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"I Have Not Made A Decision"; U.N. Begins Third Day Of Inspections; Congress Versus Obama; Syrian Crisis Hits Cyberspace; Fort Hood Shooter Sentencing; Too Hot For School; Firefighters Defend Gold Country From Blaze; George Zimmerman's Wife Speaks

Aired August 29, 2013 - 06:00   ET


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Welcome to NEW DAY. I am proud to announce it is Thursday, August 29th, six o'clock in the east.

The president is making his case to Congress today calling for action against Syria. He will face questions about the end game strategy, the chance a quick strike leads to all-out war and more. We're going to talk to an ally of the president, Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia who's also asking for more answers.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Are you yawning and reaching for the coffee? A new sleep study is out from the CDC. It shows just how poorly Americans are sleeping these days. Prescription drug use to help with sleep now on the rise. So why are so many people having such a hard time sleeping and what can you do to get a better night's rest? I myself will be learning something in this.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: That's a big topic around this office. I will tell you. Also, it is back to school time. Kids hate it. Check out mom, couldn't be happier, her celebratory dance apparently an annual tradition is going viral. Her kids, not so thrilled about it.

CUOMO: I like the shuffle step, improvement over the twerk in my humble estimation. Big news for you this morning, let's get right to it, the big decision on Syria. President Obama says the Syrian government attacked its own people with chemical weapons and his warning consequences must follow. The president says no decision has been made on a military strike and he heads to Congress to make the case as the U.S. seems to be ramping up.

However, one of its key allies, Britain is slowing things down. Today, it will reveal its intelligence on the chemical weapons attack. The question is what did they find? We are covering every angle of this story this morning beginning with Barbara Starr at the Pentagon. Good morning, Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Chris. Britain is going to release its information. Look for Washington to do much the same in the coming hours. The administration may release its details on what it has about Assad killing his own people.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) STARR (voice-over): President Obama says he hasn't decided what to do, but is determined to hold Syria accountable.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: We want the Assad regime to understand that, by using chemical weapons on a large scale against your own people, against women, against infants, against children, that you are not only breaking international norms and standards of decency, but you're also creating situation where U.S. national interests are affected and that needs to stop.

STARR: In an interview with the PBS "News Hour," the president left no doubt who the U.S. believes ordered the chemical weapons attacks.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: We have concluded that the Syrian government in fact carried these out.

STARR: Among the evidence intercepts of Syrian commanders discussing the movement of chemical weapons to the area of the attack, provided by Israeli intelligence. The potential next step, cruise missile strikes has put the U.S. at direct odds with Russia.

MARIE HARF, DEPUTY STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON: We do not believe that the Syrian regime should be able to hide behind the fact that the Russians continue to block action on Syria at the U.N.

STARR: But behind the scenes officials are signalling the U.S. may not wait for the United Nations to act. The U.S. military is strengthening its position in the Eastern Mediterranean with the addition of two more submarines and the Syrian regime is also getting ready.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are in a state of war right now preparing ourselves for the worst scenario.


STARR: So here's one question, why did Assad do it? Why did the Syrian regime undertake the chemical attack? One theory being discussed inside the administration is it might have been retaliation for a failed assassination attempt against Assad earlier this month, or it might have been a planned smaller attack and something went wrong -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: All right, Barbara Starr at the Pentagon starting us off this morning. Thanks so much, Barbara.

Now Syria's ambassador to the U.N. we know says his country is preparing for war. CNN's Fred Pleitgen was the only western network correspondent reporting from inside Syria. He was there until just a couple hours ago and joins us now from Beirut. So Fred, what can you tell us this morning?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Kate. Well, one of the ways they appeared to be preparing for war is that apparently the Syrian military is emptying out some of its main buildings, like for instance the headquarters of the air force and the headquarters of the army, that's according to media reports. It's very difficult to verify that.

The other thing that appears to be happening, they appear to be moving some of the artillery pieces out in the mountains around Damascus used to shell rebel positions in the past, of course, all of this out of fear of U.S. air strikes. Now the U.N. inspectors are on the ground again today, they're in the eastern suburbs of Damascus looking for additional evidence of chemical use.

We managed to get exclusive video from the area that was the hardest hit in that alleged chemical attack, called Zamalka where apparently up to 400 people died. There was a mass grave there. There's a lot of dead bodies that still haven't been identified, but there's also miraculous tales of survival with one man who manage to make a gas mask out of some cup, cotton and coal and says that's the way he survived because it held off the gas just enough.

