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NEW DAY

Cruz Crusades Against Obamacare; Defending Obamacare; Hands-Off Diplomacy; Carrying Out The Kenya Attack; Open Again After Explosion; Quake Death Toll Climbs To 208; Utah Man Charged With Terrorist Threat; Michael Jackson Trial; Life Saving Punch; Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos Revealed

Aired September 25, 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: A little hump day jolt of caffeine. Good morning. Welcome to NEW DAY. It is Wednesday, September 25th, six o'clock in the east. A lot to get to this morning. We have high drama or high theater depending on whom you ask going on in D.C. with a shutdown looming.

We also have something maybe a little closer to home and higher interest to some of you. A look at Amazon's new secret weapon. A feature for tablets you've never seen before called, wait for it, may day. It comes in a brand new interview with Amazon CEO, Jeff Bezos. Our Dan Simon sat down with him. And Bezos also talks about why he got into the newspaper business and bought "The Washington Post."

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: He doesn't speak very often, so it's really interesting when he does come and speak out. That'll be good.

But first, let's get to the major political story that Chris is just talking about playing out right now on the Senate floor. That's not video, that's live with the U.S. economy on the line. Take a look here. You can see him, Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas staging a marathon protest, trying to rally support to defund the president's health care law.

He's joined, he has been off and on by Senator Mike Lee and others. There's five days to go before a potential government shutdown and Cruz has been talking on the floor since 2:40 yesterday afternoon, all of this as the president turns to his explainer-in-chief, Bill Clinton, to give a renewed push for his signature health care reforms. A lot going on as you can tell.

Jim Acosta is joining us live to work through it all from the White House this morning. Good morning, Jim.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Kate. That's right. He's still going. Texas Senator Ted Cruz has been talking for more than 15 hours now in his filibuster-like speech aimed at defunding Obamacare. He's had some help along the way as you mentioned with some like-minded senators occasionally stepping in to give him a break.

But he is not the only one getting a helping hand with the president's signature legislation on the line here. He has called in some big guns, namely President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to help him sell Obamacare to make sure that this law is up and running.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA (voice-over): From Washington, it was the late show with Ted Cruz as the Republican senator seized control of the Senate floor.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The senator from Texas.

ACOSTA: To deliver a marathon speech. Hour --

SENATOR TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: I intend to speak in support of defunding Obamacare until I am no longer able to stand.

ACOSTA: -- after hour.

CRUZ: All right, so let me read some tweets.

ACOSTA: Tearing into Obamacare, a law he wants to take down once and for all in exchange for funding the government.

CRUZ: The American people are frustrated because their elected officials don't listen.

ACOSTA: At times --

CRUZ: I love this story and so I'm going to read it to you.

ACOSTA: Veering off subject.

CRUZ: I do not like green eggs and ham, I do not like them, Sam I am.

HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: Bill Clinton and President Barack Obama.

ACOSTA: But up in New York, President Obama was putting on a show of his own with Bill and Hillary Clinton to make one in a series of upcoming sales pitches on his health care law.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Those who have opposed the idea of universal health care in the first place and have fought this thing tooth and nail through Congress and through the courts and so forth, have been trying to scare and discourage people from getting a good deal.

ACOSTA: But Obamacare faces a key test. In less than one week on October 1st, new online marketplaces open for business across the country, giving the uninsured their first shot at buying into health care plans.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: What we want to make sure of is that everybody in every category, every age group, understands why health insurance is important, understands why they should sign up.

ACOSTA: But Cruz and some other Republicans say they'll only vote for a measure that averts a government shutdown if it also defunds Obamacare.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Defund Obamacare!

ACOSTA: The problem for the Tea Party Texan, Senate Republican leaders have all but abandoned Cruz's failing quest.

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL (R), KENTUCKY: I just don't happen to think filibustering a bill that defunds Obamacare is the best route to defunding Obamacare. All it does is shut down the government and keep Obamacare funded and none of us want that.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: Now, despite the Cruz talk-a-thon, the bill to continue funding the government with Obamacare intact is expected to pass the Senate, has a good chance of passing the Senate later today. The show really gets going once again as it moves over to the House, House Speaker John Boehner will come under a lot of pressure from conservatives, Kate, to pass a bill that, again, defunds Obamacare.

