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White House Outlines Syria Intel; "Strong Evidence of Chemical Weapons"; Interview with Congressman Eliot Engel of New York; Holiday Travel; Tylenol Beefing Up Warning; Vicious School Bus Beating

Aired August 30, 2013 - 08:00   ET


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Now, Britain says the U.S. will have to go it alone. We're covering all the angles.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: New warning about one of the most common pain relievers on the shelves. Why the maker of Tylenol is now making this big move.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: Holiday road. Tens of millions of Americans hitting the road for the long weekend. But the price you pay at the pump now set to spike. How high will it go?

COUMO: Your NEW DAY continues right now.



ANNOUNCER: What you need to know --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You could have killed this young man. That child was just defenseless.

ANNOUNCER: What you just have to see.

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


BOLDUAN: Good morning. Welcome back to NEW DAY, everyone. It is Friday, August 30th and 8:00 in the East.

Coming up in this hour, we're going to take a closer look at the big question facing the country now. Will the U.S. strike Syria? This as the administration is set to release its unclassified reports on intelligence and on chemical attacks in Syria. In a few minutes, we're going to ask a key member of Congress about the intelligence that the administration shared with him.

CUOMO: And we're also going to take a closer look at that vicious bus beating that sickened so many people this summer. Remember, down there in Florida, three teens against one kid. The bullies pleaded guilty, apologized, but even members of their own families wonder if the punishment is enough -- just probation.

You're going to hear from one of them in just minutes in an interview only here on NEW DAY.

PEREIRA: And I'm going to say that NEW DAY today needs a heaping helping of baby pandas. We've got it.

This is the scene right inside the panda exhibit right inside the Atlanta zoo. We're going to give you an up-close view of two newborn pandas. We're going to head back there for much more of what is black, white and cute all over.

CUOMO: Good.

BOLDUAN: Let's get first to the big story today -- Syria. The White House presenting its case to lawmakers following a surprise no-vote from the British parliament. British Prime Minister David Cameron saying military action from his country will not be happening now. A top Russian official says that vote is in line with the opinion across Europe.

President Obama, however, says the evidence is clear the Assad regime was behind that deadly chemical attack on the Syrian people.

We're following all the late-breaking developments on this story and there are a lot. Let's start with Dana Bash on Capitol Hill -- Dana.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, I'm told that the administration has already began to declassify and release some of that information. They did it in a briefing for select members of Congress who demanding input on what the administration's plans may be with Syria and evidence that any U.S. force there may be justified.


BASH (voice-over): CNN is told top Obama officials insisted to lawmakers on the Thursday night conference call they have no doubt Bashar Assad's regime in Syria was behind deadly chemical attacks there.

Secretaries of state, defense and others backed that up by revealing to lawmakers that the U.S. intercepted communications from a high level Syrian official, which clearly indicates they were responsible for these weapons, that according to Congressman Eliot Engel who participated in the call.

Though, Obama officials insisted no decisions have been made on military action against Syria, CNN is also told they privately made clear to lawmakers that chemical weapons in Syria is such a threat the U.S. could engage with or without support from critical allies like Great Britain.

One key GOP senator, Bob Corker, emerged from briefings Thursday announcing support for what he called "surgical, proportional military strikes given the strong evidence of the Assad regime's continued use of chemical warfare."

Democratic Senate Foreign Relations Chair Bob Menendez reaffirmed his support too saying a decisive and consequential U.S. response is justified and warranted. Others argued the president still has to come before Congress and the American people before he acts.

HOWARD "BUCK" MCKEON, REPUBLICAN U.S. CONGRESSMAN: It's up to the president to sell this to the American people and pass it (ph).


BASH: This attempt to consult with lawmakers left many highly unsatisfied. Some Republicans say they still have no idea what the United States' plans are. At least options are, even militarily and they're demanding more answers.

Chris, the thing to keep in mind is that the select members of Congress are on this call tend to be on the committees that make them more hawkish. So, if they're giving the administration trouble, you can imagine what other rank and file lawmakers in both parties are thinking and hearing from their constituents back home.

CUOMO: Strong point, Dana. Thank you the reporting this morning.

The president is set to address some of these concerns by releasing declassified intelligence on Syria today.

Senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta is following developments.

Good morning, Jim. What can you tell us?


