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Obama Delays Attack Against Syria; Obama Speech On Syria; Watching Humberto; Benghazi Blast; NSA Violated Court Ordered Procedures; Crews Containing California Wildfire; Two Colorado Lawmakers Voted Out; Uninvited Guest; Big Apple Voters Speak; Did Obama Make His Case?

Aired September 11, 2013 - 06:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Up first, President Obama pushing the pause button on Syria, but he said he's not letting Assad off the hook. The headline in the nationally televised address, the president told the nation he is now willing to give diplomacy a chance in Syria.

We're tapping into the global resources of CNN to bring you the most complete coverage we can. Let's begin with Brianna Keilar, live at the White House. Good morning, Brianna.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Chris, good morning to you. When President Obama said last Friday in Russia that he would be addressing the American public last night, this isn't the argument that he or the White House thought that he would make. But pulled between a war weary American public and his and the U.S.' credibility, what was supposed to be a speech arguing for a military strike, instead became a speech aimed at buying time.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KEILAR (voice-over): From the East Room Tuesday night, President Obama told Americans why his administration is certain Syrian President Bashar Al Assad's regime is responsible for a sarin gas attack the U.S. government says killed more than 1,400 civilians.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: In the days leading up to August 21st, we know that Assad's chemical weapons personnel prepared for an attack near an area where they mix sarin gas. They distributed gas masks to their troops, then they fired rockets from a regime-controlled area into 11 neighborhoods that the regime has been trying to wipe clear of opposition forces.

KEILAR: He made the case for a military response.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: This would be a targeted strike to achieve a clear objective. Some members of Congress have said there's no point in simply doing a pinprick strike in Syria. Let me make something clear. The United States military doesn't do pinpricks. Even a limited strike will send a message to Assad that no other nation can deliver.

KEILAR: But facing a likely defeat in Congress to authorize a military strike --

PRESIDENT OBAMA: However --

KEILAR: The president then argued against taking action, pointing to a new Russian-brokered proposal for Syria to give up its chemical weapons.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: I have, therefore, asked the leaders of Congress to postpone a vote to authorize the use of force while we pursue this diplomatic path.

KEILAR: It's an extraordinary turn of events. The policy of U.S. involvement in Syria's civil war began with one reportedly off the cuff remark President Obama made more than a year ago.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: A red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized.

KEILAR: It has unexpectedly turned on what appears to be another.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is there anything at this point that his government could do or offer that would stop an attack?

JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: Sure. He could turn over every single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community in the next week, but he isn't about to do it and it can't be done, obviously.

KEILAR: What one U.S. official initially called an off-message comment by Kerry? It bore the proposal from Russia that the president has yet to endorse.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: It's too early to tell whether this offer will succeed and any agreement must verify that the Assad regime keeps its commitments. But this initiative has the potential to remove the threat of chemical weapons without the use of force particularly because Russia is one of Assad's strongest allies.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KEILAR: Now, many Syria observers doubt that Syria would actually give over its extensive chemical weapons stockpiles and there is concern in the administration this could just be a stalling tactic. Secretary of State Kerry said yesterday, that this would have to be swift, real and verifiable. He said it cannot be a delaying tactic and he heads to Geneva, Switzerland to meet with his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov -- Kate.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Much more on that to come. Brianna, thanks so much for starting us off this morning. So how did President Obama's speech play not only in the U.S. but around the world?

CNN's Nic Robertson is live in Beirut with the international reaction as the president continues to try to make his case against Syria. Good morning, Nic.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Kate. Well, Syrian state TV didn't carry President Obama's address live. It did run a ticker on the screen that said Obama asked for a delay in the vote, this allows space for the Russian diplomacy. We've heard from the Syrian foreign minister saying they will open up chemical weapons sites. They are prepared to sign up to the chemical weapons convention banning the use and stockpiling of such weapons.

The rebels are saying this is a political delaying tactic. We've heard from Saudi Arabia, very much anti-Assad and their allies in the region essentially saying that the discussion the U.N. misses the point, it's all about chemical weapons but the killing in Syria still goes on by conventional weapons. That's what the rebels are saying as well. Assad must be held account, 76 people killed in Syria yesterday -- Kate.

