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NEW DAY

Massive California Fire Spreads; Chemical Weapons in Syria; President Obama Talks Action Over Red Line; Shooting Follows Violent Game; Hasan Sentencing; Arias Back in Court for Hearing; High School Teacher Missing; Donald Trump Sued; Iowa Fears Lesser Role in 2016

Aired August 26, 2013 - 06:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was astounding to see the power of what I witnessed earlier.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: National treasure on fire. Thousands of acres inside Yosemite National Park destroyed by wildfire as crews work desperately to stop it. We're live with the latest.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Tensions rising. U.S. now says there's little doubt Syria used chemical weapons. Calls now for the U.S. to hit the country's ruling regime. Will President Obama act?

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: Trump fires back. The Donald is sued. One state claiming his Trump Universities are a scam. He joins us live this morning.

CUOMO: Your NEW DAY starts right now.

ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo, Kate Bolduan, and Michaela Pereira.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CUOMO: Good morning, everybody. Welcome to NEW DAY. It's Monday, August 26th, 6:00 in the East. We have a lot coming up this morning.

Shocking story out of Louisiana. An eight-year-old accused of shooting and killing his grandmother. No one knows for sure why this happened, but could this be a clue? The boy was playing a very violent video game just moments before he pulled the trigger. We're going to give you the details on this story and dive into the debate, coming up.

BOLDUAN: Plus, a tough story that has parents and doctors at odds. The Amish parents of a 10-year-old girl are stopping chemo treatments for their daughter. They say it's her choice, their choice, and then it's just too painful for their daughter. Well, doctors say she likely won't survive without the treatment. Now, a court has stepped in. We're going to talk to one of the doctors who's fighting to keep that little girl on chemotherapy coming up on the show. PEREIRA: And Pamela was just showing us this on EARLY START. Justin Timberlake reuniting with the group that put him into the spotlight. N'Sync and JT bringing down the house last night at MTV's Video Music Award. Why is everyone, though, talking about Miley Cyrus this morning? We'll have much more on the performance that left a lot of people shocked. That's ahead.

CUOMO: First this morning, a race against the clock as crews battle a mammoth wildfire in California. The rim fire has already consumed a 144,000 acres, much of it inside historic Yosemite National Park. The blaze is the size of Chicago. Thousands of firefighters are frantically trying to get it under control.

CNN's Nick Valencia is in Groveland, California, with the very latest -- Nick.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Chris, this massive wildfire has reshaped the lives and landscape of this community. Each day it has been a challenge to keep it from growing.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

VALENCIA (voice-over): Thousands of firefighters are battling this massive blaze raging out of control in California. Tens of thousands of acres scorched, none more iconic than the Yosemite National Park. The so-called rim fire has encroached its western inch.

VICKIE WRIGHT, U.S. FOREST SERVICE, PIO: It was astounding to see the power of what I witnessed earlier. We are making sure we keep everyone safe and protect the park at all costs.

VALENCIA: Because of the steep terrain parts of the fire are only accessible by air. On the ground firefighters like Harold Cook get little rest between shifts on the frontlines.

HAROLD COOK, U.S. FOREST SERVICE FIREFIGHTER: This is probably one of the worst ones that I have been on if not one of the more extreme fires that I've been since 2001 when I started.

VALENCIA: The fire has threatened small communities including Groveland just on the outskirts of the fire line. Susan Loesch and Curtis Evans wait for news about their vacation home.

SUSAN LOESCH, RESIDENT: I have never been in an area where they have bad fires. I wanted to get out. When we came up here yesterday morning it was thick coming up through the valley. We are hoping.

VALENCIA: More than 200 miles away San Francisco also impacted. Power generators that feed things like cable cars and streetlights in the city threatened by the wildfire that shows no signs of stopping soon.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VALENCIA: And fire officials say they have made some progress. With just seven percent containment they are at the mercy of the dry conditions fuelling this fire -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: All right, Nick, thank you so much for that. Let's get now to Jennifer Delgado in for Indra Petersons in the Weather Center for the latest on the forecast for this wildfire. They need good news this morning -- Jennifer.

JENNIFER DELGADO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: They certainly do and we do have some good news to report. We don't have red flag warnings across the region. We have a temperature of 43 degrees and winds out of the north at 5 miles per hour. Of course, we like keep those winds on the light side, that helps contain that fire and keep it from spreading even potentially more to the north and north east.