No insights yet, no guidance yet from that side of the Hill as to whether or not that is going to happen and with five days to go until a potential government shutdown, the stakes are starting to move ever higher -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely right. So you have the looming government shutdown, you also have a deadline or the beginning of when those health care exchanges kick off and you have the president with Bill and Hillary Clinton trying to sell this health care law. What's he going to do next?

ACOSTA: Well, he's expected to be on a conference call with mayors and other local officials around the country later today. He is going to be in Prince George's County, Maryland, tomorrow, for another event aimed at selling Obamacare. So he really has to get going here because as we've been saying in that piece, October 1st, you have the government shutdown deadline on September 30th.

But October 1st is when those insurance marketplaces get going. Kate, as you know, a lot of people still don't know how those things work. So the White House, the secretary of health and human services, this federal government, really has to get going here to explain this to the American people in order for this law to get going and for it to actually work so a lot on the line for the president this week -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Clearly. All right, Jim Acosta starting us off this morning. Thanks, Jim.

ACOSTA: You bet.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right, now to a missed opportunity, question mark? President Obama and the newly elected president of Iran both appealing for improved relations between the countries, but avoiding a face-to-face meeting even so, there's still renewed hopes for talks on Iran's nuclear ambition. Senior national security correspondent Jim Sciutto joins us with more. Good morning, Jim.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. Well, President Rouhani told our own Christiane Amanpour that he and his team discussed the meeting seriously. That crucially they have the green light from Tehran to do this meeting, but diplomacy takes time and this was not the right time. So that iconic meeting between the American and Iranian presidents that has not happened for more than 30 years will have to wait.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCIUTTO (voice-over): The historic handshake didn't materialize. President Obama was ready say White House officials, but President Rouhani was not. Still from the safer distance of the podium, both leaders called for a new era of cooperation between the U.S. and Iran, even using nearly the exact same phrase to describe a new basis for relations.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: I do believe that if we can resolve the issue of Iran's nuclear program that can serve as a major step down a long road towards a different relationship. One based on mutual interests and mutual respect.

SCIUTTO: President Rouhani also spoke exclusively with CNN's Christiane Amanpour.

PRESIDENT HASSAN ROUHANI, IRAN: I would like to say to American people, I bring peace and friendship from Iranians to Americans.

SCIUTTO: In an ambitious move --

PRESIDENT OBAMA: I am directing John Kerry --

SCIUTTO: Obama publicly directed Secretary of State John Kerry, seated in the audience not far from his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Zarif to immediately pursue a nuclear agreement with Iran though he cautioned the U.S. must know Iran is serious.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: To succeed, conciliatory words will have to be matched by actions that are transparent and verifiable.

SCIUTTO: What might the U.S. need to see in any potential deal? The disclosure of all of Iran's nuclear sites, a reduction in the number of centrifuges and a cap on uranium enrichment levels at no more than 5 percent, well below the 90 percent threshold to make a nuclear weapon. Many Iran observers are skeptical that's possible.

COLIN KARL, FORMER ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: I don't think we should trust Rouhani. I think we should test Rouhani and I think that's where the Obama administration is too.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCIUTTO: It may very well have been domestic politics in Iran that kept this meeting from happening just as President Obama faces stiff opposition here from lawmakers to a meeting like this. President Rouhani faces stiff opposition from hardliners in Iran. There is another crucial meeting though this week.

It's between Secretary of State John Kerry and his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Zarif. He's known to be a very wily diplomat and that could be the next step in this warming of relations or if doesn't go anywhere, how we could see it fizzle.

BOLDUAN: One way or another we might have an answer.

SCIUTTO: Exactly.

BOLDUAN: Beginning on Thursday. Great to see you, Jim. Thank you.

We do want to remind you that later this morning we're going to talk with chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour. She spoke exclusively, you see the video right there, with Iran's President Hassan Rouhani.

CUOMO: All right, we want to take you to Kenya now where we're learning more on a siege on a mall that left dozens dead and nearly 200 injured. Officials say the militants were unwilling to negotiate despite repeated attempts. We've also found out a woman was among the attackers. Today marks the start of three days of mourning in Kenya.

CNN's Arwa Damon is in Nairobi with more for us this morning. Good morning, Arwa.

ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Chris. As you can imagine, this nation is still reeling, trying to deal with the aftermath of that devastating siege taking place at Nairobi's Westgate Mall just down the road from us here.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAMON (voice-over): The four-day standoff finally coming to an end on Tuesday. After Kenyan forces swept through the partially collapsed mall, searching for victims, presumably buried beneath the rubble and clearing each floor of attackers, five of them found dead. CNN has learned that the fire the militant set on Monday was an escape attempt. The gunmen hoping to create a smoke screen, two of them drove out from the parking lot, a senior government official says they forced them back in.

Among the terrorists, reports of a white woman who Kenyan government officials say may have been killed early on in the siege, leading to speculation that it could be Samantha Lewthwaite, a British mother, fugitive and suspected terrorist, the infamous "White Widow," impossible to confirm until forensic examination is complete.

CNN has also learned that during the siege, the terrorist did not respond to negotiation efforts. A senior government official saying they weren't interested in hostage taking only killing. "The New York Times" is reporting that the plot to attack Nairobi's Westgate Mall was crafted weeks or possibly months in advance by the Somali Islamist group, al Shabaab, which claimed responsibility for the attack.

We're also getting a closer look at those terrifying moments inside the mall during the massacre. The British tabloid, "The Sun" is reporting that this 4-year-old boy identified as Elliott Pryor stood up to the gunmen saying, you're a bad guy, after they shot his mother, his heroic act surprisingly allowing the militant to let the family leave. But the ordeal for this country is far from over.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have ashamed and defeated our attackers. These cowards will meet justice as will their accomplices and patrons wherever they are.

DAMON: Many still searching for their missing loved ones and so many questions remain unanswered.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

DAMON: A lot of those answers do remain buried under the rubble at the Westgate Mall. What may also be providing more information has been the arrest of at least 11 individuals who were mostly detained at the airport. They are being questioned at this point. Forensic teams are also currently combing through the rubble at the Westgate Mall -- Chris, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Thank you so much, Arwa, for that update. Just amazing that it's now collapsed.

There's a lot of news developing at this very hour so let's get straight to Michaela for the latest headlines.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, guys and good morning to you at home. We begin in Ohio. Overnight, the Columbus Police Department headquarters re-opened following an explosion. It caused quite a fright there. A loud noise was heard inside the building Tuesday evening, in fact, prompting response from the bomb squad and then a subsequent evacuation. But during a search early this morning they found the source. A panel on a battery popped off on a construction project, thankfully no reports of injuries.

The death toll from that powerful earthquake in Southwest Pakistan climbing to 208, about 350 others were injured. Those numbers could still rise. A provincial official says people are still trapped beneath the rubble. The 7.7 magnitude quake so powerful it apparently made an island suddenly appear off the coast. Aftershocks could be felt in Karachi, hundreds of miles away.

Back here at home, a Utah man being held on $1 million bail for allegedly plotting to randomly shoot and kill people at a Salt Lake City mall. Police say 42-year-old Jack Stiles had also had plans to blow up a city bus. A woman described as a crisis worker at a local hospital told police about Stiles after he allegedly told her he wanted to, quote, "kill as many people as possible." Stiles is charged with making a terrorist threat.

Closing arguments resume this morning in Los Angeles for the Michael Jackson wrongful death trial. Lawyers for concert promoter, AEG Live, will address the jury. Tuesday, a Jackson family attorney argued that AEG Live hired the doctor who gave Jackson a fatal dose of Propofol so AEG should pay for his death. He wants the jury to award $85 million to each of Jackson's three children and $35 million to Jackson's mother.

And talk about fearless. This quick-thinking 19-year-old in Connecticut rescued a man in a sinking car. He punched out one of the windows. Peter Schopo and his friends were hanging out at a dock Saturday. They noticed a black Buick drifting into a lake. He quickly called 911 and then apparently punched the back window in, getting the man out of the car just as it plunged into the water. That driver is out on bond on drunk driving charges.

BOLDUAN: Wow.

PEREIRA: His instinct was to go and help.

CUOMO: Until proved otherwise I will chalk it up to his Italian man strength.

BOLDUAN: Or adrenaline.

PEREIRA: I've got nothing.

COUMO: Or Italian man strength, a.k.a. adrenaline.

BOLDUAN: Perfect.

