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California Wildfire; Baby Panda Born at National Zoo; UN to Check For Chemical Weapons in Syria; Donald Trump Sued

Aired August 26, 2013 - 08:00   ET



SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: As the United States over a year ago said Assad uses chemical weapons crosses a red line. We know for sure he used them once.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whatever you have cash in your register, give it to me. That's the same gun.


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Welcome back to NEW DAY, everyone. It's Monday, August 26th, 8:00 in the east. We have a lot coming up in this hour, including Jodi Arias back in court today and she could get a date for the retrial of her sentencing phase. She is now steps closer to figuring out if she'll get life in prison or possibly the death penalty. HLN's Jane Velez-Mitchell will be joining us live to talk about the latest.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: An 11-year-old girl with cystic fibrosis who survived two lung transplants is finally breathing without an oxygen machine and get this, she's now speaking. We'll tell you the first thing she wants to do when she gets home.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: Want to show you a face, how about this little face, the National Zoo giving us a look at its brand-new tiny baby cub. Find out why this guy put zookeepers in a bit of panic this weekend.

CUOMO: Uh-oh. Hope he's OK. We'll find out soon.

But, first this morning, breaking news out of California. The massive Rim Fire continues to grow, consuming 144,000 acres. The flames have entered Yosemite National Park, 12,000 acres burned there so far. Firefighters were working hard to protect Yosemite Valley. That's where some of the park's most breathtaking attractions can be found.

Nick Valencia is live in Groveland, California -- Nick.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Chris, this massive wildfire has reshaped the lives and landscape of this community. Every day, it's been a struggle for these firefighters to keep it from growing.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) VICKIE WRIGHT, U.S. FOREST SERVICE, PIO: It was astounding to see the power of what I witnessed earlier.

VALENCIA (voice-over): It's one of the largest wildfires in California history, scorching nearly 150,000 acres of land and threatening 4,500 homes and structures.

WRIGHT: So, our main objectives right now, structure protection and just making sure that we keep everyone safe and we protect that park at all costs.

VALENCIA: Over 3,000 firefighters are now battling the Rim Fire, burning in the sierras foothills. The massive blaze is now threatening to destroy parts of the Yosemite National Park, already devouring 12,000 acres.

(on camera): How does this one compare to others you fought?

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

VALENCIA: Aerial footage from the National Guard shows what's at stake. The fire is now threatening the ancient sequoia trees that grew in the park believed to be 1,000 years old.

Government officials say containing this fire is the highest priority in the nation, but that it poses every challenge there can be. Meanwhile, evacuations continue.

SUSAN LOESCH, RESIDENT: It's a little nerve wracking when they came knocking on my door. This is new for us. I've never been in an area where they had bad fires. So, I just wanted to get out and then when we came up here yesterday morning, it was very thick coming through the valley, and then they cleared and I thought maybe we were still OK. We're hoping.

VALENCIA: And more than 200 miles away, San Francisco is also at risk. Power generators that feed things like cable cars and street lights in the city threatened by the wildfire that shows no signs of stopping soon.


VALENCIA: And fire officials have told me they made some progress, but with just 7 percent containment, they're at the mercy of the canyon winds and these extremely dry conditions fueling the fire.

Kate, back to you.

BOLDUAN: Only 7 percent at this point, a big day, crucial day ahead for them. Thanks so much, Nick.

Let's get straight over to Jennifer Delgado, in for Indra Petersons, in the weather center. Obviously, folks over there in Yosemite hoping to get some help from the forecast, Jennifer. JENNIFER DELGADO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Absolutely. But unfortunately, it doesn't look like we're going to get any significant rainfall out there today. As we look at the wind speeds, right now, they're at 3 miles per hour. So, fairly calm and the winds today are generally going to be in the range of 10 to 15 miles per hour coming out of the south.

But, really, there's just no moisture out there. As we show you on this water vapor imagery, you can see for yourself bone day across parts of Yosemite and it looks like it's going to stay that way as we go through the next couple of days.