We can tell you senior administration officials are saying that the White House is expect today release that unclassified intelligence report on last week's chemical weapons attack in Syria. That intelligence report, as Dana was mentioning just a few moments ago, should include some of the information that was briefed to Congress last night on intelligence intercepts that the White House says indicates that top Syrian leaders are responsible for that poisoned gas attack.

Meanwhile, with respect to what's happening overseas, there was that disappointing vote in the British parliament yesterday. Two White House officials and they are responding, essentially, by saying now, Chris and Kate, that the U.S. may have to take unilateral action. I talked to a senior U.S. official last night who said they care what the British think. They value the process and they're going to make a decision that they have to make.

Now, a window of opportunity for the president to launch strikes opens up this weekend when U.N. weapons inspectors are expected to leave Syria on Saturday. No timetable yet from this White House and they continue to say that the president has not yet made a decision to strike. So, we're waiting for further developments.

The president will be appearing briefly, publicly here at the White House. He's meeting with some foreign leaders and there may be a chance for the president to say something there. But no word yet from the White House on that -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: All right, Jim. Thank you for that from the White House this morning.

Let's talk much more on this with one of the lawmakers on the conference call last night, Congressman Eliot Engel of New York. He's a top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and will be key in this debate going forward.

Congressman, thank you so much for coming in to talk about this very important issue. It's changing really almost at the moment, but coming off that conference call, are you as confident of the intelligence? Are you as confident that the Assad regime was behind this chemical attack and also that this means the United States should go in with the military strike, as the administration appears to be?

REP. ELIOT ENGEL (D-NY), RANKING DEM., HOUSE FOREIGN AFFAIRS CMTE.: Well, I'm confident we were told yesterday by both Secretary Kerry and Secretary Hagel that there is no doubt that the Assad regime was responsible for this chemical attack. You can even tell by their actions. If they were not responsible, then they should have welcomed international inspectors immediately into their country. They waited five days before they allowed anybody to come in and there is evidence that they tampered with -- with evidence, as well.

So, if you're really innocent, you would welcome international inspectors. The fact that they obstructed them tells you right there. We were also told yesterday that there were communications that were intercepted that leave no doubt in anyone's mind that Assad's regime and Syria was responsible for these horrific chemical attacks on civilian population.

CUOMO: I want to ask you about those intercepted communications. But, first, some of your colleagues, especially Republican colleagues, they came off that call with a different impression. They were not so convinced. They are very critical of the administration that they were too vague on what the plan is.

Of course, we understand these were not secure lines. You cannot pass along classified information on this conference call.

But what makes you confident? What is the end game? What would you support?

ENGEL: Well, the same people, my Republican friends in Congress that are criticizing the president now, have been criticizing him for the past two months for doing nothing. They say he was doing nothing.

BOLDUAN: Do you think they were too vague, though? Do they -- do your -- do members of Congress and the American people deserve to have more information about what the end game is here?

ENGEL: Well, to me, it's very simple. If we allow a rogue regime to gas its own people, to gas its own civilians -- those pictures of children choking and dying and foaming at the mouth is something that will live with me for the rest of my life -- then I think it tells every despot in the world, every regime in the world, every terrorist organization in the world that they can gas their own people and gas any people and they'll get away with it.

I think it's important to take a stand and take a strong stand to say this is a war crime and it's unacceptable and we're not going to let it pass.

BOLDUAN: What do you make of, especially I mean the latest example is the vote in the British parliament. David Cameron came out really clearly today to say that the U.K. will not be involved with military action.

So, should the U.S. go it alone?

ENGEL: Well, we don't know if it will be alone. There will be other nations that will join us, even if the U.K. does not.

BOLDUAN: But it's a huge statement when Great Britain says we're not going it be involved.

ENGEL: It was made very clear that the president of the United States will make a decision based on what he feels is best for the United States and what any other country does in their parliament is what they do, but it doesn't mean that they have veto power over what we do. I think that we are the leaders of the free world and we stand for something. And we ought to show that this is not something that we could let stand.

BOLDUAN: Would you support -- if -- since we haven't heard other support from other countries yet for military action yet specifically, would you support the U.S. going it alone?

ENGEL: Well, I think if we have to, then I think we will. I would much prefer, obviously, if it was an international coalition and there will be other countries that will support us.

BOLDUAN: What do you think?

