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U.S. Weapons Flowing To Syrian Rebels; Secretary Kerry In Geneva For Syria Talks; Putin: "God Created Us Equal"; Colorado Flash Flooding; Government Shutdown; Weapons Grade Plutonium; Man Dies In "Clover Fire"; "Tribute In Light" About To Fade; Trayvon Martin Medical Examiner Fired; Life Saving Home Run!; Gun Control Debate Heats Up; From Russia with Love

Aired September 12, 2013 - 06:00   ET


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Welcome to NEW DAY. It's Thursday, September 12th, six o'clock in the east.

And we're tracking two major breaking stories this morning. John Kerry is going to meet his Russian counterparts today in Geneva to begin to work out a deal to avert on strike on Syria, but making things more complicated, that Putin op-ed in "The New York Times.

He questions American exceptionalism and lectures the president about not using military force to get his way. we're going to have a lot of reaction from the U.S. and across the world to that this morning. Very controversial.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Very controversial. A lot of people are going to have a lot to say about that today. And also, if you're in Colorado this morning, you're watching this right now from our affiliate, KMGH. They've been in breaking news coverage throughout the night covering those deadly flash floods there -- deadly flash floods.

And there's at least one person killed, so far. Buildings destroyed and rescue crews are out this morning trying to save trapped residents. Look at all that water. One official telling everyone to move to higher ground. We're going to have much more in just a moment.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: And then, we dive back into the gun debate this morning. One state almost passed a law that would have made federal gun laws illegal. What does that mean? This, as another state is now allowing blind people to own guns. That certainly has a lot of people upset. We're going to get into all of that coming up.

BOLDUAN: All right, but we begin this hour with three critical developments that could change the course of the crisis in Syria. First, Vladimir Putin's stunning opinion piece in "The New York Times" prompting U.S. officials to warn the Russian president it's time to deliver.

Second, Secretary of State John Kerry seeking a diplomatic solution in Syria, jetting to Geneva to meet with Russia's foreign minister to try to work out a deal. Third, weapons paid for by the CIA now reportedly finding their way into the hands of Syrian rebels, many lawmakers on Capitol Hill will say finally heading to Syrian rebels.

A lot of moving parts to this story and we are using the global resources of CNN to cover all the angles. Let's begin with Brianna Keilar live at the White House this morning. Good morning, Brianna.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Kate, good morning to you. One administration official calls this op-ed by Russian President Vladimir Putin irrelevant. This official saying, you know, he put forward this proposal. He's going to have to deliver on it. He owns it, trying to say that that is positive. But I will tell you, that doesn't mean that U.S. officials aren't smarting at Putin's words.


KEILAR (voice-over): Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's high stakes meetings come as pressure grows on how to handle Syria's chemical weapons. President Obama pitching his plans to the American public on Tuesday night.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: The facts cannot be denied. The question now is what the United States of America and the international community is prepared to do about it?

KEILAR: But this morning, Russian President Vladimir Putin is criticizing U.S. policy in an op-ed in "The New York Times," saying U.S. military action in Syria would hurt civilians and spread conflict. He says a strike would increase violence and unleash a new wave of terrorism. Putin also suggests the U.S. is being duped by the rebels and that Bashar Al-Assad may not be responsible for recent chemical attacks.

Saying there is every reason to believe it was used not by the Syrian Army, but by opposition forces to provoke intervention by their powerful foreign patrons. Putin has emerged as a sort of peacemaker in these negotiations and the Obama administration has cautiously backed his proposal for Syria to surrender their chemical weapons stockpiles to international control.

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: It needs to be credible. It needs to be verifiable.

KEILAR: But now Putin is taking aim at Obama's claims that America is an exceptional nation, stating it is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional whatever the motivation. We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord's blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.

And the leader of a country who has been accused of using force to get his way is now criticizing the U.S. he writes, it is alarming that military intervention in internal conflicts in foreign countries has become commonplace for the United States. One American lawmaker's reaction on CNN --

SENATOR BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: I have to be honest, we had dinner and I almost wanted to vomit. (END VIDEOTAPE)

KEILAR: Now, Chris, that shows the unenviable position that the Obama administration is in here. The guy they are relying in to deliver a peaceful outcome to this crisis in Syria, at least as it comes to chemical weapons, is someone who makes many U.S. politicians stomach's turn.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. It was not the dinner he was talking about, Brianna.

