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Christie's Traffic Scandal; Rodman's Apology; People's Choice Awards: Big Winners & Big Moments

Aired January 9, 2014 - 05:00   ET


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Scandal over a traffic jam creating some trouble for Chris Christie. The New Jersey governor accused of abusing his power for political revenge. Could his 2016 White House run be affected by this?

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking overnight, the new shocker from Dennis Rodman, now apologizing for his angry, bizarre, twilight zone interview with CNN. What he's now saying about an American held prisoner in North Korea. We're live.

ROMANS: The people have spoken. The big winners and the big moments from the People's Choice Awards.

BERMAN: Can't wait to hear that! Good morning, everyone.

ROMANS: I was all tied up with Christie all night --

BERMAN: People's Choice, that's the important stuff.

Great to see you this morning. I'm John Berman.

ROMANS: I'm Christine Romans. It's Thursday, January 9th. It is 5:00 a.m. in the East.

BERMAN: And we do begin this morning with the political fireworks surrounding one of the country's most prominent leaders who sure as heck seems like he has been preparing to run for president. These are just some of the questions facing New Jersey Governor Chris Christie as he wakes up this morning.

One, will he speak out loud about the biggest scandal in his career with actual words? He was silent yesterday, taking no questions. Will he fire some of his closest aides? Were people's lives put at risk because of politics, raw, partisan politics?

Here's the background here about this imbroglio, which involves the governor's office, a local mayor and what happened last September with the George Washington Bridge, which is one of the busiest bridges in the world.

Last year, Christie was re-elected as governor of New Jersey. Many Democratic officials in the state endorsed him over the Democratic candidate. But not the mayor of Ft. Lee. Then, suddenly, without any notice, during a September rush hour, two of the three lanes from Ft. Lee to the George Washington bridge were shut down. They stayed closed for days, and they led to a traffic nightmare. You can only imagine.

Even for paramedics, they couldn't get to people in trouble. There are even questions this morning over whether this contributed to the death of a 91-year-old woman. Now, Governor Christi e has long denied any connection to what happened, even saying that no one in his office knew about it, but now, two of his appointees at the agency that runs the bridge have resigned, and now, e-mails show that a top aide in Christie's office wrote to one of those appointees with now an infamous quote which said, "Time for some traffic problems in Ft. Lee."

That was a month before the shutdown. The mayor of Ft. Lee, Mark Sokolich is furious.


MAYOR MARK SOKOLICH (D), FT. LEE, NJ: You cannot shut down the busiest bridge in the world for retribution. It's not plausible. You intentionally put people in harm's way. You knew that before you did that, you knew that when Ft. Lee called 30, 40 times, you knew that when I kept sending text after text and calling cell phone after cell phone. You always knew that because we were telling you that that was happening.

Do me a favor, don't call me, but call the families who were waiting three, four times longer for emergency service agencies when their loved ones were having heart palpitations or when their loved ones had extreme chest pains and were waiting for our ambulance corps to arrive. Do me a favor, call and apologize to thousands of families whose kids were late for the first day of school and the three or four days that ensued thereafter.

Call our police department and call our administrators in the school system that had to deal with this, call the folks that had to deal with traffic Armageddon here that week. Don't call me. It's not -- you don't have to call me. I give you a pass.

Don't call me, but call those families, call those kids and call everybody else, because Ft. Lee didn't deserve it. We didn't deserve it.


BERMAN: Everyone understands traffic jams.

All right. So, as I said, Governor Chris Christie, he did not speak out loud about this, hasn't yet, but he did release a statement on paper, saying, "I am outraged and deeply saddened to learn that not only was I misled by a member of my staff, but this completely inappropriate and unsanctioned conduct was made without my knowledge. One thing is clear, this type of behavior is unacceptable and I will not tolerate it because the people of New Jersey deserve better."

Now, as you can imagine, there are increased calls both inside and outside of New Jersey for investigations. Some people are saying the Justice Department should step in to see if any kind of federal law was violated.

ROMANS: And this is an administration that has long prided itself as including Democrats, having Democrat support. He's somebody who won re-election with the support of many Democrats and many Democratic mayors. This would go against that story line, for sure.

