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Making The Case to Congress; USS Nimitz Moving into Red Sea; Syria Strike Delayed; Arab League Scolds Syria; Progress Fighting the "Rim Fire"; Fukushima Radiation; Railing Collapses at High School Football Game; Swimmer's Fifth Cuba-Florida Attempt

Aired September 2, 2013 - 06:00   ET



BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I will seek authorization for the use of force in Congress.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Full core press. President Obama making his case to Congress for a strike on Syria, classified briefings with congressmen. Today, hear what the lawmakers are saying.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: For the history books. American swimmer Diana Nyad closer than ever, just miles from the Florida shore. Her dream to swim from Cuba to the U.S. nearly in sight. We're live with the latest.

CUOMO: Close call. The terrifying moments caught on tape. A driver nearly washed away by a mud slide.

Then this, a giant boulder thundering down after it. Your NEW DAY starts right now.

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


CUOMO: Good morning, everybody. Welcome to NEW DAY. It's Labor Day, right?


CUOMO: Monday September 2nd, 6:00 in the East and we are watching one really tough job in progress this morning. Take a look at the map, this is the route Diana Nyad is taking. Look how close she is now to Florida. We all know who she is. This is her fifth attempt to swim the 103 miles. She tried for the first time in 1978.

Many thought she'd never be able to do it. The rough seas, dangerous jelly fish, and it was just all too much. But now, she's expected to arrive within hours, way ahead of schedule, and we're going to bring it to you as soon as it happens.

BOLDUAN: What an amazing seat. Plus, take a look at this video. A mudslide in Nevada, the driver inside that car trapped, had to be rescued an the forecast calling for even more flash floods across the country today. We're going to be tracking some very wet Labor Day weather for you this morning.

CUOMO: We also have breaking news this morning out of Syria. We've been tracking what's happening here with the move for approval of Congress, but we have two pieces of news internationally for you. First, the aircraft carrier, U.S. Nimmet (ph) is one of five ships moving into the ritzy area.

U.S. military assets of the naval variety going there. Also, word that the U.S. marines have had their website hacked. Let's get right to Brianna Keilar for the latest on this covering all of it out of the White House. Brianna, are you with us?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Chris. I sure am. You know, after a very dramatic weekend, President Obama and his top aides are flooding the zone as they put it trying to win over lawmakers and that's because this bet on Congress is not a sure thing.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No comment, thank you.

KEILAR (voice-over): Secret briefings on Capitol Hill. The White House is making its case to skeptical lawmakers. On CNN, Secretary of John Kerry revealing new evidence to back claims the Assad regime killed hundreds with nerve gas.

JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: Blood and hair samples that have come to us have tested positive for signatures of sarin.

KEILAR: The president's team moving quickly after his surprise decision to put a Syria strike on hold saying Congress should approve.

OBAMA: And all of us should be accountable as we move forward.

KEILAR: His aides insist he's been thinking about reversing course even before the British parliament embarrassed Prime Minister David Cameron on Thursday. Friday though he sends Kerry out to argue for urgent action.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is the risk of doing nothing?

KEILAR: Later that day, he signals second thoughts.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Nobody ends up being more warrior than me.

KEILAR: But aides say he didn't tell anyone until Friday at 6 p.m. when he takes a 45-minute walk with Chief of Staff Dennis McDonough. At 7:00 he tells husband national security staff sparking a heated debate. Saturday morning he calls his top team to the situation room to finalize his plan, congressional leaders from the oval office to get them on board then heads to the Rose Garden to stun the world.

OBAMA: I will seek authorization for the use of force from the American people's representatives in Congress.


KEILAR: Now, complicating matters this week, President Obama has an international trip. He heads to Sweden and Russia tomorrow. He isn't back until the end of the week. A senior administration official insists he will be fully engaged while he is abroad, but still that's sort of a tough lift from so far away -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely and a very busy week ahead for the president and everyone in Washington. Brianna, thanks so much. The Obama administration is facing an uphill battle as it tries to summon Congress for a military strike on Syria.

