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Brits Deal Huge Blow; White House To Release Syria Intel Today; Today Is Filner's Last Day As Mayor; Holder: Washington, Colorado, Pot Laws Can Stay; Russia Raids Gay Rights Activist's Home

Aired August 30, 2013 - 10:00   ET


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now in the NEWSROOM, if the Obama administration strikes Syria, will anyone support the United States in the aftermath of an attack?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is very clear tonight that the world has not passed a motion, it is clear to me that the British parliament, reflecting the views of the British people, does not want to see British military action. I get that and the government will act accordingly.


COSTELLO: We will hear more from that debate later this hour.

San Diego says goodbye to its controversial mayor. So what is next for the city after Bob Filner bids his ado.

The Justice Department says it will not challenge state laws that legalize marijuana use. What does that mean -- does that mean Americans are free to light up everywhere?

And NASCAR driver, Ryan Vickers' career was in the pits, but now he's about to make a big comeback. He is going to share his amazing story with us this morning. The second hour of NEWSROOM starts now.

Good morning. I'm Carol Costello. Thank you so much for being with us. President Obama reaches out. U.S. allies back away. This morning an international coalition to support military strikes on Syria is crumbling. The most stinging rejection from Washington's closest ally, take a look at the cover of the "New York Daily News." It says it all, right?

British lawmakers voted against taking part in any military action. Other allies, like Germany and France, are also gun-shy, still haunted by the Iraq war. And those concerns echo loudly in Congress for more than 160 lawmakers, both Republicans and Democrats, are demanding at least a full debate before any strikes are launched. Last night, President Obama and top members of its cabinet spent 90 minutes trying to rally support among skeptical lawmakers.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CHUCK HAGEL, DEFENSE SECRETARY: The Congress, like in any democracy, is important to this process. Their views are critically important. There are many members of the Congress who are very experienced leaders. So it's important that we coordinate with the Congress as we will continue to do. We reach out to get their thoughts on this issue. We will continue to do that.


COSTELLO: And the American public also wants some checks and balances. According to a new NBC News poll, 79 percent say congressional approval should be required before any military action is taken. That's compared to 16 percent who say such approval is not necessary. And we've learned the Obama administration will release declassified intelligence on what we've learned about the Assad government and the alleged chemical weapons attack last week.

Our senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta has more on that side of the story. Good morning, Jim.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Carol. We should point out that there's a little bit of breaking news this morning. Secretary of State John Kerry, according to what we've confirmed here at CNN, will be making a statement at 12:30 in the afternoon, we believe over at the State Department, about what is going to happen or may be about to happen in Syria.

That is along with the fact that we're also hearing that the White House will be releasing that unclassified intelligence report later today on the chemical weapons attack that occurred last week in Syria that unclassified intelligence report should be fairly close to what was briefed to members up on Capitol Hill last night.

That report apparently talks about intercepted communications from high level Syrian officials that White House officials, administration officials believe indicates that the Syrians were responsible for those weapons. Now, we should also point out that you mentioned some of the international cooperation that may be falling by the wayside, most notably that vote in British parliament yesterday, we should point out that U.S. officials are now telling CNN that the president may have to take unilateral action against Syria.

One U.S. official telling us here at CNN, we care what the British think. We value the process, but we're going to make the decision that we need to make. But Carol, really the breaking news at this point is that we do expect to hear from Secretary of State John Kerry at 12:30 this afternoon over at the State Department talking about potentially this case for military action against Syria. The White House cautions that the president has not made a final decision yet.

COSTELLO: Why won't we hear from the president?

ACOSTA: Well, we might hear from the president. We asked Josh Earnest, the deputy press secretary at the briefing yesterday, will we see a presidential statement and he didn't rule it out. That's an indication that we might see that as well. The president will be sitting down with the presidents of Estonia and Latvia. Later on this afternoon there will be a publicly available pool spray where cameras are allowed in when the president is making some brief remarks to those world leaders.

There's a chance at that point that we may hear from the president, but the White House has indicated that once a decision is made, that we should be hearing from the president. All of those details, though, have not been locked down or released from the White House. But this may be the initial, I guess, rollout of a decision from the White House, Carol. I think that's a safe way of putting it like that, that the secretary of state is coming out this afternoon.

You'll recall earlier this week he made that very passionate statement over at the State Department when he talked about how he as a father, when he saw the video -- the images of those children that were apparently gassed in Syria, how that affected him personally. We have not heard the president make those kinds of statements. Perhaps we'll be hearing that as well. Secretary of State John Kerry coming out at the State Department this afternoon, that's a very big indication of where things are heading -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Of course, CNN will carry that live, 12:30 Eastern or so, Secretary of State John Kerry will make some sort of statement on Syria. Jim Acosta live at the White House, thanks so much.

British lawmakers were also shown classified intelligence yet it was not enough to win support for possible military involvement. Here is British Prime Minister David Cameron just before parliament voted down his proposal to form a coalition.


DAVID CAMERON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: The House has not voted for either motion tonight. I strongly believe in the need for a tough response to the use of chemical weapons, but I also believe in respecting the will of this House of Commons. It is very clear tonight that while the house has not passed a motion, it is clear to me that the British parliament reflecting the views of the British people does not want to see British military action. I get that and the government will act accordingly.


