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Terrorist Attack at Kenyan Mall Continues; Gun Debate Reopened with Latest Rampage; Federal Government Shutdown Approaching; Hillary Clinton Interview in "New York" Magazine

Aired September 23, 2013 - 07:00   ET


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN breaking news.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news we are following throughout this morning. Welcome back to NEW DAY. It's Monday, September 23rd, 7:00 in the east. Let's get right to that breaking news out of Kenya. Happening right now, explosions and gunfire as smoke rises above the upscale mall in Nairobi. This is a live look right now at the very active scene. You see the smoke right there. The deadly drama unfolding as authorities are now saying Kenyan forces have rescued more hostages and are closing in on the rest of the attackers.

And 69 people have been killed, 175 wounded since the siege began Saturday. Let get straight to CNN's Zain Verjee who is live on the ground where all of this is unfolding right now. What's the latest, Zain?

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Everyone here in Nairobi is on a razor's edge. I'm standing just a short distance away from the west gate mall that is under siege in its third day by Al Shabaab and Al Qaeda militants.

I just want to show you up in the sky a plume of smoke that had been rising over these buildings. It was the second explosion in about 15 minutes that had occurred. It was a stronger explosion than the last one. Residents of this area are terrified. Also my parents live around this area, too, and I've told them to stay home and not move.

People are hearing gunfire from all places. There are some commercial buildings, but nobody has gone to work today. The situation is extremely tense as 69 hostages, according to -- excuse me, 69 victims according to Red Cross have been killed. The situation with the hostages when I spoke to the Red Cross was unclear. They said that they have nothing new to add today.

The join Israel and Kenyan operation has been taking place. When it first started, we heard helicopters circling this area. Two military police helicopters, and I see one small plane now going around the area. We have positioned in the community center, and they basically allowed their land here, this piece of property to be used by anyone who needs it, so emergency services, rescues, recovery, police, paramedic, paramilitary, special forces from different parts of the world, anyone who needs a base to operate from.

I just want to give you a sense of this area as well, OK. We are in a pretty middle class area, and it's partly commercial but there are also a lot of residences around here. People would be glued to their televisions, so many of them would have lost or known of family and friends. Relatives who are visiting who may have died or been injured in Westgate mall.

This is a place that everybody goes to, really. It's like when you come to Kenya. Everyone wants to go on safari or the beach. When you are in Nairobi, you go to west gate mall and have coffee at the trendy art cafe, which is where the shooting first started. We will continue to bring you the latest. Chris and Kate?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Thank you very much, Zain. Obviously, it's a fluid situation going on there, very heavy capabilities on the ground because of the large unknown. Authorities still don't know how many people they are dealing with inside or what the situation is. So we will monitor it as the situation comes in. CNN learned three of the attackers in Kenya may have ties to the United States. We want to go to CNN's Chris Lawrence to try and put this together for us. He is in Minneapolis, which is the locus that the authorities are looking at right now. Chris, what is the latest?

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Chris. Right now federal agents are running down leads trying to determine if any of those attackers are American. That is what a group claiming to be Al- Shabaab posted on the twitter account. We know Al-Shabaab is one of the only Al Qaeda affiliates actively recruiting here in the United States. This area is the home to the country's largest Somal-America population. That community has been fighting off Al-Shabaab recruitment. They haven't always been successful.

Over the last several years, 40 young men have journeyed overseas to fight for Al-Shabaab. Most of them are from this Minneapolis area. In fact, there was a recruiting video put out last month in which a man from Minnesota compared fighting in Somalia to Disneyland for jihadists and urged other Muslims to come there. An FBI source is telling CNN the FBI has been working with the Somali-American community here to try to prevent any of those young men from coming back here to the United States to commit acts of terrorism here. Kate?

BOLDUAN: All right, Chris Lawrence for us in Minnesota. Chris, we'll get back to you.

So this really does beg the question here at home, how safe are soft targets like malls in the United States? Joining me now ask CNN national security analyst Fran Townsend. We want to get to those questions, because that of course is the thing that comes to every Americans mind when you see this unfolding.

But first, the ongoing situation in Nairobi. We have people on the ground, seeing gunfire -- hearing gunfire, seeing smoke. They're hearing explosions. This has been dragging on since Saturday. What do you make of this situation?

