Return to Transcripts main page


Selling Congress on Syria Strike; TSA Expands Airport Pre- Screening; Weiner Takes on Heckler; Obama Set to Meet with Gay Activists; Senators Weigh Syria Options; Samsung Debuts Smartwatch

Aired September 5, 2013 - 10:30   ET


CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: So obviously got pretty contagious there. But -- but several of the representatives have some real key questions for the Obama administration including not so much about the air strikes themselves but what comes next. Who are the rebels, what happens if Assad retaliates?

And I think also as well they were listening a lot to what the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey, was saying, about some of the potential risks out there. That Assad could strike out, urging some of his subordinate groups to lash out at American interests. That Syria could fire rockets at some of its neighbors, sparking a more widespread regional war.

So there are some real worries out there as the Obama administration tries to close the deal to get Congress to authorize this strike -- Carol.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: I think Chris what would help many Americans is if President Obama at some point would address the American people and lay out a plan and tell the American people exactly what might happen and how the United States will deal with the ensuing problems.

LAWRENCE: Well Carol some members of Congress must have heard you thinking that out loud because yesterday, Secretary of State Kerry was asked that in a hearing. He was asked wouldn't it help if President Obama himself got out, explained this to the American people, made his case publicly some night soon.

And Secretary Kerry basically signaled that he had no doubt that the President would do that once he's back from this trip in Russia.

COSTELLO: All right we'll -- we'll be waiting.


COSTELLO: Chris Lawrence reporting live from Washington this morning.

CNN has been tallying how Congress will vote. So far the House, 18 Democrats and nine Republicans are backing the President; 23 Democrats and 68 Republicans are against him. And more than 300 lawmakers are either undecided or their feelings are unknown.

In the Senate, 17 Democrats and seven Republicans support a strike against Syria. Three Democrats and 13 Republicans do not, with 58 senators still undecided.

Actually, you can see how your lawmaker plans to vote on a strike against Syria. It's easy. Just go to and click on "Counting Votes". You can click through the interactive tally by state, name and comments. The running tally is based on public statements, press releases and interviews from lawmakers.

Don't you wish you could leave your shoes on at the airport? You know, when you go through security? Well the TSA says it's trying to help you keep those socks clean. Until now, only people ok'd by customs and frequent flyers on certain airlines could get preapproved for a quicker spin through security.

Well now the pre-check program is expanding to include an open application and special fast lanes at 100 airports nationwide. Sure sounds good, Alina Machado.

ALINA MACHADO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It sure does, Carol. Right now, there are 40 airports around the country that have this expedited screening process. That list includes this airport, Atlanta Hartsfield International Airport. TSA is planning to add 60 airports by the end of the year.

Now this TSA pre-check program makes it easier for preapproved travelers to go through security. They can leave their shoes on. They can leave light jackets on as well as belts. And they also do not have to remove their laptops or the liquids out of their carry-on bags.

Now this program has been in effect since October of 2011. And it typically allows people who are part of a frequent traveler program, as you mentioned, to join. You have to be invited by the airline.

But again, TSA is changing that. Now they're going to allow people to apply for the program. All they have to do is complete an application, pay $85. They have to verify their identity and they also have to provide fingerprints to a pre-check enrollment facility.

Carol sounds pretty good. We'll see how this all turns out.

COSTELLO: I don't know. The fingerprint part kind of freaks me out. So the finger -- your fingerprints are kept on file, or do they discard them once they deem you safe?

MACHADO: It seems like they -- they want to see your fingerprints. What they do with that, we're not sure. But they do want to have your fingerprints and they also want you to verify your identity.

COSTELLO: Got you. Alina Machado, live at Atlanta's airport.

Still to come in the NEWSROOM pro-gay speech is outlawed in Russia leading to a violent police crackdown. Now President Obama is set to meet with gay and lesbian activists in Russia.

We'll talk about that.


COSTELLO: A word of advice for all New Yorkers. If you want to go after Anthony Weiner, get ready for Weiner to come right back at you. At least that was the case for one Brooklyn man. Rosa Flores who joins me live from New York to tell us about it. Good morning.

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Carol. Now you and I have talked about this before. And this is not the first time that Anthony Weiner goes toe-to-toe with a potential voter out in the campaign trail. But you know, it usually just involves the sexting scandal. Well this time it's a little different and not only involves the sexting but also his wife.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But I didn't do what you did --

ANTHONY WEINER (D), NEW YORK MAYORAL CANDIDATE: Who thought that you were my judge?

