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Cold Weather Hits Parts of U.S.; New Book Reveals Campaign Decisions of 2012 Presidential Elections; Justice for Kendrick Johnson; New Book Alleges Obama Considered a VP Swap

Aired November 1, 2013 - 07:00   ET


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: The monster Halloween storm system is still dangerous and on the move. So let's get the latest from Indra Petersons tracking it all for us.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, Kate, this system is expected to move into the east with a lot of heavy rain. Look at all the damage it brought yesterday. Over 150 reports of wind damage, five roars of tornados in Louisiana and Illinois.


PETERSONS: A massive storm moved through the Midwest overnight, wreaking havoc on Halloween for millions and leaving at least two people dead in its path. Heavy rain and strong winds as high as 40 miles per hour toppled tree after tree, even flipping these semis on their side in Missouri. At least 10 structures destroyed in northern Arkansas. In central Texas, more than 1,000 homes were evacuated as rivers and creeks overran their banks. The National Weather Service reported more than a foot of rain across the area. Emergency lifeboats and helicopters rescued dozens stranded on rooftops.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Water came too fast. There wouldn't have been time to get the people out of the houses.

PETERSONS: Hundreds of homes and cars left partially submerged.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If they don't know how to cross that water, it will get you in the ditch.

PETERSONS: In Austin, rushing waters flooded the roadways. Most drivers played it safe --


PETERSONS: While others dangerously navigated through streets overtaken by floodwaters.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're pushing them out.

PETERSONS: Even pushing vehicles stalled by the rapid currents. The city's iconic downtown statue up to its waist in water symbolizes the immense power of this Halloween storm.

As this large cold front moves east today, packing winds as high as 60 miles an hour, it may snarl air travel and cause commuter headaches in major cities up and down the I-95 corridor.


PETERSONS: This storm is making its way into the northeast and mid- Atlantic. Currently this morning we have severe thunderstorm watches for Philadelphia and the rest of the morning. Also just west of D.C. we're looking at another watch box. So still the potential for winds as high as 70 miles per hour. Notice we still have wind advisories. We can see strong winds up into the northeast and stretching down even in through the Carolinas today. Strong winds even as high as 50 miles per hour will be felt by many of you. Even this morning we're seeing gusts as highs 30 miles per hour currently.

One to two inches of rain still possible farther down towards the southeast, tapering a little bit as you see an inch as you make our way into the northeast. Heavy rain will be the story like we saw in Texas, really those strong winds especially in the morning hours. Next story will be really those temperatures dropping as we go through the weekend. We'll be talking about temperatures with highs just into the 40s by the time we get through Sunday. Chris?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Indra, thanks for that.

We have some tasty inside political scoop for you. Top Obama aides apparently considered knocking vice president Joe Biden off the re- election ticket and replacing him with -- that's right -- Hillary Clinton. This according to a new book on the campaign obtained by "The New York Times." the reporter who wrote this story, Jonathan Martin, is standing by. But first, let's get to CNN's Brianna Keilar in Washington with the latest. Good morning, Brianna.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Chris, good morning to you. This book "Double Down" says that top Obama aides considered the switch seriously enough that they spent some good money on polls and focus groups, in the end deciding against the switch because the bump that Clinton would have given Obama wasn't enough to warrant such a dramatic shift.

But you're already seeing former top Obama aides clashing over whether this even happened. Although former chief of staff Bill Daly did confirm to the "New York Times" which first revealed this -- the information about the book that this did happen.

Now another bombshell, just how close New Jersey Governor Chris Christie came to being Mitt Romney's running mate. He was, we learn in the book, on the short list, not once but twice. In the end discounted for a number of reasons, but one of big ones was because he didn't provide enough information in the vetting process, including documentation about his household employees and his medical history, among other things.

We also get the skinny on top Senate Democrat Harry Reid's allegation against Mitt Romney that he hadn't paid taxes in 10 years. This was very damaging at the time although it turned out to be untrue. Where did that come if? The book says it came from John Huntsman Sr., the father of Romney's Republican political rival, long-time rival, Chris -- Kate. Sorry.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, Brianna. Lots to talk about on this new book. Jonathan Martin is a national political correspondent for "The New York Times," and he wrote about these revelations. Great to see you.