Now, as we move through Tuesday, we do have 30 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms out there. And now, as we get some of the storms out there, keep in mind we're talking about the potential for lightning to spread the fires, as well as winds that develop with some of those isolated storms that can also be possible spreading those fires even more across parts of Yosemite.

So, certainly, this is something we need to watch over the next couple day as.

Back over to you, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. All right. Jennifer, thanks so much for that update.

CUOMO: All right. Now, to the growing call for action against Syrian government. Washington may be getting ready to take action. U.S. officials said there's little doubt the Assad regime crossed the line into chemical warfare. But U.N. inspectors are hitting dangerous setbacks as they try to confirm it this morning.

Our Fred Pleitgen is in Damascus and Chris Lawrence at the Pentagon. Chris, let's start with you.

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Chris, President Obama called in his entire national security team over the weekend and just this morning, Britain, France and Turkey all indicated they would support action against Syria, even without a mandate from the U.N.

So, all signs seem to be pointing that a decision could come soon.


LAWRENCE (voice-over): The bombs are falling, the accusations flying. Now, the pressure is on President Obama to defend his red line on chemical weapons, which rebels claim killed more than 1,000 people in Syria.

REP. ELIOT ENGEL (D), NEW YORK: But we cannot sit still. We've got to move and we've got to move quickly.

LAWRENCE: U.S. and British officials claim Syrian forces shelled the site of Wednesday's attack so much it corrupted any evidence the U.N. might find this week. A U.S. official tells CNN, behind the scenes, multiple international sources have already collected evidence from that sight. The official says the sources took tissue samples and other evidence shortly after the attack and was being analyzed in secure locations.

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

The president's newly updated options include cruise missiles launched from one of four Navy destroyers in the Mediterranean Sea or jets firing weapons from outside Syrian air space.

CHUCK HAGEL, DEFENSE SECRETARY: We are prepared to exercise whatever option, if he decides to employ one of those options.


LAWRENCE: And some of the potential targets include command bunkers, artillery launchers, things like that, government targets. Again, these are just options right now. The president has not made a decision and he'll have to weigh collateral damage and the risk to civilians in deciding what to do next -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. The pressure seems to be mounting, though, that's for sure, this morning. Chris, great to see you. Thank you so much.

Syrian officials, they are putting a cease-fire in place and cooperating with inspectors, they say, but that cease-fire may not be holding this morning.

CNN's Fred Pleitgen is in Damascus for us this morning. Fred, U.N. vehicles came under sniper fire today. Are the inspectors back at the site of this alleged chemical attack now?

FRED PLEITGEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL: We're not exactly sure where they are at this point, Kate. But they did say they wanted to go back to that site. They said the lead vehicle of their convoy, which has to, of course, from government-controlled territory to rebel-controlled territory and came under fire from sniper. They said it was hit deliberately multiple times and the vehicle became disabled and therefore they had to bring it back and replace that vehicle.

Now, the U.N. says that it's going to go back to the site and continue its investigation, so, so far, at least officially that investigation is still going to move forward, Kate.

BOLDUAN: And, Fred, make clear for our viewers, though, the U.N. weapon experts that are going in, their job does not include looking into who or what regime, what side was behind those alleged chemical attacks, though.

PLEITGEN: No, absolutely not. Their job includes finding out what agent was possibly used and how it was possibly delivered. And, of course, as they go in, both the rebels and the government have said that they were going to implement a cease-fire for that time. But I want to get out of the way here and I want to show you something, because this is what's happening over Damascus right now. What you see is a plume from an artillery shell which is in the outskirts of Damascus, which is exactly where the weapon inspectors are supposed to be.

So, it seems as, though, that ceasefire that was supposed to be implemented to give the weapon inspectors a chance to conduct their work that seems to be fragile, at best. We've seen the convoy come under attack and also, now, we see the shelling going on in central Damascus -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Yes, the whole scene seems to be compromised at this point. Fred, thank you so much. Be safe. We'll check back in with you. Thanks.

CUOMO: All right. Some perspective on how quickly the sands are shifting. When I spoke with President Obama in our exclusive interview last Thursday, he was much more measured about the crisis in Syria. That said his prediction came true, that the Syrian government would not cooperate with inspectors.