As we go through today the wind conditions are going to be out of the south. We are going to see winds anywhere between 10 and 15 miles per hour. So overall weather conditions are looking good today. Tomorrow, however, things get a little more tricky. We are talking about a 30 percent chance for storms to pop there. Some of the storms could have lightning and of course, that could spread more wild fires across the region. But right now we are happy to report weather conditions are cooperating. They are going to stay that way today. Back over to you.

BOLDUAN: Another big ahead. Thanks so much, Jennifer.

CUOMO: All right, the U.S. is now considering action against the Syrian government as U.N. weapons inspectors look at the site of a suspected chemical attack outside Damascus. U.S. officials tell CNN all evidence indicates only the Assad regime was using chemical weapons. We're covering this story from the U.S. to Syria. We begin with CNN's Chris Lawrence live at the Pentagon -- Chris.

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: There has been a nuisance of urgency and a definite change in tone coming from the White House. This morning new revelations into the insight of why the White House no longer seems interested in waiting for those U.N. inspectors.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LAWRENCE (voice-over): The bombs are falling, the accusations flying. Now the pressure is on President Obama to defense his red line on chemical weapons, which rebels claimed killed more than a thousand people in Syria.

REPRESENTATIVE ELIOT ENGEL (D), NEW YORK: We cannot sit still. We have to move and we have to move quickly.

LAWRENCE: U.S. and British officials claim British officials showed the site so much it corrupted any evidence the U.N. might find this week. A U.S. official says behind the scenes multiple international sources have already collected evidence from the site. The officials say the sources took tissue samples and other evidence being analyzed in secure locations.

That's why the White House's tone changed so quickly from Friday's get the inspectors in to Sunday's it's too late to be credible. It is why an administration official sounded so confident in saying there is little doubt that a chemical weapon was used by the Syrian regime civilians.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now, we are prepared to exercise whatever option if he decides to employ one of those options.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LAWRENCE: In doing so the president and the Pentagon will have to weigh a number of factors including collateral damage not only if the cruise missile were to hit its target, but if Syrian air defenses were to shoot it down what impact would it have on civilians on the ground -- Chris, Kate.

BOLDUAN: All right, Chris, I'll take it. Thanks so much. Many experts saying that this could be a turning point in this battle.

Let's go after being stonewalled for days now, U.N. weapons inspectors are being allowed to access the site of last week's suspected chemical attack that Chris Lawrence was just talking about. Our team coverage is continuing now with CNN's Fred Pleitgen live in Damascus for us this morning. Fred, so what is the latest on the U.N. inspectors? Are they on site yet?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They should be on site by now. Actually there was a mortar attack on the hotel where they were actually staying. The mortar landed what they have to do is go through the government controlled part of Damascus. They go across the front line. What has happened is both the rebels and the government have said they are going to cease all hostility and stop shooting as long as weapons inspectors are on the ground. They are going to do their work and come back.

It is not clear whether or not we are going to hear anything of what they found at any point today as Chris was just saying. Of course, America has now upped the ante and said there is little doubt the Assad regime is behind this chemical attack. The regime went forward today. And Bashar Al Assad denied the claims and warned the United States about intervening here in Syria saying, quote, "It would be a big mistake" -- Chris.

CUOMO: All right, thank you very much for that. There has been growing pressure on Washington since the president struck a cautious tone regarding Syria in our exclusive interview last Thursday.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We don't expect cooperation given their past history. And, you know, what I do believe is that although the situation in Syria is very difficult and the notion that the U.S. could somehow solve what is a sectarian complex problem inside of Syria is sometimes over stated. There is no doubt that when you start seeing chemical weapons used on a large scale that is very troublesome. This is something that is going to require America's attention and hopefully the entire international community's attention. CUOMO: The red line comment that you made was about a year ago this week. We know there are things that qualify for crossing that red line.

OBAMA: Well, Chris, I have to say this. When we take action -- let's take the example of Syria. There are rules of international law. If the U.S. goes in and attacks another country without a U.N. mandate and without clear evidence that can be presented then there are questions in terms of whether international law supports it. Do we have the coalition to make it work? And, you know, those are considerations that we have to take into account.

CUOMO: Do you believe this is enough?

OBAMA: This latest event is something we have to take a look at. Keep in mind, also, Chris, because I know the American people keep this in mind. We have a war still going on in Afghanistan.

