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Interview with Rep. Joseph Pitts; U.S., U.K. Debate Syria Options; Many Fast Food Workers on Strike Today; Zimmerman's Wife Speaks Out; Mother of Six Ready to Evacuate Again

Aired August 29, 2013 - 10:30   ET

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


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Republican Congressman Joseph Pitts from Pennsylvania joins me now live on the phone. Good morning.

REP. JOSEPH PITTS (R), PENNSYLVANIA (via telephone): Good morning.

COSTELLO: Thanks for talking with us. So you heard the opposition leader speaking in British Parliament. Is he right? Should the United States, too, wait for clear evidence that the Assad regime was responsible for this chemical weapons attack?

PITTS: I agree. The President needs to consult with Congress, needs to let the Congress fully be briefed and debate this in an open and transparent manner. The Constitution is very clear on the -- on the declaration of war or reacting to international crimes -- crimes against nations. It is the role of Congress to debate and authorize this before the President acts precipitously.

So I would ask the President to call Congress back in session, have a full and public debate. Let the Congress vote on this before any action is taken.

COSTELLO: The President is -- he's doing this a big conference call later today, I think at 6:00 p.m. Eastern where he's calling members of Congress to inform them of the evidence that his administration has about the Assad regime. Is that enough?

PITTS: No, that is not enough. He should call all the members of Congress in the session. Let them see the evidence and debate it fully. Just talking to the intelligence committee or a few leaders is not the whole Congress.

COSTELLO: What is your biggest fear if the United States does decide to take military action?

PITTS: The question is what do I think what?

COSTELLO: What's your biggest fear? What could happen? What are you worried about?

PITTS: Well, first of all, sending missiles into another country is an act of war. Trying to parse this as something different just doesn't meet the laugh test. And we could get involved in another war or another land war in the Middle East and cause, you know, into a civil war cause disruption to the whole region, yet, you know, other countries involved could impact Israel, Jordan and Iran and Lebanon, you know, the whole area.

So it is a very serious matter. Use of chemical weapons is a very serious matter. This deserves full and transparent debate before the American people before Congress acts.

COSTELLO: So if -- if the United States does present members of Congress with concrete evidence that the Assad regime did indeed gas its own people, what should the United States do?

PITTS: Well, that is something that we're going to have to explore. Rather than just precipitously send missiles in, first of all we don't even know who they would be targeting. We don't know the impact on innocent people in Syria. Going war is a serious matter. And it should be done very carefully and deliberately with clear national interests at stake before the United States or our Commander-in-Chief acts.

COSTELLO: Congressman Pitts, thank you so much for being with us this morning. We're going to take our viewers back to London to the British Parliament to hear more from this opposition leader speaking before the British Parliament and the Prime Minister. Of course he opposes any military action right now against Syria. Let's listen.

(BEGIN LIVE FEED)

ED MILIBAND, BRITISH OPPOSITION LEADER: But as it also says, but as it also says -- as it also said in point five, such action must have regard to the potential consequences in the region. To any proposed action to deter the use of chemical weapons must be judged against the consequences that will take place. And I think there's further work on the government necessary to set out what those consequences would be.

I give way to the honorable gentleman.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On the issue of consequences I'm listening very carefully to what the leader of the opposition is saying. And he's effectively actually making a very strong case against military action. As a military action visage, the consequences of which are very unquantifiable because the objectives are frankly pretty soft in terms of degrading and deterring and the link between military effect and the actual effect on the ground. And then he's also linked it to the consequences for the Geneva 2 process which can only be negative.

MILIBAND: I'm saying to the honorable gentleman and to the House that we have to assess over the coming period in a calm and measured way, not in a kneejerk way, and not on a political timetable whether the advantages of potential action, whether it can be done on the basis of legitimacy and international law and what the consequences would be.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes in fact beyond giving way listening to the speech, any reasonable human being would assume that the gentleman is looking to divide the House for political advantage. What has happened to -- what has happened -- what has happened to the national interest? MILIBAND: I have to say that intervention is not worthy of the honorable gentleman. I -- I am merely trying to set out a framework for decision for this House. My interest in this all along has been to ensure that the House of Commons can make this decision when the evidence is available. There will be some people in this House, there will be -- I'll give way in a moment.