FRAN TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, I'm not surprised. The Kenyan authorities are trying to take control of it. They want to bring it to an end. We saw the same thing at the Algerian oil facility. Often our foreign partners will go about these hostage situations more aggressively, take it on, confront it in a way we are reluctant to do here in the United States. And there are reasons for that.

I'm also not surprised we heard reports the Kenyans were getting assistance from the Israelis. This is what they do. This is what the Israeli forces know how to do. I'm quite sure they are helping to advice.

BOLDUAN: We have learned that part of the mall is owned by companies in Israeli, so there is that coordination, cooperation there.

What do you also make of the fact, you hear of Al-Shabaab, these one off attacks, suicide car bombs, that type of thing. But this is being described as fist indicate in its planning and tactics. Does that surprise you?

TOWNSEND: It doesn't. This has the remnants of Mumbai, where you have small teams that go in with what we call light arms, guns, not sophisticated weapons. But they're trained, and they understand who you to go into a situation, take control of it. And, of course, their goal is not sort of to trade when we think in a western sense of hostages. What they're looking for is a platform. So it explains why the Kenyan government wants to take that platform away from them and bring there to a quick end.

BOLDUAN: And then for folks who aren't knowing what a soft target is, why it matters, so why target a mall, and how concerning is that for something similar happening here in the United States?

TOWNSEND: So the difference between a hard target, you think of an airport, a federal building where there's a hard perimeter and you've got to go through a security screening. Even in our building, Kate, we go through real screening to get into here.

A soft target has many entrances and exits. There is no sort of hard perimeter by which you could screen for security purposes, and so it's difficult to protect. Think hotels, malls, any sort of open facility, a park, very difficult to protect because you've got so many entry and exit points.

Look, this is malls, for example, and soft targets here in the United States have been a concern for a decade. I can remember the 2004 election cycle during the conventions, police authorities and the FBI talking to local hotel providers.

And so, we have been, the FBI has been focused on this with their state and local partners, and the Department of Homeland Security worked very closely with the private sector to try and harden these as best as you can, but it's very difficult.

BOLDUAN: So there is the question, of course, of who is Al-Shabaab, and most specifically, who are the people taking part in this specific attack. We are hearing reports that it's not just men. There is actually a white woman that is possibly taking part in this. Does there fit kind of the description and the profile of who is part of al Shabaab?

TOWNSEND: Well, we have seen, al-Shabaab has been going through real changes they were pushed recently out of southern Somalia. There lab an intern am fight between a more extreme, look, al-Shabaab is an extremist group.


TOWNSEND: But there are more extreme elements even within that group. It's clear now that this more extreme element is taking control. Remember, they had relationships not only to Al Qaeda central, but also to Al Qaeda affiliates in the region -- Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, and Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula across the Red Sea. And so this is a group that sort of pushed its control out beyond Somalia's borders. Kenya, let's remember, there was the attack around the World Cup a couple years ago. So this is a group that sort of is reconstituting itself and exerting its influence and capabilities.

BOLDUAN: Is this going to be kind of the Al Qaeda connection group that now is going to be on the forefront of everyone's mind? Is al- Shabaab the latest, biggest threat do you think?

TOWNSEND: I don't think so. I think still Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the bigger groups that have moved themselves and actually tried to target and attack American interests both at the homelands and around the world will remain at the top of the list. I think al- Shabaab exerting its influence beyond Somalia's borders is now beginning to gain attention.

BOLDUAN: And real quick, does it surprise you that the FBI is involved investigating possible connections to American citizens as a part of this group. They are now investigating these allegations that there were Americans that could have been a part of this?

TOWNSEND: The last few years, a big threat, the FBI understood and has been working with the Somali-American community here to prevent their sons and daughters from being recruited. They have been very successful. And this has been an ongoing effort. So it doesn't surprise me about the FBI's efforts here. Still troubling.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. Fran, thanks so much. The developing situation continues. We're following it very, very closely. Now let's get back to Chris.