Chief congressional correspondent Dana Bash is live on Capitol Hill with more on this. Dana, a busy weekend for lawmakers and they had plenty to say about the president's decision. So what are you hearing this morning?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Kate, based on conversations that I had with countless lawmakers. The White House is going to have-to-do a lot more than flood the zone as they're calling it. People are saying that the votes simply are not there yet for congressional authorization. What they want to hear from the White House is more specifics about the military strategy and what exactly they want the do after these strikes.


BASH (voice-over): One after another lawmakers emerged from a classified briefing intended to convince them to authorize force in Syria supremely unconvinced. Republicans --

REP. MICHAEL BURGESS (R), TEXAS: Certainly the mood in the district that I represent is, do not do this, and I honestly didn't hear anything that told me I thought to have a different position.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm a no based on the information that I have now.

BASH: And many of the president's fellow Democrats.

REP. JIM HIMES (D), CONNECTICUT: I'm still very skeptical about the president's proposal. It's not clear to me that we know what the results of this attack would be meaning will it be effective?

BASH (on camera): If a vote were taken today, would be a yes or no?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I honestly cannot say.

BASH (voice-over): Democrat Janice Hahn took the red eye from California seeking answers that left with lots of questions.

REP. JANICE HAHN (D), CALIFORNIA: We want there to be some consequences. What is that? Is that just going to war? Is that bombing? Is that killing more people? I'm not there yet. I would not vote for it today. BASH: To be short, the president does have some support.

(on camera): Where are you right now, are you a yes or a no?


BASH (voice-over): But to get enough yes to pass, one thing is clear. This version of authorization the White House sent Congress Saturday night must be changed.

SEN. ROY BLUNT (R), MISSOURI: The biggest single concern among the members may very well have been a very broad request for authority with a supposedly very narrow intent to do anything.

BASH: That concern is bipartisan. Lawmakers say they want to limit the authority they give to the president, specify a time frame for military strikes that make crystal clear no boots on the ground.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Blank checks are even partial blank checks.

BASH (on camera): And this is a blank check --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, this is a partial blank check the way it's currently draft.


BASH: I'm told the White House has made clear they understand that this is going to have to be changed. Kate, I want to give you a window into the political arguments. I'm told administration officials are giving. I'm told inside that classified briefing yesterday what they said is that people should vote for it because, quote, "What would the world think if we vote this down?" Well, lawmakers had been asking, well, what would the world think is this military strike goes awry -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: A lot more convincing to do to say the least. All right, Dana, a long day ahead for you. Thank you so much.

We want to return now to some breaking news this morning. We're just learning about the movement of the aircraft carrier "USS Nimitz" and four other ships moving into the Red Sea. Let's go straight to CNN's Barbara Starr live at the Pentagon for some perspective on what this could mean -- Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning, Kate. U.S. official now confirming the aircraft carrier, "Nimitz" along with four other warships is entering the Red Sea this morning. Of course, this is the vital waterway between the centrally the Persian Gulf region where the aircraft carried had been operating up into the Red Sea, up into the Suez Canal, and on to the Mediterranean.

But by being in the Red Sea, that narrow channel of water you see there, that puts these ships within striking range of Syria. To be clear, U.S. officials are saying there's no plan to use the aircraft, the fighter jets on the deck of the USS "Nimitz" no plan to put U.S. pilots over Syria.

But this kind of fire power and along with the four other warships is what they call prudent planning just in case. It puts a lot of extra fire power directly in the region if the U.S. sees a contingency where it needs it. It puts it in place to respond if it comes to that -- Kate, Chris.

CUOMO: All right, Barbara, thank you very much. Appreciate the reporting this morning. Let's get some analysis. Let's bring in Christiane Amanpour. She is CNN's chief international correspondent and host of CNN International's "AMANPOUR." Christiane, thank you for joining us.


CUOMO: Well, President Obama is looking to Congress for approval, drawing criticism at home and abroad. What is your take on why?

AMANPOUR: Well, look, it's all about what is the international community's response to the highest violation under international humanitarian law and that is the use of weapons of mass destruction, this chemical weapons. Now in England they are reeling in Great Britain from the defeat in parliament. Here in this country, the commentary is still in a state of shock over what happened to David Cameron.

Because it's not just about this potential action, it's about England and Great Britain's position in foreign policy around the world. Plus it's always stood shoulder to shoulder in any of these military operations. In France, which is now turning out to be America's most likely ally if a military operation takes place, French president and his ministers are all debating today and they're sharing the evidence.