ENGEL: There are countries in the Middle East. I think countries like Saudi Arabia, like Turkey who understand the threat that Assad poses. I mean, you just cannot have a government committing these kind of war crimes and let them get away with a slap on the wrist.

BOLDUAN: Now you heard, obviously, as would be expected as you're on a key committee much more than the American people know about what the -- what the administration knows. I want to ask you about what came out of that call. Some of that -- some of the evidence was some key communications that were intercepted from a high-level Syrian official is how it's been described. How high does this go, though? Can do -- did they tell you this went all the way to the top to Bashar al-Assad being directly involved?

ENGEL: Well, there is no question that Bashar al-Assad was directly involved. That he knew what happens -- nothing happens in Syria without his involvement. It's not where some underling can make a decision to do it. He has to approve this. And he is aligning himself with terrorist group, Hezbollah. He's become Iran's proxy in Syria. I mean, this is a dangerous guy. I think the president of the United States will make a decision and it was emphasized to us last night that no decision has yet been made by the president. No time table has yet been decided and the scope of what the president will decide has not been determined.

The president will do it. I support the president. I think he's doing the right thing. I think that we have a moral responsibility to act and say that we will not allow the gassing of children. And I think that's a very important statement for the United States of America to make.

BOLDUAN: On the intelligence, just one real quick question. What do you know about the reports linking Assad's brother, a top commander in the Syrian Army to this intercepted communications, to these chemical attacks?

ENGEL: Well, on the call last night and, again, it was Secretary Kerry and Secretary Hagel, Susan Rice and the other top people --

BOLDUAN: The people who would know.

ENGEL: -- who would know.

They didn't specifically say who it was, but they said it was top level in the Syrian government. They intercepted some communications, which leaves no doubt in anybody's mind that the Assad government was responsible for these horrific crimes.

BOLDUAN: How we respond, when and how far we go is the key question now that we all need to be talking about. Congressman --

ENGEL: That's the key question and I think, again, the president is doing the right thing.

BOLDUAN: Congressman, it's great to have you here.

ENGEL: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Thank you so much, heading right back to Washington to get to work. Thank you so much, Congressman.


CUOMO: All right. Kate, Labor Day weekend is here. So, let's figure out what will bring it's -- come along with it.

AAA says 34 million Americans are going to hit the road this weekend. That's up 4 percent from last year.

So, let's figure out, first, what it's going to look like for all of us. Indra Petersons has the holiday forecast, and then we'll bring Christine Romans. She's the one who told me that gas prices were cheaper this year and she'll take us through what will happen.

Let's start with Indra.

Indra, what do we expect.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, one thing we definitely need are these temperatures to come down in the Midwest and the good news it will eventually get there. Unfortunately today, possible record breaking heat in Des Moines, looking for temperatures right at the century mark. That is good, 15 to 20 degrees above normal across the area.

The big change is going to be a cold front will swoop through Saturday into Sunday. You're not going to feel that change until Sunday. But eventually, you see those temperatures moderate behind the cold front.

Keep in mind, though, once you put warm air right next to cold air, you are going to start triggering some thunderstorms. And that's what's going to be looking at as two systems make their way through over holiday weekend.

Here's what it looks like today. Then, we take you through tomorrow, Ohio Valley starts to get that rain and move forward Saturday into Sunday, you'll start to see the mid-Atlantic and even down to the Southeast start to see more showers and difficult by Sunday and Monday and looks like we're seeing heavier rain once we finish off the Labor Day weekend.

CUOMO: All right. So, that gives us the weather. The big question is now, what about prices at the pump? We all have big drives to make.

Let's get to Christine Romans.

What do we know, my friend?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is what we know. Gas prices moving higher right now. They're following gas prices near two-year highs.

A gallon of regular gas up 2 pennies today, that's according to AAA. But AAA says you're going to see more people driving this weekend because gas up 2 pennies overnight, still a lot cheaper than it was last year. It's about 20 cents cheaper today than it was last year.

Here's my advice, though, fill it up all the way while you can. The risks are for higher gasoline prices ahead. Why? A strike on Syria could boost gas prices in the short term. Crude oil prices, Chris, are up 8 percent in the last week along.

There are other risks, too. A hurricane in the Gulf. Last year, one of the reasons why gas prices were so much higher last year, there was Hurricane Isaac in the Gulf, and refinery glitches, these are all risks heading into the fall that could drive gas prices higher, Chris.