I can tell you from just coming out of Damascus the people are very, very worried about what the next hours and the next days could bring -- Chris.

CUOMO: All right, Fred, thank you very much. Stay safe there. Now to all of you if it seems this is all moving quickly that's because it is, however now some members of Congress are saying not so fast. Let's go live to CNN's Athena Jones on Capitol Hill. Athena, what is the latest from there?

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Chris. Well, the chief concern on Capitol Hill is that members of Congress won't be sufficiently consulted before President Obama gives an order for some sort of military action against Syria. You have folks like Republican Senator John McCain who said they want to see a robust response to these attacks.

At the same time, 116 members of Congress, most of them Republican, but also 16 Democrats have now signed on to a letter urging the president to consult and receive authorization before taking any sort of action. This is an addition to a letter from House Speaker John Boehner who's called on the president to personally make the case to the American people and to the Congress for why military action in Syria would serve U.S. national security interests.

Now there is some disagreement among members of Congress about just what the president can do before consulting them. Some GOP senators have said they believe the war powers act allows the president to order limited missile strikes and then report to Congress afterward. Nevertheless the White House says the views of Congress are important and the White House plans to brief congressional leadership as well as the chairs and ranking members of the national security committees today via conference call -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: All right, Athena, we'll see if the administration is successful in allaying some of the concerns today, from Capitol Hill, thanks so much.

Now if the U.S. attacks Syria you might feel some retaliation at your own computer. Experts say there would be more cyber attacks loyal to the Assad regime. CNN's Deborah Feyerick has more on that. So what exactly are we talking about? What happened here, talking about the "New York Times," of course.

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And we're also talking about the Syrian Electronic Army, a group that's claimed responsibility for a number of cyber attacks. What makes this group particularly dangerous is that the hackers are using a very different method of attack. The "New York Times" is still not back online completely after more than 36 hours. The hacker did not go in the front door and hit "The Times" directly.

Essentially what they did is they went in through a window by targeting the supply train specifically the company's domain name registrar. The way they were able to gain access was simple. It was through a targeted phishing attack. Someone actually tricked someone into providing user name and password so anyone who wanted to gain access was blocked from doing so.

This is what's known in the cyber world is a denial of service attack. It was a different way to get in rather than attacking Fort Knox to get the money, what you're doing is you go into the loans, a simpler way to sort of get what you want.

BOLDUAN: Fair enough that they were able to get in, but was any secure information accessed when they were able to get in there?

FEYERICK: No, this is something that the "New York Times" has been very clear to say it wasn't the integrity of the web site that was actually compromised. It was people's ability to get to the site that was compromised. Service is being restored slowly. It's not that completely, but other news sites have been targeted including "The Washington Post" and here at CNN, again, CNN they told us we asked, they said no, it wasn't the site that was compromised, just people's ability shortly to get there.

BOLDUAN: Scary enough. All right, Deb, thanks so much for the update.

Coming up in our next hour, we're going to talk with Senator Tim Kaine about the situation in Syria. He's one of the critics saying Congress should have a say before the U.S. takes action. We'll get his thoughts on the developing situation coming up.

CUOMO: All right, a death sentence for the man who has admitted to a deadly attack at Fort Hood, that is the recommendation of a military jury after convicting Nidal Hasan for killing 13 and wounding 32 in the brutal massacre back in 2009. Now Hasan could become the first military execution in more than 50 years.

CNN's Ed Lavandera is in Killeen, Texas, with the latest. Good morning, Ed.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Chris. Well, so many of the families affected by the Fort Hood massacre really struggled with the fact they knew that Nidal Hasan wanted to get the death penalty and they wondered if that's exactly what they should give him, what they wanted, but in the end, many of the families had spoke about this verdict say justice was served.


LAVANDERA (voice-over): Nidal Hasan sat unfazed as a military jury sentenced him to death. The Islamic radical Army psychiatrist might see the death penalty as a twisted path to martyrdom, but prosecutors say Hasan will never be a martyr because he has nothing to give.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The best thing for that man is to be forgotten.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A weight has been lifted off of my shoulder.