CUOMO: All right, Nic, I'll take it, very complex situation. So let's try to simplify it for you. We're going to bring in a couple experts right now who understand the situation very well, first, John Avalon, CNN political analyst and executive director at the "Daily Beast" and Peter Beinart, a special correspondent for the "Daily Beast." Good to have you both here.

Let's begin with what our poll showed and then you read into that. Now just the poll of those who watched, skewed Democratic for that reason, but a lot of Democrats had problems and questions about what to do there. So 61 percent favor the approach to Syria that Obama described in his speech, 37 percent oppose, sampling error, about 5 percent. John, start with you, what do you think changed last night?

JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I mean, that's a case for strong presidential leadership. Those numbers are virtually upside down from where they were, backing American intervention. So the president -- that's a sign the president was successful. Make a case for humanitarian intervention, saying we've created room for the possibility of peaceful negotiation, but if necessary, the United States will lead militarily in this.

CUOMO: A point that's being forgotten in the analysis so far that I want to bring up, intel, he made a pretty clear case last night, the president, that we, the United States, knows he did it. It's not just about social media. We have them planning, we have them talking, we have them focusing. What did you think about that part, compelling because intelligence was a question mark at home but really abroad?

PETER BEINART, SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT, "THE DAILY BEAST": Sure. We may know that he did this attack, but we don't know where all of Syria's chemical weapons are. Even if we did, the capacity to secure those chemical weapons in the midst of a civil war would be overwhelming. The Pentagon has estimated that it would take 75,000 troops to guard the chemical weapons inspectors. So the irony of it all, Obama said no troops on the ground, the only way this could conceivably work is a significant force of troops on the ground. Where are they going to come from?

CUOMO: So you believe that the pros here far outweigh the practicality of actually getting this type of monitoring done?

BEINART: It is insane to believe that in the midst of a civil war with a dictator like Assad who has good reason to want chemical weapons, as evil as they are, to protect his regime, this is possible.

CUOMO: Insane, I believe Peter would mean this isn't that likely.

BEINART: Let me try to be blunt.

CUOMO: Yes, but look, I think it's a situation that demands it.

BEINART: Yes.

CUOMO: Because if this is a plan forward, John, is this something people can look to that is achievable in the near term?

AVLON: It depends on the cooperation of actors you can't necessarily trust, notably Russia, and the president tried to lay out a ground here. I mean, in the old cold war rules of trust but verify now are on steroids. I mean, Putin is an honest actor in the world stage and obviously Syria is a client state. But there is a window that is open because of the credible threat of military action.

Peter is right about the challenges here. But the question is in a perfect world, it doesn't exist. So perfect is not on the menu. What can the U.S. do? The president made a powerful case why this was in our national interest. I think in the polls show people are responding to it.

CUOMO: Polls also show situation in Syria will be resolved through diplomatic efforts, likely, 65 percent, not likely, 35 percent. I mean, you know, given what Peter, the context of what Peter is saying is that the power of persuasion of politics over another P, the practicality of actually getting it done.

AVLON: Well, someone once said you campaign in poetry, you govern in pros. So I do think this is a case where the president's poetry seems to have an impact. This was a strong speech and he answered a lot of the conventional wisdom criticisms that Iraq hangover that we're all living with around the world. Because humanitarian interventions are a complicated case to make, asking for a delay in a congressional vote you've been pressing for, complicated case to make. But the world clearly would be less safe if dictators are last used chemical weapons. That's the American people can understand no matter how sick we are of Middle East intervention.

CUOMO: Maybe the biggest line to come out of it last night, no boots on the ground. The president said I'm not doing it, I'm not doing it, dangerous given what you can predict in a situation like this, Peter?

BEINART: The irony actually is if we were serious about securing these chemical weapons. There would have to be U.S. boots on the ground because some of those people guarding those inspectors would be Americans, some of the inspectors themselves would be Americans. I really think the central problem here is that we're missing the forest from the trees. The chemical weapons as terrible as they are, are a symptom of Syria's civil war.

CUOMO: And now you're giving them more time to conduct that civil war. BEINART: Right. It's ending that civil war which should be the thrust of the American problem.

CUOMO: Last question for you two guys. No mention of 9/11 last night. I get the politics of it. I get why conflating the two would be dangerous politically, but on the eve of 9/11 when it goes to the heart of concerns of so many Americans about an attack on Syria or anywhere else, what do you think of that?