BOLDUAN: So lots of revelations in this book that you got the sneak peek on. So the part about Biden out and Hillary Clinton in, there were rumors, speculation during the campaign about this, but nothing of course confirmed. How seriously do you get the sense that they took this, even Bill Daly was looking into it.

MARTIN: I spoke with Bill Daly yesterday on the phone. He was the chief of staff at this time. This is the fall of 2011. What he told me was that he and a handful of top aides were really concerned about the president's prospects at that point. His poll numbers were really plunging and they were looking at options to try and bolster his reelection going into that year.

And so I think they put it in polls, they put it in focus groups. Campaigns don't spend that kind of money unless they're looking at something seriously. The question that's unanswered is did President Obama know about the sort of backstage effort.

BOLDUAN: What was your sense on that? I know you asked about it.

MARTIN: I did ask him about it. He said he wasn't sure that Obama might have figured it out but he wasn't positive himself. Now, what he emphasized is that there was no dump Biden plot which is to say we have to get rid of Joe. It was more our numbers are not really good right now, how do we stabilize that and could she help the cause? What they ultimately figured out after doing polling and focus groups she would help but not enough, not enough to dump Biden.

BOLDUAN: What then do you make of David Plouffe, top adviser to the president, who said this in a tweet, of course, "Never any, any consideration of VP/HRC, Hillary Clinton switch, not even entertained by the only person that mattered or most of us."

MARTIN: David Plouffe, according to the book, knew about this plotting. He is very familiar with what was going on. And, yes, I think he's parsing a little bit. They were looking at what having Hillary Clinton on the ticket would mean politically. Does that necessarily mean they were planning to dump Biden?


MARTIN: There's a bit of distinction there.

BOLDUAN: But Daly, what did he say about the motivation of coming out?

MARTIN: He was being candid. He said, look, I was chief of staff. It was my due diligence to figure out how to improve our prospects. BOLDUAN: A lot of big things coming out of this book. Also, Chris Christie being considered as vice presidential candidate with Mitt Romney. Ultimately they went with Paul Ryan. I want to ask you why, but also the fact that it seemed that there were a lot of unanswered questions.

MARTIN: Right.

BOLDUAN: The line in the back is fascinating. The dossier on the Garden State governor's background was littered with potential land mines.

MARTIN: Right. He was twice considered, twice scratched off. Mitt Romney was zeroing in on Paul Ryan, at the last second gave Christie a second look because he would have offered so much to the ticket in the eyes of some of his top advisers. Ultimately the Romney folks did not get enough information, background information from Chris Christie's office. And there were unanswered questions. There's a memo in this book from the Romney vet team, the folks that were vetting all their prospects for VP. The memo says five issues where if we pick Christie, must get more information on.

BOLDUAN: That's a big risk.

MARTIN: That was the risk. Romney operating his entire process with the last campaign in mind. He did not want a repeat of John McCain and Sarah Palin. He did not want to have the first month or two weeks of his rollout being filled with stories and questions about the background of his nominee. So he thought the safer pick was Paul Ryan.

What's interesting is yesterday when I asked Governor Christie's office about this, instead of responding to me, they got the head of the Romney VP search team to send me an e-mail saying all good with Christie, which tells you something about Christie's future I think and how some in the party view Christie.

BOLDUAN: I think that tells us a lot about what could be coming in the coming years. That's just the tip of the iceberg on this book.

MARTIN: Much more in there, including stuff about the John Huntsman campaign.

BOLDUAN: He does not come out looking very good.

MARTIN: He does now. By the way, his father was the source for the Harry Reid rumor about Mitt Romney not paying taxes for the last 10 years.

BOLDUAN: I remember chasing Harry Reid around Capitol Hill trying to tell us the source of that.

MARTIN: It was senior.

BOLDUAN: Fascinating. Jonathan Martin, great to see you. Thank you so much. Let's get back to Michaela for the rest of the headlines this morning.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Kate, thank you.

Making news, House Republicans say only six people signed up for health care on the first day of the launch of the Obamacare website. That in notes from a war room meeting now released showing by the end of day two, the site received 248 insurance enrollments. The Health and Human Services spokesperson says the notes are not official data on enrollment. Those are scheduled to be released later this month.

