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Searching for Snowden; Snowden Strains U.S. Relations Overseas; Seeking a Nation to go Against U.S.; Snowden Seeks Asylum in Ecuador; Rough Day for Wall Street; Zimmerman Defense Uses Joke in Court

Aired June 24, 2013 - 14:00   ET


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf Blitzer, thank you so much. Good to see all of you on this Monday. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

You know what? It is turning out to be the best kept secret for the man known for spilling secrets, his location. Edward Snowden, charged with espionage, is the target of this worldwide manhunt that is crossing hemispheres and tangling diplomatic ties. And as the U.S. authorities search for Snowden, Snowden is searching for asylum. First he fled to Hong Kong from Hawaii. Remember, that was back reportedly on May 20th. Then yesterday he took this flight to Moscow, according to Russian officials, and he was able to leave Hong Kong, apparently, by using refugee papers issued by Ecuador, which may actually turn out to be his final destination.

You with me so far? So the big question here is, where is he now? We don't know. Snowden apparently missed a flight to Cuba. But a minister from Ecuador confirms Snowden has applied for asylum there. Big question is, why Ecuador? One possible reason is this. This is the country giving asylum to this man, another famous, famous leaker, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Assange confirmed WikiLeaks has given financial help to Snowden. This is all via this conference call this morning. And Assange explained why Snowden has good reason to seek political asylum. Here he was.


JULIAN ASSANGE, WIKILEAKS FOUNDER (voice-over): Every person has the right to seek and receive political asylum. Those rights are enshrined in the United Nations agreements, of which the United States is a party. And no self-respecting country would submit to such interference.


BALDWIN: But Secretary of State John Kerry says Snowden's leaks regarding NSA surveillance of personal information has now endangered Americans.


JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: What I see is an individual who threatened this country and put Americans at risk through the acts that he took. People may die as a consequence of what this man did. It is possible the United States will be attacked because terrorists may now know how to protect themselves in some way or another that they didn't know before. This is a very dangerous act.


BALDWIN: I want to bring in Jennifer Robinson, legal adviser to WikiLeaks. She joins me here live from London.

Jennifer, thank you for coming on. And I just have to ask, first couple of questions, where is Edward Snowden right now?

JENNIFER ROBINSON, LEGAL ADVISOR, WIKILEAKS: As Julian Assange confirmed this afternoon on the telephone conference call, he's in direct contact with WikiLeaks, but at this stage they are not disclosing where he is. He is in good health, he's in high spirits, we understand, but they are not disclosing his whereabouts.

BALDWIN: Can you tell me where he would like to go? Priority number one.

ROBINSON: I understand, my instructions are, and has been widely reported, that he has now sought asylum from Ecuador and has made an application exercising his legal right under international law to seek asylum. That is now a matter for the Ecuadoran government.

BALDWIN: As we mentioned, Jennifer, he is facing espionage charges in the U.S. He is the most wanted man right now for his leaks. We just heard Secretary of State John Kerry basically saying that people could die because of what he has done. So given all of that, in terms of this communication between WikiLeaks and Snowden, can you tell me just what is his demeanor like? How is he doing?

ROBINSON: I'm not in direct contact with Mr. Snowden myself, but I understand that WikiLeaks, they have said today that he has no regret about what he did and he feels that the disclosures that he made were in the public interest.

Of course, it's important to focus on those disclosures. Mass surveillance by the NSA in breach of institution law and constitutional law, mass breach of privacy for all Americans. I think Senator Kerry - the -

BALDWIN: Secretary of state.

ROBINSON: Secretary's statement - Secretary of State Kerry's response is very indicative and is reminding of the WikiLeaks disclosures. And, of course, there were widespread comments about potential risk. But those risks did not materialize. So I think it's important to focus on the public interest of Mr. Snowden's disclosures and, of course, emphasize his right to seek asylum under international law.

BALDWIN: Can I just ask this? Is he nervous at all? According to people you've talked to who are in communication with him?

ROBINSON: All I understand is what WikiLeaks has disclosed today -


ROBINSON: Which is that he's in good spirits and has made the asylum application.

BALDWIN: Tell me this, Jennifer, how did this communication between WikiLeaks and Snowden begin? Who contacted whom?