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. can somehow solve what is a sectarian, complex problem inside of Syria sometimes is overstated.

CUOMO: But delay can be deadly, right, Mr. President?

OBAMA: 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.

OBAMA: Right.

CUOMO: We know since then there have been things that should qualify for crossing that red line.

OBAMA: Well, Chris, I've got to say this. When we take action, let's just take the example of Syria. There are rules of international law. And, you know, 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: You don't believe we've seen enough? OBAMA: Well, this latest event is something that we've got to take a look at.

But keep in mind, also, Chris, because I know the American people keep this in mind -- we've still got a war going on in Afghanistan.

CUOMO: Is it safe to say that we have a shorter time frame in terms of what the U.S. can use as a period of decision in Syria and Egypt?


CUOMO: It's a more abbreviated time frame now?



CUOMO: And now, it's even more abbreviated. They're going to have to make decisions very quickly, as we saw in all the pickup with the interview. The world is watching the situation there very closely.

BOLDUAN: The world is watching.

Yes, let's get straight to all the other news making headlines at this hour, get to Michaela.

PEREIRA: All right. Kate, thanks so much.

Good morning, everyone at home. Making news, now that he's been convicted of killing 13 people in the Ft. Hood shooting massacre, a military jury will decide if Army Major Nidal Hasan should get life in prison or the death penalty. The sentencing phase of his court martial begins this morning. The panel of 13 senior officers expected to hear two or three days of testimony from witnesses, which could include Hasan himself.

An 8-year-old Louisiana boy accused of shooting his 87-year-old caregiver in the head and killing her after playing video game "Grand Theft Auto 4." Police were called to a trailer park in Slaughter, Louisiana, last Thursday night. CNN affiliate WBRZ says the victim was the boy's grandmother and that it was her gun.

This little boy will not face charges under Louisiana law. Children under 10 are exempt from criminal responsibility.

A report in a German magazine claims the NSA was spying on the U.N. The magazine says documents provided by Edward Snowden show the NSA hacked into internal video conferencing systems at U.N. headquarters in New York last year. This report says European and International Atomic Energy Agency were targets of the U.S. spying effort.

Controversy on pit row. Indy car racer Scott Dixon allegedly took out three members of fellow driver Will Power's crew, injuring them during the last pit stop at Sonoma Raceway Sunday. The penalty cost Dixon the lead with 15 laps to go. Power eventually won. After the race, Dixon said he thought Powers' crew purposely got in his way. Apparently, the guys are OK, they were hurt, but they'll survive. We're wondering if there will be further repercussions because of this as well.

The National Zoo tweeting that its newborn panda is robust and healthy, had its first postnatal check up Sunday. The happy occasion, though, wasn't without some tragedy. Its twin didn't make it.

It's only the second time something like this has ever happened, a baby giant panda born at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C.


DENNIS KELLY, DIRECTOR, THE NATIONAL ZOO: We have some fantastic news. Today's a great day for the Smithsonian National Zoo. I'm pleased to announce that this afternoon, our giant panda, female giant panda gave birth to a live cub and that cub seems to be doing very well.


PEREIRA: The rare birth caught on camera. But the joyous day was tinged with a bit of heart break as a second panda was born stillbirth. Caretakers say the birthing of the pandas was one of the scariest moments many of them have ever faced.


DR. BRANDIE SMITH, SENIOR CURATOR OF MAMMALS: There are several minutes of few blown panic because we did not see a birth. But, fortunately, we heard the other cubs squeal. So, we knew that this was a second cub.


PEREIRA: The zoo released photos of its newest member and they say it's strong and doing well.


MARTY DEARIE, WUSA: The cub was very active, squealing. It seemed very, very healthy.


PEREIRA: Zookeepers say it will be weeks before they can determine its sex for now they're just glad the little guy or girl is OK.

When you think how tiny that is. The panda weighs five ounces, five ounces just a little bitty thing. It fits in the palm of your hand. Do you think that's blanket but that's actually a glove. We're told that she's breathing -- he or she is breathing normally and it has a steady and strong heart rate and that he or she has a bright, healthy shade of pink, which apparently is important, even though they turn black and white later on in life.