There will be some people in this House, Mr. Speaker, who think this -- this decision is simple. And they clearly are on some of the opposition -- on the government benches. There will be some who think that we can make a decision now that we should engage in military conflict.

Equally there are those who think we should just rule out military conflict now. Now I happen to think that we've got to assess the evidence over the coming period. And I think that is the right thing to do and our roadmap and our roadmap sets out how we would do it. I give way for our honorable gentleman.

(END LIVE FEED)

COSTELLO: All right let's step away from this lively debate in the British Parliament. We'll have much more including a fast-food worker strike taking place right now in 50 cities across the country.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSTELLO: Fast-food workers in more than 50 cities across the country plan to strike today. And it could be their biggest walkout yet.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is it ok?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not ok?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What do we want?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A living wage.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: Workers at McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's and other fast- food outlets already have hit the picket lines this year and their protests appear to be gaining steam. They're demanding the federal minimum wage be raised to $15 per hour. That's more than double the current rate of $7.25. And they want the right to form unions without retaliation.

Joining us now from St. Louis is Thomas McGinnis. He's been working for Domino's Pizza as a deliveryman for almost 24 years. Welcome.

THOMAS MCGINNIS, DOMINO'S DELIVERY DRIVER: Thank you. Good morning.

COSTELLO: Good morning. I can't help but notice your T-shirt. What does it say?

MCGINNIS: It says we can't survive on $7.35. That seems to be the mantra right now.

COSTELLO: Are you going to hit the picket lines yourself later today?

MCGINNIS: Well I was already at McDonald's, Hardy's, a bread company, and a Jimmy John's this morning. So it's already well underway. Those were all downtown St. Louis.

COSTELLO: We interviewed you once before, the last time fast food workers, you know, walked off the job. Did anything change?

MCGINNIS: Well apparently there are some changes. I overheard of some NBA players buying a large Wendy's franchise and bumping everybody's salaries up to about $10 an hour. So that sounds like somebody's listening. So --

COSTELLO: What are your bosses saying about this work action?

MCGINNIS: Our bosses?

Well I'm fortunate enough to have my boss as a friend. But the bosses above them, the franchisees, they're not saying too much. But I know they're not happy about it. And I'm sure the corporation is unhappy about it.

COSTELLO: do you think your action will really effect change, a widespread change?

MCGINNIS: I certainly hope so because, you know, the -- where we are now is a kind of economic slavery compared to -- you know when -- yes.

COSTELLO: I talked with someone from the restaurant association who said that the types of jobs that you have, for example, are meant to be temporary jobs, they are not meant to be lifetime jobs. How do you respond to that?

MCGINNIS: Well, I mean, I can see how someone saying that, you know, it would be used as a stepping stone. And you know I happen to like my job. And I feel like if anyone works 40 hours a week, you know, doing the sweaty labor, you would think they should be able to make a decent living.

So I don't think it's out of the question. A lot of families depend on that income, you know. I know a lot of people that went to school and graduated and still can't seem to get good jobs so.

COSTELLO: I was just going to ask you that.

MCGINNIS: Yes.

COSTELLO: Because some people might say, well, if you're not satisfied with what you're paid, why not move on and find another job.

MCGINNIS: Yes. And I was at the point where I was prepared to move on. I also work a day job in the morning just to barely make ends meet. And so it's clear that the -- the inequality of income in this country is too far gone for too long. That's why $15 an hour seems so high. Because it's -- it's gone unchecked. And you know, a lot of corporations are allowed to self-regulate nowadays and that -- this is -- this is what happens.

COSTELLO: Thomas McGinnis, thank you so much for joining us this morning. We appreciate it.

MCGINNIS: Thank you.

COSTELLO: Still to come in the NEWSROOM, Shellie Zimmerman speaks out. Hear what she has to say about life with her husband, George Zimmerman before and after the trial.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSTELLO: All right. We're getting some breaking news in from Reuters right now about what the President has been doing this morning from the White House. As we told you before, he's been making a number of calls to various Congress persons, informing them about the reasons that the United States should take military action against Syria.