BERMAN: The support of Democratic mayors. He likes to say he's bipartisan. He likes to say that he's above politics, and that's the real problem here, because what is more brazenly political than causing a traffic jam because of not getting an endorsement?

Now, Governor Christie says he didn't know about it, and it seems quite possible that he didn't, but the question is -- was there an atmosphere in that office of retribution?

ROMANS: And what about leadership? You hear where the buck stops. What about leadership if his political appointees were operating like that?

This story is just beginning, that is true.

OK. Another story proving more interesting by the minute. Breaking overnight, a big apology from Dennis Rodman, saying he's sorry for his bizarre, angry, sometimes incoherent interview right here on CNN a day after he serenaded Kim Jong-un for his birthday and amid calls that he should have actually worked to free a sick American in prison there.

Anna Coren is in Beijing with what Rodman's saying now -- a really stark contrast to his demeanor on CNN is what the statement on this piece of paper, Anna.

ANNA COREN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, absolutely, Christine, a complete back flip today from Dennis Rodman. He, of course, is apologizing for that rant on CNN with Chris Cuomo and also for implying that Kenneth Bae, that American missionary who's been sentenced to 15 years labor in North Korea, somehow deserved it.

Before we get to that apology, let's listen to some of that bizarre outburst.


RODMAN: If you understand what Kenneth Bae did?


RODMAN: Do you understand what he did in this country?

CUOMO: What did he do? You tell me. You tell me, what did he do?

RODMAN: No, no, no, you tell me. You tell me. Why has he held captives?

CUOMO: They haven't released any charges.

RODMAN: Why? CUOMO: They haven't released any reasons.




COREN: Yes, fired up and angry Dennis Rodman there. Well, let's now have a listen to the statement that he released through his publicist, and I want to read it to you in full, if I may.

He said, "I want to apologize. I take full responsibility for my actions. It had been a very stressful day. Some of my teammates were leaving because of pressure from their families and business associates. My dreams of basketball diplomacy was quickly falling apart.

I had been drinking. It's not an excuse, but by the time the interview happened, I was upset, I was overwhelmed."

He went to say, "I want to apologize to Kenneth Bae's family. I want to apologize to my teammates and my management team. I also want to apologize to Chris Cuomo. I embarrassed a lot of people. I'm very sorry.

At this point, I should know better than to make political statements. I am truly sorry."

So, there you have it, he was emotional and drunk. That was the reason for his outburst. Whether that's enough for the Bae family, who, of course, were outraged to hear him imply that Kenneth Bae somehow deserved this sentence that is yet to be known, they obviously wanted Dennis Rodman to use this opportunity to appeal to Kim Jong-un, the leader of North Korea, to release Kenneth Bae, who obviously, as we know, is very sick, Christine.

ROMANS: He's apologizing for his outburst, not apologizing for his trip to a dictatorship that's imprisoned Americans, starved its own people and is a brutally closed society.

Do we know when Rodman is coming home?

COREN: You're absolutely right, he makes no apology whatsoever for his friendship with Kim Jong-un. You know, this, of course, is his fourth visit to North Korea. We don't know when he is returning. One of his teammates, Sleepy Floyd, he came through Beijing earlier today. He flew out of Pyongyang along with a bunch of tourists who were there for that basketball game to celebrate what we believe was the 31st birthday of Kim Jong-un.

They said it was a very bizarre experience, the highlight of their trip in North Korea. They said that Dennis Rodman played the first half of the game. The second half he sat next to Kim Jong-un dressed in traditional North Korean clothes, smoking cigars with Kim Jong-un and laughing. So, that gives you a bit of an insight into what took place. But from all reports, they are skiing today in North Korea, and it may be some days before he returns, Christine.

ROMANS: Wow. All I can say is wow. Anna Coren, thank you so much.

BERMAN: Wow about sums it up.

All right, nine minutes after the hour. President Obama is said to be getting closer to making changes in how the NSA conducts its surveillance programs. He met Wednesday with key members of his intelligence team, and today, he is expected to meet with congressional leaders to discuss reforms. Last month, the group of outside experts appointed by the White House said the NSA program should be reformed or stopped and more oversight, they say, is necessary.