LAVANDERA: The wife and daughters of Michael Cahill sat through nearly four weeks of excruciating testimony hearing the gruesome details how Cahill, a retired army veteran, came within a few feet of stopping Hasan with a chair. He was shot six times. The fatal shot pierced his neck.

KEELY VANACKER, VICTIM'S DAUGHTER: Today's sentencing does not bring my father home, his laughter to our ears and his smile to our eyes.

LAVANDERA: Hasan will soon be transferred to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, his case will start winding its way through the complex military justice system appeals process. Ultimately the president must sign off on Hasan's execution and that could take years. There hasn't been a military execution since 1961, but some legal experts say the brutality of Hasan's crimes will change that.

GEOFFREY CORN, SOUTH TEXAS COLLEGE OF LAW: If it doesn't make sense to use it here, when does it? I think that president is going to have a hard time not signing that death warrant in this case and I think Major Hasan may very well be the first military defendant in a long time to be put to death.


LAVANDERA: And one of the things that I was struck by was all of these families affected by the Fort Hood massacre have really spread out all across the country from New Mexico, Wisconsin, Alabama, and some family members say this is really the first time that they'd all been together, gotten to know each other and really understood the depth of the sadness and the struggles that they've dealt with during the last four years -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Hopefully they can bring comfort to each other. Ed Lavandera, thanks so much for following this all the way through. We'll talk to you in a bit.

We're facing a brutal heat wave sitting over the Midwest today. What does that mean, more schools closing down. Indra Petersons has all the details on this. So what are we looking at, Indra?

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It's so hard to believe we're still talking about this. It's been all week long, temperatures in the 90s and feeling like they're 100 degrees making it so hard for the children in their first week of school. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PETERSONS (voice-over): It's been three days of near record-breaking temperatures in parts of Minnesota, the temperature reaching a burning 92 degree mark, but feeling like it's passed the 100 degree mark. Now some schools across Minneapolis are being closed for the rest of the week.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Friday's canceled, too?

PETERSONS: It's just too hot and these schools don't have any air conditioning.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right now our situation we feel like the best thing to do and the safest thing to do is to stop school for two days. We have more people that are feeling tired and sluggish.

PETERSONS: And these temperatures aren't just affecting Minnesota, a giant heat dome has been perched over the Midwest since Sunday, lingering there and keeping that hot air locked in.


PETERSONS: All right, let's talk about what we're looking at, advisories again, South Dakota into Minnesota and big chunks of Iowa, Des Moines looking to break records tomorrow, expected to be hotter. Today they are already feeling like 105 to 110 degrees, the record 99 and by tomorrow they could be 101 degrees. You can see that easily about 20 degrees above normal.

The big question is when are we going to feel the change we need? We are actually start to see a system move through the area today. The most important thing here is the cold front. So yes, severe weather from Minnesota and even through Wisconsin, but more importantly we'll start to see relief.

It will take to the weekend though. So Saturday look at these temperatures still in the mid and upper 90s, but by Sunday notice Minneapolis going down to 75 and Des Moines finally going down to the 80s. So we have relief in sight and that's something we haven't been able to say all week long.

BOLDUAN: Normally we're talking about how cold it is in the winter.

PETERSONS: Suddenly 75 looks colder.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, Indra.

CUOMO: Temperatures nothing compared to what they're dealing with out west. Michaela is giving us the latest on the Yosemite fire.

PEREIRA: Yes. They are making some progress. Making news at this hour, the giant fire burning near Yosemite, several thousand firefighters ready to defend the towns outside the part. The firefighters believe the fire is slowing down, but it still does threaten thousands of homes. San Francisco officials say the city's water supply is no longer in danger. The fire got close to the reservoir that supplies the city's water.

A huge fire meanwhile burning all night long after an oil rig between San Antonio and Houston exploded. Firefighters let it burn overnight. Specialists are going to try to get it under control later this morning. No reports of fatalities and it's not clear what set off that blast.

An Ohio appeals court says a 10-year-old Amish girl who is dying of cancer must continue to receive chemotherapy. The parents of little Sarah Hirsch Berger wanted to stop their daughter's treatments. The lawyer for Hirsch Berger says they may take their case to the Ohio Supreme Court.

The three 15-year-olds that we charged in that brutal high school bus beating are scheduled to appear in a Florida court today. Surveillance video of attacks sparked national outrage back in July, many people asking why the bus driver didn't do more to stop it. The teens will face a juvenile court judge today charged with aggravated battery in the case.