And according to Reuters, Mr. Obama's Security Advisor, Susan Rice, the Intelligence Director Clapper, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, and Secretary of State John Kerry have all briefed members of Congress on Syria this morning -- some in person, some by phone. We understand there will be a larger conference call that takes place at 6:00 p.m. Eastern.

Dana Bash is on the story, as well as our other White House correspondents. Hopefully we'll have more information to pass along to you a litter later.

Less than seven weeks after her husband was acquitted in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, Shellie Zimmerman is speaking out. Shellie just pleaded guilty to perjury charge, admitting she lied to a judge about her family's financial status. She said they were broke, but prosecutors say the Zimmermans had more than $100,000. Now in a new interview, Shellie Zimmerman has this to say about those lies and her marriage --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHELLIE ZIMMERMAN, WIFE OF GEORGE OF ZIMMERMAN: I can rationalize a lot of reasons for why I was misleading, but the truth is that I -- I knew that I was lying.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you want him to be clear, to support you?

ZIMMERMAN: I always want my husband's support.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you together?

ZIMMERMAN: I'm not going to answer that. Of course I want to have children and stay married.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: With George?

ZIMMERMAN: That's something I'm going to have to think about.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: Interesting. Martin Savidge joins me now.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Fascinating interview, right?

Savidge: It is. I mean of course because of the fact of her proximity to George Zimmerman. She has a window on his world both before, during the tragedy of the Trayvon Martin shooting, and of course in the aftermath now of the not guilty verdict so what she says is very powerful. She was also, you know, part of that case, perjury, which now she has entered a plea of guilty to.

So that's what makes this all interesting. She gives us some insights as to what was happening during the time they were in hiding, that they were apparently living in a trailer in the middle of the woods. I have to tell you that is not a scenario I had thought about when considering where they were living and how. So that really gives you a sense of the isolation.

But the other thing she points out and I think that comes across very starkly is there's a strain in that relationship and would you really be surprised by that? I mean I -- I don't think so. Given the fact that this is a couple that has been under tremendous pressure, you know. Of course, the Martin family, too, with the tragedy they had to deal with.

But as this couple that now has at one point was accused, now cleared, they are really strained. What we learned, though, is that they apparently were under a strain even before this tragedy began. It's only made it worse.

COSTELLO: Did she say anything in the interview that would -- that would, you know, that would hint that what strained their marriage, exactly what?

SAVIDGE: Well, I think it's like many things that strain marriages, there were issues of money, problems with money in the household. This is, again, before the shooting took place; questions of who was making the money and who was not. You know, those things that in any relationship build up resentment and sometimes build up hatred.

But after that you just have the pressure of fear for your life after this trial began, the scrutiny of the media, everybody accusing her husband. I think a lot of that and then you're confined into this relatively small space in the middle of a forest apparently with one bodyguard. That would drive anybody around the bend.

But I think the thing that really is not brought out so much but having talked to Kristi O'Connor -- this is investigative journalist who actually gave that to the other network -- she points out the question of what was George Zimmerman's temper like.

This is something that the prosecution was trying to get at. That George Zimmerman, the man you see, the calm, cool, rather reserved in court, is not the same George. She hints at that in this interview. And that's something Kristi says is a definite feeling she got from Shellie Zimmerman that George Zimmerman is a man who has a volatile nature.

COSTELLO: Interesting. Martin Savidge, thank you so much.

Still to come in the NEWSROOM, for this family in California, the Yosemite fire is hitting too close to home. We'll bring you their nerve-racking story of a mom and six kids living on the edge.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSTELLO: All right. We've been talking all morning about Syria and what action the United States might take because of chemical weapons being used there. We've been showing you what's going on this afternoon or this morning, rather, in the British parliament. It is afternoon there. You see members of parliament standing up and arguing.

The British prime minister is present for all of this. This is the British foreign secretary, by the way, Jack Straw -- I'm sorry, that wasn't him. I apologize for that. It was a member of parliament. But they're arguing for and against action being taken in Syria.

