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U.S. Embassies Closing Around the World Due to Possible Terrorist Threat; Edward Snowden Granted Temporary Asylum in Russia; Ariel Castro Sentenced to Life in Prison; Interview with Congressman Jason Chaffetz; Weiner Gains Little Support; Cyclospora Spreads, No Info on Source

Aired August 2, 2013 - 07:00   ET


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: The question is who will blink first. Cable wars heating up straight ahead.

But first this morning, the State Department is taking unprecedented action all around the world, key U.S. embassies and consulates across the Middle East are being closed on Sunday because of, quote, "serious and credible threats of terrorism." CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr has the latest. Good morning, Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Chris. This may be the most significant largest shutdown of U.S. embassies around the world since the 9/11 attacks.


STARR: In an extraordinary move the U.S. is closing embassies around the world after what one senior U.S. official told CNN was more than the usual chatter about a potential terrorist threat.

MARIE HARF, DEPUTY STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON: The department has been apprised of information that out of an abundance of caution and care for our employees and others who may be visiting our installations indicates we should institute these precautionary steps.

STARR: The move comes as the holy days that mark the end of Ramadan approach and nearly a year after the deadly attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya. Now the U.S. embassy in Tripoli will be closed. Other embassies in the Middle East also posted they will be shut.

From Egypt where nearly a year ago violent protests threatened the embassy in Cairo, to Tel Aviv, Baghdad, Riyadh and Doha, Qatar, all embassies that, quote, "would have been normally open on Sunday are being shut down." And the closings may expand to include additional days.

Another official told CNN the Obama administration is monitoring threats against the American embassy in Yemen. The move came on the same day President Obama met with the president of Yemen who has cracked down on Al Qaeda.

BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What we've seen is Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, moved back out of territories that it was controlling.


STARR: So here's the obvious question. Is this threat an Al Qaeda threat? Nowadays, Al Qaeda is such a large organization, so many affiliates and related terrorist groups in so many countries, this perhaps is best thought of as an Al Qaeda-inspired threat to try and launch more attacks in many places. Kate?

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Barbara, thanks so much. We'll check back in with you.

Edward Snowden we know is on the move and the White House says Russia is jeopardizing its already strained relationship with the U.S. by granting temporary asylum to him for a year. We could soon be hearing from Snowden, but his whereabouts remain unknown after leaving Moscow's airport where he's been holed up for more than a month. Phil Black is following developments all along the way from Moscow. Good morning, Phil.

PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Kate. Things are looking up for Edward Snowden. He's already publicly received a job offer from a big Russian social networking site, and he's making friends. His lawyers say he's staying with people who got in touch with him online while he was camping out at the airport, and they're Americans.


BLACK: That man with his back to the camera is Edward Snowden and this was the moment he left Moscow's airport after six weeks there. That's according to his lawyer Anatoli Kucherena, who is standing next to him in the photo. Kucherena takes some of the credit for the sudden approval of Snowden's asylum application. This document grants Snowden permission to live in Russia for one year, which also keeps him beyond the reach of the United States for that time. Kucherena describes Snowden's current location as secret and safe.

He says he's staying with other Americans who live in Russia. He says they're people Snowden doesn't know personally but who reached out via the internet and offered to help while he was staying at the airport.

The lawyer says Snowden will take a few days getting used to his freedom and recovering from his airport ordeal. After that he'll do some media interviews, then, well he doesn't know. Edward Snowden must now build a new life in a country he officially entered for the first time just one day ago.


BLACK: Snowden won't just be relying upon the kindness of strangers for long. Arrangements are under way here to get his father a visa so he can travel to Moscow to be with his son as soon as possible.

CUOMO: Phil Black in Moscow, thank you very much. Back here at home, it's one of the few things Republicans and Democrats agree on. They're calling for Russia to suffer serious consequences for thumbing its nose at the U.S. and granting Snowden asylum. Let's bring in Congressman Jason Chaffetz, a Republican from Utah joining us now from Capitol Hill. Congressman, thank you very much for joining us, appreciate having you here on NEW DAY.

REP. JASON CHAFFETZ, (R) UTAH: Good morning.

