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Press Conference Expected in Arizona; Egyptian Military Makes Pivotal Statement; Testimony Continues in George Zimmerman Trial

Aired July 1, 2013 - 13:00   ET


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: We're following the developments of these two major stories this hour. A news conference set to begin any minute now on the tragic deaths of 19 elite firefighters in Arizona. We're going to take you there live.

A police investigator takes the stand in the Zimmerman trial and jurors hear a recording of her interview with Zimmerman the night he shot Trayvon Martin. Testimony continues live later this hour.

This is CNN NEWSROOM and I'm Suzanne Malveaux. We want to get right to it.

We begin with the country's deadliest wildfire. This is in 80 years; 19 members of an elite squad killed battling a fire. This is northwest of Phoenix.

This is a group picture showing members of the team. We don't even know the status of the individuals in that photo. We do know this is a devastating blow, obviously, to their families, the community as well as that department.

The squad was from Prescott, Arizona. And we expect to hear from the fire chief, the mayor as well as the Arizona governor in a news conference. That is happening this hour.

I want to bring in Stephanie Elam, who is in Prescott.

And Stephanie, I mean, I can't even imagine what this community is going through here, the sense of loss.

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's unbelievable. It's almost unbearable, Suzanne. And as we drove here to Arizona overnight and by the time we got here and the sun started to come up and I started to see people emerging here in Prescott, and you could see people hugging, long hugs, lots of tears, just trying to digest news that is almost undigestible (sic) to know that 19 members of your community, 19 members who put their lives on the line for you have lost their lives in this fire.

Just very difficult news; we are waiting here at a high school here in Prescott for the governor to make her way here. We do know that she's already said that this as dark a day as she can remember, that firefighting is just very dangerous work, but coming here to lend her support to this community as they are just dealing with a very difficult loss, Suzanne. MALVEAUX: And Stephanie, do we have any sense of what the governor might offer these families? I mean, clearly, there's nothing that can replace the sense of loss here, but they're going to need a lot of support.

ELAM: A lot of support, and we do know that the members of the families have been contacted, that they are reaching out to lend their support that way. And you're talking about a fire department here in Prescott, that the fire wasn't actually even threatening their city environs. This was what they do. They were traveling out to help other members within their state, to help them fight these fires.

So obviously a lot of shock about that and the fact that I think that it's about 20 percent of their fire department that was lost in this one fire. Those 19 firefighters, one firefighter who was a member of that team, but not with the team at that time, and did survive, that much we do know.

MALVEAUX: All right, Stephanie. We're going to get back to you as soon as we have more information. Obviously there's going to be a press conference. We'll learn more about what happened in that tragic fire and what kind of resources that they're offering some of the families there as well.

The president as well praised those 19 fallen firefighters. He called them heroes, who really put themselves in danger to simply protect others. And he promised continuous support from the federal government in fighting those fires and also investigating just how that happened.

Now this was a news conference; this was in Tanzania earlier today, the president offering these words of gratitude and also comfort as well.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Now our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of the brave firefighters who were out there. This is one more reminder of the fact that our first responders, they put their lives on the line every single day.

And every time we have a community in crisis, a disaster strikes, we've got people in need, you know, firefighters, law enforcement officers, they run towards the danger.


MALVEAUX: That's what makes them so different, so unique. The president called them heroes and also called to re-examine the way that these crews are handling these amazing, amazing fires.

I want to bring in Chad Myers to talk about it, because we've seen, Chad, just over the last week or so that weather -- I mean, it's been extremely hot in that part of the country.

Do we think that the heat, the extreme heat, played a role in this? Was it wind?

I mean, what were these guys dealing with?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, the heat had something to do with it, but it was a Part B. It was the wind that was Part A, and the wind came out of a severe thunderstorm. And you can -- anywhere in the United States you get a big thunderstorm, you know that wind will come out of that storm. It will go into it originally, but it'll come blowing out at 40 or 50 miles per hour.

That's exactly what happened to these firefighters. They were fighting a fire with wind coming from one direction. And all of a sudden, storms fired near Prescott and they moved down toward Yarnell. Here it is. Here it is on the radar and you'll begin to see this line of weather, right there. It's a squall line. It's a squall line, and it pushed that wind right through Yarnell. I've heard eyewitness reports saying that that wind was 50 to 70 miles per hour. They just couldn't get out. The storms fired right here, the puff of clouds right through here. The rain came down. And when the rain comes down, it brings wind with it from the upper atmosphere. And that wind comes down, it hits the ground. It can't go any farther down. It has to go out. It goes out that way; it goes out that way; it goes out that way. And if the whole storm is headed this way, most of the wind was headed right to those firefighters. And they were caught in a windstorm and there was no way to get out, Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Chad, do we expect that the weather is going to remain unusually high in that part of the country?

