favorites in the beginning of this race certainly, but nothing is a sure thing even in the state of Georgia.

BLITZER: What do you think, Donna? You study Georgia closely.

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Absolutely. One of the first states I campaign in when I worked for Reverend Jessie Jackson. Look, Mr. Chambliss has been a really outstanding conservative member of both the House of Representative where I got to know him as well as the United States Senate.

He is on the farm bills. He's authored most of the defense authorization bills. So clearly his decision is personal I'm sure. He is frustrated with Washington, D.C. and members of both parties are frustrated with the gridlock.

Hopefully, the Republicans will nominate somebody in Main Street, but let me just say this while Georgia is the so-called red state, President Obama was able to get more than 45% of the vote there. I assume that we are going have a credible Democrat who will seek the party's nomination in the state of Georgia.

BLITZER: Yes, but it's interesting that a conservative like Saxby Chambliss was afraid that even more conservative Republicans may challenge him and he apparently decided time to move on.

Let's move on ourselves a little bit, talk about Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor. He co-wrote a piece on the "Wall Street Journal" calling for comprehensive immigration reform among other things, writing this.

Some policymakers are calling for piece meal changes such as issuing visas for high skilled workers and investors or conferring legal status of immigrants who were illegally brought into the country as children.

Congress should avoid such quick fixes and commit itself instead to comprehensive immigration reform. Ari, the decision to in effect join the president who is calling for comprehensive immigration reform, what does it say to you?

FLEISCHER: Well, I know another president whose name happened to be Bush who is in a similar spot. That's where I am as an individual on this policy. Look, I don't care if it happens incrementally or if it happens comprehensively. I'm for whatever is going to cobble together the coalition to make it happen.

It's the humane right thing to do. You have to understand Hispanics are coming to this country because the moms want the same thing for their children. That any mom wants for their children. That's a chance, an opportunity, to make it in America and play by the rules and pay the taxes and make it here.

That's what we need. That's also the answer to a lot of our other problems involved in demographics and Social Security. We want a young, vibrant working society. So there's a lot to be said for it.

I think on the Republican side you can start to see an increasing number of voices on the side of immigration reform. The tactic comprehensive are incremental to me, that's not as important as getting it over the finish line.

BLITZER: A lot of Republicans though, Donna, they hear the word comprehensive and they think it's code word for amnesty, letting illegal immigrants stay in the United States, something approved in the Reagan administration.

They don't want to do it again. Is this what we are talking about now, a pathway to citizenship for 10 million or 12 million illegal immigrants in the United States?

BRAZILE: Well, that might be one part of the bill, a pathway, a tougher, stricter labor standards. Of course, we have to look at our border security, although under President Obama, it's stricter and tighter.

But you know, about two years ago, I believe it was Lindsey Graham, Senator Graham of South Carolina and Senator Chuck Schumer put together four pillars in terms of principles of what should be a comprehensive immigration reform bill.

I would hope that Marco Rubio and Bob Menendez and other members of the Senate will work together to gather something that is strong and comprehensive. Because I think a piece meal approach is not going to work.

BLITZER: Is this amnesty, Ari?

FLEISCHER: Wolf, I think you will see changes in the Republican Party on this issue. I think the last election in part inspired it. The Republicans recognized politically that they have to have more inclusive policies. They have to reach out to people we had previously alienated and morally.

It's just the right thing to do to welcome people to this country. It makes us stronger and enriches us. So I think you are going to see a different tone to the debate this time.

I think there are still be elements in both parties that oppose it. The AFLCIO who worries that wages are going to be kept down if you let new people into America. And Republicans who will call whatever you call it, amnesty.

There is going to be the elements. I think they are going to get marginalized and be fewer of them this debate than last time.

BLITZER: Yes. I don't think there is any doubt they have a chance some bipartisan cooperation to pass comprehensive immigration reform. President Bush, the man you worked for, he tried unsuccessfully even though you have John McCain, Ted Kennedy. Let's see if this president can do it this year. Plunging temperatures, ice, and snow gripping much of the country right now. Take a look at this. It's coming down right here in Washington, D.C. that's the White House. It's white. A little bit whiter because of the snow.