ROBINSON: Again, my instructions from WikiLeaks are that they were contacted and have decided that it is their mandate as WikiLeaks to facilitate whistle blowers' communication with the public where possible and to provide their resources, to the extent that they have them, to protect whistle blowers. On that basis, WikiLeaks decided to provide assistance to Mr. Snowden in facilitating his travel from Hong Kong to Moscow.

BALDWIN: OK. In listening and reading about this conference call this morning where Julian Assange was saying -- let me quote Julian Assange, obviously on the defense for Snowden. Quote, "every person has the right to seek and receive political asylum. Those rights are enshrined by the United Nations agreement of which the United States is a party." He went on, "it is counterproductive and unacceptable for the Obama administration to try and interfere with those rights."

You can flip the question, Jennifer, and critics of that line of thinking would want to know, is it not counterproductive for WikiLeaks to be interfering with the U.S. government seeking a fugitive facing criminal charges here? What would WikiLeaks' response be?

ROBINSON: WikiLeaks hasn't interfered. Edward Snowden, as was reported by the Hong Kong government, left legally and voluntarily from Hong Kong and has traveled to Moscow. There is no international warrant that has been validated in those jurisdictions that we're aware of as yet, so he was free to travel internationally. It is his right to seek political asylum under international law and he --

BALDWIN: Even though the U.S. is seeking to find him based upon espionage charges and Julian Assange is in touch with him?

ROBINSON: His right to asylum takes precedent over any other matter and indeed the U.S. itself recognizes whistle blower journalism as a basis for persecution for political opinion. So this is a recognized basis for which he can claim asylum and that takes precedence.

BALDWIN: Final question. I know WikiLeaks is picking up the cost for Snowden at the moment and as he might be in transit. But let's say if, if he winds up in Ecuador, how long does WikiLeaks intend to help Snowden financially?

ROBINSON: I am not aware of those arrangements at present. All we know is what Julian Assange has said today in the press arrangement, which is that they assisted him to travel to Moscow and that they have facilitated communication with the Ecuadoran government. It is now a matter for the Ecuadoran government as to whether to accept that application and what happens from here on in will be a matter for them.

BALDWIN: Jennifer Robinson is live in London. Jennifer, thank you so much. We're going to get into the legal in just a moment here but, you know, as we mentioned this batch of countries from Russia here to Venezuela, to Cuba and others may end up having or helped Snowden. The U.S. is upset with China in particular since officials there let Snowden leave despite American efforts to revoke his passport. I want to turn now to our chief White House correspondent, Jessica Yellin.

Jessica, one senator says these countries have, quote, "put a finger in the eye of the United States." A finger in the eye. How is the Obama administration reacting?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, publicly, Brooke, for now, with strong words and that's all. Behind the scenes there's also diplomatic efforts and some international legal efforts. But beyond that, there's not much the White House is going to do in the public eye. And Jay Carney here from the podium said that China was behind the decision to let Edward Snowden leave Hong Kong. And he called that a serious setback in our relationship, the U.S.'s relationship with China.

And then he went on to say that Russia is where the White House believes Snowden currently remains. And that he and the White House believe that Russia has an obligation to return Snowden to the U.S. now because they have a history of returning, quote, "criminals." That's their word, "criminals" to the U.S.

I asked if President Obama has gotten on the phone to call Russian President Putin to ask him to return Edward Snowden. Here is what Carney had to say, Brooke.


YELLIN: The president made a call to President Putin. And if he has not, why not?

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Again, I don't have presidential communications to read out to you except to say there is no reason why, given international law, given the relationships that we have with the countries in question, that this would require a communication from the president. Again, I'm not reading out presidential communications. There are communications at all the appropriate levels. And we note, as I just did, that we have a strong cooperative relationship with the Russians on law enforcement matters and we expect the Russians to examine the options available to them to expel Mr. Snowden for his return to the United States.

YELLIN: Is he concerned about -


YELLIN: Brooke, there is a long history of Russia returning violent criminals to the U.S. But if they view Snowden as a criminal of conscience or a man who committed a political crime, then they would view him as a dissident. And there is zero history, no history, of Russia returning dissidents to the U.S., Brooke.