BOLDUAN: All the producers are going, that is just unfair. These big pandas have the little bitty babies. What? Adorable, nonetheless.

PEREIRA: Look at the little nose.

CUOMO: We have to figure that out. Why the ratio? Why such small babies, they're so big? Does that make them different?

BOLDUAN: I don't know.

PEREIRA: You think there's controversy here? Is that --

CUOMO: Could it be a conspiracy. Little conspiracy. I bet there is a reason, though.


CUOMO: We need to figure out what it is.

BOLDUAN: Guess what we're not, panda experts.

CUOMO: Because pandas are black and white, will we use it as an opportunity to eat Oreos.

BOLDUAN: And an opportunity to eat Oreo. Thank you.

CUOMO: Coming up on NEW DAY: convicted murderer Jodi Arias back in court today. She's awaiting retrial in the sentencing phase of her case. The question: will Arias get the death penalty?

BOLDUAN: And Donald Trump speaking out after being sued for millions by the state of New York. New York attorney general said right here on CNN, told Chris that Trump University was a scam. Trump will respond, live.


CUOMO: Welcome back to NEW DAY. New trouble for Donald Trump. $40 million, not may be a drop in the bucket in terms of his net worth, but it is a big price tag for a new lawsuit. The New York attorney general says Trump University promises to teach sure fire real estate techniques, but that the promise was little more than a bait and switch.

We're going to talk to Donald Trump in just a moment, but first, CNN's Alison Kosik has more.


ALISON KOSIK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He's America's most famous billionaire. Never one to shy away from the spotlight.


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 bombshell 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 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're 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 perspective students with a bait and switch. If they wanted to get rich, they'd have 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 their credit card companies to increase their limits so they could sink 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 a 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 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.


CUOMO: All right. Let's get a direct response from the man himself. Mr. Donald Trump, real estate magnate, star of "The Apprentice" joining us this morning on the phone. Mr. Trump, it's Chris Cuomo, can you hear me?

TRUMP: Hi, Chris. Certainly, I can.

CUOMO: All right. Good to hear your voice. Sorry it's about this.

TRUMP: Good to talk to you again, Chris.

CUOMO: The attorney general from New York, it sounds like he's saying you're fired when it comes to this Trump University. Are you worried?

TRUMP: We have and had a great school. The school did a terrific job. Ninety-eight percent approval. Of course, he doesn't mention this. We sort of gave a report card on ourselves to every student that took the course. We had a 98 percent. If you go to Wharton, if you go to Harvard, they don't have a 98 percent approval rating. We had a 98 percent approval rating, Chris. People loved the school.

The school was terrific. And we got sued for lots of different reasons, primarily, once again, publicity. He was angry that I didn't give him the kind of cut. You know, they were soliciting, Chris. I don't know if you know this.

Your brother would know much better, but they were soliciting us during the investigation for campaign contributions to our attorney general who's a total lightweight, by the way. You know that, I know that.


TRUMP: -- competent attorney general -- to get some publicity on Trump's back. The bottom line is, the school was very, very successful. We didn't think we were going to get sued because of the fact that we have a 98 percent approval rating.

You know, Chris, you can go on television at night and you see all these different schools and all these different characters on television talking about get rich and do this and do that. Our school was terrific. We have wonderful people and it's a shame.

CUOMO: All right. Let me get in for a second, Mr. Trump. Don't get me in trouble. You can say whatever you want about the AG, but that's your opinion. We asked him about the approval rating. He likened it to a Ponzi scheme, like the Madoff scam and said, hey, often, when people are getting fleeced, they don't know it, and they say they like the system that they're in. That was the analogy to Trump University.

TRUMP: Give me a break. Give me a break. Look, you mean 98 percent of the people were told with a machine gun to their head to sign something saying it was great. These were people that were given papers, please, would you report on the school, was it good, was it OK, was it poor? What did you think?

We had a 98 percent approval rating at the high level, at the high level. In other words, people loved it. And not only that, we have a blank page underneath to write comments. They would write comments that were so beautiful about the school. The school was terrific. There are schools, I'm sure, that maybe could be looked into.