CUOMO: The obvious question is, what can you do about it? Can you compromise the G-20? What kind of message can you send? How can you deal with what just happened?

CHAFFETZ: The Obama administration has their hands full. First of all, I think this says a lot about Mr. Snowden himself. It says a lot of about his intentions and who he is. I think it's ridiculous for anybody to use the word "freedom" and "Russia" in the same sentence. His new freedom? I don't think so.

It really does I think put some pressure on how we do these security clearances. Are we going to continue to use those contractors? That's something we have to dive into to make sure that this doesn't ever happen again.

But as far as it goes with the relations with Russia, President Obama when he was candidate Obama said this was going to be a strongpoint, and every story you've done since the top of the hour are all of these international problems. This has been a real weakness of this White House.

BOLDUAN: You've been very critical of the surveillance programs that Edward Snowden uncovered. You voted to strip some funding for NSA, that amendment failed though but many of your colleagues like the chairman of the intelligence committee Mike Rogers says these programs are keeping Americans safe. Do you not agree?

CHAFFETZ: Well this is the national dialogue and discussion we have to have, and I just don't believe you're going to give up every liberty and freedom in the name of security. I think lot of these things go way too far. And if you go back and you look at the intention of legislation that passed prior to my coming to the United States congress, I think it's very clear from that legislation that it had to do with the collection of this data.

And we're going to have to have again a national dialogue about, for instance, geo location and other types of things. Just because law enforcement or the government can do something doesn't mean we necessarily should do it, and that's my underlying concern.

CUOMO: One of the things that came out in all this is that you guys down there in Washington didn't know everything you should need to know about these programs, so hopefully that changes at least.

Let me ask you this and switch topics to Benghazi. You've been active on this. What is your concern with the investigation there? What is your suspicion that is fueling this level of questioning? CHAFFETZ: We have four dead Americans and we have not brought anybody to justice. Why is it that we're almost 11 months after the fact and we have nobody that's been captured or killed? How come the State Department, how come the Pentagon, how come the White House is still not sharing very pertinent information about what happened? How is it that the White House is referring this, now the president himself, his spokesperson, calling these phony, phony. That is offensive to people who have lost their lives, laid down their lives.

And now here we are on the verge of an attack potentially on embassies worldwide and I worry that we don't have the physical infrastructure we need, don't have the security forces we need. We're trying to help solve this problem but it takes a give and take with the White House, the administration and the United States Congress but I want the same tenacity that the FBI and the administration had on capturing those in Boston when there was a terrorist attack as there was the terrorist attack in Benghazi and not call it a phony scandal. That's ridiculous.

BOLDUAN: Let me ask you what you're talking about here, and it's connected. The State Department's announced the embassies and consulates are going to be closed Sunday due to our sources, our Barbara Starr is saying because there's a credible threat. You're on the homeland security committee, what is the threat you're hearing about?

CHAFFETZ: There are threats coming at us on a daily basis, but this rises to a new level, obviously can't talk about some of the things that you hear in some of the classified settings. But I'm glad they're taking it seriously. There is a worldwide threat out there.

BOLDUAN: Do you know how many embassies and consulates are being closed?

CHAFFETZ: No, I don't at this point. But it goes to our point that we've been saying for a lot of years here. We have got to make sure that we have an effective counterterrorism program in place. We have to take this threat very seriously and it's not as the president campaigned on, you know, Al Qaeda's on the run and everything's fine. That was the prevailing attitude, and now I think we're on the receiving end of the reality that that was not true and it's not true today.

CUOMO: Congressman Jason Chaffetz, thank you very much for joining us and emphasize the importance of keeping our troops well paid, keeping the men and women out in the field being well paid, maybe not the best place for budget cuts. Thank you very much for joining us.

BOLDUAN: Thank you, congressman.

Another one of the big stories we've been watching for a while, dramatic moments in a Cleveland courtroom as one of Ariel Castro's victims confronted her tormenter. At Thursday's sentence hearing Ariel Castro delivered what could only be described some rambling, some 15-minute statement before sent away for good and where he'll spend his life plus 1,000 years behind bars. CNN's Pamela Brown is live in Cleveland for us this morning. Good morning, Pamela.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, Kate. I have to tell you it was jaw-dropping hearing what Ariel Castro had to say. Even authorities who have been covering this case from the very beginning told me that it was stranger than they expected.