CUOMO: Is there a shorter time frame now?

OBAMA: Yes.

CUOMO: It's more abbreviated time frame now.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CUOMO: At that time the president anticipated that the Syrian government would not be cooperative. They have not been. The U.S. has to take a step is what the international community is saying. It will have to be a group effort.

BOLDUAN: You are seeing conversations that the president has had with France over the weekend. He is suggesting the path ahead.

CUOMO: It has to be more than a suggestion. There are steps to take to make a coalition.

BOLDUAN: Now to a horrifying scene in Louisiana. An 8-year-old boy accused of shooting and killing his 87-year-old caregiver after reportedly playing a violent video game. The case is sparking outrage not surprisingly a fierce debate as to whether the violent games are to blame if there's any connection there.

CNN's Sara Sidner is in the CNN Center in Atlanta with the latest on this story. Good morning, Sara.

SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Kate. This case really has the potential to steer up a couple of debates, the gun debate as well as how media and particularly video games really affect children.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SIDNER (voice-over): A neighborhood is stunned after investigators say an 8-year-old shot and killed his 87-year-old caregiver Maurice Smothers.

GERALD METHVIN, OWNER, COUNTRY BREEZE TRAILER PARK: It is a shock to me as much as everything else because everything has been so peaceful.

SIDNER: The little boy told sheriff's deputies it was an accident. But in a statement to the media, the sheriff's department said their evidence, quote, "has led investigators to believe the 8-year-old juvenile intentionally Mrs. Smothers in the back of the head as she sat in her living room watching television." Police say the boy pulled trigger minutes after playing the very popular and very violent video game "Grand Theft Auto 4," which awards points for killing people.

DR. CASEY JORDAN, CRIMINOLOGIST/ATTORNEY: In this particular instance, the direct correlation of the video game playing during the shooting and even still on the television when police arrived cannot be overlooked. Can you say it caused him to shoot? We don't know. There are simply too many variables that work in a child's mind.

SIDNER: Videogame makers say it is unfair and unjustified to blame this tragedy on a game, a statement sent to CNN by the makers of "Grand Theft Auto" said this is about access to guns and not video games and explaining a connection to entertainment, a theory that has been disproven repeatedly by multiple independent studies both minimizes this moment and side steps the real issues at hand.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SIDNER: Now here are some interesting details on this case, this little boy, 8-year-old has been handed back to his parents. In Louisiana children under the age of 10 are exempted from criminal responsibility and therefore this child will not be charged most likely. However, he could end up in the juvenile courts. This is an 8 year old. There are a lot of questions as to what his mindset was and police simply can't find a motive. The only thing they mentioned was he was playing a very violent video game before he shot and killed his caregiver -- Chris.

CUOMO: Look, it is a big question, what makes a culture violent. We deal with this with the school shootings all the time. You know, what is it that makes people see that violence is a form of glorification in American culture. But just as compelling is what Sarah was referring to. What do you do when kids commit violent acts? In New Mexico, there is a case against a kid who is 10 years old when he killed his father. He is being tried for premeditated murder. And that's a big question too so we'll follow that story and see where the debate goes.

BOLDUAN: This is another example of a horrific story. The debate between is there a link between watching violence and committing violence. That is the debate we have been talking about for years ever since really the surge in the huge popularity of the video games. Supreme Court cases have been studying this. At the moment there is no one conclusion about what is behind it all.

CUOMO: Sometimes you can't let the courts decide culture. It is a bigger debate and a more difficult one to have. A lot of news going on right now so let's get to Michaela for the latest. PEREIRA: All right, happy Monday, guys. Good morning to you at home. Making news, the sentencing phase about to begin for convicted Fort Hood shooter Major Nidal Hasan, the military jury of 13 senior officers will weigh whether Hasan deserves to die for that 2009 massacre. Early on in his court martial, Hasan admitted to being the shooter and indicated that he wanted to die a martyr.

Jodi Arias will be back in a Phoenix courtroom this morning. Right now she is a convicted killer, but one without a sentence. Her old jury could not decide whether she deserved life or death for murdering her ex-boyfriend. Today a judge could set a date for the new sentencing phase. We'll speak with HLN's Jane Velez-Mitchell about the case in our 8:00 hour this morning.