AVLON: I do think it was a decision, it was a mistake. You need to frame everything in our era. I still believe within the context of 9/11, but the problem is the conflation of Iraq and Syria is what's led to so much confusion. This is always a case of the general fighting the last war and that's clearly effective American opinion. Should he have framed this with 9/11, sure? But would there have been a danger of conflation? Yes, and I think that's why the president made that decision.

CUOMO: Right. Final thought on it, Peter.

BEINART: Right. I think he would have been slammed precisely because of the memories of the way in which 9/11 was exploited for Iraq.

CUOMO: All right, thank you to both of you. This is complex stuff, helpful to get it broken down. Peter Beinart, John Avlon, thank you for being here this morning -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: All right, Chris, thanks so much. The hurricane watch is on in the Eastern Atlantic. Forecasters are now tracking the progress of Hurricane Humberto, the first of this year's Atlantic hurricane season. CNN meteorologist Indra Petersons is keeping an eye on Humberto's tracks. So what are you seeing this morning, Indra?

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: You know, this is a big deal, Kate. When we typically see our first hurricane in August and this morning everyone was watching to see whether or not this would actually break the record for the latest we've seen a hurricane form since the satellite area. The record is still actually Gustav from 2002. That became a hurricane, September 11th at 8:00 in the morning and of course, we're seeing this just a few hours prior, became a hurricane.

We did not break the record, but either way, still very late in the season, September 10th is actually the peak and now we only have our first one, currently, Humberto, 75 miles per hour wind so weak Category 1 hurricane, moving to the north, northwest at 8 miles an hour. You can see it's currently far out of Atlantic, way well off the coast of Africa.

As far as the path, it will still hold on for another day or so as a Category 1 hurricane. Eventually it will start to make its way to the west, but as it does though, we are going to be looking at cooler waters and a lot of wind shears so that should break it apart.

The other thing we have actually out there today is Gabrielle. Remember, it actually dissipated, has reformed, looking for heavy rain across Bermuda, about several inches there and eventually, some rain into Nova Scotia -- Chris and Kate.

BOLDUAN: All right, we'll be watching it. Thanks so much, Indra.

CUOMO: All right, a lot of news developing at this hour, very interesting. There's a situation developing in Benghazi, Libya, which obviously is going to relate to the political situation going on with Syria. Michaela, that's where we start the news.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, we start the news with that explosion overnight in Benghazi. According to a witness, a damaged foreign ministry building and a branch of Libya's Central Bank, it appears there are no casualties that blast coming on the one-year anniversary of the assault on the U.S. Consulate there in Benghazi. You'll recall four Americans including Ambassador Chris Stevens were killed in that terror attack. There is heightened security at U.S. diplomatic post worldwide due to 9/11.

The National Security Agency repeatedly ignored court-ordered procedures by tracking thousands of phone calls without suspecting they could be connected to terrorism, that according to records released by the Obama administration. These violations took place for three years until they were discovered in 2009.

Out west, firefighters are indeed getting a handle on the Mt. Diablo wildfire with help from some cooler temperatures and light winds. Officials believe they could have that fire contained by the weekend. It's burned some 3,200 acres. Now, making matters worse, burglars got into a firehouse while crews were out fighting the flames. Thieves stole wedding rings, watches and computers.

Two Colorado lawmakers booted out in a recall election after supporting tougher gun control. State Senate President John Morse and State Senator Angela Gueran lost their jobs. Both Democrats voted in favor of universal background checks and limits on magazine ammunition. The measures faced opposition even after last year's movie theatre shooting in Colorado.

Police in Gardendale, Alabama, get quite the surprise, a raccoon crashed through their ceiling. This raccoon apparently invaded the Gardendale Police Department, was in no hurry to leave. When officers went after him, he first held on to an inside door, then he later tried clinging on to the metal exit door before he was like, I admit defeat, I'm out. Police say they have since found all the raccoon entry points into the station house and blocked them off. We call that in this world, raccoon abatement.

BOLDUAN: That's what we call a raccoon problem.

CUOMO: So you're with me now, right? Because you had the love for the raccoon --

PEREIRA: Love? You have to love that raccoon.

BOLDUAN: It's disdainful respect.

CUOMO: Raccoons, you can't trust anyone in a mask. PEREIRA: Exactly.

CUOMO: You know?