COSTELLO: OK. So here's how international opinion is stacking up in regards to military strikes on Syria, standing with the United States, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and France. On the right side, those opposing, include Syria's most critical allies, Russia and China. Iran is also rallying against the threats to its key regional ally. The U.K., as you just saw, will not take part in any military action. Germany's foreign minister says at this time it's not even considering taking part.

In other news this morning, say goodbye to San Diego Mayor Bob Filner. Today is officially his last day in office. The 70-year-old Democrat resigned after 18 women publicly accused him of sexual harassment. Now he's packing up and in a matter of hours the locks will be changed on the mayor's office, but not before some of his accusers speak out again. CNN's Kyung Lah is live in San Diego. Tell us more.

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Carol, what I can tell you is that at the stroke of 5:00 p.m. Pacific Time here on the west coast, that the locks will officially be changed on Filner's office. We've been told by the soon-to-be interim mayor, the San Diego City Council President Todd Gloria, his spokesperson, that they officially take the reins of the mayor's office at 5:01 Pacific Time. They are going to move in. They don't know what to expect.

He's been so unpredictable. They are not exactly sure how this whole thing is going to smooth over and they are trying to make it as smooth a process as possible. Today throughout the day, human resources will be at the Mayor's Office collecting keys, cell phones, computer equipment, making sure all of that is handed over and something else we should point out, Carol, is that the Todd Gloria's office has decided to rehire Filner's accuser, a woman, who was his communications director. She will be back on the job once Filner is out -- Carol.

COSTELLO: As for what happens down the line, a special election will eventually be held for a new mayor and how much will that cost San Diego taxpayers?

LAH: Millions. And that's really the rub here. The taxpayers really feel like 4 they are being stuck with a bag even though the agreement that the city council, that the mediator did strike, it does protect taxpayers from some of Filner's lawsuits. At the same time, it's going to cost them millions to get a new man or woman in as mayor and so that leaves a bad taste in taxpayers' mouths, among other things.

COSTELLO: Got you. Kyung Lah, reporting live this morning. Thanks so much.

The governor of Washington State is cheering a decision by the Justice Department as, quote, "good news." The feds are not going to take a hard line on pot that's bought, sold, and used for personal use in his state or in the state of Colorado even though marijuana is still illegal under federal law. Voters in both states recently legalized the recreational use of pot. The guidelines applied to more than a dozen states that use medical marijuana.

Joining me now from Washington, CNN justice reporter, Evan Perez, to parse this out for us. Good morning, Evan.


COSTELLO: So tell us -- the feds, a federal agent is in Colorado and Washington State, he'll just walk by someone smoking pot on a park bench?

PEREZ: Well, what the feds are basically saying is that they understand that the voters in these two states have passed these referendums, these measures and they are not going to interfere with that. This is something that they have debated for several months. Basically, they are deciding that the sentiment of the public seems to be changing on this issue. Not enough, by the way, for them to take it off the list of really dangerous substances.

But what they are going to do is they are going to tell the prosecutors around the country in all 50 states that they should basically decide what priorities they are going to have, which is to keep pot away from kids, to make sure drug cartels are not involved in trafficking, to make sure people aren't driving while under the influence. So that's going to be their priorities from now on.

COSTELLO: So what might this decision mean for other states who are possibly considering legalizing marijuana?

PEREZ: Well, you know, I think it's a signal to those states. There is -- there are some efforts in many states to try to get similar items in referendums before voters. There are some states where that is more likely to pass. There are somewhere it probably won't. At the end of the day, the administration would prefer for Congress to deal with this issue. They don't want to fight with the states over this type of thing and they think that the prosecutors have better things to do with their time.

COSTELLO: Well, I can tell you that the lobbyists fighting to legalize marijuana in all 50 states are quite happy about this decision because their next step will be to go into every state in the union and say, what's up with the legal recreational marijuana use, right?

PEREZ: That's exactly right. Look, there is a generational change with the sentiment of the public on this issue. It does appear that we're headed in that direction. There's still a lot of opposition in law enforcement, in the DEA, for instance because they think that this fuzzies up the law and makes their job for difficult. There was criticism in Congress last night because it basically means that the federal government and Attorney General Eric Holder are going to turn a blind eye and not enforce certain parts of this law.

COSTELLO: All right, CNN Justice Reporter Evan Perez, thanks so much.

PEREZ: Thanks, Carol. Still to come in the NEWSROOM, Yosemite officials say they will let the fire burn. It's actually official park policy. We'll tell you about that next.


COSTELLO: Bet you can't wait to hit the road this weekend. You won't be alone, 34 million Americans packing up the car and hitting the road for one last summer vacation. But if you're heading towards Yosemite, the rim fire may complicate your Labor Day plans. Indra Petersons has the forecast. Good morning.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, Carol. Unfortunately, this is one of the biggest fires in California wildfire history. This is so big, I want to give you a perspective, it is bigger than New York City. Unfortunately, a lot of people don't know there's a change in how they fight these fires once you get into the national park. You can see the outline of the rim fire and the national park. They are fighting this with everything that they have where it's not part of the national park. But once they go inside that line, there's a policy of let it burn.