MYERS: Oh, I think we're going to be above 100 in Arizona, parts of Nevada, California for another week if not more. And it's that severe thunderstorm that can pop up. It's called the monsoon season. People think of Phoenix as being hot and dry. It's not dry in July anymore. The humidity is in. That heat fires these storms. And these storms make those dust storms that we showed you so many times. We love showing you the -- how the dust engulfs a big city. This is exactly how that happens. Enough humidity in the air, a lot of heat, that heat and humidity go up, making one or two thunderstorms. And you get situations like this all summer.

MALVEAUX: All right, Chad. Thanks. Appreciate it.

These are amazing pictures as well as developments. We're talking about helicopters flying over Egypt's capital as the military is issuing an ultimatum. It is demanding that President Mohammed Morsi and his allies and opponents resolve their dispute within 48 hours; otherwise, the military says it's going to step in to restore order.

At the same time President Morsi's opponents are calling for him to leave office by tomorrow. At least 16 people were killed. More than 780 were wounded. That and the unrest in Egypt today and yesterday; we're keeping a close eye on what happens out of Cairo.

And a nation is now praying for a beloved leader.


MALVEAUX (voice-over): That is the sound from the streets of Pretoria today as police and folks send out their love to Nelson Mandela.

Vigils are being held for the former South African president as he remains on life support. Mandela is in critical but stable condition in a Pretoria hospital. He is said to be surrounded by his family. His ex-wife, Winnie Mandela, has been at his side as well. Now she told reporters that any suggestion of taking him off of life support is, quote, "nonsense."

European countries reacting with anger to reports that the National Security Agency bugged European Union offices here in the United States. Information for the reports reportedly came from documents leaked by Edward Snowden, the former NSA contract employee.

Now the E.U. president, he says that he is now deeply worried and he is shocked by the allegations. The U.S. plans to make a formal response through diplomatic channels, but says it gathers foreign intelligence, just like all the other countries do.

And former President George W. Bush was in Zambia before moving on to Tanzania today. He and the former first lady, Laura Bush, they were there to renovate and reopen a cancer clinic. Well, they sat down with CNN's Robyn Curnow for an exclusive interview covering a variety of topics, including his thoughts on the NSA leaker, Edward Snowden.


ROBYN CURNOW, CNN HOST: Do you think he's a traitor?

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I know he damaged the country. And the Obama administration will deal with it.

CURNOW: But do you think it's possible for one man to really damage the security of the nation?

BUSH: I think he damaged the security of country.

CURNOW: And when it comes to surveillance there can be real-time understanding of --


BUSH: I put the program in place to protect the country. And one of the certainties is civil liberties were guaranteed.

CURNOW: So you don't think there's a compromise between security and privacy?

BUSH: I think there needs to be a balance. And I think as the president explained, there's a proper balance.

CURNOW: You don't want to criticize the Obama administration. Is that something that you've really made a decision (inaudible)? BUSH: I don't think it does any good. It's a hard job. He's got plenty on his agenda. And it's difficult. And a former president doesn't need to make it harder.

CURNOW: Because in the polls you are now sort of --

BUSH: Could care less.

CURNOW: You don't care?


CURNOW: Whether people think you're favorable or unfavorable?

business The only time I really cared was on Election Day.

You know, I guess it's nice. I mean, let me rephrase that.

I'm -- thank you for bringing it up.

CURNOW: You like the idea that people perhaps are looking at you differently?

BUSH: You know, I mean, ultimately history will judge the decisions I made. And I won't be around, because it's going to take a while for the objective historians to show up. And so I'm pretty comfortable with it. I did what I did. I know the spirit in which I did it.


MALVEAUX: You can see more of the interview later on 'THE SITUATION ROOM," and the whole thing we're going to air tonight "OUTFRONT" with Erin Burnett.

Just in to CNN, breaking news. Edward Snowden, we've just talked about him. Well, we have learned now that he has asked for asylum from Russia. Now this is according to Russia's semi-official news agency, Interfax.

They are claiming that the WikiLeaks advisor, Sara Harrison (ph), has presented a packet of documents to the consular officials in Moscow's airport, requesting asylum for Edward Snowden in Russia. What we know so far is that he still remains in that transit, international transit zone in that lounge area in the airport in Moscow.

Now we have learned, according to Russian officials here, that he is seeking asylum. We'll see where that goes. But so far that's as much as we know.

We're also keeping our eye on the George Zimmerman trial that is going on in Sanford, Florida. This morning we heard Zimmerman's story that Trayvon Martin punched him in the face, slammed his head into the sidewalk.