We are looking at the cold weather around the country including in New York where people are still feeling the pain from Superstorm Sandy.


BLITZER: The bitter cold gripping much of the country right now. It is moving over the southeast and mid-Atlantic areas. Snow is falling right here in Washington, D.C. The storm is expected to spread some freezing rain and ice over much of the southeast as well.

Let's turn to CNN meteorologist, Karen Maginnis to show us what's going on. What's the latest over there, Karen?

KAREN MAGINNIS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Wolf, it looks like the event now taking place in Washington, D.C. is going to be fairly fast moving. The temperature right now at 23 degrees and the temperatures hover around the upper teens to low 20s for the overnight hours.

But as I mentioned, this will move through fairly quickly. You have low visibility, but you can see one or two inches. We move towards the southeast. Now this is fairly interesting and that we are seeing the coldest temperatures right back across the tri-state area of Tennessee, North Carolina and upstate sections of Georgia and as a result, quite a bit of icing across this region and numerous reports of car accidents in Charlotte, North Carolina.

The ice primarily is moving now towards the east and there is a glaze of ice on those roadways, interstates cutting right across Charlotte and also into Knoxville, Oak Ridge and tri-cities area in Tennessee making for extremely dangerous road conditions.

But here's what I was talking about with the system into the north east in the mid-Atlantic along that I-95 Corridor, as it makes its way off towards the east, the temperatures behind it still going to be cold, but you might be surprised at what happens in the next couple of days.

And there you're looking at live pictures as the snow comes down. It's very light, wind coming up from the south, a little bit breezy between 15 and about 25 miles per hour -- Wolf.

BLITZER: So Karen, when can we expect a little break?

MAGINNIS: I was hoping that you would ask that, Wolf, because this is going to be interesting. Let me mention one thing about Chicago. They saw a snowfall today. The last time they saw -- it takes this long to see an inch of snow was back in the late 1800s, but they went 335 days with the first inch of snowfall. That was an all time record.

Look at this. We go to Tuesday, 45 degrees and high temperature expected on Tuesday. In New York, look at this, temperatures in the 50s by Wednesday so we go from 20s into the 50s by the middle of the workweek.

As we look at Washington, D.C., it looks like those temperatures are going to be bouncing around a little bit, but 63 degrees, Wolf, so quite a different day than what you are seeing today as temperatures above normal by the beginning part of next week. Back to you.

BLITZER: Karen, thank you.

New Yorkers are bundling up and doing their best to deal with the bitter cold temperatures right now. Susan Candiotti is in Staten Island for us, an area that was very hard hit, as you all know, from the Superstorm Sandy.

Susan, residents are now dealing with another challenge namely getting warm in the midst of all of this. What's going on where you are?

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Now the cold is rough on everybody, Wolf. We are at a tent that has been here since day three after Superstorm Sandy. This was set up by a woman who lives in one of the other boroughs of New York City and set this up with the help of donations.

Donating tent and donating, for example, inside this area, she has got car seats and canned food and water and this kind of thing. Inside the tent, she has been providing meals for people at its height, 100 meals a day.

It is being used for people who more or less want to hang out and if they don't want to go to a shelter, they come here. Let's take a look inside. They can get a nice buffet line set up here where they can come and eat.

And people who were residents of the area who their homes may be OK, but they are coming around to talk to each other and get strength from each other. Other who don't want to go to shelters can stay if they want to.

Mainly it's volunteers are keeping an eye on things here at night for those who decide to sleep here. Donna Graziano, you have been doing wonderful work here. You know this cold is affecting everybody. Snow is even predicted tonight. How do you think you are doing your part to help these people? What are they telling you?

DONNA GRAZIANO, VOLUNTEER: I am keeping them warm, but it's really not about the cold. There other issues here that needs to be taken care of like there are people who need money from their insurance and FEMA to rebuild.

That's what their concerns. That's what their worries. There are (inaudible) with no homes right now that are standing behind me. That's what the people need to start worrying about and the government needs to step in and take care of.

CANDIOTTI: Is there an idea here that you think that more work needs to be done as the government quickly enough.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, and definitely more work needs to be done. We are in the fight of our lives. We are going to be fighting for a very long time. We should not be left out in the cold. But it's not only about the cold.

