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High Stakes Meeting in Geneva; Interview with Senator Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin; Deadly Colorado Flooding; New Pope Breaks With Tradition; Government Shutdown Looming

Aired September 12, 2013 - 08:00   ET


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: We begin with the high stakes talks in Geneva. Secretary of State John Kerry will sit down in Geneva with Russia's foreign minister to discuss implementing a plan for Syria to turn over all of its chemical weapons so it can avoid a military strike. The meeting is being overshadowed by Vladimir Putin's "New York Times" op-ed. The Russian president urged caution concerning Syria and said a strike would unleash a new wave of terrorism.

Let's go live to Brianna Keilar at the White House.

So, how is the White House reacting from this, Brianna?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, one administration official, Kate, I've spoken with this morning is sort of ignoring what I think the administration may see as some bluster from Vladimir Putin and they're focused instead -- they're actually calling it "irrelevant". They're focusing instead on the fact that he is shepherding some of this process through, saying that he put forward a proposal. He's invested. He, quote, "owns this." That's what another U.S. official said.

But at the same time, Putin's comments are really rubbing some lawmakers the wrong way.


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 --

SEN. ROBERT MENENDEZ (D), TENNESSEE: I have to be honest, we had dinner and I almost wanted to vomit.


KEILAR: Now, it sort of shows the unenviable position this administration is in. The guy that they are relying in part on to help deliver Syria's chemical weapons to international control is also someone who really turns the stomach of many people here in Washington, Chris.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHORR: All right, Brianna. Thank you for the reporting.

We know that Secretary of State John Kerry is in Geneva at this hour. He's trying to broker a deal with the foreign Russian -- the Russian foreign minister to disarm Syria. Talks are scheduled to begin about five hours from now.

CNN's chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto has this report from Geneva.


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Chris, on the flight in, I was constantly testing U.S. officials' confidence in this process. And I think it's safe to say they're coming here with a healthy dose of skepticism but say that they wouldn't be coming if they didn't have some confidence this could move forward.

But very quickly, they're going to move from the 30,000-foot level down to the ground level. That's why they've brought with them chemical weapons experts, security experts, so they can start building a plan to see how they would reliably catalog Syria's chemical weapons, collect them, and then destroy them as one U.S. official said to me onboard, we can test if the Russians mean what they're saying and probably more importantly if the Syrians mean what they're saying in terms of removing these weapons from their control.

The outcome from this meeting not a final plan, not a ten-point plan, but at least the outlines of a plan for going forward that the Americans can bring back to their allies, the French, the British, the Chinese as a possible way to move forward. And one of the first tests U.S. officials say is how forthcoming are the Syrians going to be about their chemical weapons sites? How much are they going to share so that the Americans and Russians can work out a plan to catalog those weapons, collect them, and then destroy them -- Kate.


BOLDUAN: All right. Jim Sciutto in Geneva for us -- thanks so much, Jim.

For more on this, let's bring in Democratic senator from Wisconsin, Tammy Baldwin.

Tammy -- Senator Tammy Baldwin, Senator, it's great to see you. Thanks so much for coming in.


BOLDUAN: Of course.

So, I want to get your take. When you woke up this morning and you read this op-ed, what do you think of President Putin's advice to the U.S.?

BALDWIN: Well, I agree with some of your commentators that this is really a lot of bluster. But that said, we know and we're clear eyed about who Putin is and that Russia is an ally of the Assad regime. But what's really important in all of this and that we can't lose sight of is that in the past few days a new path developed that we have to in a determined fashion walk down, and that path does not involve the use of unilateral military force against Syria that's long been engaged in civil war.

It doesn't involve us in that war. And that path is very important because it engages the international community. I've said all along what Assad did is a global atrocity but a global atrocity demands a global response. We've got to make our international institutions like the U.N., like the Security Council work.

We know Russia is a key vote on the Security Council and so that's why we have to pursue this with all intention.