The most powerful moment of the sentencing was when Michelle Knight boldly faced her tormenter as an emotionless Castro looked on.


MICHELLE KNIGHT, CLEVELAND KIDNAPPING VICTIM: You deserve to spend life in prison. I can forgive you, but I'll never forget.

BROWN: Despite her tearful statement and the 937 counts against him, Ariel Castro was defiant, almost rebellious in court.

ARIEL CASTRO, CLEVELAND KIDNAPPER, RAPIST: I'm not a monster. I'm a normal person. I am just sick. I have an addiction. Just like an alcoholic has an addiction.

BROWN: He even claimed he never beat, tortured, or raped the three women he held captive for a decade.

CASTRO: Most of the sex in the house, practically all of it was consensual. The allegation that it was forcefully is totally wrong because there was times that they would even ask me for sex, many times.

BROWN: The graphic evidence in court paints a horrifying picture, rusty chains, doors with homemade alarms, windows boarded, a gun Castro says he would show the women as a form of control, all while Castro claimed it was a happy home.

CASTRO: We had a lot of harmony going on in that home.

BROWN: He mentioned this YouTube video of Amanda Berry smiling on stage at a nelly concert as a testament she wasn't tortured. In an exclusive interview with CNN, Berry's grandmother says she's appalled.

FERN GENTRY, AMANDA BERRY'S GRANDMOTHER: If they'd have put one of the chains around his neck I wonder how happy he would have felt. It wasn't a home. It was a dungeon.

BROWN: Photos also released of the three victims a day after their dramatic rescue, fragile and pale from years of confinement. Friends of the victims outraged.

ANGEL ARROYO, FRIEND OF GINA DEJESUS: That's straight villain, that's straight monster, that's just a person with no emotions, so I hope he gets what he deserves.

BROWN: Their abductor will spend the rest of his life mind bars. His victims looking healthier now smiles that capture their astonishing resilience as they close this horrific chapter of their lives.

KNIGHT: After 11 years I'm finally being heard and it's liberating.


BROWN: Not only did Michelle Knight speak, she actually stayed there through the entire sentencing until the very end, unlike the family representatives for the other two victims. And at the end the judge thanked her for her remarkable courage. She responded in her soft spoken voice "You're welcome." It was certainly a light-hearted moment in what was an emotionally charged day. Chris and Kate?

CUOMO: All right, Pamela, thank you very much. Appreciate the reporting from out there in Cleveland.

Lot of news going on this morning. We'll start off overseas in Egypt, John Berman bringing it to us.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Great to see you guy this morning. Making news beginning in Egypt, ousted president Mohamed Morsy supporters calling for more protests, pushing for a million man march from 33 different mosques under the banner of Egypt against the coup. They continue to defy growing warnings from Egyptian officials to abandon the protests or be dispersed by force.

Firefighters in the northwest are now battling a dozen raging wildfires, most of them in Oregon. One firefighter was killed, another injured when they were struck by a falling tree while working a fire in the national forest. More than 40,000 acres have burned so far. The national interagency fire center says getting resources into these northwest fires is its top priority.

Investigators are trying to determine what caused that massive propane plant explosion. On Monday the Blue Rhino plant erupted into a spectacular ball of flames. The fire marshal has ruled out anything criminal, suggesting that equipment failure or human error may be to blame there. This morning we have new 911 calls from residents around that plant.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: 911, police or ambulance?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lake county fire department, Blue Rhino it is going crazy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh my god it's going up probably 200 feet in the air.


BERMAN: Workers were allowed to return for the first time last night to assess the damage and start what will be a long cleanup.

Showtime at Yellowstone, the world's largest geyser, the steamboat erupting this week for the first time in eight years. That's a long wait, obviously to the delight of some very, very lucky park visitors. The high pressure burst sent the steamy water shooting some 300 feet up into the air. It went on for about 10 minutes there. This is really, really rare there. Park officials say the steamboat geyser has gone as long as 50 years between major eruptions, so of course the people there very lucky, probably not a good idea to get in line to wait for the next one.