Everyone started coming in because of the cold. Yes, ten blankets can keep us warm. We can huddle together. We are here with no heat or electricity. This is basic needs. This is the United States of America. That's a disgrace in the greatest country in the world.

CANDIOTTI: Well, obviously more needs to be done. Thank you very much.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A lot more needs to be done. Thank you very much.

CANDIOTTI: Thank you. Wolf, clearly this weekend is going to be rougher. They are predicting snow tonight and temperatures in the teens all weekend long. Back to you.

BLITZER: Wish them our best, our very, very best on Staten Island. Susan Candiotti, thank you.

A surprising stance from the Super Bowl star, a new reaction to Manti Te'O's interview. We will speak with ESPN's Jeremy Schaap. He was the first reporter to interview Te'O after the fake girlfriend scandal erupted.


BLITZER: Arguably this is one of the hottest times of the year for sports fans. Basketball in full swing, hockey is finally back. Everyone is counting down to the Super Bowl plus there's a ton of off the field news to discuss with the next guest, ESPN's Jeremy Schaap.

Jeremy, thanks very much for coming in. Let's discuss some of these other issues. Let's start with Notre Dame's Manti Te'O. You interviewed him, what, for two and a half hours after we learned that the girlfriend on social media was really fake. You know this guy. Do you believe what he is saying?

JEREMY SCHAAP, ESPN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Wolf, it's always kind of an awkward condition as a reporter. We asked whether you believe someone you are covering, but the circumstances here were unusual. It was an off camera interview.

So I felt in some ways as kind a proxy for people out there who were interested in the story. I can't say whether he was telling the truth. Nobody except a few people inside the story knew whether he was telling the truth. I could tell you I found him credible. I found him believable.

His story didn't have any holes that to me it could not be explained. I think most people have come to the conclusion over the last eight or nine days hearing the evidence that he was most likely the victim here. The simplest explanation is most often the correct explanation. I think that's what we are probably dealing with.

BLITZER: In the on camera interview he had yesterday with Katie Couric, did you see any inconsistencies from your interview that was off camera?

SCHAAP: I didn't. I mean, there was elaboration and Katie Couric went places I hadn't gone, had him elaborate on some points that he made to me. But I didn't see daylight there between my interview last Friday and Miss Couric's interview, which I believe took place on Tuesday.

At this point perhaps the public appetite for the story is drying up. It has been exhausting. It's been confusing. We might never know exactly what happened. But I understand there was late word that Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, the alleged hoaxter is going to be talking for the first time and I just got an e-mail about this. I think to Dr. Phil, I don't know if you heard that.

BLITZER: That's what we've heard as well. We will look forward to hearing what he has to say. He is obviously the center of this whole storm. Let's move on and talk about another sports story.

There is a Super Bowl coming up. I assume you heard about that. Not that long down the road. There was a Baltimore Ravens linebacker, Brandon Ayanbadejo. You probably know he caused a little stir. He is defending gay marriage, which is unusual for a pro athlete to talk about these kinds of issues. Listen to what he said to WBAL.


BRANDON AYANBADEJO, LINEBACKER, BALTIMORE RAVENS: To me personally, I just see it as a human rights issue. It's not gay rights. It's equal and human rights. Whether it's suffrage or going back to slavery or segregation, it's all the same to me. I've got a lot of scrutiny. I am known as the gay ambassador.


BLITZER: He supports gay rights. He is not saying he is gay or anything like that, but he is supporting gay rights. How unusual is this?

SCHAAP: Well, it's very unusual. I know him fairly well personally. He feels strongly about this issue. He is heterosexual. He is married with two kids and has a lot of gay friends. He wants them to enjoy the same rights that he and most Americans enjoy.

But this is highly unusual because it is the last taboo in some respects. We never had a male pro athlete in any major team sports ever come out. Not with all the tens of thousands of athletes in the major leagues. The pro football and the NBA, the NHL, it's never happened. It's always been taught that it's too difficult for someone to do that in a locker room setting.

I think based on the response of his outspokenness, we might be moving in a direction for the first time where active pro athletes from the major team sports who are male can say they are homosexual and not be ostracized.