The family of a missing Pennsylvania high school teacher wants answers. Investigators meanwhile are stumped. They say 39-year-old Matthew Green arrived in California's eastern Sierra Mountains in late June to hike and climb with friends. He stayed behind at a camp ground after having car trouble. He was last heard from on July 16. Police have very little to go on. However a hiker found a pair of glasses that Green's sister says might be his.

Today President Obama will present the highest military honor to Staff Sergeant Ty Carter. It is for going above and beyond the call of duty in Afghanistan. The army says Carter killed enemy fighters, gave first aid to his comrades and risked his own life to save a wounded soldier during an ambush back in 2009. Carter will be the fifth living recipient of the award for service in Iraq or Afghanistan.

And, finally, check out a cat getting in trouble or someone would think, considering his reaction. He manages to use his dexterous paws to get into the lower drawer. Perhaps there's food in there.

But it's this, what me? Oh, I didn't see you there. Oh, I'm sorry. Let me put that back where it was.

(LAUGHTER)

PEREIRA: Cats have so much personality. They often don't get credit for their smartness.

CUOMO: You should get credit for your cat voice.

PEREIRA: Oh, really? You like my cat voice?

CUOMO: Very nice.

PEREIRA: Maybe I should look into doing voice-overs.

CUOMO: You have a beautiful voice.

BOLDUAN: You don't have enough to do in your day?

PEREIRA: Yes, because I have that free time.

(LAUGHTER) CUOMO: We're going to take a break here, give Michaela a little free time. When we come back, the Donald now the defendant in a $40 million lawsuit over his real estate school. Is it a scam? That's the legal question. We've got the details, ahead.

And forget the winners at the MTV Video Music Awards. The buzz is all about Miley, Gaga, a highly anticipated reunion. Everything you need to know about the big show, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CUOMO: Welcome back to NEW DAY.

$40 million lawsuit has been filed against Donald Trump by the New York attorney general. It says Trump's real estate school made false promises and billed thousands of students out of money they didn't have.

Here's CNN's Alison Kosik with more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: He is America's most famous billionaire, never one to shy away from the spotlight.

DONALD TRUMP, REAL ESTATE MOGUL: You're fired.

KOSIK: From his "Apprentice" reality show, to his almost run for the White House, to his demand that President Obama hand over his birth certificate -- now, Donald Trump is grabbing headlines again in a lawsuit accusing him of fraud.

TRUMP: At Trump University, we teach success. That's what it's all about -- success. It's going to happen to you.

KOSIK: But New York state's attorney general says that promise was empty for students at the real estate mogul's investment school, Trump University. The state wants $40 million for what it says the school wrongly took from people who attended classes.

TRUMP: We are going to teach you about business. We're going to teach you better than the business schools are going to teach you.

KOSIK: It alleges Trump misled prospective students with a bait and switch. If they wanted to get rich, they'd to pay $1,500 for a three- day workshop. Once there, then came the push for a year-long course at $35,000. The lawsuit says instructors even urged students to call credit card companies to increase their so they could think even more money into classes. Classes Trump defended in a tweet, saying there was a 98 percent approval rating of students for courses.

Another allegation says students were told Trump would make an appearance during the seminars. Instead, they had their photo taken with the life size picture of him.

LAURA RIES, MARKETING STRATEGIST: They wanted to be near Donald Trump. And I think that was the biggest problem in terms of people being disappointed.

KOSIK: A Trump attorney says the lawsuit has no merit, that it's a cheap publicity stunt.

Alison Kosik, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CUOMO: So, we're going to go behind the legal papers to the men who are driving this situation. We're going to hear from New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. And then, we're going to hear from Donald Trump himself, both coming up in the show.

BOLDUAN: You know, Schneiderman knew he was going to get into a fight when he's taking on Donald Trump.

CUOMO: He's no joke either though, he's attorney general.

BOLDUAN: Exactly. No kidding.

All right. Coming up next on NEW DAY: Impeaching President Obama. One Republican senator has said that he is perilously close to that line. Is there anything to all the talk? We've got your political gut check ahead.

CUOMO: Plus, the MTV VMA, the Video Music Awards. Everybody is talking about Miley Cyrus' performance and probably what she had on. That's my guess.

I liked what Robin Thicke had on. I had the same suit.

BOLDUAN: You wore that suit.

CUOMO: I did.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo, Kate Bolduan and Michaela Pereira.

CUOMO: James Earl Jones says it, you know it's true.