Finally a wild brawl breaks out on the floor of Taiwan's parliament. Lawmakers throwing haymakers there, wrestling on the ground, even pouring water on each other. This happened during a debate over a proposal to finish building a fourth nuclear plant on that densely populated environment. Talk about a filibuster. We think we're bad here. The bill there is expected to pass easily.

BOLDUAN: It may make the floor of the Senate more interesting.

CUOMO: Look tame. I like that your takeaway was they even throw water, the guy is choking the other guy on the ground.


CUOMO: That's just too much. You can choke me all you want, but you know, not the tie.

BOLDUAN: Exactly, exactly. Oh my goodness.

CUOMO: Indra Petersons, what do you have for news the weather center?

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Unbelievable video from yesterday afternoon after 4:00 yesterday in Florida right near Jacksonville a tornado, an EF-2 tornado pretty much spawned up almost out of nowhere. We're talking 125-mile-per-hour winds, three to four inches of rain in 30 minutes so tons of lightning with that.

I can show you what it looks like on the map, this pretty much came up almost out of nowhere, it was that quick, that's what happens in Florida, we have all that warm, humid air that any storm can quickly turn into a severe thunderstorm. So unfortunately that's what they saw yesterday and will continue to see as they go throughout the summer.

Wanted to show you speaking of Florida today notice the moisture. This is the remnants of Dorian so they are looking for the threat of flooding today and heavy rainfall but even more importantly this is the Atlantic, it is hurricane season, notice how quiet it is, typically we see our storms form right on the Gulf of Africa and kind of cruises across the Atlantic.

There's a reason it is so dry. It is the Saharan air there, tough to say. It's a huge dust cloud that shoots way up in the air and the air carries across the Atlantic and interferes with the formation of hurricanes so that is good news at least for another week or so we'll not talk about the development of hurricanes into the Atlantic.

This dust has already carried all the way over to Florida, they're seeing some of the dust in Florida and even now in the Gulf of Mexico. So unbelievable out there.

As far as us we'll be looking for today, rain is the story as we go through the weekend but not every day so couple of waves are kicking through, today from the Midwest kind of stretching in there Indiana, by Saturday you'll see that rain more in the mid-Atlantic and by Sunday we're going to back that up and talk about showers kind of in the northern plains, maybe just east of the Rockies so a lot going on but pretty impressive seeing the Saharan air earlier stopping the hurricanes, big plus in my book.

BOLDUAN: Indra, thanks so much.

Anthony Weiner is getting a little support for his embattled mayoral campaign in New York. The crowd booed, actually, a Republican candidate for mayor, George McDonnell at a candidates forum for insulting Weiner over his sexting scandal, and Weiner is explaining the now infamous "Carlos Danger" alias he used when sexting online, and saying enough is enough. Rosa Flores is following the campaign here in New York. Good morning.

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. I had to use my Spanish to do so, so that was pretty interesting. Carlos Danger a.k.a. Anthony Weiner made a cameo appearance on Spanish TV network Univision. He spoke a little Spanish, he started by saying Buenos Dias but it was his English that got him into trouble.


FLORES: Regardless of what he says --

ANTHONY WEINER, MAYORAL CANDIDATE: I'm going to leave this to the people of New York to decide. Period. End of conversation.

FLORES: Anthony Weiner can't erase the doings of his Latin alter ego, Carlos Danger. His Hispanic opponent for mayor, Eric Salgado (ph) tells CNN it's offensive not only to him but the entire Latino community when Weiner masks bad behavior under the pseudonym Carlos Danger.

During an interview with Univision, he was asked, quote, "why did you pick a Hispanic name?" His response? It was a joke in my personal life between me and one person. Presumably self-proclaimed sexting partner Sydney Leathers. She trashed Weiner on Howard Stern's radio show earlier this week.

SYDNEY LEATHERS, SEXTED WITH ANTHONY WEINER: I was flattered he trusted me enough to send that in the moment and also completely baffled that someone so booksmart could be so stupid in life.

FLORES: The embarrassing details have prominent Democratic figures like James Carville giving him the cold shoulder.