BOLDUAN: Especially a furry one, words to live by.

CUOMO: All right, we're going to give you a break here on NEW DAY. When we come back, redemption denied. Anthony Weiner knocked out of the mayor's race. Not a big surprise, but what was surprising that he didn't exactly take the high road on his way out. We'll tell you about it.

BOLDUAN: Also ahead, Apple unveiling two new phones featuring faster processors, better cameras and some pretty cool new colors. Are they worth the hype, though?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CUOMO: Welcome back.

I don't mean to give too much cause for hope here, but could we have seen votes of conscience in politics?

Maybe. As voters in New York dropped the curtain on, former Governor Eliot Spitzer soundly defeated in last night's primary for city comptroller, and Anthony Weiner's bid to become the Big Apple's next mayor, ending fittingly with a flip of his middle finger. Yes, that's what he did.

Rosa Flores with us this morning.

Rosa, right? That's what happened, right?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly what happened. It was not graceful and it was not friendly.

If you were expecting drama till the very last second of Anthony Weiner's campaign, you were absolutely right.

Let me give you a quick rundown. It went like this -- a woman in a very tight dress, chased to a concession speech, and a one-finger exit by Anthony Weiner.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FLORES (voice-over): Anthony Weiner says good-bye to his mayoral hopes and the press with his middle finger. Leaving his concession speech last night, Weiner's combative nature was present but his wife, Huma Abedin was not.

What a difference a few months can make in politics. At the top of polls in the New York City mayor's race in July, the disgraced former congressman conceded defeat.

ANTHONY WEINER (D), NYC MAYORAL CANDIDATE: We had the best ideas. Sadly, I was an imperfect messenger. FLORES: A campaign that had no shortage of drama.

HUMA ABEDIN, ANTHONY WEINER'S WIFE: It took a lot of work and a whole lot of therapy.

FLORES: That continued to unravel on primary night.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is insane.

FLORES: Weiner's alleged sexting partner-turned-porn star, Sydney Leathers, literally crashing his party.

Weiner left Congress in 2011 after his online sexting behavior went public. His latest scandal with Leathers may have been the last straw for voters.

STEPHEN SIGMUND, POLITICAL ANALYST: The maxim of fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me -- after the first time, it tends to leave a bad taste in voter's mouths.

FLORES: The other politician embroiled in a sex scandal, former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, had a different approach. Less drama, more results.

Spitzer resigned after his infamous client number 9 stint with a prostitute in 2008. He fell short in his bid for New York City comptroller but he came close, quite the opposite outcome for Weiner who constantly had to face critics on the trail.

WEINER: You're my judge? What rabbi taught you that?

FLORES: Weiner lost by a very wide margin. His campaign came to an end with a throng of media and an uninvited guest chasing him to his concession speech.

And out the door, just like his campaign, Weiner's exit, unlike any other in politics.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FLORES: So what's next for Anthony Weiner? Folks, that's the big mystery this morning.

And, Kate and Chris, we're all wondering why? I wonder if it was the buildup of the day, Sydney Leathers chasing him to his HQ, going to his primary party, crashing it and trying to confront him?

We talked to her. She said, you know, I'm just here for the media attention.

BOLDUAN: One thing we do know is the voters have finally spoken, which is one thing we've been waiting to hear this entire time we've been covering this crazy, crazy race.

CUOMO: There's probably all of it is the answer to your question, what pushed him over the edge. The good news is, the process was about picking a leader and they did, at least for their party. Bill de Blasio won last night, by the way, for those who wanted to focus on the actual race.

BOLDUAN: All right. Thanks so much, Rosa.

FLORES: You're welcome.

BOLDUAN: Coming up on NEW DAY: Diana Nyad taking on her critics. She says her historic Cuba-to-Florida swim was squeaky clean. But she admits something happened along the way that some are saying could now put her record in jeopardy.

CUOMO: And the story we've been following out of Montana, the shocking twist in a murder investigation. This young bride you're looking at charged with pushing her new husband off a cliff to his death. How police say she tried to cover up the crime. We'll tell you about it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

CUOMO: Welcome back to NEW DAY. It is Wednesday, September 11th.

This is a live look at the 9/11 memorial here in New York City. We're going to be taking you there throughout the morning. Later, members of the terror attack victims will gather there to remember their loved ones.

