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President Travels to G-20 in Russia; Congress Holds Hearings About Possible Strike on Syria; Interview with Donald Rumsfeld; Gina DeJesus' Aunt Speaks Out

Aired September 5, 2013 - 07:00   ET


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

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, welcome to NEW DAY It's Thursday, September 5th, 7:00 in the east. We have a lot to get to this morning.

This video just in, President Obama touching down in Russia this morning for the G-20 summit, Syria obviously looming large over the event as well as the relationship between President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin. What will happen when they go face-to-face? We'll talk about it all with former secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld, his perspective very important this morning.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: We're also watching this -- angry reaction to Ariel Castro's suicide this morning. He was supposed to live out the rest of his life in prison, and many are saying his final insult to his victims was taking what they would call the easy way out. This morning we have an exclusive reaction from the families of the victims, why they think he did it, and how the brave survivors are reacting today.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: And we have a tropical storm forming in the Caribbean. It has so far this year been a quiet hurricane season. What exactly is going on? Forecasters say we're overdue for a big storm with the peak season starting now. Could we be hit with another monster storm like Sandy?

CUOMO: God forbid. We start this morning with all eyes being on President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin as the two attend the G-20 summit in St. Petersburg, Russia. They're already icy relationship becoming even cooler since Russia gave asylum to NSA leaker Edward Snowden. Now Putin is making very loud and public resistance to any strike against Syria. Let's bring in CNN's Brianna Keilar. She has more from St. Petersburg.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Chris, good morning. President Obama has arrived here in St. Petersburg, Russia and first up on his agenda is an official one on one meeting with a key ally, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. But it's another meeting, one that is not officially scheduled though it is expected to take place informally, with Russian President Vladimir Putin that is getting the most attention.


KEILAR: President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin are set to come face-to-face at the annual meeting of G-20 leaders as big decisions loom over military action in Syria, Obama defending his position to launch strikes.

BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I didn't set a red line. The world set a red line when government's representing 98 percent of the world's population said the use of chemical weapons are abhorrent.

KEILAR: Putin remains vehemently opposed, casting doubt of the evidence the U.S. government says it has against the Syrian regime, saying, quote, "If we have objective, precise data of who is responsible for these crimes then we'll react." Russia is not alone. Britain and Germany are also refusing to endorse military action. This is the highest tensions have been between the two world powers since the cold war.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We will have a very bad patch if there is a military attack on Syria, and I think we can expect some pretty frosty time.

KEILAR: Russia and Syria have been strong allies for decades.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Russia is very close to Syria. They provide and buy weapons from each other. They're kind of a client state.

KEILAR: The conflict over Syria just the tip of the iceberg in the rift between world leaders. Obama canceled his private meeting with Putin several weeks ago after Russia refused to extradite NSA leaker Edward Snowden. In St. Petersburg Obama plans to meet with gay rights activists on Putin's turf as outrage spreads over Russian law banning any promotion of gay relationships to minors. Relations between Putin and Obama increasingly rocky.

OBAMA: We've kind of hit a wall in terms of additional progress.


KEILAR: One senior administration official said, don't think of this as a visit to Russia. Think of it as a visit to the G-20 summit that just happens to be hosted by Russia. Very telling, Chris and Kate.

BOLDUAN: Brianna, thanks so much, traveling with the president this morning.

A resolution supporting Syria's strike has passed. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee, though, a very divided vote. Meantime, the White House point men on Syria are trying to make headway with lawmakers in the House. CNN's Chris Lawrence is following all the developments of this on Capitol Hill live in the Washington bureau this morning. What's today looking like, Chris?

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Kate, in just a few hours the administration will continue to try to make their case for military action, this time behind closed doors, coming just one day after that key vote in the Senate, and the secretaries of defense and state facing a very tough crowd in the house.


LAWRENCE: This is the hard sell, from the inner circle, to take action.


JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: This is not the time to be spectators to slaughter.