KEILAR: No, it wasn't.

CUOMO: Thank you for the reporting this morning.

All right, so what do we know right now, Secretary of State John Kerry is touching down in Geneva in the last hour. He's supposed to be meeting with the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to talk about how to hammer out a diplomatic approach to disarming so Syria. Let's bring in CNN's chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto. He is with the secretary, live from Geneva this morning about the latest. Good morning, Jim.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Chris. Well, I tell you, flying in with Secretary Kerry and his team, I think they're coming here with a healthy dose of skepticism. In their view, this is a chance for the Russians and Syrians to show their cards in effect. Are they serious?

You know, Secretary Kerry has in his team chemical weapons experts, security experts, they're going to be getting to the nitty-gritty here to see if there is a way forward, to catalogue Syria's chemical weapons and collect them and then destroy them. One U.S. official told me on the plane that this is, quote, "a chance for us to test if the Russians are seriously talking about this and if the Syrians are serious about their promises."

One of the first tests is going to be, are the Syrians coming forward with an exact accounting of their chemical weapons? Do they lay those cards out on the table so that the Russians and the Americans can begin working on a plan on getting rid of these things? It's interesting.

A couple of notes first on Putin's op-ed, we asked them on board the plane what they thought of that. They said, listen, we read it, but the Russians are bringing this plan to the table so we have to take it seriously. They also said that they've had preliminary discussions about this and it's always been about Syria's chemical weapons and despite the fact that President Putin in that editorial questions whether the Assad regime was behind this chemical attack, they say from the beginning they've been talking about a way forward for getting rid of those weapons.

So in effect, his comments in that op-ed irrelevant and one more note, how is the Syrian opposition reacting to all this? They said very honestly they're not happy. They are upset. They don't have a lot of faith in this process, but the Americans are telling them, don't prejudge, give it some time -- Chris.

CUOMO: Tough for them to do though when they read that op-ed and realize they're all being called terrorists by the Russian president. Jim, thank you very much for the debrief. We look forward to your reporting throughout the day. Appreciate it.

All right, let's get some context now. Let's bring in CNN's Jill Dougherty. She has extensive experience covering Russia for more on this. She is live in Moscow right now. Jill, thanks for joining us. The op-ed, obviously, the topic of discussion this morning, the Russian president questioning the intelligence that the American president said was incontrovertible.

That there is no question that the Assad regime used chemical weapons on his own people, the Russian president questions it. He also questions the intentions of the American people. So the first question is, how is this playing in Russia? Do people believe that these are the words of their president?

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: A lot of what Mr. Putin is saying, Chris, he said a lot of other times before. This time, though, he's addressing the American people. So what he's trying to do is say to the American people, I wouldn't take it as a big criticism, it's more kind of putting his arm around Mr. Obama and saying, look, is this in your own interest to do this, to take this military action, because it can backfire.

That is what Putin would say, it could backfire, create more problems. It could destabilize the situation. Chris, you know, a lot of what he is saying actually has been heard in the halls of the U.S. Congress. It's not that wild. Take away the part about the opposition carrying out this attack. A lot of the other points that he's making aren't that extreme, even in the United States.

But I think it's the fact that the president of Russia made them and you heard from that lawmaker that he wanted to throw up when he heard it, coming from Putin. That's the unfortunate context that no matter what Putin says. He's going to have a tough sell.

CUOMO: Well, it's not always the message. It's often the messenger, right? So the question becomes do the contradictions inherent from this coming from Putin wind up outweighing the message? There in Moscow, the idea that their president is talking about the love of God and equality when they have problems with gay freedoms there. I mean,, what is the reaction to this apparent contradiction?

DOUGHERTY: Well, I would say just judging by the Russian media it's very early. So they haven't really reacted specifically to this. But again, the points have been made and I think that opinion is shared by a lot of Russians. Now, there are certainly people who would criticize Mr. Putin for the anti-gay law and many other things, but when it comes to the U.S., you know, as the Russians would look at it, throwing its weight around the world and intervening as Putin said, militarily in a lot of places, a lot of Russians share that view. And it's not only Russians. I would say there are countries around the world, Brazil, China, et cetera, that at least share some of what Mr. Putin is saying.

CUOMO: And just quickly, Jill, is there confidence there in Moscow that this is a real deal, it's not about stalling or delaying the inevitable? They believe there's a chance for diplomacy?