BOLDUAN: You call it a bit of bluster like some of our commentators have, Putin's op-ed. Do you think his direct appeal to the American people -- he is speaking to you as well as a member of Congress -- do you think this helps or hurts the chances of a deal?

BALDWIN: You know, what I think is important is keeping our eyes squarely on what we need to do here. What we need to do here is get the chemical weapons stockpile in Syria under international control. It needs to be secured and then destroyed.

And we have to have answers when these challenges come up again. The problem is right now that we have these treaties and these conventions that have been signed on to by almost all the world's nations, and yet we don't have an effective international mechanism to respond to global challenges when a country like Syria uses them.

We all agree these are crimes against humanity, but the answer can't be unilateralism from the United States going alone and especially in this case where we're talking about military authority in a country engaged in a long civil war. Instead, we've got to strengthen our international institution and that's what we have to keep our focus on right now. Global atrocities demand a global response.

BOLDUAN: Let's talk about the immediate question at hand. We had Senator Bob Casey on with us yesterday and he said this -- he said we shouldn't kid ourselves. The chances of this happening are a lot less than 50 percent. He's talking about these diplomatic efforts, these negotiations with the Russians, and believing the word of the Syrians that they'll turn their chemical weapons over.

So how optimistic are you?

BALDWIN: Well, I think that we have to put our all into making this work, or else we'll be back where we started and that's not a tenable place. We've got to have functional international institutions like the U.N. to be able to uphold treaties that the vast majority of the civilized world has signed on to.

And that's what we've got to focus on right now. We have an immediate issue of securing and destroying the Syrian chemical weapons stockpile but we have the broader issue of how do we respond when these shocking atrocities occur?

BOLDUAN: And that broader conversation does need to occur, but when you look at the immediate question of what to do about Syria --


BOLDUAN: -- as more people are dying every day, we know -- I know you're against a military strike, but what happens if the diplomatic deal falls through? Does that change the equation for you? Would you then support a military strike?

BALDWIN: You know, I cannot support unilateral military action in Syria's war, but I believe we have to have a global response. And I don't think no response is the answer. I think we have to strengthen our global institutions and create the capability to act.

What has happened because President Obama brought this issue to the Congress is we focused the world's attention on this issue, and the discussions really a global one right now.


BOLDUAN: It is, but something needs to be decided in days.

BALDWIN: I don't think the countries of the world will turn their heads after where we are right now. And I think we do have good odds of this being successful. It may not be pretty in getting there, but I think we do have a great chance because the whole world right now is invested in trying to secure and destroy Syria's chemical weapons stockpile.

BOLDUAN: And, Senator, finally, do you have any indication of when Congress, when the Senate, specifically, will get a vote on any of this?

BALDWIN: You know, I think as the president asked, we are putting aside the resolution authorizing the use of force for sometime. We're beginning to debate other issues. And we will let this new path that opened up that doesn't involve military force to play out.

And then if necessary, hopefully, it will be successful. But we will watch it very closely. We will, you know, the Secretary of State Kerry is meeting with his Russian counterparts right now. I think the world pressure has to be on to make this work.

BOLDUAN: All right. Well, we will see.

Tammy Baldwin, senator from Wisconsin -- thank you so much, Senator.

BALDWIN: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Of course.


CUOMO: All right, Kate.

Happening right now: take a look at the flooding in Colorado this morning. At least two people have died. Several homes have been destroyed. Rescue crews can't get to people who are trapped because of rock slides.

CNN's new correspondent Ana Cabrera is live in Boulder, joining us by the phone.

Can you hear us, Ana?

ANA CABRERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): I can. Good morning, Chris.

This has been an intense situation here in Colorado, really. It's a statewide issue this morning, where rescue crews are working furiously to try to get to those people who need help.

As you mentioned, we have confirmed two people have died in this flooding. The latest fatality confirmed within the last 15 minutes actually down south of Denver, in the Colorado Springs area. The other fatality here in Boulder County where we are currently located working to bring you a live picture of what's happening here. Hopefully, we'll get that for you shortly.