FLORES (voice-over): Embattled mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner in a war of words with a constituent on his final push to next week's Democratic primary. It all happened at this Brooklyn bakery after he paid for some traditional Rosh Hashana (ph) baked goods.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're a real scumbag Anthony.

FLORES: But that's not all listen closely.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Married to an Arab.

FLORES: This man Saul Kessler makes a racial slur about Weiner's wife, Huma Abedin. Kessler tells CNN in a phone interview, "I did say that. I'm not going to deny it. It's just a certain feeling I have as a Jew."

WEINER: But if you're going to say vile things about me and my family you should expect that I'm going to go back at you.

FLORES: Weiner was highly criticized for leaving Congress after sending revealing photographs of himself to women on line. But this time some voters are taking Weiner's side.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If the voter talked about his wife and called him a name -- the man is human.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well I think he's just doing that because he needs to like keep it fresh.

FLORES: But these heated exchanges aren't anything new. This 35- year-old lashed out at Weiner during a campaign event.

WEINER: And I'm not losing sleep over it.

FLORES: And then there's Peg Brunda, challenging him in Staten Island. PEG BRUNDA: Had I conducted to myself in the matter in which you conducted yours, my job would have been gone.

FLORES: While Weiner's popularity continues to plummet in the polls.

KESSLER: Think about your wife --

WEINER: By the way --

KESSLER: How could you take the person --

WEINER: -- by they way, that is between me and her and my God.

FLORES: His notoriety is not going down without a fight.


FLORES: The Democratic primary is less than a week away, and while Anthony Weiner is not leading in the polls, Carol he is still stealing the headlines.

COSTELLO: Oh I know, but that -- that guy might be creating sympathy for Anthony Weiner because it was really a low blow. I mean, leave his wife out of it.

FLORES: You know we talked to a lot of folks here in New York, potential voters. And they said, you know on this one, we definitely take Anthony Weiner's side because it was a really nasty attack against his wife, very uncalled-for.

COSTELLO: Rosa Flores thanks as always.

Still to come in the NEWSROOM, President Obama is set to meet with gay and lesbian activists in St. Petersburg, Russia. But will it do anything to curb the anti-gay crackdown in that country?


COSTELLO: Tomorrow, President Obama is set to sit down with gay and lesbian activists during his trip in Russia. The move seems to fly in the face of Russian law which outlaws pro-gay speech around minors and has led to a crackdown on gays and lesbians. And it's led to international outrage, too.

But Russia's President, Vladimir Putin, told the Associated Press gays are not discriminated against, saying, quote, "I assure you that I work with these people. I sometimes award them with state prizes or decorations for their achievements in various fields. We have absolutely normal relations, and I don't see anything out of the ordinary here."

Joining us to talk about that are leaders of two LGBT activist groups: Ty Cobb, is the director of Global Engagement for the Human Rights Campaign and Rea Carey is the executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. Welcome to you both.



COSTELLO: Oh thanks for being here. So Ty let me start with you. The White House hasn't released details on this meeting that is to take place tomorrow. But what message do you think this sends to Russia?

COBB: Well I think it's two-fold. I think first what he's saying is, "We stand in solidarity with you as LGBT advocates in Russia." But he's also sending a message to President Putin that says "We're watching what you're doing. We're taking notice of what you're doing." And when we think about human rights, we think about the human rights of LGBT people in the U.S.

COSTELLO: Rea, as you well know, a relationship between the United States and Russia isn't exactly warm and cuddly and friendly, right? And we're talking about Syria. So, is this the right time for the President to be sitting down with gay and lesbian groups in Russia, knowing it might irritate President Putin?

CAREY: Well, it's absolutely the right time to insist on the human rights of LGBT people. What we're seeing happening in Russia right now is that as much of the world is moving forward on equality and freedom for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, Russia is moving backward with draconian laws that are harming real people's lives.

COSTELLO: In recent days, too and I quoted some of that AP article and its interview with President Putin, Ty, also in the interview, President Putin said during the Olympics he would not punish in any way those who flew the, you know -- the rainbow flag or painted their fingernails the colors of the rainbow flag.

But he drew the line at any sort of gay pride parade. Does that send any kind -- what kind of message does that send to you?

COBB: Well, it -- it does speak to the point that we are concerned about athletes and visitors that are coming in from other countries. At this point the law as it stands would say if you support equality and you publicly say that while you're in Russia, as a noncitizen, you can be arrested for two weeks and deported.