DOUGHERTY: Well, that's the big question. I mean, the Russians seem to be saying, in fact Lavrov this morning said there's a chance for peace, but what is their deeper motivation? It's very hard to say. It would appear that they do want to make sure that chemical weapons are not used, that they shut them down. Get them to store it, because they're worried about chemical weapons as well. What's their other motive in a political, strategic way? That's another deal.

CUOMO: All right, Jill Dougherty, thank you very much. Obviously the message very confused because it's coming from the Russian president and Russia, the main supplier of arms to Syria. Thank you very much for the reporting this morning. Appreciate it.

BOLDUAN: Another big story this morning that we are watching, a scary night for folks in Colorado, deadly weather there. Heavy rains triggering major flash flooding overnight in Bolder County, a flash flood emergency now in effect. Multiple homes and structures have collapsed. At least one person has died. Indra Petersons is tracking this extreme weather. So Indra, what's the latest?

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: We're looking at is heavy rain that has been raining since yesterday evening. That means storm after storm has gone over the exact same regions. Between 4:00 and 8:00 yesterday evening, we saw about 4 inches of rain in 4 hours. That is incredible amount of rain. So with that we've been seeing flash flooding.

A breather but then by midnight, heavy rain, about an inch per hour fell again. A hint of a breather this morning and then again, more rain continue to impact the area. Now unfortunately that is not the end of it. More rain is forecasted to inundate the area as we go through the next couple of days especially again overnight tonight in through tomorrow. We're talking about 3 to 5 inches of rain possible.

Sometimes we could see an inch of rain within a half hour. We'll take you to the weather map. It will explain to us why we're seeing so much rain in this region in comparison to normal. We'll show you here is we have a low. Just remember winds go counter clockwise around a low. They go clockwise around a high. Why that matters?

The winds are extra strong right in between them, bringing all that tropical moisture in from the south. You have all that moisture out there and then you have cold air from that low. It triggers those extremely heavy thunderstorms. As long as that remains in place, we'll be looking at that in the forecast for the days to come -- Chris and Kate.

BOLDUAN: All right, Indra, thanks so much for the update.

CUOMO: A lot of other news this morning so let's get right to Michaela for the latest -- Mick. PEREIRA: All right, let's take a look at the headlines at this hour, with a vote on military action in Syria now delayed, Congress is getting back to work trying to prevent a government shutdown on October 1st.

On Wednesday, GOP leaders put off a vote on the stop gap spending plan. Conservatives say they would vote against it because it doesn't go far enough to stop the implementation of Obamacare. Athena Jones is live on Capitol Hill. Good morning, Athena.

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Michaela. Even without Syria, there's plenty of issues for folks here on Capitol Hill to fight about and one of the big sources of contention within the Republican Party is how far to go to try to block the health care law. Some conservative Republicans don't want to approve any spending that would go to implementing Obamacare.

So they wouldn't go along with this vote yesterday because it doesn't fully defund it. It doesn't link the spending to defunding Obamacare. Now this vote gets pushed off into next week so that party leaders can try to hash this all out. Some Republicans are worried if they push this issue and it leads to a government shutdown, it will be bad news for Republicans.

Our new CNN/ORC poll shows that nearly three-quarters of Americans believed that if the shutdown happens and lasts for a few weeks, it will cause a crisis or major problems for America. More than half, 51 percent of folks would place the responsibility for this on Republicans. Just a third would blame the president.

So this morning, Republican and Democratic leaders in the House and Senate will be meeting to talk about these upcoming fights and what we know is sure to be a long road, a tough road ahead -- Michaela.

PEREIRA: Athena Jones with the latest from the Hill. Thanks so much.

A new satellite photograph shows what looks like steam coming out of a North Korean nuclear reactor that was shutdown in 2007. This is prompting concerns that the north may be restarting the complex. The facility is capable of producing 13 pounds of weapons grade plutonium a year. It was taken offline six years ago as part of an aid for disarmament agreement.

The Clover fire in Northern California has claimed its first casualty. A 55-year-old man who failed to evacuate his home was found dead inside of it. The fire has now scorched a thousand acres, damaging or destroying more than 100 buildings and homes. It is now threatening more than 300. It's now 50 percent contained. Firefighters are hoping to have it totally under control by Sunday.