A harrowing ordeal and narrow escape after a school bus plunged off a low bridge and into a frigid, fast-moving creek. It happened in Douglas, Kansas, about 30 miles southeast of Wichita. The bus winding up partially submerged on its side in the water. The children managed to escape through a hatch before help arrived.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A couple of kids were yelling and a couple of kids were crying. I thought I was going to die.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What was going through your mind?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That I would never, ever see my grandma again.


PEREIRA: None of those children were injured but obviously traumatized. The driver is being treated for hypothermia. Investigators believe he might have run into standing water before hydroplaning into that creek.

Silicon Valley taking aim at Washington. Big tech firms demanding tougher laws to stop intelligence agencies like the NSA from breaking into their data centers. Facebook, Google, Apple, Yahoo! Microsoft, and AOL all demanding greater transparency in surveillance programs.

The annual New York City Marathon taking place on Sunday. Race officials say unprecedented security will be in place. Of course this is in response to the Boston Marathon bombings back in April. Federal authorities and the NYPD are treating this event as a potential terrorist target. The marathon course covers 26.2 miles across the city's five boroughs.

Check out this trick play gone viral. Sherwood high, Oregon taking on Putnam High. Sherwood dominated its opponents this seasons so it decided to have fun with the play they call the wrecking ball. The kicker taking the snap, charging forward during the point after touchdown attempt and stopping short to pass it to an open man in the end zone. Notice this guy is hopping along, lineman hops off the field, kind of running on all fours. The wrecking ball -- not sure why it's called that.

BOLDUAN: That's what I was waiting for.

PEREIRA: I'm not sure.

CUOMO: Because of the guy rushing the line.

PEREIRA: It's gone viral.

CUOMO: Good play.

PEREIRA: There you go.

CUOMO: Deceptive.

Coming up on NEW DAY, federal prosecutors are now on the case, reopening the investigation into the death of a Georgia teenager. Big questions, was it really an accident? Was it murder? The first and most important question, was it investigated properly? We'll tell you about it, straight ahead.

BOLDUAN: Plus, we've heard about the dangers of sexting. A big group of teenagers are now facing criminal charges for the pictures police say they sent around. We'll have much more on this ahead.


BOLDUAN: Welcome back to NEW DAY. Federal prosecutors are stepping in to investigate the death of a 17-year-old high school athlete found inside a rolled up gym mat. Police had said it was a freak accident but his parents call it foul play. CNN's Victor Blackwell has been investigating the story for months and he's in Macon, Georgia for us this morning. Good morning, Victor.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kate, good morning. In about two hours, the Johnson family is going to stand on a street corner in downtown Valdosta with pictures and signs that read what "happened to Kendrick Johnson?" This morning will be different because this morning they know that the U.S. attorney wants an answer to that question, too. When he comes to Valdosta, he's not bringing signs. He's bringing in the FBI.



BLACKWELL: After months of rallies and protests, an announcement that the family of Kendrick Johnson hopes will lead to what they consider to be justice.

MICHAEL MOORE, U.S. ATTORNEY FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF GEORGIA: At this time, however, I am of the opinion that a sufficient basis exists for my office to conduct a formal review of the facts and investigation surrounding the death of Kendrick Johnson.

BLACKWELL: U.S. Attorney Michael Moore, supported by the FBI will soon head to Valdosta, Georgia, to conduct a federal investigation into the death of 17-year-old Kendrick Johnson.

MOORE: I will follow the facts wherever -- wherever they lead. My objective is to discover the truth.




BLACKWELL: Kendrick's grandmother watched the announcement on a portable TV on the street corner where the family continues its eight- month sit-in, demanding answers.

BARBARA ENGLISH, KENDRICK JOHNSON'S GRANDMOTHER: I'm so happy and I know we trust in the Lord and we just had been down here rallying for 32 weeks for nothing.