LAWRENCE: Laying out the price of not acting.

GEN. MARTIN DEMPSEY, CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: There is absolutely a risk of escalation in the use of chemical weapons if we do nothing.

LAWRENCE: And the cost of airstrikes to America.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It would be the tens of millions of dollars, that kind of range.

LAWRENCE: One explosive confrontation shows the hard work ahead to win over the house.

REP. JEFF DUNCAN, (R) SOUTH CAROLINA: Mr. Kerry, you have never been one that has advocated for anything other than caution when involving U.S. forces in past conflicts. Is the power of the executive branch so intoxicating you would abandon past caution in favor for pulling the trigger on a military response so quickly?

KERRY: Because I volunteered to fight for my country, and that wasn't a cautious thing to do when I did it. We're talking about people being killed by gas and you want to go talk about Benghazi and Fast and Furious.

LAWRENCE: Two U.S. Navy ships have left the eastern Med, leaving four destroyers in the waters near Syria. Questions remain, not about the strike itself, but what comes next.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do we do if they shoot literally back at Americans?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But then who is the other side? Who are the rebel forces?

LAWRENCE: Administration officials say they've kept the Syrian opposition from allying with extremist fighters, but the clock is ticking.

KERRY: And people will resort to anybody they can find to help them accomplish their goal and we would have created more extremism and a greater problem down the road.


LAWRENCE: Kerry said he had no doubt the president would soon make a prime time speech to lay out the case, but behind the scenes there are deep divisions within the administration over how much to trust the rebels. One source I spoke to who has seen the intelligence says he does not see those clear divisions between moderates and extremists that Kerry suggested. And he also said that members of Congress will see some of this same intelligence later today when they get those classified briefings. Chris?

CUOMO: Chris, thank you very much for the reporting.

Let's bring in former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld, the author of "Rumsfeld's Rules." Thank you for being here, pleasure to have you. Perception often reality in politics. I want to get your take, Mr. Rumsfeld, on what the president's two comments mean. A year or so ago If chemical weapons are used, that's a red line for me, will make me change my calculus," and then yesterday we heard "The world drew a red line, not me." What is your take on that?

DONALD RUMSFELD, FORMER SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Well, it's a stunning comment. It conjures up the thought of the uncertain trumpet, or the trumpet that provides an uncertain sound. Who will prepare themselves? It's exactly the reason that there is not a large coalition wanting to support the president. It's the reason that the Congress is confused, because he has spent so much time saying what he would not do and what it would not amount to that I think people are confused.

And the essence of leadership is clarity, and providing a vision, and he has not done that and as a result it's perfectly understandable that people in the Congress are getting arranged to oppose what he's proposing because they find that it's uncertain and lacks clarity.

CUOMO: Don't you think a big obstacle especially abroad is the legacy of how we got involved in the Iraq war, the suspicions that we had it wrong there, obviously, and that we may be wrong again, don't you think that's a big problem here?

RUMSFELD: I suppose that's part of the problem. If intelligence were a fact, it would be called a fact, and not intelligence. And I think when Colin Powell went before the United Nations with George Tenet, the director of intelligence, talked about the intelligence they had in great detail, and then it turned out that stockpiles were not found, that people were cautious and began to recognize that intelligence is intelligence and not necessarily a fact.

But I don't think that's what's going on here. I think what's going on here is almost any president in my adult life I think would have provided stronger leadership and greater clarity and as a result generated broader support in the international community and in the country and in the Congress.

CUOMO: Is it fair criticism coming from to you put it all on the president when, as you well know in the United Kingdom and in Russia they talk about not that the intelligence was wrong going into Iraq but it had been manipulated and there was politics and spin that make them suspicious of the U.S. motives when they say they have proof. Isn't that just the fact?