The tribute in light marking the 12th anniversary of the September 11th attacks about to fade with sunrise, 88 lights went on at sunset, projected to the heavens next to the World Trade Center site in memory of those killed in the terror attacks, that tribute capping a day of sombre remembrances. The medical examiner who performed Trayvon Martin's autopsy will sue for wrongful termination after being fired last week. He gave conflicting testimony at Zimmerman's murder trial. Zimmerman won't face charges for now after a domestic dispute meanwhile with his estranged wife. Authorities are hoping to recover video taken by Shellie Zimmerman on an iPad, which Zimmerman reportedly smashed.

A Utah man owes his life to a home run ball. The 62-year-old man's wheelchair went into an irrigation ditch near Willow Park during a softball game sending him face down into the water. Parks worker Bart Griffith stumbled upon the man when he went searching for a home run ball. He pulled the man's head out of water, called 911. The man survived, but police say without Griffith's help it could have been quite a different story. Isn't that crazy?


PEREIRA: Wasn't his time to go.

CUOMO: Some say there are no coincidences.

PEREIRA: I agree.

CUOMO: Lucky that happened that way there.

Coming up on NEW DAY, the gun control debate, raging right now in several states, two lawmakers losing their jobs over it, and one state going as far as trying to make federal gun laws irrelevant and illegal, allowing people to fight back against federal authorities.

BOLDUAN: Plus, also ahead, Pope Francis raising more than a few eyebrows. Is the Vatican ready to reconsider its position on celibacy among priests?


CUOMO: Welcome back to NEW DAY.

The gun control debate is in full swing in several states this morning. In Missouri, a controversial measure that would have prevented enforcement of federal gun control laws. Now, that has failed. But in Colorado, two lawmakers have been recalled for supporting stricter gun control laws.

To break it all down for you, let's bring in CNN's George Howell, joining us live from Chicago.

Good morning, George.


So, what a wild week in the swing states of the Midwest, like Colorado, where voters reminded politicians they are on thin ice when it comes to gun rights laws. And in Missouri, similar efforts to try to override a governor's veto of that controversial gun rights law fell short. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL (voice-over): A controversial measure, attempting to nullify federal gun control laws in the state of Missouri failed to become law. This, after a push by some legislators to override the governor's veto fell short by one vote in the state Senate.

DOUG FUNDERBURK (R), MISSOURI REP.: This bill does not eliminate our ability to put reasonable regulations in place. But it does prevent the federal government from forcing unconstitutional infringements on Missourians for their Second Amendment rights.

HOWELL: The proposed law would have given citizens the right to take legal action against law enforcement officers who enforce federal gun laws and make it illegal to publish the names and addresses of gun owners in the state.

CHIEF SAM DOTSON, ST. LOUIS METROPOLITAN: Basically putting a sign on Missouri that says, OK, criminals, it's OK to come to Missouri. We won't prosecute to the fullest extent of the law like Illinois, like Kansas, like Arkansas, like every other state in the Union.

HOWELL: In the state of Colorado, it was a different story. Gun rights activists are celebrating the unprecedented recall of two Democratic state senators who got the boot this week for backing some of the nation's strictest gun laws.

JOHN MORSE (D), FORMER COLORADO STATE SEN.: What we did was the right thing. I said months ago, if doing this costs me my political career, that's a very small price to pay.

HOWELL: Still scarred by the mass shootings in Columbine and Aurora, it was a huge blow for gun control advocates in Colorado who vastly outspent the competition and still lost.


HOWELL: So, when we're talking about spending, keep in mind New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg gave more than $300,000 to help fight that recall effort. The NRA, though, in a tweet gloated the mayor, quote, "wasted his money" -- Chris, Kate.

CUOMO: All right. George, thank you very much for the reporting. Interesting question when you deal with Colorado and Missouri. It's hard to know how much is about feelings of guns and how much of it is just straight politics, and the use of money and the push back against the money.

BOLDUAN: Well, interesting because the debate has continued to simmer while maybe the national attention has moved away from gun control debate. Obviously, still hot and heavy in Colorado.

All right. Still ahead on NEW DAY, coming up next, President Obama taking a lot of heat on Capitol Hill. Some lawmakers say he has lost his credibility, saying he's been upstaged on Syria by Vladimir Putin. How should he respond now to Putin's opinion piece? CUOMO: And you hear about Tom Hanks serving on a jury in a domestic assault case when both sides suddenly decide to settle. Did the Oscar-winning actor do something that could have triggered a mistrial? That's the question. The L.A. City attorney is investigating. We'll tell you the story.