BLACKWELL: The Johnson family never believed the local sheriff's explanation that Kendrick suffocated after squeezing his 19 inch shoulders into the 14 1/2 inch center of a rolled gym mat to reach for a shoe in the middle of a school day.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: His parents have always maintained that their son was killed. The only question we want to know, is why are they covering up for whoever killed their son.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I believe, indeed, that he was murdered.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Do you have any idea who may have murdered him?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I don't. That's what we wanted to get the truth.

BLACKWELL: CNN has been reporting on this case for months, uncovering details of the sheriff's investigation. Like why these shoes found yards from Kendrick's body were not collected as evidence. And how this blood stain got on this wall in the gym and why investigators never found whose blood it was.

BLITZER: And you don't believe there was a thorough investigation by local authorities, Mr. Johnson?


BLACKWELL: In a statement to CNN, the attorney for the Lowndes County Sheriff's Office writes, in part, "while Sheriff Prine has every confidence that his officers' investigation was handles with the necessary diligence to assure that all leads were examined and exhausted, he welcomes the U.S. attorney's further review of the case."

On Wednesday, a judge ordered Lowndes County Sheriff's Office to hand over its full investigative file, including never before seen surveillance video from inside the gym where Kendrick died.

ENGLISH: We have to continue to fight on until justice is done for K.J. (END VIDEOTAPE)

BLACKWELL: At the start of business in just a couple of hours, a tech expert will get back to work trying to retrieve hundreds of hours of surveillance from those surveillance cameras. About 48 hours from each of 40 cameras in and around the gym where Kendrick died will be retrieved and handed over to the Johnsons and CNN as a result of a lawsuit the Johnsons filed and CNN joined. For the tech savvy people, it's about a terabyte of data and it's taking some time to transfer that. Chris?

CUOMO: All right, Victor, thank you so much for the reporting on this.

Let's bring on CNN legal analyst, senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin. It's great to have you.

Clarity in process gives confidence in conclusions. That's what they tell us when we're learning how to investigate things in our business, and that's a big problem here. You have two questions. How was this handled and what really happened? The problem is dealing with the first is going to obscure getting the answer to the second. Yes?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: And time. Time is a big factor here. This murder -- this death was almost a year ago. Going back to try to find evidence of what happened almost a year ago is going to be very difficult. The gym, of course, has been used for all that time. Those shoes were in the photograph, long gone. The blood on the wall, long gone. So to try to reconstruct the evidence is a big, big challenge after almost a year.

CUOMO: Silver lining is, if it were a homicide, it could be that just someone shaking the right bushes can get people to talk and we don't know if that has been done. Let's deal with that. When you look at it, everyone said from the beginning who understands forensics and investigations, this doesn't seem right.

TOOBIN: Right.

CUOMO: Why? What wasn't handled right here and is that a fair assumption?

TOOBIN: Well, first of all the evidence collection on the scene. We don't know if all the relevant people were interviewed. Look at the surveillance video we have. You see Kendrick walking into the gym with some kids shooting baskets. Were those kids spoken to? Do we know who was in the gym? Do we know who saw him last? All of that is something you can at least try to reconstruct now.

Then there's the whole other chapter of how his body was treated after he died. The funeral home apparently -- this is where the story gets bizarre and distasteful -- apparently took the organs out of his body, discarded them, filled his body with newspaper. First of all, that's an improper way to handle a dead body, but it also will damage the investigation, because some of that -- the parts of the body could be relevant in how he died.

CUOMO: Have you ever heard of that being done as a protocol?

TOOBIN: I have never heard of that being done. I think it's improper. I have heard that funeral homes operate with a lot - with a great absence of scrutiny and there's bad stuff that goes on there, but this seems pretty appalling.

CUOMO: And then you get to that -- as the family made its efforts, they've been doing a sit-in for weeks and weeks, the urgency has been consistent, they got push back from the sheriff's office? Fair point? You can have this, you can't have the video. You would think if you were in this office, and you said look we looked at it, this was an accident, you'd give them everything you could. Not here. Thoughts.

TOOBIN: That's not how law enforcement people think. First of all, they don't like being second guessed. Second of all, they don't like giving up their evidence. They don't like not being in control of all their evidence. It is not at all surprising that a relatively small town sheriff would say to a family, we know better than you. I think the real tribute to Kendrick's family is they kept at it. They were out there every day. They cooperated with the news media. Frankly, I think Victor in particular deserves a lot of credit for pursuing the story the way he did and eventually they got a further investigation.