They say they're absolutely convinced when they show the evidence it will be a slam dunk if you like in terms of their belief. They have proof that Assad used chemical weapons. There will be a public debate in the French National Assembly, their parliament on Wednesday, but there will be no vote.

Now already though in France former prime from a conservative party is saying, if the U.S. had a vote, if Britain had a vote, why can't we have a vote? So we don't know how that's going to go, but right now the constitution does not require a vote in France and right now the president says there won't be a vote.

CUOMO: All right, Christian, let's refocus on this for one second though, in terms of why President Obama specifically is getting criticism when you look at it in the context of who's closer to moving on Syria than he is. China and Russia cleared it out, right? The U.S. is saying stop to Assad but no sanctions. The U.K. is out. France is deciding, as you said. The Arab League intentionally vague saying necessary actions must be taken. So why the criticism of the United States president when nobody seems any closer than attacking Syria than he? AMANPOUR: Well, that's one of those things that come up every time there's an issue like this. There is really only one super power. There's only one country that historically has done this kind of stuff usually with some kind of a coalition, either U.N. approval or NATO coalition or a smaller coalition of the willing as they like to call it.

This time you're right, it's very, very limited. France and the United States seem to be those who will go in right now. Certainly Turkey wanted to go in. The U.S. finally hasn't asked Turkey to be a part of this and there is a lot of support from other countries whether it's New Zealand, Australia. Those countries have also traditionally gone in with the U.S, but unlikely to in terms of militarily at this point.

Israel obviously could do it, but it won't because it simply doesn't do these kinds of things although it will strike whether its own interest is at stake and it has struck four times in Syria to prevent weapons moving from Syria to Hezbollah, and it has struck with impunity. In other words there was no retaliation.

And Israel feels very strongly that it wants to see and I spoke to the former head of Israeli intelligence just as this debate was all getting underway. Israel would like to see Syria's government forces, its aircrafts, its air power, its chemical weapons ability degraded. That is good for Israel and actually Israel would like to see a really significant strike by the United States. That's probably not going to happen beyond the punitive measures that the president and the secretary of state have already outlined.

CUOMO: Israel being noted right now for their deafening silence on this as they weighed with much other international community. Weighing the potential ups and downs to the attack, Christiane, where is your mind in terms of whether you think this happens?

AMANPOUR: Well, just on Israel, Israel would be silent in this regard. There's nothing in it for Israel to talk publicly about this because it will always be considered the boogy man. People will start blaming it, there will be a conspiracy. It's all because of Israel. That's why they're being quiet right now, but their support is for this action.

If there is action, you know, who knows? We'll see. You guys cover the politics. We'll see what's happening. We know that Barbara Star has reported. We know that all of the military seems to be in place. Let's just remember having covered many of these actions in the past, these are very, very limited. We are not talking about a war.

We're not even talking about an air campaign according what's been publicly stated so far. We're talking about potentially cruise missiles, other kinds of fire power that they call you know standoff, you know, in other words on ships and maybe even planes from far away. It's not a boots on the ground campaign such as the Iraq war of 2003 or, you know, Afghanistan, the first Iraq war, et cetera.

CUOMO: It's an interesting commentary when bombing is not seen as a major military action. Christiane Amanpour, thank you very much.

AMANPOUR: It is, Chris.

CUOMO: Go ahead finish your point, Christiane.

AMANPOUR: No. It's OK. It is. There's no doubt about it. I'm not belittling what it is, but it's not the kind of campaign that we saw being prepared and then activated in Iraq in 2003. It's a very different limited use of fire power. That's the objective. Now what actually happens, we'll see.

CUOMO: And that is the key question. Thank you very much for refocusing and Christiane, always a pleasure, happy Labor Day to you. It's always great to have you on NEW DAY.

AMANPOUR: And to you and all the viewers.

CUOMO: Thank you, Christiane. Christiane Amanpour joining us from London. Now this morning we're going to have a lot more coverage and debate every side of this issue. As you're seeing there, it's gets confusing, should it about politics? Is it about international law? Is it about humanitarian aid? We'll figure it out. We'll have congress members, Eliot Engel, Mike Pompeil and Buck McCain. We're also going to hear debate from former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer, former DNC Chairman Howard Dean. We're going to bring in Republican strategist, Ana Navarro and Columbia Professor Marc Lamont Hill. You couldn't ask for more perspectives.