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

CUOMO: Welcome back to NEW DAY. It's Thursday, September 12th.

Coming up in the show, the governor of Massachusetts blasting the decision to conduct a disaster drill at Boston's Logan Airport on 9/11. He says it was just a dumb idea.

Now, you may remember two planes that hit the World Trade Center took off from Logan Airport. So, obvious question is, what were they thinking?


Plus, he never played a juror in the movies but having Tom Hanks on a real life jury in Los Angeles was something a prosecutor just couldn't ignore. We're going to tell you what the prosecutor did and how it affected the outcome of the trial.

CUOMO: First let's get to Michaela for all the top stories right now -- Mick.

PEREIRA: All right. Good morning, you guys.

Good morning to you at home.

A plea for caution from Russia's president, Vladimir Putin writing an op-ed in "The New York Times", warning that a U.S. military strike against Syria will unleash a new wave of terrorism, and potentially spread the current conflict beyond Syria's borders. A White House official says Putin is now fully invested in disarming Syria. It's time for him to, quote, "deliver".

This as Secretary of State John Kerry is in Geneva for meetings with his Russian counterpart.

PEREIRA: Deadly flooding overnight into Colorado. One person is dead, homes have collapsed after a night of severe storms. Rescue crews also having trouble getting to some people because of rock slides. Bolder County government building will be closed Thursday as a result of the severe flooding. People are being advised to seek higher ground.

A Montana judge expected to rule today on whether a newly wed wife charged with killing her husband of eight days will remain behind bars or be released to home confinement. Twenty-two-year-old Jordan Linn Graham is accused of pushing her husband off a cliff to his death just eight days after their wedding. Prosecutors say she lied to police and tried to cover up the crime. She now faces life in prison if she's convicted. We'll have much more on this story later in our show.

Dramatic pictures out of Idaho showing firefighters narrowly escaping serious injury when a house collapsed in front of them. You can see the three-story home up in flames and then suddenly falling to the ground. This happened in Boise August 1st, but the images captured by a firefighter's helmet camera were just released. Still no word on what exactly caused that fire.

And better call Saul. It's officially happening folks. One of the beloved breaking bad characters, attorney Saul Goodman is indeed getting his own spinoff from "Breaking Bad." The new show will be a prequel, tracing the character's evolution before things broke bad.

No spoilers for "Breaking Bad" fans. The series has three episodes left.

Are you caught up, Mr. Cuomo?

CUOMO: I am.

PEREIRA: Good. Do you like it? Are you officially invested.

CUOMO: I am invested. I think it's really -- a lot of interesting story lines, especially his. It's very surprising. As you get to know that character, it will be interesting to see what kind of decisions they have to make on TV shows. He is a questionable judgment of what is the right thing to do.

PEREIRA: Shady character.

BOLDUAN: One of the many television shows that I am seemingly behind on.

PEREIRA: A lot of shows to get to.


CUOMO: Netflix.

BOLDUAN: Netflix.

All right. Let's turn now to our political gut check.

Vladimir Putin taking his turn addressing the American people in his own "New York Times" opinion piece.

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

John, quite an interesting read to wake up to this morning, I think everyone would agree. What do you think the impact of Putin's plea for caution will have not only on the public view of the -- towards the Syrian crisis but also on Capitol Hill? JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Folks, if you haven't seen this yet, go online or pick up a "New York Times" and read this. It has kind of a nice try young man, why don't you step aside and let the big adults handle this tone from President Putin to President Obama.

And the American people, you almost want the books on tape version to hear him say what he writes in this article.

What is it going to do? Look, the White House has to say, we're going to turn the other cheek, we're going to pretend he doesn't say these things about our president and about our country and hope we can move the diplomacy forward.

Senator Robert Menendez, he's the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, a very important player in all of this, he said last night on CNN that reading this made him want to vomit. That somebody coming out of the KGB shouldn't be telling the American people or the American government, you know, how to run its show.

But in it, he's very critical of the president. He's very critical of American foreign policy. And the priceless part -- remember, this is the president of Russia who persecutes, discriminates against gay people, persecutes his political opponents -- and he ends by saying, "We're all different but when we ask for the Lord's blessing, we must not forget God created us equal."

You might want to buy a mirror.

BOLDUAN: Exactly.