BALDWIN: Jessica Yellin for us at the White House. Jessica, thank you much.

Let's talk Ecuador here because Ecuador yet to make a decision whether it will give Edward Snowden the refuge that he is clearly seeking. One lawyer for WikiLeaks pointed out that there are other options for the fugitive.


MICHAEL RATNER, WIKILEAKS ATTORNEY (voice-over): The other countries are those in South America who've been willing to take an independent stand from the United States - Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Argentina, Cuba. That doesn't mean anything about what he's done.


BALDWIN: However, the signs are good Ecuador will step up if you listen to the Ecuadorian foreign minister. Let's go to CNN's Paula Newton who's live in Quito, the capital of Ecuador.

And, Paula, what is the foreign minister there saying about this?

PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, he's actually in Vietnam on a foreign trip and he said, look, we're going to make our decisions not based on the interests of our relationship with the United States, but based on our moral principles. He confirmed that they did have this request from Edward Snowden to get asylum here. And based on what, Brooke? Based on freedom of expression. The fact that he felt he would be persecuted for what he has done in the last few weeks and that he would not get a fair trial in the United States. That's what Edward Snowden is requesting of the Ecuadorans. The Ecuadorans are saying, look, we are considering his request right now.

The Ecuadorans being very cagey about this and, again, not saying that they know where he is, not saying exactly the kind of timeline that it will take for them to consider this. They say only that they are in contact with their Russian counterparts. They know where Mr. Snowden is. They also didn't tell us where he is. And that they will, in their own good time, consider this kind of request.

Brooke, you have to say, a very provocative move here and one that leaves many people here puzzled, not just people around the world, but people here very puzzled as to why this is going on.


BALDWIN: Paula Newton in Quito. Paula, thank you.

The big question, why Ecuador? Let's talk about that with Paul Callan here, bringing him in, our CNN legal analyst.

And, Paul, you know, doing some reading on Ecuador today. Here you have this leftist popular president, Rafael Correa. Perhaps here if this thing does go through, perhaps wishing to deflect criticism on his own repression of free speech. My question to you is, what's in it for Snowden? I mean obviously there's the Assange connection. Is it that or do you think it's more political than that? PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, you know, you know, his options, Snowden's options, are getting increasingly limited, obviously. I mean he's looking at Venezuela, Cuba, Ecuador. He's looking at countries that have foreign policies hostile to the United States. And I suppose he figures if he goes to Cuba, he's going to wind up driving a 1952 Ford for the rest of his life, whereas maybe he gets to live a little better standard of living in Ecuador. I will tell you that Ecuador has had a treaty with the United States, an extradition treaty, since the 1800s. But it, like most countries, has an exception.

BALDWIN: Loophole.

CALLAN: It's called the political offense exception.

BALDWIN: Tell me about it.

CALLAN: So - yes. Well, that exception basically says that espionage, sedition and treason are defined as political crimes. Now, he's been charged under the Espionage Act, a classic political crime. And I would add that even the United States views espionage as a type of political crime. We've granted asylum to Russian spies and to refugees in the past. So it puts us in sort of a difficult position here since we chose to indict him under an espionage theory. They might have been smarter if they'd come up with a non-espionage approach to the case. But they're going to have a tough time in court, I think, fighting Ecuador, if Ecuador decides to grant asylum.

BALDWIN: Let me also, though, ask you about criticism on the timeline, because there are legal experts out there criticizing the Obama administration, you know, asking questions about, why didn't the State Department revoke his passport after charges were filed? Why, you know, unseal charges Friday instead of waiting until he was in custody? Let me just play this. This is from Secretary of State John Kerry who sat down with CNN responding to some of that. Here he was.


JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: The moment the indictment was unsealed, and we knew of it, at that point his passport was pulled within two hours. So his passport was pulled immediately that there was an unsealed -- not indictment, as a matter of fact, it was a complaint. And so we don't know what authorities allowed him to leave under those circumstances. We obviously have to find out from the Chinese what happened. We hope that the Russians will recognize the request of the United States, particularly given that over the last two years we have sent seven prisoners back that they requested from the United States.


BALDWIN: Paul Callan, just your thoughts on that?