ROMANS: The White House is on the defensive over scathing criticism from former Defense Secretary Robert Gates. In his new book, Gates blasts both the president and the vice president, saying the president lost faith in his own Afghan war strategy and calling the vice president wrong on almost every major foreign policy issue.

Now, the administration firing back, saying policy debates are not new, defending Vice President Biden and his record.


JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president and the rest of us here simply just disagree with that assessment. As a senator and as a vice president, Joe Biden has been one of the leading statesmen of his time and he has been an excellent counselor.


ROMANS: The book will not officially be released until next week.


BERMAN: -- pictures of Joe Biden and President Obama together, all of a sudden!

All right. Ten minutes after the hour.

Standoff in the Senate over unemployment. All eyes are on Majority Leader Harry Reid today, who could force a key procedural vote on extending long-term benefits, but many Republicans, including some who back an earlier vote, say they will not sign on unless lawmakers come up with a way to pay for these benefits.

The White House has lobbied hard for the $6.4 billion bill.

ROMANS: Stock futures higher this morning, a strong report from the private sector on jobs yesterday. We're going to get the government's big December report tomorrow. Deutsche Bank, the economists at Deutsche Bank think we could see jobs 250,000 increase in payrolls, John, 6.8 percent jobless rate. That would be the best in years. Put it together, and the Federal Reserve likely to keep pairing back its stimulus for the bond market. That is the big, big story in money today.

The Dow fell 68 points yesterday, but the NASDAQ closed higher, the S&P basically flat. The S&P is down about 0.6 percent for the first five days of 2014, and that is a worrying sign because January has historically been a winner for stocks. So, we're really watching the slow start to stocks this month. In Europe this morning, the markets in London, Frankfurt and Paris all showing some gains. In Tokyo overnight, the Nikkei closed with a loss.

And here in the U.S. late yesterday, Macy's caught Wall Street by surprise. The second largest department store operator forecasting better profits, but at the same time, said it would cut 2,500 jobs in a restructuring. That news sent the stock up 5 percent in premarket trading, so Macy's likely to be a mover this morning.

BERMAN: Yes, tough job news for Macy's, but not for America, not for the country here.

ROMANS: No, you're seeing again and again little pieces of evidence the job market is improving, even as in Washington they're lobbying to pay more unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed. It's because for people out of work six months or longer, it's the same old job market.

BERMAN: Those numbers come out tomorrow. And Christine Romans will be all over that, you can be sure.

All right. Coming up for us next, the temperatures are rising, but the misery intensifies following this cross-country deep freeze. Indra Petersons is tracking the damage, and thankfully, the big changes coming in the forecast!


BERMAN: All right. The major January deep freeze may be over, at last, but the impact is still being felt across many states today. The death toll from the cold is now up to 23, many of those deaths were the result of traffic accidents, snow shoveling, which can also be dangerous, or exposure to the cold.

Temperatures are now rising at last. Flight cancellations on the decline, at last. And the weather outlook looks a little bit more like regular winter, regular cold winter, not the inside the freezer, beyond all sense of reason and appropriateness cold.

ROMANS: A friend of mine in Chicago said now they're starting to work on their base tans for spring. It's only minus 1 degree, time to work your base tans in Chicago.

BERMAN: Speedo weather.

ROMANS: Yes, exactly.

Western New York finally getting to dig out after days and days of snow. Parts of the region have several feet of accumulation, easy for me to say.

Now, the worry is flooding as all that stuff melts. The icy roads and bad weather meant everyone had horror stories.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pennsylvania's awful, Harrisburg was a sheet of ice. It was a slip 'n slide, the road, essentially.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's been bad because of the freeze that started everything. Like, for instance, my house, the pipe busted in the House. So I've been at my parents' for three days.


BERMAN: All right, it's been so cold in the Midwest that hell has frozen over, literally. We're talking about hell, Michigan. This is the town of 600 northwest of Ann Arbor. It's digging out from up to two feet of snow. Vehicles are stranded everywhere and they're still battling subzero temperatures.

All right, and look at this mess on I-94 on the freeway in downtown Detroit. A water main break turning the road into a sheet of ice, forcing officials to shut down these roads overnight.

ROMANS: An amazing story of survival from Indiana, where a trucker is alive today, despite being pinned to the ice under his truck. This happened Monday when he got out to check on his brakes. The truck shifted, he was stuck.