CUOMO: Everybody wants to jump to the idea of whether or not it was an accident or homicide. You think the big determination from the federal authorities here is whether or not this was done in good faith?

TOOBIN: Not really. I mean I think mostly we want to know how he died and whether someone killed him.

CUOMO: We want to know that but do you think for them, the determination most likely will be how the investigate was handled?

TOOBIN: Right. For starters they will want to know how the investigation was handled and that is something that is always worthy of scrutiny. But I think ultimately why we all care about this case is we want to know how he died and whether someone killed him.

CUOMO: The people like Victor Blackwell who have been on it, this is a situations where the media can help. This is something worth being a pest about.

TOOBIN: You know, we don't always do a good job. This is one we can really be proud of.

CUOMO: Long way to go. Thank you for the analysis. Always a pleasure. Have a good weekend.

TOOBIN: You, too.

CUOMO: What do you thnink about this? What do you think the relevant questions are? Do you think this is being pushed in the wrong direction? Use #newday, tweet us.

BOLDUAN: Coming up next on NEW DAY, the dangers of sexting. Dozens of teens are now facing charges for sending pictures and resending them to friends. The details on that is coming up.

Also, a hunt is on in San Diego for a man who turned on a bus driver, hitting him with pepper spray.


PEREIRA: Welcome back to NEW DAY. Here are some of the stories making news at this hour. Powerful, dangerous winds expected again today from the Great Lakes stretching up the northeast coast a day after heavy, heavy rains hit the nation's midsection killing two in Texas. New York City, Philadelphia and Boston all said to see some bad weather. Winds are expected to be strong enough to tree limbs and power lines.

CNN has learned CIA security officers will testify behind closed doors at a House hearing on Benghazi. They are expected to offer much more detail about that deadly terror attack last year at the U.S. diplomatic compound. The officers were at the scene that night. Some members of Congress have been pushing to hear their stories. The hearing is expected the week of November 11.

Within the next couple of months, you will be able to use your computer, tablet or smartphone during takeoff and landing. The FAA relaxing rules about electronics during flight. You won't be able to make calls or send texts; you have to keep the phone on airplane mode. You can play games, listen to music or work on the Powerpoint presentation. Delta and Jetblue have applied to use the new rules.

Police in San Diego on the hunt for a man caught on camera pepper spraying a bus driver. This happened last Saturday. The man you see dressed in a jack-o'-lantern T-shirt apparently began harassing passengers. He was asked to get off the bus. He then walked to the front, pulled out his pepper spray, sprayed the driver, and then left. That driver had to be treated for eye and facial injuries.

Remember yesterday we told you about fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld's controversial comments about plus size women? Well, today we share with you pictures from the first ever plus-size fashion show week in Paris. The designer collections presented here all available in sizes ranging from 6 to 20. According to Huff Post Style, 57 percent of American women buy size 16 or higher. Likely they will relate better to some of these models. A follow-up to yesterday's conversation.

CUOMO: I like that. It was good to follow on it that way.

Got political dish, there's a book out, it has things that people in politics don't want us to know, at least that's what the authors of the book say. There's an allegation that the Obama campaign was looking at replacing Joe Biden with somebody else. That's what the book claims. That he was nearly dropped from the 2012 ticket and replaced with the woman that you see on your screen, also known as Hillary Rodham Clinton. There are these claims that Chris Christie almost became Mitt Romney's running mate. Could they be true? We're going to look at them, and we're going to play with them.

Let's bring in John Berman to do that. JOHN BERMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The book is "Double Down" by authors Mark Halperin and John Heilemann. They wrote "Game Change" about the last campaign. This has the juiciest of juicy tidbits about elections. Political junkies like me love reading this stuff.

And it kind of tells the back story of what went on during these elections. As you alluded to in your intro, what this says is that the Obama team looked into what it would mean if they replaced Joe Biden with Hillary Clinton. Did they almost replace Joe Biden with Hillary Clinton? I think that's a vast stretch, but what they did is they took polling, they did some focus groups. They did the due diligence to find out what it would mean if she was on the ticket.