CALLAN: Well, I - you know, I think the criticism that they waited too long to revoke his passport, it sounded good on the surface, but in truth it probably wouldn't have made any difference anyway because once China decided to let him go and Russia said, OK, you can land here in Moscow, it wouldn't matter if he had a U.S. passport. It's -- those are separate countries and they can let a political refugee land even if he doesn't have a passport if they view the person in this way.

He doesn't have a passport now. He's trying to travel elsewhere. Some other country may allow him to enter. And, by the way, it may very well not be Ecuador.


CALLAN: This could be a total fake by WikiLeaks.


CALLAN: You notice how careful Robinson is being, the attorney for WikiLeaks.

BALDWIN: Very careful.

CALLAN: You know, oh, we don't tell him - we're not telling him to go anyplace. We're not giving him any money. You know, we're just -- we're just helping him communicate. They're very careful because they don't want to be indicted for obstruction of justice or some other criminal offense. So, you know, this is a story that we don't know the final chapter yet.

BALDWIN: Paul Callan, thank you.

CALLAN: Nice being with you, Brooke.

BALDWIN: And Wall Street. Wall Street having a rough go of it today. Look at that. In the red, down 72 points here. The Dow plunging by triple digits, actually, within minutes of the opening bell today. Worries about the Fed easing up on stimulus, and a plunge in, speaking of China, Chinese stocks causing U.S. stocks to tumble to their lowest levels in two months. Let's go straight to CNN's global economic analyst and "Time" assistant managing editor Rana Foroohar joining me from New York.

Rana, nice to see you again. We talked about this when we heard from Ben Bernanke last week the "t" word, "tapering." You know - I know some of the worry over the Fed tapering off its bond buying program. And, again, that was somewhere down the road. Do we know when the -- that part of the road happens?

RANA FOROOHAR, "TIME" ASSISTANT MANAGING EDITOR: Well, that part of the road could happen as early as the end of this year. But what's really interesting is the markets have been reacting as though all this is already happening, which is what's fascinating. I mean all Bernanke has said is that at some point we will stop this $85 billion a month asset buying program. He hasn't talked about raising interest rates, although you are starting to see worries about that in the market. So I think that there has been this sort of flight from risk. And, indeed, the Fed itself has worried about the fact that its asset buying program has created bubbles in the markets in different sectors, in certain kinds of corporations that have riskier junk bonds, in emerging markets, in commodities. So you're seeing a flight from some of that risk now. That's what's happening.

BALDWIN: What about also China? I know you have written so much about China in a series on "Time." Explain to us the concerns with China. You know, what's behind the plunge there? And connect the dots, how does it affect me and you?

FOROOHAR: It's a great question. So there are two stories out there about China right now and only one of them is correct. The two stories are that China is having a Lehman Brothers moment, that it's having a banking meltdown because banks have stopped lending, their credits crunched there right now. That is not the case.

China is, however, slowing. Growth is slowing. Growth is no longer in the double digits. It's probably not even 8 percent, which is what it's been the last few years. Now, that sounds relatively high to us, but in China, that's a lot slower than it's been in the last few years. So wherever growth is, it's going to be slower than it was in the past.

Now the big question is, what does that mean for the rest of the world?


FOROOHAR: What does that mean for us? So there are going to be some headwinds, of course, because the U.S. does a lot of trade with China. I don't think that we're going to see China falling off a cliff. The important thing to remember is that the state, the communist party, actually owns the entire banking sector. So you're not going to see a meltdown of the kind that you did in this country. It's just not like that. I think we will see some slowing. But the U.S. is still on track for recovery this year. And the big question is how that plays out.

BALDWIN: Rana Foroohar, I know the conversation on all of this will continue. I look forward to having you back on. Rana, thank you so much.

FOROOHAR: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Coming up later this hour, Michael Jackson's daughter Paris recovering in a Los Angeles hospital after an apparent suicide attempt earlier this month, but a videotaped deposition she gave is expected to be shown in court today. We'll take you live to Los Angeles later this hour.

But first, some long and strange statements today from the defense in the opening of the George Zimmerman trial. His lawyer even told a knock-knock joke. We'll take you to Sanford, Florida, next.