CUOMO: We want to bring you back home now because it was almost exactly a week ago that the Navy Yard massacre happened. And of course, it has sparked debate about gun control, two very different ideas for how to stop attacks in the future. President Obama calling for more gun control as the NRA calls for more guns in the right hands. Speaking at a memorial for the victims of the Navy yard shootings, the president said the United States can't accept such killings as inevitable. Pamela Brown joins us now with more.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. As you point out, Chris, it has been one week since 12 people were tragically killed at a shooting at the Washington Navy yard. We're having the ongoing debate over gun control in this country yet again. On one side the NRA president calling for more guns in the right hands. On the other, President Obama saying the only way to prevent future mass shootings is change.


BROWN: President Obama giving a passionate eulogy for the victims of last week's naval yard shooting and calling for a transformation of America's gun laws.

BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm not accepting these shootings as inevitable but asking what can we do to prevent them from happening again and again and again.

BROWN: Earlier in the day, NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre appeared on "Meet the Press" with a controversial take of what went on that day.

WAYNE LAPIERRE, NRA EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT: The problem is there weren't enough good guys with guns. When the good guys with guns got there, it stopped.

BROWN: Hours apart in vastly different settings LaPierre and the president's comments were almost a tennis match of point-counterpoint.

OBAMA: It ought to be a shock to all of us as a nation and people. It ought to lead to some sort of transformation.

LAPIERRE: We need to look at the men and women that know firearms and trained in them do what they do best, which is protect and survive.

BROWN: The president, once again, grieving with Americans after four other major mass shootings during his presidency at Fort Hood, Texas, Tucson, Arizona, Aurora, Colorado, and Newtown, Connecticut, last December. What's clear, this debate will continue with both sides still unwilling to yield.

OBAMA: It's the change that we need. And it's a change overwhelmingly supported by the majority of Americans.

LAPIERRE: We are going to have this discussion today. It's on other channels. When the camera goes off, nobody is going to do anything.


BROWN: And LaPierre also talked about how mental health records are not in the system for background checks for purchasing guns. The president said in his speech yesterday the U.S. is not inherently prone to mental health issues, but it's easier to get a gun than other countries like the U.K. and Australia.

CUOMO: We sure see mental health issues in every one of these massacres.

BROWN: As we saw it there.

CUOMO: Pamela, thank you very much. Appreciate it.

BOLDUAN: Another big story out of Washington. Right now, we are one week from a potential government shutdown, and neither side is giving up much ground at this point. Republicans are still split within their own party, some members insisting on defunding the president's health care law as part of any deal. Democrats say that's nothing more than posturing as the Senate is now preparing to take up the issue.

Senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta is here with more on what the shutdown could mean for you as well as, let's be honest, politics.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: And with everything else going on, there is still the possibility of a shutdown. President Obama comes to New York later this morning to deal with top diplomatic priorities, like Syria and Iran over at the United Nations. But you can expect the president to continue to turn up the heat on Republicans who are threatening to shut down the government.


ACOSTA: Now, just seven days and counting to a government shutdown and Texas GOP senator Ted Cruz is holding his ground. It's still defund Obamacare or bust.

SEN. TED CRUZ, (R) TEXAS: If the majority will run the minority over with a train, the minority has the ability to stop them.

ACOSTA: The question of the week is whether Democrats and anti- shutdown Republicans who are furious with Cruz can stop him from blocking any new spending bill in the Senate that funds health care reform.

SEN. TOM COBURN, (R) OKLAHOMA: Tactics and strategies ought to be based on what the real world is. And we do not have the political power to do this.

SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL, (D) MISSOURI: This is about running for a president with Ted Cruz. This isn't about meaningful statesmanship.

ACOSTA: If the government shuts down, some federal programs would continue, like Social Security payments. But a third of federal employees would be furloughed, national parks would be closed, and paychecks to soldiers would be delaying.

NANCY PELOSI, (D-CA) HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: This is totally irresponsible, completely juvenile, and, as I've called it, legislative arson.

ACOSTA: Aids to the president says he will beef up his defense of Obamacare all week, starting with an event with Bill Clinton Tuesday. He will keep up the pressure on shutdown supporters.

OBAMA: We're not going to allow anyone to inflict economic pain on millions of our own people just to make an ideological point.


ACOSTA: But the president won't have much time for budget battles, at least in the early part of this week, because he's set to meet with a slew of heads of state at the U.N., which means the shutdown showdown will likely be waiting for him when he returns to Washington.