RUMSFELD: I think not. I've not heard people say that responsibly, and if you'll recall the Congress looked at the same intelligence and came to the same conclusions and there were Democrats who supported it, including very prominent Democrats who enthusiastically supported it. President Clinton had signed a resolution supporting regime change in Iraq. And the international, the United Nations had 17 resolutions against Saddam Hussein. So I think that there may be people on the fringe who say the kind of thing that you're saying, but I don't think anyone responsible has said anything like that.

CUOMO: So just to be clear, you believe it's a fringe notion that the perception of how the U.S. handled intelligence getting into the Iraq war, you think that's a fringe notion that there's suspicion about it, that there's concern we didn't have it right and we had it wrong for the wrong reasons?

RUMSFELD: You don't listen carefully. I didn't say that. I said that there are people on the fringe who say what you said.

CUOMO: Right.

RUMSFELD: But I conceded the fact that that experience unquestionably has affected some people's judgment and attitude and impressions during this situation.

CUOMO: Good, thank you for clarifying that. Appreciate it, Mr. Rumsfeld.

Let's move on to something else. You know better than most the toll that military action can take on the country. We're still dealing with fallout in Iraq, right, we all know that. Given that, do you think it is the better course right now to use military action in these circumstances, or would you advise the administration to think about going heavier on arming the rebels, letting them fight for themselves, heavier on humanitarian aid, and wait, wait in this situation?

RUMSFELD: Well, it seemed to me that the time to have helped the rebels would have been a year or two before, before 100,000 people were killed. And the effect of it might have been greater. Where we are today, my personal view is that what he has proposed is not something that will have a sufficient effect that it's worth doing. And I would personally not be in favor of supporting what he's proposing.

CUOMO: And that's an interesting perspective in terms of what the effect will be. And what about the notion of how do we get out? Obvious this is another part of the legacy of the Iraq war. We haven't heard how we get out of this situation. Do you have concerns if the plan goes forward the way we're hearing it being articulated in the Senate right now that we may be, the U.S. may be too optimistic about how easy it will be to stop this type of action? RUMSFELD: Oh, I don't know that I agree with that. I think Dean Acheson said that all the easy decisions are made down below and the tough decisions are always reflect and represent uncertain outcomes. And war is -- the use of military force is a terrible thing. It does result in uncertain outcomes. You can't be certain because the enemy has a brain and adjusts and adapts. And plans have to adjust with first contact with the enemy. So you can't predict what's going to come. The question is, what's the right thing to do? And absent resolute leadership, it seems to me, the right thing to do is to not get engaged.

CUOMO: Vladimir Putin, looming large right now in this situation. What would be your advice to the administration for how to deal with Russia? Do you believe that they can get him and his country on board?

RUMSFELD: No, I don't. They're a very close ally of Iran and they've been assisting them with their nuclear program. They supply weapons for them. And Iran and Syria are close allies and have been active in supporting terrorist groups around the world that have killed innocent men, women, and children, to say nothing of killing Americans.

Putin's interest is not our interest. His values are not our values. The idea that the reset button would change and make everyone like each other is utter nonsense. Putin gets up in the morning and approaches the world from a quite different standpoint than we do. And I watch it and listen to it, and the idea that a "make nice to Putin" approach is going to change his approach to the world I think is simply not going to work and hasn't thus far and is unlikely to prospectively.

CUOMO: Last question for now, Mr. Rumsfeld. When you look back on your experience specifically with Iraq and any regrets you may have, is there any mistake that you see that would you like to point out to the administration in the hopes that it's not made again?

RUMSFELD: You know, that's kind of a press's favorite question. And I look at it, and it seems to me that the world is a better place without Saddam Hussein. He killed hundreds of thousands of people. He used chemical weapons against his own people and against his neighbors. He was called the "Butcher of Baghdad" for good reason. And the people of that country have a chance to make a better life for themselves and they're working on it hard.

Now, are we capable of nation-building, the United States of America? No, I think we're not. I think people in a country have to build their own nation. And we don't speak those languages, and we ought to be, I think, modest about any impression we have that we can do nation-building and the idea that the template we have, that we've arrived at after hundreds of years, is necessarily the proper template for other countries.