I think it says that he's noticing there's international pressure to talk about this law. And realizing it's being rejected by the international community.

I also think it shows that pressure is building on him to take notice. Unfortunately, he -- as he says these statements, a new proposal was introduced in their legislature that would suggest taking away the custody of children of gay parents. I don't think there's any intent to go backwards with this assault on the LGBT people in Russia.

COSTELLO: You know, it just comes to mind, Rea, that President Putin shows off his masculinity every day. We see him riding bare-chested on horses and firing guns and slaying bears. Why would he be so threatened by a gay pride parade?

CAREY: That's a very good question. I think, you know what we want is that for people around the world and Russia included to be able to be who they are. That's how he expresses himself. But I -- you know, I do think it's important that we go back to how is affecting people's lives. Imagine, as you said yesterday, with this proposal of a law to take away children from their parents. Imagine sitting in your living room with your family listening to the radio and hearing that your government wants to break apart your family, take away your children.

It -- around the world, the United Nations, other countries are coming together to say enough, enough persecution of LGBT people. And it's not just Russia. Let us not forget that in places like Zimbabwe, under the Mugabi regime, LGBT people are threatened with being beheaded simply because of who they are or who they love.

COSTELLO: Rea Carey, Ty Cobb -- thank you so much for joining me this morning. I appreciate it.

COBB: Thank you.

CAREY: Thank you.

COSTELLO: This morning in Washington, D.C., the Senate Intelligence Committee is meeting to talk about what else -- Syria. Just a little while, the chairman of that committee, Dianne Feinstein, ran into the meeting but we managed to get a quick comment from her. She says she's not ready to vote on the issue of Syria.

We also got an interview with Senator Susan Collins, a Republican of Maine. Let's listen to what she had to say.


SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: I continue to have many, many questions about the ramifications of a limited military strike. I had an extensive briefing yesterday with Ambassador Robert Ford and with members of the Defense Department and the Representative of the Joint Chiefs which was also very helpful.

But one of the questions that I have asked is whether we're looking at this issue too narrowly. This is not a choice between doing nothing and doing a military strike. There are other ways to put pressure internationally on the Assad regime to isolate him that might be more effective and would not involve the use of military action.

I'm also very wary of the United States becoming entangled more and more deeply in what is a civil war. All of us are appalled at the gassing of children. But I'm also appalled at the fact that many other children have died -- 100,000 Syrians have been killed in this conflict so far. More than two million have been made into refugees.

So this is a broader issue. I think the administration has yet to enunciate clearly a broader strategy. So I have not yet reached a conclusion on how I will vote. These briefings have been helpful. But I still have many questions about the wisdom of the President's action.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think you would feel differently if it was a Republican president making this request?

COLLINS: Not at all. And if you look at the vote in the Foreign Affairs Committee yesterday, it was not along partisan lines. Certainly one of the strongest supporters of the President's request is a Republican Senator, John McCain. There have been liberal Democrats who are very opposed to the President's proposal.

So I don't think that this is breaking down along party lines at all. I do think that many of have us learned how difficult it is based on the Iraq experience for the United States to get disengaged once we take a military action.

So I'm going to look at the ramifications for the region of a strike. One major issue that I have is it is unlikely that we would be able to completely take out Assad's chemical stockpile. It's one of the largest in the world. He has many means of delivering the weapons.

And what if we execute the strike and then he decides to use chemical weapons again? Do we strike again? Well, that's the definition of further entanglement. That's the definition of our becoming deeply involved in a war.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What happens to the President's reputation abroad if Congress doesn't approve this resolution?

COLLINS: I am concerned about America's credibility. That is an argument on the other side that I am weighing carefully. I'm worried about the fact that the President of the United States drew this line in the sand. He clearly did so without having a carefully considered strategy and plan in mind for what would happen if the line were crossed which I think was inevitable.

After all, we know that there were other chemical attacks, albeit much smaller, that Assad undertook earlier. And we did not act then. So I think we've sent mixed messages, and I have yet to hear a clear enunciation of consideration of all the ramifications of a military attack.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you feel like you just need more details from the administration on what happens after the strike to convince you? Or is there something specifically the administration needs to tell you for you to vote yes on this?

COLLINS: I have many questions. I will miss the briefing if I stay here and listed them all for you. I am firmly undecided at this point.