Here's what I can tell you: They are seeing huge debris floats, mudslides coming out of the foot hills. Boulder is right on the edge of the Rocky Mountains, basically in the mountainous areas. And so, they're dealing with steep terrain and they're dealing with darkness right now.

It's only 6:00 here local time and so the sun has not come up. So, it's been very difficult for the rescue crews to get to the people who are calling them by the dozens we're told saying we need help. We are trapped and there is debris and mud flowing through several canyon areas. So right now the task at hand is trying to get to those people and assess them of the damages.

At this point a lot of Boulder, the city of Boulder is shut down to traffic because they, too, are seeing flooding here. The University of Colorado here is closed today. They've had flooding inside buildings. Several homes were damaged.

And again, at this point, no word on the number of people who may be injured and those who need help.

CUOMO: All right. Ana, those conditions are terrible for getting a satellite picture to show live television. We're lucky to get you on the phone. Thank you for the reporting this morning.

Let's go now for more on this extreme weather that's hitting central Colorado, let's get to meteorologist Indra Petersons -- Indra.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes. I mean, this is an unbelievable amount of rain inundating the area, we just heard in Adam County. They had possibly six inches of rain in the last two hours. In Boulder yesterday late evening, four inches of rain in four hours.

You can literally see this on the radar. We're just training here. What does that mean? That mean rain over the same place for a long period of time and heavy rain, literally large, large amounts of rainfall in a short period of time.

What is going on? Well, here's the situation. We have a low here on the West Coast. Now, remember, winds go counter clockwise around a low. There is a high just east of it. Winds go clockwise around a high.

The reason that matters is you get double the strength of the winds coming out of the south. In the South is where all the tropical moisture is. So, we're enhancing the moisture able to produce those heavy thunderstorms. You have the low with a little cold air in it and it triggers those heavier thunderstorms.

So, with that, large amounts of rain. Now, the question is: will this continue? Unfortunately, yes. We should see a lull throughout the day but overnight tonight, again, another round of storms as a little short wave kicks through the area in the region.

We could see another 3 to 5 inches of rain in the forecast. We still have a long ways to go.

I say it all the time and I'm going to say it again, 6 inches of water, that all it takes to sweep you right off your feet. Two feet of water, that can take away an SUV. Flash flooding is one the biggest killers of all weather events combined -- Chris and Kate.

BOLDUAN: All right. Indra, thank you so much for that.

Floods in one area, fires in another. It seems that some of the top stories we're following this hour.

So, let's get straight to Michaela for all the latest.

PEREIRA: Yes, Northern California has been bad. Bad fire season. We've said that before. The "Clover Fire", northern California, has claimed the life of a 56-year-old man.

The body of Brian Stanley Henry was found inside a mobile home that was destroyed by fire. The wildfire has been burning in Shasta County since Monday. The flames have consumed about 12 1/2 square miles. Fifty percent containment is now reported.

The Texas woman accused of sending ricin-laced letters to President Obama and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg must await trial behind bars. The federal judge determined that Shannon Richardson is a flight risk, despite not being a danger to the community. The letters were sent in May and Richardson initially told authorities her husband had sent them. She has pleaded not guilty.

Dramatic video to show you of firefighters barely escaping a house collapsing in Boise, Idaho, taken six weeks ago by a fireman wearing a helmet camera but it was just released.

Take a look at it. The firefighters are about to rush in when the entire structure comes down. There were two minor injuries. Officials still don't know exactly what started the fire.

Botox, now, a government approved way to take the effects of time off your face. The FDA has put its official stamp on Botox as a treatment for crow's feet. Doctors have been using it for years just smooth out the corner of the eyes where birthdays leave their annoying reminder. But the big government approval only came this week. Still do not expect insurance to cover Botox for cosmetic purposes.

And finally, got to show you this. Who needs a sweeper when you got this guy around? Oh, wait, and his friend? You got two felines that are saying I want to help in the housework, because mom, I feel like you're already doing too much. Let me help you. Let my fur help you.