Why isn't he looking into Jon Corzine where there's big in four (ph) missing, and Jon Corzine, he doesn't look into or with people that got fleeced by Wall Street and everything. He doesn't do that. He looks at a school with a 98 percent approval rating.

CUOMO: What do you think about the suggestion that you made about this -- the timing being about when the attorney general met with President Obama? Were you reaching a little bit there?

TRUMP: No, I'm not reaching. And, I don't know, maybe it's a mini- IRS or maybe it's not. And I'm not accusing the president certainly of anything. But it was sort of interesting because I've been doing this stuff a long time and I've been dealing with government a long time. He met with President Obama on Thursday night in Syracuse.

He filed the case on Saturday afternoon at one o'clock. Now, I've been dealing with government. You've known all about government. You are in a family of people in government. I've never heard of a government filing a case. This is a civil case. Filing a case on a Saturday afternoon. I've never heard of that before.

CUOMO: The timing of the filing of the case is one issue, but you don't really believe the president of the United States was talking to the New York attorney general about bringing suit against you, do you?

TRUMP: I have no idea. Look, maybe it's a mini-IRS. I am a Republican. I'm proud to be a Republican. I have been a critic. By the way, I'd love to be a fan of the president. If things would work out, I would be a fan. If he was doing a great job, I'd be standing up as a Republican saying he's doing a great job. It's just not that working out that way, unfortunately.

But he met with the president and, Chris, he filed a case on a Saturday afternoon. I've never heard of a case being filed on a Saturday afternoon. If you look at government records, see how many civil cases are filed on a Saturday afternoon. Maybe you'll never be able to find one.

CUOMO: He says it's a nonissue, but let me ask you this, Mr. Trump. I know you got a busy day. You are very aggressive. When somebody comes at you, you come at them twice as hard. All of us in the media know that. This aint the media. This is the attorney general, the state of New York. You think it's time to listen to your lawyers and just keep it low profile for a while before you get somebody with a lot of power very angry at you?

TRUMP: No, I don't care. I don't care. I've had people angry at me all my life. I'm (INAUDIBLE) my life. I'm a very honest person. I say what's on my mind. If I thought I was guilty -- I could have settled this case very easily. It was a very easy case to settle, they wanted to settle. I could have settled it, I chose not to.

They actually thought I'd settle because I wouldn't want to take bad publicity. I'm used to bad publicity. I get plenty of it. I get plenty of good, too, but I get bad publicity. No, I have -- the truth is, we have 98 percent. We have a lot of happy students. They'll all be testifying. We'll get many, many, many people to testify about how they loved it.

And, we'll see what happens. I mean, we're just going to see what happens. But no, I don't have any qualms about that at all.

CUOMO: All right. Mr. Trump, thank you very much for joining us on NEW DAY. Appreciate the opportunity to speak about this lawsuit with you.

TRUMP: Thank you, Chris.

CUOMO: All right. Take care -- Kate.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Never want to be shy in making his opinion known.

CUOMO: Bold man. BOLDUAN: Bold man and a bold lawsuit in front of him. That's for sure.

Coming up next on NEW DAY, convicted killer, Jodi Arias, back in court today. Today's hearing could reset the retrial date for the sentencing phase of her case. Will she get life or death?

Also, a CNN exclusive. Remember the 11-year-old whose parents fought the federal government to get her a life-saving transplant. Well, now, Sarah Murnaghan is speaking out for the first time since her surgery. That is ahead.


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

CUOMO: That's what my voice sounds like in the shower.


CUOMO: Especially if the water is too cold.

BOLDUAN: Exactly.

CUOMO: This is NEW DAY. It's Monday, August 26th.

Coming up in this half hour, Jodi Arias back in court today. The convicted murderer could soon learn her fate. Will she get the death penalty? That is the big question. A preview in moments (ph).

BOLDUAN: Plus, remember the 11-year-old girl whose parents, they fought to get her a double lung transplant. Well, now, after a second transplant, that little girl, Sarah Murnaghan, is speaking out for the very first time since her surgery. It is a CNN exclusive.