A Pennsylvania police chief who got himself suspended for 30 days after posting a profanity laced video rant where he fired off guns. He went out shooting just days before he is set to return to work. On this latest YouTube video he took aim at a target that he calls Eric, that also happens to be the first name of a Burough councilman who wants him fired.

You remember the little boy who fell into that sink hole last month near Lake Michigan, Nathan Wisner was buried for nearly three hours under 11 feet of sand. Nathan and his family got a chance to thank and meet the 139 people who helped locate him and then dig him out and save his life.

Nathan was in the hospital, you might recall, for two weeks. This is the part that makes the story even more powerful. He recovered in time to start first grade with his friends. You know that this is an emotional time for parents sending their kids back to school but you know for that family it was extra special. We're actually going to hear from Nathan later on in our show on NEW DAY.

CUOMO: Amazing. Forget about living through that ordeal in the sand. You see how he was sitting still that entire time up on stage?

BOLDUAN: I was also thinking classic little kid fashion, what is all this attention on me --

PEREIRA: Why are they looking at me?

CUOMO: He is a champ just for that alone. Those parents are raising themselves a solid son there. That's for sure. Glad to see he's coming along.

Thanks for that, Mick.

We're going to take a break here on NEW DAY. And when we come back, the wife of George Zimmerman is opening up about her marriage and where things stand with her husband after his acquittal in the killing of Trayvon Martin. What she is saying and what it could mean.

BOLDUAN: And fast food workers walking out. They want double the pay. The restaurant says no. What's this all about? And what's still to come?


CUOMO: Welcome back to NEW DAY.

Explosive revelations from the wife of George Zimmerman, speaking out for the first time about their relationship. Shellie Zimmerman was sentenced Wednesday to one-year probation for misdemeanor perjury charges. Husband George was not there.

It turns out that may be more about the health of their marriage than about avoiding media attention.


CUOMO (voice-over): Local reporter says George Zimmerman's wife finds him guilty of being a non-supportive spouse who beat down her self- esteem as the trial put a strain on their marriage.

Investigative journalist Christie O'Connor says Shellie Zimmerman made those comments in a recent interview. They come on the heels of Shellie Zimmerman pleading guilty to a perjury charge, admitting she lied when testifying during a bail hearing that the couple was flat broke. Prosecutors say in truth, George Zimmerman actually had about $135,000 at the time.

BERNIE DE LA RIONDA, PROSECUTOR: And you mentioned also in terms of the ability of your husband to make the bond now that you all have no money. Is that correct?

SHELLIE ZIMMERMAN, GEORGE ZIMMERMAN'S WIFE: To my knowledge, that's correct.

DE LA RIONDA: I quite frankly, from the state position, will flat out all it what it is, the defendant's wife lied to this court.

CUOMO: The state's evidence recorded jailhouse phone conversations between the Zimmermans, in which they apparently spoke in code.

GEORGE ZIMMERMAN: In my account, do I have at least $100?

SHELLIE ZIMMERMAN: In his account, did you have at least $100? No.

GEORGE ZIMMERMAN: How, how, how close am I?

SHELLIE ZIMMERMAN: There's like $8.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Eight dollars and sixty cents.

CUOMO: George Zimmerman was noticeably absent from his wife's court appearance. O'Connor says Shellie told her she feels, quote, "very much alone." (END VIDEOTAPE)

CUOMO: Shellie Zimmerman says even though media attention has died down she and her husband are still getting death threats. We should add that we reached out for comment from George Zimmerman's attorney and we haven't heard back yet. Let's figure out what this means legally.

Let's bring in HLN legal analyst Joey Jackson.

Joey, always a pleasure.

JOEY JACKSON, HLN LEGAL ANALYST: Nice to be with you, Chris.

CUOMO: First question, unusual for this type of charge to be fully prosecuted?

JACKSON: You know, it's really not. What ends up happening is perjury is being taken more seriously, right? Because in courts of law, you want to search for the truth. And when people make misrepresentations, that lead a court to stray, particularly when you misrepresent to the judge himself as happened here, then it becomes problematic.

What I think was good about it was the result. Of course, it started out as a felony, Chris.

CUOMO: Right.

JACKSON: But I think based upon her life and her wanting to become a nurse and that type of thing, they said, let's be reasonable. We'll give her the misdemeanor. We'll give a probation.