BOLDUAN: Help me help you.

PEREIRA: Look at this. The other guy gets right in on it. CUOMO: I love the nonchalant (ph), but I wonder what they think. They're not attacking it. I wonder what they think. You think they think it's a ride?

PEREIRA: Well, yes. He's thinking I need to get to the living room. This seems like the only available mode of transportation.

CUOMO: You can go like catching a bush --


BOLDUAN: Catching the bus.

CUOMO: The sweeper.

PEREIRA: They call it the mop in that area.

CUOMO: Look how nonchalant. It's like, hold on, let me just --


CUOMO: -- older cat came, would you give up your position?


PEREIRA: That's very funny.

BOLDUAN: We're over analyzing the cat mop.



PEREIRA: I like this.

BOLDUAN: We do very well.


BOLDUAN: All right. Coming up next on NEW DAY, we're going to hear live from Caylee Hardig (ph). Do you that name? You should. The 12- year-old girl who's beat the odds and survived after getting attacked by a brain eating amoeba.

CUOMO: And, have you seen the new pope mobile? There it is. It's an 1984 Renault. Money troubles at the Vatican? No, no, no.


CUOMO: This is a message from the new pope that he is one of the people and it was a gift. We'll tell you all about it when we come back.


CUOMO: Welcome back to NEW DAY. You heard what's going on with Pope Francis. He seems determined to just break the mold. He wants to be seen as more ordinary. Personal phone calls to the faithful, off-the- cuff remarks, changing out, say no to the pope mobile in favor of what we're going to show you in just a second.

Makes you think maybe he would even consider discussing something like celibacy for priests. Crazy, you say? Well, just wait. Here's CNNs Miguel Marquez with more.


MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): We knew Pope Francis was different. He drew millions to his final mass on the beaches of Rio, solidifying his rock star status around the world. This morning, we're seeing just how different he is. The pope's recently handpicked secretary of state not even in the job yet has discussed the role of priestly celibacy, a church practice dating back to the Middle Ages.

FATHER EDWARD BECK, HOST, "THE SUNDAY MASS": But we're hearing now that maybe it's on the table for at least discussion. And that's all really people are asking.

MARQUEZ: In an interview with Venezuela's "El Universal" newspaper, Archbishop Pietro Parolin said, efforts the church made to keep ecclesiastical celibacy to impose ecclesiastical celibacy, have to be taken into consideration.

BECK: I think perception is everything. And the perception of the papacy has changed with Francis.

MARQUEZ: The trend is clear. There was the 76-year-old pontiff taking on the equally sensitive subject of gays in the church by saying, who am I to judge? He even used the word "gay," another first. In a newly published letter, the pope once again called for dialogue between the church and nonbelievers.

The pope is extending his man of the people touch by making cold calls to several who have written to him, including an Italian woman pressured by her boyfriend to have an abortion. We know the pope has a love of small cars, and he's throwing his security team another curveball. Francis has accepted the gift of a 1984 Renault with nearly 200,000 miles on it from a priest in Northern Italy.

The pope says he used to have one just like it. It's a new pope mobile for a new kind of pope.

Miguel Marquez, CNN, Los Angeles.


CUOMO: It doesn't get more common than that. I owned one of these when I was a teenager. I always wanted to get another one.

BOLDUAN: And he got it from a buddy.


CUOMO: It came from a priest. It's got to be OK.

BOLDUAN: Right, exactly. It wasn't a bad deal I'm sure. It is amazing.

CUOMO: I mean, these are things that we just didn't anticipate coming out of the Vatican, coming out of the pontiff.


CUOMO: And the discussion of something like celibacy, you know, would have been heresy just a few years ago. It doesn't mean the discussion will go anywhere.


CUOMO: But it's an interesting conversation to even have it.

BOLDUAN: There is no down side to how he's handling the papacy. I mean, isn't it better to be more connected with --

CUOMO: The conservatives, the orthodox, would say you are above. You know, you are the direct link within the understandings of Catholicism. So, you know, there would be that argument. Kind of like you got into it with the royals, you know? We want you to be different. We want you to be special.