Guys, we have healthcare as another deadline coming up. On October 1st, those health insurance marketplaces start on October 1st. A week from tomorrow. He's going to have another event on Thursday, to continue to highlight that. So his calendar is getting fuller and fuller and fuller. Less time too deal with the showdown over the shutdown because there is so much on his plate right now.

BOLDUAN: And then the debt ceiling right after that in mid-October. This is up against one deadline after another, but it always seems that in Washington, especially in Capitol Hill a deadline is necessary to get anyone to do anything.

ACOSTA: Crisis is the new normal in Washington. They're just continue to play along with this script. The president, he knows that, and that's why he is going to be up here dealing with the heads of state at the United Nations, knowing that these guys in Washington will take care of that. I will be up here dealing with this. All of that will be waiting for him when he gets down to D.C.. later this week.

BOLDUAN: (INAUDIBLE) Jim, great to see you.

ACOSTA: Good to see you. You bet.

CUOMO: All right, a lot of news this morning. Let's get to Michaela for the latest

PEREIRA: Here we go to our headlines right now. Two Navy crew members missing after their nighthawk helicopter crashed into the Red Sea. Three other crew members were rescued. Officials say the helicopter was trying to either take off or land at the U.S.S. William P. Lawrence when it crashed. The cause is now under investigation. The U.S.S. Nimitz is leading the search and rescue operation.

Back here at home, a man is in custody after a shooting at a Michigan lodge that killed three and left four others wounded. Shots rang out early Sunday morning outside the Elk's charity lodge. Two men were killed. A woman was shot and she died when she was hit by a car fleeing the scene. The suspect that they have in custody is facing weapons charges. He was already wanted on an unrelated warrant.

As Jim Acosta just mentioned, President Obama will be in New York today for the 68th U.N. general assembly. During his speech to the general assemble tomorrow, he is expected rather to argue that Syria has a limited window to keep its end of the deal on turning over its chemical weapons. U.S. officials are hoping the U.N. quickly passes a resolution to back up the deal.

Vice president Joe Biden, meanwhile, will survey Colorado's flood damage today with Colorado governor, John Hickenlooper. The Associated Press reporting transportation officials have now reopened some of the state highways in the aftermath of those raging flood waters. Hickenlooper toured two flooded petroleum facilities Sunday. He got a first hand look at the damage to oil containers.

And finally, I would like to introduce you to the internet's newest feline sensation. His name Is Sir Stuffington. Check him out in a cute pirate get-up. This is the thing. It's not just a cute story. It's a story of survival. Sir Stuffington and his siblings wound up in an Oregon shelter at just six weeks old. They were beat up. He particularly. He was suffering from a damaged jaw and missing an eye, but thanks to some incredibly kind volunteers at the animal shelter and a foster parent who took all three kittens in, Sir Stuffington is not only doing much better, he is also an online celebrity. His Facebook page garnered 24,000 likes in just a week. They called him Sir Stuffington because when they found him, he looked as through he was like a stuffed animal that had the stuffing taken out of him. He was really, they were in really terrible shape. So it's been kind of fun to see how the survival story and the fact that he's become this little internet sensation has garnered all this support and hopefully the much needed funds for that animal shelter. Because, you know, they struggle.

CUOMO: You got to help them. Thank you for that, Mick, appreciate it. Let's head over to Indra Petersons. Indea, am I even close about you were going for a little bit of an autumn color. Kind of, you know?


BOLDUAN: I was asleep while I was dressing this morning.

PETERSONS: Very, very true, Kate.

I think the big story this weekend is the latest huge cold front that went through. For most people, it was while you were asleep unless you were going big Saturday night that the rain came. I think the bigger story was Sunday, a huge temperature drop. Cold air is in place, we're looking at frost advisories, freeze warnings this morning. A lot of 40s and 50s even at this hour. So we pretty much know if you are starting off your morning cool. It will be cool in the afternoon. In fact, cooler than it was yesterday. For all of you complaining yesterday, a little chill is still out there.

Boston, you are going down from 73 down to 64 today. Yes. You're welcome on that. Keep in mind, you have to put it in perspective. Temperatures are rebounding. It's not going to be bad by the middle of the week, we will have 70s back here. If you were in the southeast, that cold front didn't exit like it did in the northeast. It stayed, and it stayed all weekend long.