CUOMO: An Italian man has twice the adrenal gland than the average male.

BOLDUAN: I'm not going to argue that.

CUOMO: That is science. It's a fact, right?

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: More science on a different level. It's nice, it is fall and it is gorgeous today. Look at these temperatures, New York City looking for 74, Pittsburgh 74 and D.C., the big winner, coming in today at 77 degrees. We're hoping it stays that way and all through the weekend. One thing may actually change that. It's actually something beginning on in the southeast.

Let's talk about the southeast first. This is the last two days, look at all of this rain. This is a lot of rain for two days. Fort Myers over 5 inches of rain, what has been going on? The same front we saw in the northeast last weekend is still there. Behind it, another front moves through the Asia. We're watching the low through the area emerging and developing with another low, sounds confusing.

Watch it on the model. We could see a low develop. That happens, it slides up the coast. We may be talking about rain through the weekend into the beginning of the week. We have ways to go get right now it's a coin flip. Whether or not it's a good weekend or not, best we got.

BOLDUAN: Every weekend is a good weekend regardless of weather.

PETERSONS: Good point.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, Indra.

CUOMO: All right, we're going to take a break. Coming up on NEW DAY, do you know what the mayday button means on the Kindle? Do you why Jeff Bezos got involved with "The Washington Post"? You soon will. The internet titan talking about everything, all these big issues right here to us on CNN.

BOLDUAN: Also ahead, 40 states are calling on the federal government to start regulating e-cigarettes, state officials calling the devices dangerous and now there are some reports they can even explode.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BOLDUAN: Welcome back to NEW DAY, everyone.

You remember the tech titan buying "The Washington Post" in August for $250 million. But his public comments about it have been few and far between until now.

CNN's Dan Simon went one-on-one with Jeff Bezos to talk about that and much, much more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEFF BEZOS, AMAZON CEO: Hi.

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Jeff.

(voice-over): When you meet Amazon's CEO Jeff Bezos, you're immediately struck by two things.

(LAUGHTER)

SIMON: That legendary laugh -- and his nearly unmatched focus on customer service.

BEZOS: We know customers like low prices, we know customers like big selection, and we know that customers like fast delivery. Those things are going to be true 10 years from now. They're going to be true 20 years from now.

So, we can count on those things and we can put energy into them.

SIMON: He met with us at Amazon's Seattle headquarters to personally show off the company's new lined souped-up, lightweight Kindle Fire tablets. One of them is priced at only $139. Apple's cheapest iPad is nearly $200 more.

(on camera): One of the things you've done so well at Amazon is undercut all of your rivals by keeping the prices low. Does that same strategy apply to tablets?

BEZOS: Yes, our approach is premium products at non-premium prices. So, we saw the hardware at break even. So, we don't try to make any money when we sell the hardware. We hope to make money when people use the devices, not when they buy the devices. And so, that's a very different approach from most companies. Most companies are building quite a bit of profit into the sale of these devices.

SIMON (voice-over): The approach this time also includes a feature never seen before on any kind of device. It's called "Mayday", 24/7 tech support.

TECH SUPPORT: Thanks for using Amazon assist. I see how hit the "Mayday" button. I'm your tech adviser James, how can I help you today.

BEZOS: You can tap the mayday button and a tech support adviser will appear on your screen and can draw on your screen and guide you through things and teach you how to do things.

SIMON: Bezos, of course, has been in the headlines for something else. His $250 million purchase of "The Washington Post." These are among his first public comments on the acquisition.

(on camera): Why did you get into the newspaper business?

BEZOS: For me, I thought "The Washington Post" is an important institution. And I am optimistic about its future.

It's a personal investment. I'm hopeful that I can help from a distance, in part by providing runway for them to do a series of experiments and in part through bringing some of the philosophy that we have used at Amazon to "The Post."

SIMON (voice-over): That philosophy, he says, comes down to this.

BEZOS: What has worked at Amazon is focusing on the customer, putting the customer first, which is easy to say but difficult to do. If you really are customer-centric, it's like being the host of a party. You're holding the party for your guests. Sometimes, the host of the party is holding the party for the host of the party. That leads to a different kind of party.

SIMON: Dan Simon, CNN, Seattle.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BOLDUAN: Fascinating. People were really surprised when he bought up "Washington Post" in August. I mean, for $250 million, for him, you could argue is a drop in the bucket. But what he can do with it?