BALDWIN: More than a year after Florida teenager Trayvon Martin was shot and killed, opening statements are finally under way in the trial of the shooter, George Zimmerman. The prosecution is trying to convince this jury of six women that Zimmerman is guilty of second degree murder. That he pursued Martin. That he engaged him in a fight and ultimately shot and killed him. The defense is arguing, meantime, that Zimmerman was forced to act in self-defense to save his own life.


DON WEST, ZIMMERMAN ATTORNEY: I think the evidence will show that this is a sad case. That there are no monsters here. Sometimes you have to laugh to keep from crying. So let me -- at considerable risk, let me say, I'd like to tell you a little joke. I know how that may sound a bit weird in this context, under these circumstances, but I think you're the perfect audience for it. As long as you don't -- if you don't like it or you don't think it's funny or inappropriate, that you don't hold it against Mr. Zimmerman. You can hold it against me if you want, but not Mr. Zimmerman. I have your assurance you won't. Here's how it goes. Knock, knock. Who's there? George Zimmerman. George Zimmerman, who? All right. Good. You're on the jury. Nothing? That's funny. After what you folks have been through the last two or three weeks.


BALDWIN: And that is where I want to begin with Martin Savidge, outside this courthouse in Sanford, Florida.

I mean opening statements, Martin, with a knock-knock joke? Do we know what that was supposed to be? Was it supposed to be funny?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, a lot of us have been wondering what was it supposed to be? It was clearly a defense dud. There was not a snicker. No one laughed. You looked at the jury and no one on that jury thought it was funny. Was it an attempt by Don West to kind of lighten the mood because you had this very strong, aggressive presentation by the prosecution? I don't know.

There had been an objection by the prosecution just before all of that and it seemed to rattle Don West. So maybe it threw him off his game. And maybe getting back into it was that joke. But just by measuring reaction from people who heard it, it was awful and a really awkward way to begin what is still the ongoing opening statement by the defense team.

It is now well over two hours. They had to break to have lunch in between.


SAVIDGE: And Don West is still going on. Whereas, before that, you had the prosecution. They had a very sharp, 30-minute presentation that was made. It was done by John Guy. This is a very good looking guy that we really hadn't seen much of. He'd been in the background. We thought that, you know, it was going to be Bernie Delabriana (ph) that was going to make it. But, no, this new man steps up and, by many in the courtroom, he nailed it as far as the job that the prosecution had to do, lay out the case against George Zimmerman saying this is what you'll hear, this is what we'll prove, this is why you must rule in this particular way. And he ends with the very strong line -- he began with profanity but ends with the very strong closing statement where he says George Zimmerman did not shoot Trayvon Martin because he had to, he shot him because he wanted to. Boom and done. This for the defense still going on, Brooke.

BALDWIN: As it's still going on, we know, Martin, that before the opening statements this morning we saw this judge ask the Zimmerman family and the Martin family attorney, Ben Crump, to leave the courtroom. Why?

SAVIDGE: Right. Well, you know, of course both families are there. Martin's family is there because they are wanting to see justice carried out in relation to the death of their son. George Zimmerman's mother and father are there and other family members. The judge basically said, OK, under the rules of sequestration now, anybody who's a witness in this potential trial can't sit and listen to the state as they put out the evidence against him. They have to be out of this courtroom.

Well, it's anticipated that George Zimmerman's parents will be called as witnesses. It's really the judge's discretion. She said, nope, you know what, Zimmermans, I'm sorry, you're now ordered out of the courtroom. That's when Mark O'Mara, for the defense, jumped up and said, well, what about the attorney, Ben Crump, who represents Trayvon Martin's family? He argued and eventually, 10 minutes later, then Crump was ordered out of the courtroom. So George Zimmerman's parents are not there to hear any of what is transpiring. Trayvon Martin's family, because they are family of the victim, remain.

BALDWIN: OK. Martin Savidge, thank you so much.

And for much more on the Zimmerman murder trial, watch "Self-Defense of Murder: The George Zimmerman Trial," tonight, 10:00 Eastern, here on CNN.

And we have some breaking news here. We're continuing to follow this where is Edward Snowden story and what is next for him. We now have official public comment from the president of the United States. We're going to turn that around for you and play that with our chief White House correspondent, Jessica Yellin, on the other side of the break.