There have been female athletes in team sports and former professional athletes who are male on the team sports and overseas, there have been rugby players, in Whales, in Australia who have come forward, but never in this country. I think we are moving in that direction.

BLITZER: Yes, there is an active athlete in the baseball, football, basketball. When they retire from sports, many who are gay of course have done that, but only a few. You are absolutely right.

Very quickly, a story close to my heart as a Washington Nationals baseball fan, you know the mascots, four presidents. They are about to add a fifth president. There is a big discussion who that fifth president for these races that Washington Nationals Park, who the fifth president is. You have to pick who you would like to see.

SCHAAP: I have to tell you, I follow this very closely and I was very happy to see Teddy Roosevelt finally win. If we're talking about stature, these are the Mount Rushmore presidents. I think we got to add Franklin Roosevelt.

But if we are talking about someone who can win, it's got to be George H.W. Bush. He is the most accomplished baseball player ever to serve as in Yale and the college world series. He was a righty hitting lefty first baseman, an outstanding player, met Babe Ruth. I'm for Bush.

BLITZER: So what it would be George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt and George W. Bush, that's what you're saying, right?

SCHAAP: That's what I'm saying.

BLITZER: All right -- I think George W. Bush although I like FDR, maybe FDR --

SCHAAP: Stature, yes. Two Roosevelts is confusing.

BLITZER: Maybe, you're right. I have to think about it and announce it tomorrow. We will be at the Nationals games and spring training coming up very, very soon. Thanks very much for that.

SCHAAP: Sure, Wolf.

BLITZER: A prominent Republican not mincing words saying his party needs to stop being stupid. Republican officials are meeting today in North Carolina. What they can do to rebound and remake their brand.


BLITZER: Here's a look at the hour's "Hot Shots." In Pakistan, a Muslim throws flowers over a procession at the birth of the Prophet Festival. In Scotland, the supper is held to commemorate the birth of the poet Robert Burns on this day back in 1759.

In Australia, the tennis star Andy Murray signs autographs for fans after winning his men's singles semi final. In New York, a passerby snaps a photo of frozen (inaudible). "Hot Shots," pictures from around the world.

Imagine your bedroom and bathroom and kitchen all in only about 300 square feet. It may seem small, but not necessarily in New York City. Mary Snow is joining us now with details -- Mary.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Wolf, many New Yorkers all right joke that they live in apartments the size of closets. Even so, the city sees room to downsize. They are planning to add micro- apartments to make space for the people living alone.


SNOW (voice-over): In a city tight on living space, things are about to get tighter.

(on camera): This one room is living room, bedroom, dining room.

(voice-over): These full-time living quarters are what are called a micro-apartment. Squeeze into the area the size of a modest hotel room.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And then if you don't want to look at the television, you have a bar. At the same time, you have a work space and you have a desk. They are traditional ideas that have been updated. They are modern and sexy Italian way.

SNOW: Paid a visit to some New Yorkers who already live in tiny spaces and the modern sleekness may be tough to maintain. This micro- apartment, which is a museum exhibit is 325 square feet regulations currently require a minimum of 400 square feet for new unit.

But the city is going to bent that rule for a pilot project to built 55 micro-apartments making reserving nearly half for low and middle income residents. Museum of New York curator Donald Albrecht says New York is following the lead of other places like Tokyo and Hongkong.

(on camera): Why the need for these kinds of apartments to live like this?

DONALD ALBRECHT, MUSEUM OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK: Because the city is going to have 600,000 more people and a lot of those people are going to be single and so they want smaller units that they can afford.

SNOW (voice-over): What may buy a house in other parts of the country won't get you far in New York City.

PAMELA LIEBMAN, PRESIDENT AND CEO, THE COREORAN GROUP: The average price here is $1.4 million and for that you're getting just a small apartment. Even though this seems expensive for New York, it's a bargain.

SNOW: A bargain for someone who thinks outside the box, but is willing to live in one.


SNOW: This week, the city announced the winner of a contest among architects to build the microunits. They are expected to be ready in 2015 -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, good luck to all those folks. Mary, thank you.