CUOMO: Right.

BOLDUAN: Who knows?

CUOMO: And the point was, print was supposed to be dead, press was supposed to be dead, he was supposed to be the future, yet he was going back. Why? What does it mean? I think we should borrow one of his phrases.

BOLDUAN: What?

CUOMO: We should say that NEW DAY is a premium product at a non- premium price.

BOLDUAN: I agree.

CUOMO: It sounds like value.

BOLDUAN: It sounds like a great value.

CUOMO: We just want advertisers to pay premium prices.

BOLDUAN: Yes. And maybe you shouldn't say that.

CUOMO: Yes, certainly on live television.

Forget that. Erase that from your minds over this break here on NEW DAY.

When we come back, e-cigarettes, a lot of people see them as an alternative to the real thing. Supposed to be safer. Do you like them?

Before you answer -- know this, customers are saying they can explode and there are several reports of injuries. Now, 40 states are demanding federal action. We'll tell you why.

BOLDUAN: And the U.S. Senate stuck on Cruz control. Senator Ted Cruz pulling an all-nighter, trying to rally fellow Republicans to defund the president's health care law. How will this affect today's vote? Our political gut check is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

CUOMO: New day dawning. How perfect is that song? Jackie Lomax.

Thank you so much, the producers, for making that happen. Great choice. Great choice.

Welcome back to NEW DAY, Wednesday, September 25th.

Coming up, Senator Ted Cruz is giving the Energizer Bunny a run for his money, if it is a he. Still going on the Senate floor with a few of his colleagues. They're chipping in the help right now.

You're looking at Florida Senator Marco Rubio. They're trying to keep the dialogue going. Why? Defund Obamacare.

They've tied it to a spending bill. We had Senator Cruz reading "Green Eggs and Ham" there. Whatever it takes. We're going to break it down for you in the political gut check.

BOLDUAN: That's right. And just when you thought you've seen it all, a 430-pound gorilla is headed to therapy folks because zoo officials say he's sexist.

Our John Berman will introduce us to Patrick a little later this hour. Yes, I said it all with a straight face almost.

PEREIRA: Is he an amateur primatologist?

BOLDUAN: Is that a word?

PEREIRA: I don't know.

CUOMO: It is now. Let's get right back to Mickey, our vocabularist with the latest news.

PEREIRA: I don't think that's a word.

Let's take a look at headlines because that we know making news:

A possible turning point for the U.S. and Iran. President Obama saying he wants Secretary of State John Kerry to pursue a nuclear deal with Iran. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani told the U.N. General Assembly Iran is prepared to engage in nuclear talks and that nuclear weapons have no place in his country's security.

He also told our Christiane Amanpour he's offering peace and friendship to Americans. She will join us live later in our program with her exclusive interview.

The nation of Kenya beginning three days of mourning for the 61 civilians killed by terrorists at a Nairobi mall. Government officials say five members of the al-Shabaab militant group were also killed during that siege. Eleven others are in custody.

Kenya's president says three floors of the mall collapsed near the end of their rescue operation, leaving an unknown number of bodies trapped beneath that rubble.

Chicago police say the shooting at a Chicago park last week was retaliation for an earlier shooting. Byron Champ allegedly fired into the crowd after he was grazed in a separate incident. He's one of four people facing attempted murder and other charges. Thirteen people were injured, including a 3-year-old boy.

Fifteen hundred pages of bizarre new details about the Tampa couple accused of kidnapping their own children and taking them to Cuba. The newly released documents reveal a jailhouse relationship between Sharyn Hakken and another woman and that Sharyn may have been physically abused by her husband, Joshua. The children's grandparents had full custody of the children at the time of the trip to Cuba.

A 99-year-old woman from Iowa has been awarded her high school diploma, more than 80 years after she left school. Back in 1932, Audrey Crabtree of Cedar Falls only needed one more credit to graduate. But a swimming accident and caring for a sick grandmother interfered with her schooling. She always regretted not finishing up. On Monday, Audrey was given an honorary degree from Waterloo East High School, proof that it's never too late to finish what you started, 80 years later. Fantastic.

BOLDUAN: That's really cool. Fantastic. Congratulations.

Let's move now to our political gut check.