CUOMO: All right. Good info to have. Thank you very much, Christine Romans.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

CUOMO: A lot of news, as well. So, let's get right to Michaela Pereira -- Mick.

PEREIRA: All right. Thanks so much, Chris.

Making news -- crews fire -- fighting, rather, the fire in and around Yosemite National Park still have their hands full, but progress, we're told, is visible. Nearly 200,000 acres are burned and thousands of structures are still threatened, but firefighters that kept the flames from encroaching on Yosemite's tourist areas is at 2 percent containment right now. Folks evacuated from several communities can actually returned home.

A storm cell that dropped several inches of rain on Forest Falls, California, look at this, triggered mudslides. The mud and debris flows are blocking access roads in five different locations. Right now, 1,500 people who live there cannot get in or out of Millcreek Canyon. One of the mud close stretches out for a quarter mile. That's one of the concerns when these hard hit fire areas then have massive amounts of rain.

In our royal watch, the Duchess of Cambridge making her first appearance since becoming a mom at an ultramarathon on an island off the coast of Wales. She and the prince met volunteers, some of the runners, and their families before the start of the grueling 135-mile race. Prince George did not come along for that outing.

The feds won't get involved when it comes to marijuana in states that have legalized it. The justice department says it will not challenge laws in Colorado and Washington that let people buy, use and grow it. Federal officials say they're instead going to focus on keeping marijuana away from children.

So, let me ask you a question, so, you build yourself a lovely tree house, 30 feet up. How do you get up to it? Because, you know, the whole ladder climbing thing, so old. My man did it. Ethan Slowsler (ph) got super creative. Borrowing on technology that's already existing, the bicycle, a great intervention.


PEREIRA: He said had to do some welding. He had to take it with the gears and chain and all to get it to work, but come on, that speaks for itself. Pedal power to the rescue. And then the ride down, kind of fun.

BOLDUAN: I see a fault, though, here, people. You get up and then how do you get into the tree house?

PEREIRA: But you know what, Kate, that is an engineering issue with the tree house, not the elevator.

BOLDUAN: Good point.

PEREIRA: Right? BOLDUAN: Thank you.

CUOMO: Yes. In the land of crazy, obviously, the elevator has to have something to do with how you get on the tree house.

BOLDUAN: You like to stay in the land of crazy as much as possible.

PEREIRA: Yes. We --


CUOMO: You figure out that bike, you can figure out how to get into the tree house. What a tree house it was.

PEREIRA: As a good one.

CUOMO: Much better than the refrigerator box I stuck in the tree for my kids.


CUOMO: Going to take a break here on NEW DAY. When you come back, hey, Extra Strength Tylenol, we've heard warnings before, right? But you got to listen up because the company thinks there needs to be a new one because of major health risks associated with the popular pain killer. We're going to tell you what you need to know.

BOLDUAN: And guilty pleas and probation for three teenagers who beat up a classmate on a Florida school bus. It was all caught on camera. One of their legal guardians is talking exclusively to CNN. What does she think about the sentence? You'll only hear it here.


BOLDUAN: Welcome back to NEW DAY, everyone. Something that's probably most likely in your medicine cabinet right now will soon be getting a very new safety makeover. Come October, expect to see a new warning on the caps of Extra Strength Tylenol. Why? Well, that's why senior medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen, is here to explain. So, Elizabeth, what is this new cap going to say?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Kate, the cap is going to be really simple, you can't miss it. It is going to say that this product contains acetaminophen. You can see it. That's what it's going to look like. And the reason for that is the acetaminophen overdose had become a big problem in this country.

Responsible for 56,000 emergency room visits every year and about 500 deaths. Now, some of those are intentional. People are actually trying to hurt themselves, but many of them are accidental -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: So, we all know an overdose means you are taking too much. And it clearly says on the bottle how much Tylenol you should be taking over a certain period of time. So, why are they so concerned these overdoses are happening so often? COHEN: You know what, Kate, some people just disregard the directions. If it says take one, they think, oh, two must be there or three or four or five. But sometimes, people are overdosing completely by mistake. They don't realize that they're getting acetaminophen in Tylenol and in other products. They don't realize this.