So they have been dealing with rain for a couple of days. About a good two-and-a-half inches of rain, has really been inundating the southeast, anywhere from New Orleans all the way to Florida. I wish I had better news for you. Of course I never do, right. We have that cold front, stationary front hanging out. Another cool front making it's way in. So as soon as you get relief from one front, there comes the next one another two to four inches, yay. Finally cool air here.

BOLDUAN: Summer is officially over.

PETERSONS: 100 percent.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, Indra.

Coming up next on NEW DAY, we are continuing to monitor the hostage situation in Nairobi. Gunshots, explosions, smoke billowing there. We're going to go back live to Kenya in just a moment.

But also ahead, Hillary Clinton hasn't said much since she left the State Department, keeping a pretty low profile. Now, she is opening up a little bit more about her future plans. Of course the question, is she considering a run for the White House?

CUOMO: I got a bigger question. Is this fingerprint thing you were trying to impress me with last week one more thing for hackers to get after? That's what they are telling us now. This is one of the best of Apple iPhone 5 new features. Why security experts are pointing the finger at that fingerprint scanner. I knew it was too good to be true.


CUOMO: Welcome back to NEW DAY. Hillary Clinton is the runaway favorite for Democrats to be the next President of these United States, but, she's been very quiet about it. However now the talkers are talking about her latest interview, the most revealing since she left office they say. Here is CNN's Jessica Yellin with what's the buzz?


JESSICA YELLIN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: In her first interview since leaving office, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tells "New York" magazine she wrestles with the idea of running for president.

"I do, but I'm both pragmatic and realistic," she says. "I will just continue to weigh what the factors are that would influence me making a decision."

After living on what she calls "this high wire" for 20 years, she says she's now enjoying ordinary everyday pleasures, living in New York with Former President Clinton.

"We laugh with our dogs. We watch stupid movies. We take long walks, we go for a swim."

Apparently talking about 2016 is not on their list of favorite things.

"I don't think even he is focused on that right now," she says.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think she'd be the first to tell you that there is no such thing as a done deal ever by anybody. But I don't know what she's going to do. YELLIN: Really? Clinton's friends and allies are more focused on November 8, 2016. They readily point to the ways she's grown since the days then-Senator Clinton became the runner up in 2008.

Joe Hagan interviewed friends of Hillary for his article.

JOE HAGAN, WRITER, NEW YORK MAGAZINE: She is more comfortable in her own skin. She's more independent, she's her own entity now in a way that she hadn't been before.

YELLIN: Long time aid Melanne Verveer is quoted saying "she doesn't repeat her mistakes, she analyzes what went wrong here." Translation, if she runs, 2016 won't look like 2008.

REP. NANCY PELOSI, (D) CALIFORNIA: That if she does, she will win and when she becomes president, she'll be one of the best equipped people to enter the White House in a very long time.

YELLIN: Just to be safe, the political action committee Ready for Hillary has raised more than a million dollars and the would-be- candidate is staying in the public eye. This week, she'll be front and center in her new role at the Clinton Global Initiative.

At the Clinton Foundation event this week, her events will include a panel moderated by our own Dr. Sanjay Gupta. And I have a little news for you, you can also expect her to make an appearance when President Obama and Former President Clinton talk healthcare reform, Tuesday night.

Jessica Yellin, CNN, Washington.


BOLDUAN: One interview will give us plenty to talk about for months to come.

CUOMO: It's so enticing, because what Hillary represents as the potential first female president is huge, but you also have to remember, with all that yip yap that everyone, including myself is doing, they build you up in the media in anticipation of these events. She is very aware of that. Now it's all good, you are the presumptive favorite. You should do it. She knows the moment she enters the race, everything changes.


CUOMO: Build you up to tear you down.

BOLDUAN: Well, wait and see. Let's not get ahead of ourselves, which I guess we already have.

CUOMO: Enjoy the ride. Part of the job.

BOLDUAN: Coming up next on NEW DAY, we will take you straight back to Kenya, where we are following the breaking news there, a dramatic scene unfolding in Nairobi. Explosions, smoke, happening as you can see it at the mall under siege. We will take you there live to get the latest.

CUOMO: And two days. That's how long it took hackers to get around the new iPhone's fancy security features. They leave Apple red faced. Wait until you hear what they're using. Their intelligence against counter intelligence is intelligence. We'll tell you when we come back.