BOLDUAN: The less I talk the better it is. There is a lot of news developing at this hour though so let's get straight to John Berman in for Michaela this morning. Hi, John.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Thanks so much, Kate. New this morning, Taliban fighters attacking a U.S. base in Afghanistan and paying dearly for it. Several explosions and machine gun fire reported at forward operating base near the border of Pakistan. NATO officials say the coalition troops and Afghan forces killed all of the attackers. No NATO troops were reported killed.

Progress on the fire lines near Yosemite National Park, the rim fire is now 45 percent contained. That's a lot more than last week and the smoke that has blanketed the region is starting to dissipate. Still this is the fourth largest blaze in modern California history. This fire has charred more than 224,000 acres. Eleven homes have been destroyed.

The operator of Japan's heavily damaged Fukushima nuclear plant says that radiation level are 18 times higher than previously thought. That is enough to kill a person within four hours of exposure. Tepco, the plant's operator says it has discovered another leaky pipe at the Fukushima plant. It's leading 230 millisieverts of radiation each hour, that's a lot. This plant was crippled in the 2011 earthquake.

Ford issuing a major recall affecting 370,000 full size sedan. The issue, potential steering shaft corrosion could lead to steering loss. No incidents or injuries have been reported so far. The recall includes Crown Victoria, Mercury Grand Marquis and Lincoln Town cars from 2005 through 2011.

How about this? Friday night freight, cheering fans at a high school football game in Ohio suddenly plunge to the ground. Look at that. That railing just gave way on those bleachers. Police do say a few people were sent to the hospital for treatment. But luckily amazing there were no major injuries. The home team, they beat their rival 41-7, some day there at that high school.

BOLDUAN: That's like probably, what is that, maybe the opening game of the high school season you would think?

BERMAN: A lot of drama on that opening game.

CUOMO: Luckily they were so amp up.

BOLDUAN: On Monday, all those guys were going to be like, I did it. I'm just that strong. Thanks so much, John.

All right. So, take a look at some of these amazing images of destruction near Las Vegas. Heavy rain leads to flash flooding. One woman and her baby had to be rescued from their SUV. You see her there when the water pushed them into a tree, but they're said to be OK, which is very lucky.

So, let's get to Indra Petersons, keeping track of the situation in the southwest, along with the rest of your Labor Day forecast. Good morning, Indra.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning. es, it really doesn't take much rain in the Southwest to seem of these incredible flooding. This is actually (INAUDIBLE) right around Utah. If you're not familiar with this area, it could rain 50 to 100 miles away, Sunny right above you, you get a wall of mud as high as 30 feet come rushing into the area. That is what they saw over the weekend.

I want to show you another video. This is right where the carpenter fire was. And look at the damage from a small cell that kicked through the area.

Definitely, a lot of flooding damage, let me show you what it looks like on the radar. It's one cell that cruised right over the area. And that's the amount of flooding. I mean, five to six feet of mud went right through the regions.

So, unfortunately, this is still going to be the story. We saw all of it over the weekend. All it is, dome of high pressure, typical monsoonal moisture. This is something we see in the southwest this time of year.

And it's just great, some of those thunderstorms that can be heavy and you get a lot of rain in the short period of time, same thing today. You see the flooding concerns in that region.

Then we go to the East Coast, and I'm not making friends. Here comes the second cold front we were waiting for, this one is stronger, more powerful than the first one we're talking about, one to two inches of rain in the mid-Atlantic, Northeast, if you're Maine. John already knows two to four inches rain coming today. Tough.

BOLDUAN: All right. Well, we'll get a check back. Maybe in the next hour, you'll have a different Labor Day forecast.

PETERSONS: Yes, let's try.

BOLDUAN: We'll work on it.

All right. Indra, thanks so much.

CUOMO: Coming up on NEW DAY, we're going to show you some real hard work in action. This is the fifth time that Diana Nyad has tried to swim from Cuba to Florida. It looks like this time might be a charm here. We're going to give you a live report. It could happen in our watch. So, stay with us.