CUOMO: This is even more so.

BOLDUAN: It's fun to talk about.

CUOMO: It is very much. Continue on the break.

BOLDUAN: Thank you.

Coming up next on NEW DAY, a fight over Obamacare derails a stop-gap budget vote in the House. Where are we going to go from here? Congress needs to get something passed before the end of the month to avoid a government shutdown on October 1st. oh, yes. We are talking about a government shutdown again.

CUOMO: And where in the world is Chef Anthony Bourdain going next? You won't believe the answer. We will tell you straight ahead. Right now, he's in the green room.


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

CUOMO: Welcome back to NEW DAY. It is Thursday, September 12th. Coming up, season two of Anthony Bourdain "Parts Unknown." You wanted a leg up on the other Bourdainians?

(LAUGHTER) CUOMO: Well, stick here, because we're going to ask the celebrity chef where he's headed next.

BOLDUAN: Makes me hungry.

Plus, the incredible recovery of an Arkansas girl battling a deadly brain eating amoeba. She is back home this morning and she joins us live with her mother and the inspiring story. Coming up.

So, with the Syria vote now delayed, Congress can turn its attention to another growing crisis, the threat of a government shutdown. Budget battle looming very large for lawmakers as they always seem to be in September. And of course, they're up against the clock once again. Athena Jones is tracking the latest from Capitol Hill this morning. So, where do things stand today, Athena?

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Kate. It seems like one crisis after another here on Capitol Hill. The government runs out of money on October 1st. That's right around the corner, so that means lawmakers are going to have to work fast to pass a new spending bill before then.


JONES (voice-over): Money matters now loom large on Capitol Hill.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Welcome back to D.C.

JONES: If Congress doesn't pass a new spending bill, the government will run out of money October 1st, which this would mean a government shutdown. And unless, lawmakers raise the nation's borrowing limit by this fall, the government won't be able to pay its bills. At issue? Obamacare.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER, (R) HOUSE SPEAKER: We're going to continue to do everything we can to protect Americans from this harmful health care law.

JONES: Some conservative Republicans want the controversial health care law defunded, and they're willing to use these fiscal fights to try to do it, even risking a shutdown.

SEN. MIKE LEE, (R) UTAH: Encourage your senators and your congressmen. Do not vote for any piece of spending, any funding mechanism that includes funding for additional implementation and enforcement of Obamacare.

JONES: A new CNN/ORC poll shows just 39 percent of the public likes the law. But any attempt to block it in the Republican-controlled House would fail in the Democrat-controlled Senate, and the White House fears the back and forth would hurt the economy.

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Threatening a government shutdown over an ideological position is not something most Americans would believe is the right thing to do. JONES: The poll also shows nearly 3/4 of Americans believe the country would face a crisis or major problems if the government were to shut down for a few weeks. And most of them, 51 percent, would hold Republicans responsible. Just a third would blame the president.


JONES (on-camera): Now, Republicans and Democratic leadership in the House and Senate are planning to meet this morning to talk about these issues. Remember, the spending bill comes first, but soon after that, Congress is going to have to vote to raise the debt limit. So, that's going to be another big fight. Back to you, Chris and Kate.

BOLDUAN: All right, Athena. Thank you so much. I do wonder how the focus on Syria, if it will change the political dynamic on these fights. Probably not, though.

CUOMO: We'll see. We'll be right here telling you about it.

Right now, let's get to Michaela for the five things you need to know for your NEW DAY -- Mick.

PEREIRA: All right. Here we go, at number one in a "New York Times" op-ed, Russian president, Vladimir Putin, says he is alarmed by U.S. military intervention in other countries in internal conflicts. He warns the U.S. strike on Syria would create more victims and could spread conflict.

Secretary of state, John Kerry, meanwhile, arriving in Geneva this morning for talks with Russia's foreign minister. They'll try to hammer out a diplomatic solution to that crisis in Syria.