CUOMO: Mr. Rumsfeld, thank you very much. It's good to have you, Mr. Secretary, on NEW DAY. appreciate your perspective. All right, we'll leave it there. Tonight I'm going to be hosting a town hall to discuss the crisis in Syria. We'll ask a panel of experts some questions from me but more importantly questions from you. You can tweet them and we'll use them tonight, us use the hashtag #Syriaquestions and we'll have a live audience as well to give a sense of the concerns going into this very important decision, tonight at 9:00 eastern here on CNN. Kate?

BOLDUAN: All right, thanks, Chris.

There is a new storm to be paying attention to here at home, tropical storm Gabrielle bearing down on Puerto Rico overnight so of course the question is, is Gabrielle a potential threat to the U.S. mainland at this point? Indra Petersons is tracking the path of the storm and where it's headed. What is the latest, Indra?

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: We're watching now. It is somewhat of a weak tropical storm but nonetheless it is moving slowly. Right now we're seeing northwesterly 8 miles per hour. It is expected to dump a large amount of rain over the Dominican Republic as well as Puerto Rico as it eventually curves out to sea. So it is not a threat to the U.S. mainland. In fact on this current path, it will stay east of Bermuda as well. So we'll be monitoring that. Three to five inches of rain is possible in the islands, also as much as 15 inches of rain on the mountainous peaks.

Let's talk about how rare this season is. September, we have not seen a hurricane yet. We only have five seasons that we have done that so far. This is in the satellite air. If we go back to 1941 the latest we've ever gone without a hurricane has actually been September 16th, and we could potentially break even that record. Here is the interesting thing to note: the average amount of hurricanes you have in a season is about six. Even in these years where we went through September without a hurricane we still saw around the average number of hurricanes. They just got more compacted towards the end of the year so that's something we're still going to be concerned with. The only hint of good news later in the season we typically do not hit the mainland.

Unfortunately it hasn't been a typical weather pattern lately so when watching the reason if we see anything form currently it would curve out to sea. We have the jet stream over the eastern pacific and the Bermuda high out to the east. With that we're not seeing them make their way to the shore and it's also tearing apart anything that tries to form so we're not seeing the hurricanes currently. We talk about the dry air out there as well so between high winds and dry air we haven't seen anything form and like to keep it that way.

BOLDUAN: Clearly watching that closely. Thank you so much, Indra.

CUOMO: Thank you very much. A lot of news this morning, so let's get to Michaela for the latest. Mick?

PEREIRA: All right, let's take a look at your headlines at this hour, the State Department has not paid enough attention to security for its overseas post, that's according to an independent panel formed after last year's deadly attack on the U.S. compound in Benghazi. The investigators calling for security to be elevated in importance at the department.

A Texas teen now facing murder charges for stabbing a fellow high school student to death. 17-year-old Luis Alonzo Alfaros (ph) old enough to be considered an adult under state law. The victim identified as 17-year-old Joshua Broussard. Three other teens were also injured in that incident. Investigators are looking to see if the violence was gang related.

George Zimmerman pulled over near Sanford, Florida, for speeding. Police say he was going 60 in a 45-mile-per-hour zone. No warning this time, he got a $256 ticket. He was pulled over in July in Dallas for speeding just a couple of weeks after his murder acquittal in the Trayvon Martin case.

Burning questions about a little tiny bear. Today we'll find out if the Smithsonian National Zoo's new giant panda is a baby boy or baby girl, and borrowing from certain daytime programming, we will reveal who the daddy is. Following Chinese tradition, though, the cub will not be named until it is 100 days old.

Showing you some electrifying video right now. A California man pulled out his cell phone to get video of clouds and lightning strikes in the distance when a bolt knocked him off his feed. Hans Nansen says he thought he was a safe distance away. It wasn't raining where he was, and in fact he said there were blue skies directly above him, but he got hit. Now he says he's just happy to be alive. He wasn't excited about it at all. Quite terrifying he said.

