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Obama Making Case Against Syria; Syria Push Tests Obama- Congress Relationship; Soggy Labor Day; Morsy Supporters Call for Protests; "Rim Fire" Containment Grows; Fukushima Plan Unveiled; Bird Strike Forces Landing; Diana Nyad's Epic Challenge

Aired September 3, 2013 - 06:00   ET



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don't want endless war. Syria is a cancer that's growing in the region.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: The big push, is Congress any closer to approving a plan to attack Syria? Today, the president's national security team faces a grilling on Capitol Hill. We talk live to senators who may influence the outcome.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Epic achievement. Talk about determination, Diana Nyad finally completing that treacherous 112-mile swim. She joins us live this morning.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking overnight, Dennis Rodman landing back in North Korea this morning. Will he try to convince his friend, Kim Jong-Un, to free the American held captive there?

CUOMO: Your NEW DAY starts right now.

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


CUOMO: Good morning. Welcome to NEW DAY. It's Tuesday, September 3rd, 6:00 in the East, and we are following all the developments as the president continues to try to sell Congress on his plan for a military strike against Syria. We're going to talk live to two key senators who may determine whether the president's plan lives or dies. Senator John McCain and then in an exclusive interview, Senator Lindsey Graham.

BOLDUAN: Lots to talk about there.

And then this, a blockbuster deal that's shaking up smartphone wars. Microsoft is buying of Nokia's cell phone business. The $7 billion deal is giving the company a new edge against Apple and Google. We'll break down what this means for you.

PEREIRA: Quite a Labor Day weather weekend. Heavy rains caused flash flooding up and down the East Coast, washing out the Labor Day holiday for many. In one town alone, at least 30 people have to be rescued from the rising waters. And in Florida, a lightning strike turned deadly. We have the incredible images for you coming up.

CUOMO: Up first this morning, President Obama making a big push today. Later this morning, the president meets with House leaders John Boehner and Nancy Pelosi as well as the chairs and ranking members of virtually every key national security committee making the case for military strikes against the Assad regime.

Secretary of State John Kerry, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, and Joint Chiefs Chairman Martin Dempsey also facing the Senate Foreign Relations Committee today in the first public hearing on the possible use of force in Syria. We're going to tap into the global resources of CNN to bring you the most complete coverage of the crisis in Syria.

We begin this morning with Brianna Keilar live at the White House. Good morning, Brianna.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Chris, good morning to you. White House officials that I've spoken with feel pretty positively about their prospects of hammering out an agreement with Congress that would allow them to militarily strike Syria, but they admit there is still a lot of convincing to do.


KEILAR (voice-over): Two key Republicans voicing new optimism about President Obama's plans in Syria after a meeting in the oval office. Senator John McCain, the president's former rival, now a key ally in the fight to get Congress on board for military action.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: We want to work to make that resolution something that majority of the members of both Houses can support.

KEILAR: But it's not going to be an easy road.

MCCAIN: We still have significant concerns.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: We don't want endless more.

KEILAR: Congress has key demands, a limited strike and no boots on the ground. The White House will continue to make the case with them today, behind closed doors in two briefings and in public. Secretary of State John Kerry, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey will testify before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and President Obama hosting a new round of face-to-face meetings with lawmakers, House Speaker John Boehner, Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and 12 other key members of Congress, the White House hoping to articulate a clear strategy to avoid a defeat on Capitol Hill.

REP. MICHAEL BURGESS (R), TEXAS: Certainly the mood at the district that I represent is, do not do this.

REP. GERRY CONNOLLY (D), VIRGINIA: I think we're going to need to take a good hard look at the wording.

KEILAR: Some of them may soon be lobbied from a much different direction, Russia, a friend of the Syrian government, says it will send some of its representatives to meet with members of Congress and Russia is still questioning if chemical weapons were even used. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov saying, "There's nothing concrete, no names and no proof."


KEILAR: The White House this weekend sent a draft of the resolution that Congress could use to authorize the use of force in Syria, and as Congress seeks changes, the White House officials say that's what they anticipated. We didn't expect Congress to just rubber stamp it. That's what one official told me -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: All right, we'll see if those changes can build consensus on Capitol Hill now. Brianna Keilar starting us off in the White House this morning. Thanks, Brianna.

Let's go now to the region where Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad still is denying he used chemical weapons on his own people and he is warning now a military strike by the United States will trigger a widespread war in the Middle East sending the entire region into chaos.

CNN's senior international correspondent Arwa Damon is monitoring the latest developments live from Beirut this morning. Good morning, Arwa.

ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Kate, and those comments coming in a French newspaper, the Syrian president as defiant as ever, almost mocking the notion that his regime was responsible for that alleged chemical attack. He directly is warning the French not to get involved saying, that there would be retaliation against French interests and when it comes to the broader geopolitical dynamics here he says any strike in Syria would be akin to setting off a tinder box, that the repercussions would be felt throughout possibly even catapulting the region into a civil war.

Though some would argue that we are already there, and while there is this entire bait going on, intensifying rhetoric on all sides the United Nations marking a grim milestone, two million people are now refugees in neighboring countries and that's not counting those that have been internally displaced in all of this and the world is failing to be able to adequately finance the needs of those refugees and protect the most vulnerable amongst them -- Chris.

CUOMO: All right, Arwa, thank you very much for the reporting this morning.

Continuing with our analysis here, President Obama is looking to lobby Congress this morning to support a military strike in Syria. Let's figure out the big push points. Let's bring in CNN chief national correspondent John King. John, always great to have you. What are the main points of contention right now and where is the administration in terms of their ability to answer them.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: As we speak this morning, Chris, administration officials and key House leadership aides tell you the president would lose if the vote were today especially in the House, maybe within the Senate. So one of the key pressure points, number one, the language of the resolution Brianna talked about. They want to redefine it, no boots on the ground, define a limited mission, that's key number one.

Number two, the president has a case to make, there are still some people saying do you really have beyond any reasonable doubt, intelligence to prove that A, chemicals were used and B, that the Assad regime did them. There are still some sceptics of that, a bit of an Iraq war hang over there.

Three, here's the most important point, when you have the inside game and outside became, the public hearings on Capitol Hill critical not only to answering those key questions, but to shaping public opinion because right now a lot of lawmakers tell you the safe vote, unlike the Iraq war vote back in the Bush administration, the safe vote is a no vote.

So the president has to sway and the most important people he'll meet with today are the House Republicans. He doesn't have good relationships with them, very few personal relationships with them. They don't trust him. They don't support most of his other policy initiatives. He needs Speaker Boehner and the Republican chairman of those House committees to lobby their own members saying this is the right thing to do even if you don't agree with the president.

CUOMO: The big word we are hearing from members of Congress is urgency. This is an urgent situation. Are they all back? Did they come back so that they can take care of business?

KING: They are not all back. They are starting to trickle back. The key members of those committees, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will have a hearing today, a lot of the key House members from the National Security Committees are making their way back. Lawmakers who want classified briefings. The White House is doing what it calls flooding the zone.

You want to talk to the president, call the president. You want to talk to the National Security adviser they'll schedule a call. You want a classified briefing they'll get you a briefing. So lawmakers are beginning to trickle back in. Obviously, they are not scheduled to be back until next week, but some of them are ramping up their schedules.

CUOMO: It's interesting though that they haven't all come back immediately with what we're facing as a country right now. John King, thank you very much. We'll have you back later in the show obviously. We're going to have a lot more coverage and debate coming up.

We're going to talk with Senator Lindsey Graham and Senator John McCain, they both met with President Obama about a Syrian strike. We're also going to hear from the host of CNN's all new "CROSSFIRE," Van Jones and Newt Gingrich. Stay with us for that.

BOLDUAN: A lot more to talk about on that, but back here at home, Labor Day weekend, Labor Day holiday celebrations that gave way to heavy, heavy rain and flooding for many along the east coast. Police and firefighters have their hands full rescuing stranded drivers in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Let's get straight to CNN meteorologist Indra Petersons here with more on this stormy Labor Day. What are we looking at?

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Bad timing. We actually saw record breaking rain yesterday in Philadelphia, about two inches of rain fell in Providence, Rhode Island. We saw about three inches of rain in a short period of time, unfortunately, that means one thing, and you end up with flash floods.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My neighbor's door had blew off the hinges and was blocking the door right here.

PETERSONS (voice-over): For these New England residents Labor Day was anything but fun in the sun. In Cranston, Rhode Island, a fast moving flash flood water logged this entire neighborhood.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Within seconds, the entire bottom flow is completely flooded. I could barely get out because the water was rushing in so fast.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The water was this high at my patio door and started coming in like a river.

PETERSONS: Firefighters had to rescue at least 30 people by boat. Two separate apartment buildings were flooded by the water. The 6 foot-wall of water caused the floor of one unit to collapse into the basement. In South Florida, a lightning strike killed one man and injured two others. Authorities say the men tried to hide underneath the tractor trailer when it was hit by lightning.