And of course the United States is very interested in listening to this argument because the United States very much wants Britain to be part of this united front in dealing with Syria and the Assad regime and the use of chemical weapons within Syria.

In just the past few minutes, Reuters reported that President Obama in the confines of the White House has met with his national security advisor Susan Rice, intelligence guy James Clapper, Secretary of State John Kerry. They've all been briefing members of Congress this morning about the evidence that the United States has gathered about who exactly is responsible for the use of chemical weapons within Syria.

Later on this afternoon, of course, the President will be calling more members of Congress especially those members on the intelligence committee to inform them what's been going on in Syria, who's responsible and what the United States might do and if there's an end game. And of course, that's the most -- probably the most important question the President will have to answer in lawmakers' minds and, of course, in the minds of the American people.

We'll continue to cover this story all day long. In fact, at noon, we're going to have an entire hour just on Syria -- noon Eastern. So be sure to tune in to CNN then.

Let's talk about the Yosemite wildfire. It's measured in numbers: 192,000 acres burned; 4,500 structures threatened. One of the most poignant numbers is three -- that's the number of times Karine Matter had packed up her home as the fire threatens her family. She's already evacuated herself and six children twice and she's ready to evacuate again.

Karine joins me now on the phone from Groveland, California. Welcome and thank you for talking with us this morning.

KARINE MATTER, DISPLACED BY FIRE (via telephone): Hi thanks Carol.

COSTELLO: I just can't imagine how nerve-racking this has been for you. How are you holding up.

MATTER: Well, honestly -- it's honestly been very nerve-racking and it takes so much work to be able to have to pack up and then settle in to somebody else's home and then repack at a moment's notice.

But we have a real peace during this time because we know that God is with us. He's been with us this whole time, he hasn't left us and so he's carrying us and the prayers that people all over the United States for our community and (inaudible) county are really carrying us through this time.

COSTELLO: You just gave me shivers. That's awesome. So you're just staying with friends because you have six children. That's a good friend.

MATTER: Yes. Let me correct that. I do have six children. Four of them are grown. And they're out of my home now. And two of them actually live in Mewak Village which is in Tuolumne County, which is also going through the same thing we are here in Groveland. I have a five-year-old and a seven-year-old that are home with me all the time. Those are the ones I was responsible to pack up and take and get with me and calm down and -- yes.

COSTELLO: As far as danger to your house -- do you know the level of danger?

MATTER: You know, at this point it was very dangerous in the beginning. It was interesting because my husband's kind of an adventure chaser. And so Sunday the 18th, he said, there's a fire somewhere out in the rim of the world. Do you want to go on a quest and see if we can fight it? And I'm like, "Ok."

So we threw the kids in the car, drove up to rim of the world, which is six miles from our home. We could see the flames, you know, licking over the hill. But at that point on Sunday, we didn't think that it was going to be near us. We thought they're going to put this out. It's not going to be a big deal. And it wasn't until the next day, Monday afternoon that my husband called me. And he was working in Murphy's (ph), which is an hour away from me, and he said, look, he said, "The fire has gotten to the edge of the forestry, and the forestry is just a mile from us." We can see the Smith Peak Tower from our house where they had evacuated all of the rangers. And he said, "You need to pack up, and you need to leave." And at that point, you just -- your mind just leaves you. You're like, what? So that's when I had to pack us up for the first time. I was so blessed because I had invited a friend and her four kids over for dinner. They were already here. And she helped me. She was the one who pulled the pictures off the walls for me. I'm a photographer. I have hand colorings that I've done of my children. They're irreplaceable. You just -- you can't do them anymore. You know, you don't know -- nobody does -- I thought, my goodness, they're all over my house. What am I going to do? She pulled them off.

COSTELLO: We will all -- we will all add our prayers into the mix and hope everything turns out ok for you. Karine Matter, I have to go but thank you so much for talking with us this morning.

MATTER: Ok, bye-bye.

COSTELLO: Bye-bye.

"LEGAL VIEW" with Ashleigh Banfield after a quick break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN HOST: World powers butting heads over what to do about chemical weapons in Syria; the United States and its Western allies weighing their options amid resistance from Russia, China and Iran. President Obama says --