BOLDUAN: And also coming up this hour, after swimming from Cuba to Florida, everyone really captivating a nation while doing it, swimmer Diana Nyad taking on tough questions from her critics and she makes an admission that could possibly cost her the record.

CUOMO: But, first, let's get right to Michaela for your top stories right now -- Mick.

PEREIRA: All right. Good morning to the two of you.

Good morning.

Making news: President Obama making his case to the American people and sending a message to the Assad regime in Syria. In his address to the nation, he laid out some of his reasons for military action against Syria but cautiously embraced a Russian plan to try diplomacy first.

The Ohio man who confessed in an online video that he killed another man while drinking and driving will be arraigned today. Twenty-two- year-old Matthew Cordle made his first court appearance yesterday but did not enter a plea. Before that hearing, his attorney said Cordle would plead not guilty and that Cordle could plead guilty at a later date. A move that he called standard operation procedure.

The June crash killed 61-year-old Vincent Canzani. Outrage at a Wisconsin golf course for a promotion to, quote, "commemorate" the September 11th attacks, a newspaper ad from Tumbledown Trails posted the offer, nine holes for $9.11. That deal brought criticism on social media, even death threats. Management is now apologizing. The course may be closed today for security reasons.

Atlanta police praising two pep boy store employees for taking down a 16-year-old girl's alleged attacker. They say the girl was walking to a bus stop Tuesday morning when this man, identified as 27-year-old (INAUDIBLE), tried to throw her to the ground. A passerby helped her to the nearby Pep Boy store. When store managers John Lingerfelt saw the man come back up a street, he and another tackled him. Henlika (ph) faces a misdemeanor battery charge.

Those are your headlines at this hour. Chris and Kate, back to you.

BOLDUAN: All right. Thanks so much, Michaela.

Let's move now to our political gut check, all of the stories you need to know, coming straight out of Washington.

First up, of course, President Obama addressing the nation last night and pressing pause on his hard sell for a military strike in Syria while diplomacy plays out. So where do things go from here?

CNN's chief national correspondent John King is here to break it all down for us.

A late night and an early morning for you, John, for many as they watch the speech and try to digest everything that came from it. A lot riding on the president's words last night. You and I have talked about how much impact one speech can have to sway public opinion.

How do you think the president did? What do you make of it?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I know from talking to people inside the White House last night, Kate. They were quite optimistic. They had begun to make the case.

Look, the president's challenge was very difficult. As you noted, he was trying to make the case that plan "A" was diplomacy and I need to give it a chance, but I need to prepare you for the possibility we might have to go to plan "B," which would be military action.

Now, just always be careful about instant polls. But let me give you our headline number from our instant poll and it shows the president did make some progress. Did he make a case, a convincing case for U.S. military action? Yes, 47 percent, no, 50 percent.

Remember our poll Monday morning, six in 10 Americans, all Americans were saying no. Congress should not authorize this. So, your quick judgment would be the president moved the ball maybe 10 points. I'd caution against going quite that far.

But, again, the audience split last night, 50 percent saying no, 47 percent saying yes, a bit of progress. But remember, those who tend to watch the speeches, the poll last night was only those watching the speech, they tend to be more Democratic, more pro the president, if you will, watching the speech. But some progress.

If you look deeper into our poll, is this in the U.S. national interest? Would the strikes have a positive impact? Still a lot of skepticism. So, we'll watch how this one plays out. The White House thinks they took a first step.

BOLDUAN: And as you noted, the president was tasked with making a dual case, both for continued threat of military action and authorization and also the case for these diplomatic efforts. Did that complicate the message, what was riding on his speech last night and kind of where things go from here?

KING: It did make it hard. Again, when a president has a White House address to discuss possible military action, nine out of ten times, 9 1/2 out of 10 times, the president is making the case to the American people we are about to do this. The president last night was making the case, I hope I don't have to do this, I hope the diplomacy works but I need to walk you down the path, I need to answer your questions.

The president listed a lot of those questions.

BOLDUAN: Almost point by point. Yes.

KING: A lot of you say that.

But if you look after -- look, he has to move the numbers with the American people, move the numbers in the United States Congress. Democrats were generally positive about the speech, members of Congress, but you did not see a rush of yes votes come out among Republicans. They were -- Lindsey Graham, for example, said -- who's with the president on this -- said he should have talked more about Iran.