This is very serious. It's a very difficult issue. We have to look at the impact on Israel's security. We have to look at the signals that it sends rogue states like Iran or North Korea if we don't act. But we also have to consider that our acting would cause a further escalation of the violence in the region. And that it might well cause Assad or Hezbollah to strike against American targets, whether it's taking over one of our embassies or trying to do a terrorist attack on American soil.

So those are some of the questions that I want to hear the assessment from the intelligence community today on.


COLLINS: Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you so much.


COSTELLO: And with that, Senator Collins went into that meeting of the Senate Intelligence Committee. And they'll be hearing from experts and hopefully they'll come to some sort of conclusion. We'll see later on this afternoon.

In the meantime, let's talk about something new as in Samsung, as in a new nifty smart phone watch kind of thing. Felicia Taylor, I see you got one on.

FELICIA TAYLOR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Oh, yes. Coming up, we're going to be talking about the Samsung Smartwatch. It was just released in Berlin. It's going to be in 140 countries by the end of the month. Find out all the nifty gadgets it's got on it.


COSTELLO: You know that famous yodel -- I knew it was coming -- but the Yahoo logo, it's a little different today. After 30 days of teasing different logos on its Web site, here it is. It's part of a larger rebranding effort by the web giant. The company said it wanted a logo that stayed true to its roots.

The old logo looked like this. It hasn't changed much since 1995. It had fatter letters and was kind of cartoonish looking. But now -- yes, Yahoo has jumped into the 21st century or something like that.

The battle of the smartwatches has begun. Samsung promising a little bit of sci-fi with its new Galaxy Gear -- voice commands, e-mail, you can even translate foreign language signs all from your wrist. But at $300 a pop, do you need one?

CNN's Felicia Taylor is in New York to tell us. Good morning.

TAYLOR: Good morning. Do you really need anything? I mean what -- you know, listen, it is -- it is pretty cool. I will have to say. It's a pretty attractive watch. This is what it looks like. Let me turn it on for you here so you can see the display which is obviously very clear. I mean this is the kind of thing that you could use like in a movie theater. You don't have to pull out your iPad or iPhone or whatever it might be -- your tablet of some kind.

COSTELLO: It's a movie theater --

TAYLOR: But you know, here -- let me take a look at some of the different things you can do with it. You can have your contacts in it obviously. Oops. Oh, I'm making a call. Oops, who am I calling? Oh, no. Good, the call ended.

All right. Here we go, keep going. I think I'm still making a phone call. Nevertheless, it's supposed to scroll back and forth -- I don't know. Maybe we'll go back to the beginning here. Here we go. There -- contacts, logs, apps. There's about 70 different apps I hear. And you can do things like have e-mail, you can text people which is great. Something I do all the time. Different settings.

It has a pedometer. This is really helpful if you want to lose some weight. You can obviously track -- exactly that's a good thing, right? Something I need. You have your music on here. It has a gallery, it obviously takes photos. It has its own -- this is its answer to Siri which is kind of cool.

The camera is right here. I could take your picture. And you speak into it like this. You know, the jury is out, though I have to admit because not everybody thinks this is the next greatest thing for Samsung. Some critics are out there saying that really the iWatch is going to be more interesting, but that's down the road.

Let's find out from a couple of people that we found to talk to. Raquel and Jack, let me know what you think of Samsung's new watch.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right. I like the Samsung new watch. Just playing with it a little on the sideline before we got started. I noticed that you can actually find the watch if it's missing. So if you wanted to pull a cute prank on your loved member or loved one, you could give them the actual watch. Then tap on the phone to find them. You can play hide and go seek everywhere.

TAYLOR: I just want to know where you got the hat.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The hat came from Maryland. The store's name is actually Temptations.

TAYLOR: I couldn't resist. I mean really? It's like 80 degrees here. You have to wear a hat, and I'm wearing a scarf. It's supposed to get colder later. Jack, what do you think of the watch?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I thought it was cool. Very stylish. I think it could be men or women. It's not as bulky as I would expect from a Smartwatch. It has everything that the Nike fuel does has, everything that the iPad has or the iPod has. I think it could be the next thing.

TAYLOR: All right. Evidently he knows all about technology. It retails for $299. Carol, would you buy one?

COSTELLO: I don't know. I'd have to explore further. But thanks for the show. Thank you very much, Felicia Taylor. I got to go because it's time for "LEGAL VIEW" with Ashleigh Banfield. I'm Carol Costello. Thanks for joining me.

ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN HOST: Obama and Putin, smiles and a handshake to kick off the G-20 summit. But the super powers and the world are at a cross roads with Syria in the cross hairs.