JANET SUAREZ, TRIED TO HELP LIGHTNING STRIKE VICTIMS: We went outside and all three of them were on the ground. One of them is deceased. According to rescue, he was taking his last gasp. There was nothing I could do.

PETERSONS: In Philadelphia, the downpour drenched shoppers' dinner plans. Water rescue units arrived at the scene of this BJ's Wholesale Club where flash flood waters had filled cars with a foot of water.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Got my groceries in, but the shopping cart started floating away. Right now my car won't start, it's dead. It was up to the seats because you can see in my coffee cup holder it's still full of water.

PETERSONS: But the wet weather didn't wash away the spirits of tennis fans after a five-hour rain delay at the U.S. Open and at Yankee Stadium, die-hard fans huddles together to stay dry and wait out the rain.


PETERSONS: That doesn't look good. We're still watching the same cold front, the only difference here is it pushes through the northeast, it will move offshore. But in the southeast, it's expected to sag and last all the way through the weekend. Sounds familiar at all for the south east, more rain all week.

BOLDUAN: All right, Indra, we'll check back in. We want a different forecast next time.

PETERSONS: I'll try.

CUOMO: A lot of other news this morning. Remember, as we talk about Syria another flash point situation in the world Egypt. And Michaela begins there with the news this morning.

PEREIRA: Yes, let's bring you up to date on that, making news this morning, mass protests are expected today in Egypt. Backers of ousted in the Mohamed Morsi are calling for a million people to march the streets of Cairo. It has been two months since Morsi was removed from office by the Egyptian military. Since then more than 900 mostly Islamic protesters have been killed.

Back here at home, the rim fire burning Yosemite National Park now at 70 percent containment. Finally some progress, fire crews there say gained ground on the blaze, which has consumed more than 368 square miles and destroyed at least 11 homes. Most mandatory evacuations were lifted. The thousands of homes do remain threatened by that fire.

Japan's government laying out its plan for dealing with that toxic water leaking from the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant. The country will spend half a billion dollars to freeze the ground so there's no more radioactive runoff and better process tainted water. Massive leak sent some 300 tons of radioactive water into the ground.

A bit of a scare there, Southwest Airlines flight makes an emergency landing after striking a bird during takeoff. One rattled passenger said it had a brutal takeoff and an engine started shooting out flames. After a few minutes everyone seemed to go into panic mode including some of the crew. All 124 passengers were placed on other flights.

Alligator hunters in Mississippi bringing in some big gators, this one, look at this. Saturday Beth Trammel's team caught a 13'5" long gator, 723 pounds. It was the heaviest ever captured in that state until two hours later when Dustin Bachmann's hunting party pulled in another gator over 13 feet long, 727 pounds. Alligator hunting ends in Mississippi on September 9th, still a few more days to go so you never know.

CUOMO: Thanks to the reality show "Swamp People." Every time I see an alligator now I hear a voice in the back of my saying, shoot him, shoot him, shoot him. PEREIRA: I watched an episode and it was like really.

CUOMO: It's 600 pounds but I'm just going to bend its head over the row boat and now all of it comes in, great show.

BOLDUAN: It happens. All right, thanks, Michaela.

CUOMO: Let's take a little break here on "NEW DAY." When we come back, two words, Diana Nyad. Did she do something amazing, so big we make her look like the president, the 64-year-old endurance swimmer finally making it from Cuba to Florida on her fifth try. She's been trying to do this since the '70s. Sanjay Gupta was there to greet her.

BOLDUAN: She is amazing. This will also probably amaze you for a different reason. Dennis Rodman returns to North Korea. Will he try to negotiate the release of an American that's been held there captive?


CUOMO: Welcome back to NEW DAY.

Need inspiration to push on with the challenges of your day, how about Diana Nyad, becomes the first person to ever swim from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage. The 64-year-old spent 53 hours in treacherous waters, 112 miles total swim.

This morning, she is inspiring all of us.

CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta is live in Key West, Florida, where he got a chance to speak with Nyad. Good morning, Sanjay.


This story is about this incredible swim. But I will tell you, we've been following Diana for several years and the story for us really is more about not letting go of a dream. I think anybody listening, yourself included, Chris, has probably had dreams at one point or another, had doubts along with those dreams.

This is a story of how it can turn out. Take a look.


DIANA NYAD, ENDURANCE SWIMMER: I won't get up, because I can't. Hi, honey.

GUPTA: How are you?