JAMES CARVILLE, POLITICAL CONSULTANT: If I were working this campaign what I'd probably say look I can't take this anymore and resign, yes.

FLORES: Weiner says he's not looking for the support of politicians but rather middle class New Yorkers, but he did gain at least one new supporter, a perennial political candidate who's run on some unique platforms. Lacking political clout but full of character and confidence, never giving up, much like Anthony Weiner.


FLORES: Anthony Weiner's next hurdle is to survive the next two weeks to the first debates. Now he will square off against four of his opponents and if this week is any indication, we can expect a lot of surprises.

BOLDUAN: All along the way.

CUOMO: Where didn't he go with Carlos Peligro, it's danger in Spanish.

FLORES: He wanted to go with the Spanglish to get both the --

CUOMO: Crossing over, savvy.

BOLDUAN: I have a feeling there wasn't too much thought into the name. Thanks, Rosa.

CUOMO: Yeah, appreciate it, Rosa. We're going to take a break here. Coming up on NEW DAY anger and confusion over a stomach bug that has sickened people across the country. The big question, why won't officials tell us what brands of bagged salad to avoid. We'll get into it.

BOLDUAN: And a tragic first date: a woman falls 17 stories to her death after a railing gives way.


CUOMO: Welcome back to NEW DAY everybody. By now you know about the stomach bug outbreak that's made nearly 400 people sick in 16 states and it's expected to keep spreading. It is a rare and nasty parasite called cyclospora. Pronouncing it isn't the problem for families. It's figuring out where to find it. Health officials say bagged lettuce is behind it, but they won't say what brand. Safety groups and families are furious as a result. Let's bring in Rene Marsh joining us live. Rene good morning. What's with the silent treatment?

RENE MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Chris, silent treatment indeed. I spoke with two consumer groups and that's where the outrage is right now, the not knowing. The FDA says that it is still investigating and they're not ready to say definitively that bagged salad is the reason that nearly 400 people came down with this intestinal bug but two states, Iowa and Nebraska, they say they know the source and it's bagged salad, but haven't said what the brand is or they didn't say what the salad was sold.

Iowa, that state in particular has a confidentiality clause written into their state law, so the only time officials there would actually release the name of the company is if there's an ongoing threat and in the state of Iowa they say the product is no longer on store shelves, it's no longer in the food chain so at least in the case of Iowa we don't expect to get anything from them. The silent treatment so to speak continues, Chris.

CUOMO: Rene, seems like this is a situation where they shouldn't have said anything until they knew what to say. Let's make sure we got the focus here. Even if they knew the brand or they released it they're saying there's still a danger and that's why they're not releasing it? Help us understand.

MARSH: Well this is what they're saying -- in Iowa what they're saying is we're not going to say the name of this brand here. We're not going to tell you the company behind this salad simply because they say it's no longer in the food chain. It's no longer on their shelves so people will not get sick.

When it comes to the FDA, they are the government agency that's responsible for essentially finding the source and that's what's ongoing at this point. They say they're working on this. CNN spoke to them yesterday and they say what they have to do -- it's a very lengthy process, they have to talk to all the people who got sick. They're being surveyed to find out what they ate, where they ate it, when did they eat it, then they have to chase the chain of distribution, where the product was manufactured, where it was sold and some of these cases the product goes from a wholesaler, a broker, distributor, so it goes through a lot of hands before it actually gets on the shelves so all of that needs to be traced and right now unfortunately Chris no indication when the FDA will have enough information that they can say this is the source of that nasty, nasty bug. Chris?

CUOMO: And Sanjay was telling us a lot of this lettuce comes from different farms and gets mixed into the same bag so it's definitely complicated. Rene Marsh thank you very much, appreciate the reporting, policy question comes down to who are you protecting, the companies or the families, if you have information let the consumer decide what to do with it.

BOLDUAN: Coming up next on new day a chilling end to a first date. A woman plummets to her death when the railing of her 16th floor balcony gives way. We'll have an update.

CUOMO: It is Friday so if the bear wasn't enough we're going full moose, moose on the loose.

I wonder if it was listening to The Boss in its iPad and iPhone, that's why he just just kept running.