BOLDUAN: That is a good lesson, though, because you can see it. It looked like there was blue skies above him n the clear. Not so much.

CUOMO: Lightning hitting guys, cars flying through just missing em. Near misses here.

We'll take a break. Coming up on NEW DAY we have an exclusive for you, the aunt of Gina DeJesus on the death of Ariel Castro. She's speaking for the first time since the man who held Gina for almost a decade took his own life.

BOLDUAN: Plus talk about fast and furious, this driver zooming around Manhattan in record time, video of the speed racer has gone viral and police want to know who he is. We have details on it coming up.


BOLDUAN: Welcome back to NEW DAY. So a day after the death of Ariel Castro, the aunt of one of his victims is speaking exclusively to CNN. Janice Smith believes she knows exactly why the man who kidnapped her niece and two others decided to take his own life in prison. Pamela Brown is joining us live from Cleveland, where Castro's house once stood with more on this this morning. Good morning, Pamela.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: -- we are getting some insight into how they reacted to the news of Ariel Castro's death from one of their family members who spoke to us exclusively. It was shocking and unexpected but Gina DeJesus' aunt says if anything it's allowing them to move forward with their lives even more.


JANICE SMITH, AUNT OF GINA DEJESUS: It means we can move on with our lives now. It means hopefully we won't have to hear about Mr. Castro no more.

BROWN: Closure for Janice Smith and her family, after the man who tormented her niece, Gina DeJesus, for 10 years, killed himself in his jail cell after just one month behind bars in state prison.

SMITH: He knows what he did, he knows it was wrong and I just think that he couldn't live with it. And I believe that's probably why he took his life.

BROWN: Smith says after welcoming Gina home in May and seeing Castro sentenced to life in prison plus 1,000 years, she thought this horrible chapter for her family had ended. Now Ariel Castro's family is coming to grips with the loss of a man they once knew as a brother, son, and father, not as a monster.

JUAN ALICEA, ARIEL CASTRO'S BROTHER IN LAW: Even though he did all of these bad things and the family does not condone that, they will and they must grieve.

BROWN: Others cheered Castro's suicide. Amanda Berry's grandmother telling NEW DAY, "I love it, I feel so happy. But I wish he had starved himself to death or somehow." Prison officials say Castro hanged himself with a bed sheet inside this prison in Orient, Ohio. He was in protective custody, isolated from other prisoners and checked on every half hour.

CRAIG WEINTRAUB, ARIEL CASTRO'S ATTORNEY: He should have been on a suicide watch and there shouldn't have been a watch every 30 minutes. There should have been somebody outside of his cell more frequently.

BROWN: On Seymour Street where the house of horrors once stood, signs of life and hope, a garden planted and the lives of Castro's victims now filled with promise.

SMITH: She's with her family. She's free. She's home and that's what matters to her.

BROWN: This is closure for her?

SMITH: This is closure for her, yes.


BROWN: Back live here, this is where Ariel Castro's home once stood. It was demolished just a few weeks ago, and as you see right here, it has been replaced with this green space. This is part of what the community wanted and it's also a way for the survivors to close that horrible chapter in their lives. As for the investigation, we spoke to the Bureau of Prisons, and it says that it did give Ariel Castro a mental health evaluation and it denied his attorneys' request for an independent evaluation because it says they didn't give a good enough reason. Of course this investigation does continue. Back to you guys.

BOLDUAN: Pamela, thanks so much for bringing us that.

CUOMO: We'll take a quick break on NEW DAY. when we come back, President Obama and vladimir Putin on a collision course at the G20 summit. Will they engage each other over Syria?

BOLDUAN: And also this: a driver takes a lap around Manhattan in record time. The vidoe went viral, and now the police want to talk to whoever is behind the wheel.