So, let's say, for example, you've had surgery, your doctor prescribes Percocet, that has acetaminophen and you might not even know it. Then it doesn't quite work as well as you like, so you take some Tylenol. Then, at the end of the evening, you're uncomfortable from your surgery. You want to sleep well, you take Nyquil. Nyquil also has acetaminophen.

So, you probably don't even realize that you've gotten a triple dose of acetaminophen. And if you do that for about a week, you can go actually into acute liver failure. So, this stuff can be very, very dangerous. And you don't always realize that you've taken it.

BOLDUAN: I think that's an excellent point and should be made more often. I'm sure we've all been victim to that and done it ourselves.

COHEN: Easy to do.

BOLDUAN: Easy to do.

COHEN: Easy to do.

BOLDUAN: Clearly. Thank you so much, Elizabeth. An important new warning that everyone should know about. Thank you.

CUOMO: Coming up next here on NEW DAY, cutting edge technology in forensic science. A top secret U.S. intelligence document has leaked and it's been revealing the true story behind the Bin Laden raid. You'll want to hear it.

BOLDUAN: And, everybody loves a panda, right? Well, like that guy right there as we take this live look inside the Atlanta Zoo. He has two new young brothers, hence, why he's eating so much, he's depressed. I'm just kidding. These two little pandas could be the cutest things you've ever seen. We're going to take you inside the nursery.


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

CUOMO: Welcome back to NEW DAY. It's Friday, August 30th. Our new Black in America documentary focuses on the achievement gap. It's going to air tonight on CNN. Soledad O'Brien will be here with a preview.

BOLDUAN: And we're looking live at the panda exhibit at the Atlanta Zoo. Look at that guy chomping down. They're so cute when they're big. They're even cuter when they're little. We're going to take you inside zoo Atlanta to get an up close look at those very rare panda cub twins.

CUOMO: But first, we want to give you a deeper look into this story that we've been following. This vicious school bus beating in Florida. All three 15-year-olds have pleaded guilty to attacking a 13-year-old classmate in July. The juvenile court judge sentenced each to indefinite probation, but not before playing once again that shocking video that caused so much outrage. Pamela Brown is in Clearwater, Florida this morning with the latest this morning. Good morning, Pamela.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, Chris. It was very difficult to watch that video again in court yesterday, even for the prosecutor who got emotional because it was the first time that we saw it from beginning to end, seeing the moment right before the attack as well. And we heard for the first time from those 15-year- old boys about why they chose to viciously attack the 13-year-old victim.

Now, we spoke exclusively to one of their legal guardians who said she is making sure her grandson is paying the full price for his actions.


BROWN (voice-over): Watch as this video displayed in juvenile court shows the three 15-year-old boy taunting the 13-year-old victim as he crouches in his seat. Moments later, this. A vicious attack. Video so powerful, even the prosecutor choked up.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You could have killed this young man.

BROWN: One of the defendants' legal guardians, Dionne Miller, says watching the video made her want to save the victim from her own grandson.

DIONNE MILLER, BUS BEATING DEFENDANT'S GRANDMOTHER/GUARDIAN: That child was just defenseless. And for that to happen to him, you know, it just made me angry as a parent. And wanting to be in there to help him.

BROWN: In court, the teens handed over apology letters and blame their actions on peer pressure after they say the victim wrongly accused them of selling drugs.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is what somebody else told me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was being a follower.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was angry. I felt disrespected because something was said about me that wasn't true.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: had you gone to adult court, there is very little doubt in my mind that you'd be heading to some type of prison.

BROWN: Instead, the three teens were given indefinite supervise probation due to their age and first offender status. Among the measures, electronic monitoring, anger management counseling, a strict curfew, community service, and drug testing. Miller says she believes her grandson has learned a tough lesson.

MILLER: When kids are away from home, they do what they choose to do. And yes, we have spoken to them several times about hanging around the wrong people, about there are always consequences of things that you do rather positive or negative. There are going to be consequences.

BROWN: How are you handling this? I mean, how does a parent discipline their child after such a vicious act?

MILLER: You know, I told him, I said you wanted to act like a criminal, we're going to treat you like a criminal, you know? If we watch TV, you watch what we watch on television. I say that's how they do it in jail, so that's how we're going to do it at home.


BROWN (on-camera): And interesting here, Miller says that she actually thinks her grandson and the other two teens should have been incarcerated for a few weeks so that they knew what that was like. But the prosecution maintains that giving a stricter punishment would have done more harm than good.