CUOMO: Probation and apologize to the judge.

JACKSON: In a letter. That's right. She apologized to Judge Lester in a letter, of course, citing the Bible and her obligations to be true to God and everything else -- but I think it's the right result, puts her on probation for a year period of time, allows her to pursue her nursing degree and other wiles disposes of it.

Another important element, Chris, remember, is the 100 hours of community service. It's a give back to the community. Do your community service, get this chapter over in your life and move forward.

CUOMO: Interesting point. They thought they were speaking in code but there was someone in the background giving them real numbers. No good, Joey.

JACKSON: No good at all. That's the message here. Look, when you're in jail, as you know, as everyone should know, apparently they did not, or they did, but they made this worse -- this language in code is that everything's recorded. You don't have any inspection of privacy if you're an inmate at a jail. And so, of course, 860 didn't mean $8.60, $86,000 is more like it. CUOMO: The other woman on the tape you hear on the back scene, $8,600b or whatever --

JACKSON: That was foiled. Very much foiled.

CUOMO: Hoisted on your petard as they say.

Now, interesting, quasi-legal, these revelations about what kind of husband he is and what he put her through, had that speculation come out during the trial, do you think it would have made any kind of difference?

JACKSON: You know, it's always interesting in a trial, you want the human element of someone, right, because trials are about you want to connect with the jury and of course he didn't testify although he can argue he did by virtue of all the testimony that was admitted with his videotaped depositions.

So, I think it does make a difference because people want to know the person who sits in that defendant chair, Chris, who are you? What type of person are you and are you the type that is able or capable to commit a crime like that.

CUOMO: Right. Now, obviously, I said had they come out, because almost no way to put the wife on the stand against the husband.

JACKSON: No, because of the spousal privilege and that type of thing. Of course, you can do it as a character witness but whenever do you that you open up all kinds of doors so it becomes a question of is it worth it to pursue that avenue?

CUOMO: There's so much intrigue who is he and how he is, this is going to resonate whatever his wife has to say.

JACKSON: I think so. I think the other issue is that any trial takes an emotional toll upon anyone. I mean, you're really vested in the trial. The attorneys are working hard, the judge is working hard and the person sitting in that chair enduring, you know, having to go through the trial certainly it takes a toll on them. The marriage, I'm not surprised.

CUOMO: It would be interesting to see if anything comes out from his wife how she feels about the verdict, what was going through her husband's mind. We'll see what happens.

Joey, thank you very much.

JACKSON: Stay tuned.

CUOMO: Thank you for the analysis. Appreciate it as always.

JACKSON: Thank you, Chris.

CUOMO: Kate, over to you.

BOLDUAN: All right. Chris, thanks so much. Next up on NEW DAY: the nation paused to remember the march on Washington yesterday but did President Obama hit the right note in his speech? John King will be here for our political gut check to talk about that.

And then there's this. Why is this mom celebrating and dancing? Well, that's because her kids are off to school. We're going to show you the video that's going viral.


ANNOUNCER: You're watching NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo, Kate Bolduan and Michaela Pereira.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, Michaela.

CUOMO: Welcome back to NEW DAY. It is Thursday, August 29th.

Coming up in the show, fast food, many love it -- not Indra Petersons -- but guess what? The people who make it are not thrilled of what they're being paid. Many will be walking out trying to show their bosses they deserve more money. We're going to look at the issues behind the protest.

BOLDUAN: And also coming up, 17-year-old Victoria Duval is taking the tennis world by storm. And look who she's talking to. She's playing great at the U.S. Open knocking off a big name in the first round. Her next match coming up.

But, first, she sat down with our friend -- the one and only, Michaela Pereira. Wait until you hear her amazing story growing up in Haiti and what got her onto the court. She is pretty spectacular.

PEREIRA: We went one and one, and it's not on the court, though.


PEREIRA: She has a slight advantage.

BOLDUAN: So, you only take on someone if you're going to win. I get it.

PEREIRA: I guess you see what I'm doing there.

BOLDUAN: Yes, I respect that.

First, let's get straight to Michaela for the headlines.

PEREIRA: Yes, we got some headlines and obviously, watching the developments, major developments on Syria. President Obama says there is no doubt now that the Assad regime used chemical weapons on its own people. Key members of Congress will be briefed on the evidence which could be made public as soon as today. No decision has been made on a possible strike.