Welcome back to NEW DAY. It's Monday, August 26th.

Coming up in the show Amanda Knox is supposed to go on trial again for murder in Italy next month. The key is again. Her lawyer saying she won't be there.

The question is, can Italy force her to go?

BOLDUAN: And also coming up, a big night for Justin Timberlake at the MTV Video Music Awards. He took home several of those much desired. He also reunited with 'N Sync. But everybody is buzzing about something else, Miley Cyrus and her interesting performance.

CUOMO: We are finding all these gentle ways to discuss what is obvious and extreme in front of you.

BOLDUAN: I don't need to say it. It's right in your screen.

CUOMO: Let's get to Michaela, though, because we're following this wildfire out west that's just getting worse and worse -- Mick.

PEREIRA: Yes, let's start with that. The fire fight continues and the fire keeps raging in central California. The Rim Fire now pushing into Yosemite National Park. It is burning so hot in some areas there are concerns it could spark new hot spots.

Check out this satellite view of what the Rim Fire looks like from outer space, 144,000 acres have burned and it's just 7 percent containment.

Syria cooperating with U.N. weapons inspectors giving them access to the site of an alleged chemical weapons attack today. But a U.S. says the access is too late to be credible and adds there's almost no doubt that Syria used chemical weapons. The Assad regime steadfastly denying it used poisonous gas on its own people.

A 12-year-old Florida boy has died after he contracted a brain-eating parasite. Zach Reyna came into contact with a rare amoeba earlier this month, while playing in a ditch that was filled with water. Health officials say warm water at low levels, the perfect breeding ground for the parasite and that nearly everyone who gets that infection dies. Zack's family is donating his organs.

Police in Australia's northern territory looking for the body of a man who they believe was killed by a crocodile. Investigators say the man ignored warning signs posted at a campsite, jumped into the Mary River while attending a birthday party. Horrified onlookers saw the victim in the jaws of the crocodile before disappearing in the river.

We are getting our first look at some dramatic video of a life-saving rescue in Beijing. Firefighters frantically trying to save a 2-year- old girl who was trapped after falling into a deep well, the construction site. The opening was just too narrow for firefighters to get themselves in, so, they used a rope to lasso the little girl's body and they pulled her to safety. What is truly remarkable is that the little girl suffered no serious injuries in this accident, terrifying for the onlookers and for the firefighters themselves. And, of course, the parents were so relieved, I'm sure.

BOLDUAN: Oh my goodness. Thanks, Michaela.

PEREIRA: You're welcome.

BOLDUAN: Let's turn now to our political gut check -- all the stories you need to know coming straight out of Washington.

For decades, the presidential campaign has kicked really off with the Iowa caucuses. But could some 2016 contenders ignore the state all together this time?

CNN's chief national correspondent John King is here with more on this. So, John, you have spent many an election cycle in this state. Why are Republicans so worried that Iowa isn't what it used to be?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, when a party loses you look at everything. And you say, why are we losing? And some, I'll call the mainstream Republicans look at Iowa and say, Iowa is too conservative.

To compete in Iowa, you have to stress your opposition to gay rights. You have to stress your opposition to abortion rights. And then you get a nominee who has pushed too far to the right and out of mainstream.

So, you'll see candidates saying, I might skip Iowa. If you talk to people closes to Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey for example, they'll say, you know, Iowa was probably not our best state, maybe we would focus more on New Hampshire, which comes second. Independents were allowed to vote, it's an open primary there.

This happens every four years. And so, now, you have a Republican governor, Terry Branstad, who goes way back. I met Terry Branstad in 1988 when he was for Bob Dole in the Iowa caucuses, trying to say, how can I save my state? How can I make my process more attractive so that everybody comes? But it's a calculation for the candidates.

Social conservatives will compete in Iowa. The question is, would a Christie, an even a Marco Rubio maybe saying, I'll skip it.

BOLDUAN: And let's talk about why the primary -- why these first states are always so critical. It's not just about potentially predicting the eventual winner. It's about momentum. It's about fundraising.

KING: Right. Somebody always emerges. That's why some candidates who say they are going to skip it, you heard Mitt Romney's people saying heading into the last round, maybe we won't spend much time in Iowa. Maybe we won't compete. And then, late, they went in. And they always won the state. Remember, Rick Santorum just barely Mitt Romney, because why? You don't want to give somebody a slingshot out of there.