So with that, they want to protect that natural ecosystem so they are going to continue to let it burn. There's also concern with budget. With that, keep in mind, the majority of the park is still opened but they are going to let this burn until the first rains or snow makes its way into the area. Labor Day forecast, a lot of heat in the Midwest. We finally have good news for you.

You're going to see the temperatures back off. It's a cold front on Saturday and Sunday. Right when it counts, you're going to get the temperatures back to 70 in Minneapolis. By Sunday, you're going to love that, but remember it's the cold front, warm, moist air banking up against the colder, drier air. You trigger the thunderstorms.

We have two cold fronts making their way through the country. Watch this first one here, talking about showers in the Ohio Valley. In the northeast and mid-Atlantic, that means rain. There are two of these systems so by the time it goes into Saturday and Sunday, it's merging and even more chances for rain right on the day that it counts on Labor Day. Do you like me now -- probably not.

COSTELLO: You're not making many friends.

PETERSONS: Never am.

COSTELLO: Thank you, Indra.

Checking our top stories at 18 minutes past the time, secret black budget for the federal intelligence spending is now public for the first time because of NSA leaker Edward Snowden. "Washington Post" reports U.S. spy agencies will spend about $53 billion this year. But according to never before seen documents, they are still failing to provide the president with critical information about national security threats.

The wife of rocker, Ted Nugent, was arrested at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport after security agents found a gun in her carryon bag. Sharmaine Ann Nugent was taken into custody. "The Dallas Morning News" reports her lawyer said simply forgot the gun was her bag, called it as an honest mistake. The "Dallas Morning News" reports her lawyer said she simply forgot the gun was in her bag, called it an honest mistake. S he has a concealed weapons carry.

In sports, the NFL has reached a deal with thousands of former players and their families to settlement a concussion lawsuit. The deal calls for the legal to pay $765 million to fund medical exams, concussion compensation, medical research and legal fees, the NFL would not have to admit any liability, a just concussion and legal fees. The NFL would not have to admit any liability. A judge must still sign off on the deal.

Watch as the governor of South Dakota jumps out of an airplane. It was his very first skydive. According to news reports, the stuff was a payoff for a bet. He agreed to jump for a local dairy queen. They ended up selling more than 38,000. Still to come in the NEWSROOM, he is one of Russia's best known gay activists and that may have prompted a raid on his home. A live report from Moscow after this.


COSTELLO: Russia's anti-gay crackdown, investigators raided his home. The activist says prosecutors ransacked his apartment and taking several pieces of equipment. Good morning, Phil.

PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Carol. Yes, even before Russia recently introduced this anti-gay propaganda, Russia is, no, a gay-friendly place. He's easily the most outspoken and active gay rights campaigner. He's been arrested many times. But now his home has been searched as a result of an investigation that came from comments he made online. He used Twitter to criticize some of the politicians that were behind this anti-gay proposition.

They responded by demanding a criminal investigation, accusing him of breaking the law by insulting government officials, by insulting representatives. He already previously had been summoned to a police station and interrogated this search of his home, this raid took place at very short and almost no notice. They went through every room in the House and, yes, took some of his belongings as well.

He doesn't know what will happen next. It's not unusual for proponents of this government to feel the hate from the authorities. Sometimes and often it does go through the prosecution. He's not sure what will happen now -- Carol.

COSTELLO: I was just going to ask you, does he feel safe?

BLACK: Well, safe to an extent. A lot of the members of Russia's gay community feel significantly less safe than they did before this recent anti-gay law was passed. Just to remind you, it's a law that makes it illegal to promote the idea that gay and straight relationships are equal. It makes it illegal to promote that concept to children. Gay activists say it basically rules out or outlaws any sort of further fight for gay rights.

And they also believe it sends a very strong message of intolerance to the rest of the Russian population and they say there has been an increase in anti-gay violence both from the authorities and from other Russian civilians as well. So from his point of view and other activists, they believe it's an increasingly unfriendly and unsafe place for people in this country.

COSTELLO: Phil Black reporting live from Moscow, thank you.

Still to come, Superman and Batman is headed to the city. They are trying to save the city from disaster. More on that after the break.


COSTELLO: Happening now in the NEWSROOM, assigning blame and making plans for the chemical attack in Syria. Plus -- holy cow, superheroes team up and head to Detroit, Batman, Superman bringing millions to the motor city. But can they save the city in the brink?

And back in the saddle. Ryan Vickers returns to the saddle after a brush with death. CNN "NEWSROOM" starts now. Good morning. I'm Carol Costello. Thank you for joining me. A coalition to support military strikes on Syria appears to be unravelling as a key ally backs away. Britain's refusal to take part "the British aren't coming," the British aren't laughing. CNN's Atika Shubert is live in London.

ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. Just to give you a sense of what the headlines are looking like here. "Cam down" from "The Sun" and humiliated, as MP no to Syria strikes." And that's the main word throughout the headlines here, is humiliated. Basically, it was a resounding defeat.