Well, right now, court, it's in a lunch break. We're going to be right back to give you more highlights from this morning's testimony. (MUSIC PLAYING)


MALVEAUX: We're going to go live to Cairo, Egypt, where Reza Sayah is.

And Reza, if you can bring us up to speed here, we've just learned information here that there's that ultimatum that the military has issued to both sides, President Morsi and his opponents, to make peace here. Otherwise, they say they are going to get involved in the melee down there at Tahrir Square.

What are you learning?

REZA SAYAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Suzanne, critical developments in Egypt today. It's a little too early to figure out what the outcome is. But there are strong indications that this country has taken a step towards the Egyptian revolution part two, the military coming out with a critical statement within the past couple of hours, and it could be a turning point.

The armed forces essentially saying the government, the political factions that are fighting have 48 hours to resolve this crisis and come to an agreement and, quote, "meet the demand of the people."

That important message was followed by theatrics by the armed forces. A couple of hours ago, we heard a huge roar down in Tahrir Square where we are. We came out here, we looked up above and saw five Egyptian military helicopters flying above, towing five Egyptian flags. And every time they went over Tahrir Square, the crowd just went nuts. Clearly they are pleased with the military's statement. They believe that they are getting closer to their goal, which is getting rid of President Morsi.

Now the ball is in his court. Will he back down to the pressure? Again, according to the head of the Armed Forces, the government, the political factions have 48 hours to resolve this crisis.

In the event that this doesn't happen, according to the Armed Forces, they say they will put forth a road map to the future of Egypt. The military says it will supervise its implementation with the inclusion of all political factions and the youth.


SAYAH: We thought yesterday was a dramatic day here in Egypt, Suzanne, and then came today, more drama.

MALVEAUX: Reza, tell us what that means, though, when you say that they are going to step in and get involved.

Are they going to try to get rid of the president?

What do they mean by that? SAYAH: Well, first we have to see what the next 48 hours bring. They have given an ultimatum to all sides. They haven't named names. They didn't explicitly name President Morsi, but they say these fighting factions and the government, they have to come together and meet the demand of the people.

When you look at Egypt over the past 24 hours, the demand of the people, most of the people is clear. They want President Morsi gone.

What are President Morsi's options? Can he stay? That seems unlikely. If he stays, not only is he going up against the people now, now it's the armed forces. Can he reach out to the opposition? The opposition is ignoring his calls to sit down. Tough times for the president and a dramatic 48 hours ahead.

MALVEAUX: All right, Reza, thank you. We'll be following that very closely.

We're also following George Zimmerman's trial set to resume in about 20 minutes or so. They'll take a lunch break right now, but afterwards, there's expected to be more gripping testimony. Jurors heard a tape of Zimmerman telling police his version of what happened the night that he shot and killed Trayvon Martin who was unarmed at the time.

The tape was played during testimony of the first police investigator who interviewed Zimmerman after the shooting. That investigator also read aloud a statement that was written by Zimmerman on that very night.

Want to bring in our George Howell. He's outside the courthouse. We've learned a lot of detail. It seems as if Zimmerman was very calm, not that emotion, and just really laid out what he says his account was that happened that night. Take us through this. I mean, how did they respond, the people inside the courtroom?

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Suzanne, you know everyone is paying very close attention to the video reenactment, to the audio statement, also to the written statement that George Zimmerman gave to police immediately following the shooting. As you mentioned his demeanor did seem calm in that video. Even when you listen to the audio statement, the same thing. This is a very important point that Zimmerman gave the statement to police knowing he was being recorded. Officer Singleton says that she did read him his Miranda rights. He knew that he was being recorded and never asked for an attorney. But, he did explain to her how he believes, how he says events played out that day. I want you to listen to just a bit of what he said earlier.


GEORGE ZIMMERMAN, DEFENDANT: I was walking back through to where my car was and he jumped out from the bushes and he said what the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) is your problem, homie. I got my cell phone out to call 911. I said I don't have a problem. He said now you have a problem and he punched me in the nose. At that point I fell down. I tried to defend myself. He just started punching me in the face and I started screaming for help. I couldn't see. I couldn't breathe.


HOWELL: So, Suzanne you know listening to this statement, this is George Zimmerman in his own words. In many ways you have George Zimmerman testifying in this trial right now without even taking the stand. What we're looking for, obviously as reporters, are those inconsistencies. We've looked at the things that have come out in discovery: the statements, the video, that audio. Obviously the attorneys are looking for the same as well. From what we can tell so far from the reporting perspective, the only inconsistencies you can find in the statements are the things he says that Trayvon Martin said to him right before that shooting. So far it seems a lot of this matches up.