NYAD: You know what's so great about it, Sanjay, is that it's all authentic, just it's a great story. You have a dream 35 years ago, doesn't come to fruition but you move on with life -- GUPTA (voice-over): Sunburned and still swollen, that 64-year-old Diana Nyad speaking out about her incredible feat and it's just been hours after swimming across the treacherous waters between Cuba and Florida without a shark cage. It was a dream, decades in the making. And it wasn't always a sure thing.

NYAD: I feel barely alive.

GUPTA: That was Diana's second attempt which was just a few years ago.

NYAD: I don't want to quit but I can barely make an hour right now.

GUPTA: That time, she did quit.

In fact, she tried four separate times over three decades to do something that no human had done before, and each time she failed. Jellyfish stings that nearly killed her, waves that this trashed her. The first time she tried, the 29-year-old media darling looked like this. And it wasn't until her 60th birthday that an older, more determined even brazen Diana Nyad decided to try again.

NYAD: I was driving in my car telling myself you better seize the day, go forward and 60 isn't old.

GUPTA: We have followed Diana every step of the way and this past Saturday, we were there again. This time, she wore a full body suit, gloves, booties and a new silicone mask to protect against those jellyfish stings.

Fifty-three hours and 112 miles of actual swimming and then this.

NYAD: But we should never, ever give up.

GUPTA: But it was no surprise to those of us that know her that she agreed to sit down and talk to us just hours after getting out of the water.

NYAD: I don't wake up gay or even female or 64. I just wake up like a, get me out of another day, you know?

GUPTA: If you're ever wondering what goes on in the head of someone like Diana --

NYAD: My whole mantra this year was: find a way. You don't like it? It's not doing well? Find a way.


GUPTA: I'll tell you, Chris, maybe that's something you're going to incorporate into your own life. I certainly will, when times get tough, when you got to dig deep, find a way. That's what Diana says.

I met a lot of extraordinary people, Chris, as have you. She's one of the most inspiring people I think I've met.

CUOMO: Boy, I have to tell you -- I love everything about this story, Sanjay. It sends all the right messages.

Let me ask you, though, from a medical perspective -- what do you find most impressive about what she was able to endure?

GUPTA: When you're doing an event like this, these extreme medicine doctors we've been interviewing for this documentary told us, you're literally -- you are in a race against your own body. You simply cannot keep up with your hydration and nutrition enough to sustain yourself.

So, this is tough to think about but she's in some ways digesting her own body in order to get through that swim. So, from a medical standpoint it's extraordinary. You can do a few hours of swimming but 53 hours, she's literally starting to digest herself.

And also, you know, it's tough. She could not hold things down. She was throwing up the entire time. You see her at the end, you see her at the beginning, but there was a long, long road obviously in between for us.

BOLDUAN: And, Sanjay, you said you followed her and you followed her story and her for several years. How has she changed?

It was probably quite a moment to sit down with her finally after she has reached this goal, when few really thought she could pull it off.

GUPTA: Yes, you know, it's a good question because I asked her the same thing and I don't think she changed. I think that she always believed it and I will tell you even the closest people around her doubted her. I mean, even the closest people around her refused to go on some of these swims at times and she would just get out there and go out there for 16, 20, 24-hour swim, just think, it's incredible.

So, I asked her if she felt vindicated in some way, she's just not that kind of person. I didn't expect her to say yes, but I think she feels more confident and she wants to keep doing things to spread this message of anybody can do anything at any age.

BOLDUAN: I think for at least a moment she's earned a day of rest before she takes on the next epic challenge.

CUOMO: And, Sanjay, I know you have the triathlon coming up -- you know, Sanjay is a swimmer himself. Hopefully, you carry all this motivation in there. I want to see a personal best in the swim.

GUPTA: I'll just find a way. There you go. I'm going to find a way absolutely.

CUOMO: Sanjay, awesome story. Thank you for bringing us the interview. We'll talk to you later on. It's just great. Appreciate it, Doc.

GUPTA: Any time.

BOLDUAN: Coming up next hour -- I'm sorry, Sanjay. Coming up next hour, we're going to talk to Diana Nyad herself live about her historic swim.

CUOMO: Take a little break here on NEW DAY: when we come back a big move by Microsoft. The company announcing the purchase of Nokia's cell phone business for $7 billion. What does it mean for them and what does it mean for you? We'll tell you.

BOLDUAN: Plus, Dennis Rodman returning to North Korea to visit his -- he calls him a friend, Kim Jong-un, and engage in basketball diplomacy. A live report on what this is all about, just ahead.