BOLDUAN: Plus, it doesn't get much more frightening than this -- when you're driving, a sudden landslide sends a bolder right on to the highway. We're going to show you what happened, coming up.


CUOMO: Welcome back. Very impressed that you're up here on Labor Day.

Can't think of many stories that capture the effort of labor than what we're seeing with endurance swimmer Diana Nyad. There she is, could make history today. Her fifth attempt to swim from Florida to Cuba -- actually from Cuba to Florida. She's now closer to Key West than anyone has ever swam without a shark cage.

She's swimming so fast than ahead of schedule that our John Zarrella who's in the water right next to her -- no, he is a racing to get close to the situation from when she arrives. That's how fast she's going. So, we only have John on the phone.

John, are you with me?

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Yes, I'm here, Chris.

You're right. We're just actually crossing the seven-mile bridge heading south to Key West. But less than ten miles ago, that's the last report we've gotten, it's gotten a little more difficult for her what the folks on her team are telling us, making frequent stops now, swallowing salt water, which is not a good thing. She's three miles outside the reef, when she gets inside the reef, about seven miles to Key West. Clearly, the last leg is going to have her toughest.


ZARRELLA (voice-over): It seems nothing could keep Diana Nyad from returning to the open waters. At age 64, she's determined to become the first in the world to swim from Cuba to Florida. Last night, she broke the word for distance, swimming farther than anyone without a shark cage or protection from the elements.

She's been swimming for more than 45 hours now and says this fifth attempt will be her last.

DIANA NYAD, ENDURANCE SWIMMER: There's a fine line between having the grace to see that things are bigger than you are and to let your ego go and there's another edge over that fine line where you don't want to ever, ever give up. And I'm still at that place.

ZARRELLA: Here's what she's up against. A growling 103-mile swim estimated to take 80 hours in shark infested waters between Havana, Cuba, and Key West. And then there's these, box jelly fish. Their venom is among the deadliest in the world attacking the heart, nervous system and skin cells.

It's the jelly fish that thwarted her early attempts. So, this time, she's using a custom-made silicon mask to protect herself face and lips from jelly fish swims. But it makes it tougher to breath.

She first attempted the treacherous swim in 1978 when she was 28 years old. Thirty-one years past before she attempted it again twice in 2011 and again last year. She kept up her strength eating and drinking while floating on her back. She says, this is her last chance to achieve her extreme dream.

NYAD: I hope next time I see, it will be to celebrate instead of, say, oh, here we go again.

ZARRELLA: That celebration may be just strokes away.


ZARRELLA: So, now, she's really fighting that exhaustion these last 10 miles. Again, swallowing the salt water, that's never going to be a good thing. So, this is clearly going to be a test of whether there's any adrenaline left in her to kick in, Chris and Kate. And if there is, she's expected to arrive at a public beach in Key West between 4:00 and 6:00 this evening. That's the latest we have -- Chris and Kate.

CUOMO: All right. They adjusted the time schedule back a little bit obviously because of the decrease in the rate. We get that the fatigue is obvious. We get that swallowing the salt water is bad because it has that opposite effect of actually dehydrating you.

But, John, what do we know about what else happens in this leg of the swim that makes it more difficult? Is it currents? Is it temperature? Is it jelly fish? What is it?

ZARRELLA: No, right now, they haven't had any issues with the jelly fish. They haven't had any issues with those box jellyfish. The current was actually a big benefit to them and once they get inside the reef, it's not an issue of what they're fighting in the water other than just the sheer exhaustion after she's already gone more than 90 miles you know swimming.

So, this is really just a test if she's got any gas left in the tank -- Chris.

CUOMO: All right. John, thank you so much for following it. Look forward to the updates on this one.

BOLDUAN: No kidding. How far she's swam already is already an amazing feat. We wish her well. We'll be watching it closely.

Coming up next on NEW DAY: we're also following breaking news out of Syria this morning. U.S. ships moving into the area as President Obama tries to convince Congress to approve a military strike. We will look at all of the angles in the movement.

CUOMO: Plus, a little drama in the dugout for you. A pitcher trapped in the rest room. How does that happen? Good thing the stadium had a crowbar because that's what you need to open a door. Story is coming up. As if the game weren't hard enough.