MALVEAUX: All right, George, hand with us. I want to bring in our legal analyst as well. Former prosecutor Sunny Hostin and criminal defense attorney Mark Nejame, who are also in Sanford, Florida. I'd like to give both of you an opportunity to assess what we've heard here. Particularly, when you see Detective Doris Singleton's testimony, does it strike you, Sunny, that because George Zimmerman is so calm, that he doesn't seem to be freaking out when he's explaining all the details and how this happened, that he is very confident in his version of the story and therefore others in the jury will be as well?

SUNNY HOSTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: No. That cuts both ways. If the government finds him in inconsistencies, he hasn't just given one statement. He's given several, I think three or four by my count. If the government points out a lot of inconsistencies, or lies, then the jury may think, oh, my goodness, he's a cold-blooded liar. That sort of cuts both ways.

Let me tell you about my observations. I was in the courtroom during this, and I will tell you the jurors were leaning forward. They were taking a lot of notes which was very interesting. By my count I would say about two of them started looking directly at George Zimmerman when his audio recording was being played.

And I think what we need to also keep in mind it's not just inconsistencies that the government is looking for. They are also looking for what he actually said. Remember he called Trayvon Martin a suspect, and those were his words not the words of police officer. You could see the government was asking those kinds of questions. Was it your term or was it George Zimmerman's? She replied it's George Zimmerman's. So, it's just not the inconsistencies, and I suspect there will be some, but it's what he said and how he said it.

MALVEAUX: Mark, I want to bring you into this. First, I want to play a portion of the interrogation tape. This particular segment Zimmerman states he held Trayvon Martin down after he shot him.


ZIMMERMAN: Once I shot him, I holstered my firearm and I got on top of him. I held his hands because he was still talking. I said stay down, don't move. Then somebody comes out. I couldn't see. It was flashlight in my eyes. I asked if it was a police officer. He said no. It was a witness but he was calling the police. I said the police are on their way. They should be here already because I had called. I'm calling the police. I said I don't need you to call the police, I need you to help me with this guy.


MALVEAUX: Mark, what was the significance of that when you listen to that?

MARK NEJAME, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think we're going to find out it's one of the major pieces in this entire case. The first thing we have to look at is that everybody who has talked, who has said they spoken to Zimmerman have said that he did not act crazy, that he did not act overly excited. He was relatively calm. There's nothing to show he evinced a depraved mind, which is in fact a standard that they have to meet in order to convict of second degree murder.

Most significantly, though, this statement you just heard which seems to have been missed by so many, George Zimmerman is saying after he shot Trayvon Martin rolled atop him and then spread out his hands, spread out his arms. That becomes consistent with the first slew of juries -0 excuse me -- witnesses that the state brought in which said they saw George Zimmerman atop Trayvon Martin. Now we've heard an explanation of why some of those witnesses said they saw him, him being Zimmerman, atop Trayvon Martin.

And then you heard the most powerful of all witnesses, Mr. Good say that initially he was there because it was outside of his door and he saw him straddling and pounding and grounding him. Now you're seeing all this linked together. This is in the state's case, which should be where they dominate, and they don't seem to be doing that.

MALVEAUX: All right, Mark, Sunny, we'll get back to you. We're looking at that little square. That's inside the courtroom. The trial to resume in about 10 minutes or so. We're going to bring that live as soon as it starts again. The Zimmerman trial has raised a lot of questions about whether or not it's ever okay to use certain racial slurs. Don Lemon is tackling that issue. You're not going to miss this. It's a SPECIAL REPORT called "THE N WORD." That's tonight at 7:00 eastern here on CNN.


MALVEAUX: We're awaiting a news conference. This is in Prescott, Arizona. The Governor, Jan Brewer expected to speak along with officials from the fire department. A real tragedy in this community. Nineteen firefighters who were killed trying to put out the blaze. This community really suffering. Families wondering what is next and lot of unanswered questions and also assistance that they are looking from the state of Arizona. We're monitoring this. It's expected to start in a couple of minutes. We'll bring it to you as soon as that starts.

Also we're watching George Zimmerman's murder trial, set to resume any moment now. This is a lunch break that they are taking for the last 40 minutes or so. We'll bring that you live. Once the testimony resumes in the Florida court room, tou're seeing the courthouse there, Police Detective Doris Singleton, she is the one who is expected to go back on the stand, you see here there. She's going to pick up where she left off. She is the officer who interrogated Zimmerman shortly after he shot and killed Trayvon Martin. Jurors heard a recording of that interrogation and the detective also read aloud Zimmerman's handwritten statement.