Luckily, his phone fell out of his pocket and he was able to make a call for help.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It caught my left side, and my left arm was pinned by the axle of the truck. I wound up being froze to the pavement in the snow. I remember saying, I said, whoever this is, whatever you do, don't hang up the phone. If they hung up the phone, it was going to be my last chance to talk to anybody.

It's amazing to me is it's better than winning the lottery.


ROMANS: Unbelievable.

BERMAN: Can you imagine what it must be like for him now? Oh, that is wonderful news.

ROMANS: All right, Indra Petersons is here. We only invited her back today because she promised that finally she has some good news. INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: I do, and each day gets better, so you can invite me back tomorrow and the day after, for like three days, right? I'll take what I can get.

Look at the temperatures are starting go up again. Still some temperatures are below normal, so let's jump to Friday, where so many of you, especially as the system lifts out to the north, you'll notice the west quickly warms up, temperatures a good 12 degrees above average in Minneapolis. Then, of course, down to the southeast also seeing temperatures rebounding quickly. Eventually it spreads all the way into the Northeast, where check that out, Saturday New York City looking for upper 50s. That is almost 20 degrees above average.

So, that is the good side of all of this. Of course, there is some weather system kind of kicking through -- there's actually two. The first one is weak bringing icing through Arkansas today, but the second system really picks up strength. We'll see some rain and even snow out of this.

Let's take you day by day again. There we go. Today, it's a little bit of icing out towards Arkansas in the morning hours. Then tomorrow, that system is weak and kind of goes away. Here comes the second one. Notice, we still have all the high pressure that brought the cold air, but you have southerly winds. You're going to get the moisture coming out of the south, from the high, leaving also from the low kind of moving in, so rain in the Midwest by the weekend and that system goes all the way into the Northeast and we get rain again.

But, again, rain with temperatures 20 degrees above normal --

BERMAN: I'll take the rain. At this point, bring the rain.


BERMAN: Appreciate it.

All right. Nineteen minutes after the hour.

Big news coming out of Utah. That state says it will not recognize gay marriages now that the Supreme Court has put them on hold there. More than 1,000 same-sex couples have wed in Utah since December 20th, when a lower court judge ruled the state's marriage ban was unconstitutional, but the status of those marriages has been in question as the state appeals that ruling.

Now, the governor's office says they're reverting back to the old rules until this can all be resolved.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're now frozen in time until we get further direction from the courts. We are not commenting on the legal status of those marriages. That's for the courts to decide.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a devastating blow to these families. The state of Utah is not harmed at all by recognizing the marriages, but the harm upon these families and their children is beyond calculation.


BERMAN: It's actually really complicated, the legal situation there. They're not rolling back anything that some of these now-married couples have picked up. If they had same-sex benefits, if they changed their names, they're not reversing the actions already taken. They're just not going to implement any new state actions and the governor says they're not doing anything to actually undo the marriage. They are just reverting back to the old law for every other future measure.

ROMANS: All right. Something to watch there in Utah.

OK. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo taking the first step toward making his state the 21st to legalize medical marijuana. He plans to let as many as 20 New York hospitals -- hospitals -- prescribe the drug for patients with serious illnesses. The pilot program represents a political shift for this governor who had long opposed any legalization of marijuana.

BERMAN: Two sailors are dead this morning, another missing after a navy helicopter went down in the Atlantic near Norfolk, Virginia. There were five crew members aboard the Sea Dragon, which was taking part in a training mission at the time of the crash. This is happening a day after an air force helicopter went down off the coast of England, killing four airmen there. The investigation into that crash is still ongoing.

ROMANS: Bells rang out across Tucson Wednesday to remember all 19 victims of a mass shooting three years ago. Six people killed, 13 wounded, including Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, who was shot in the head. Giffords marked the anniversary by completing a tandem skydive ads as her remarkable recovery continues. She's founded a national organization promoting gun control measures.

BERMAN: A big night for Sandra Bullock at the People's Choice Awards. She took home four awards last night, including favorite movie actress and favorite movie duo with George Clooney, this for the film "Gravity." "The Big Bang Theory" won favorite network TV comedy with its star also -- I can't pronounce her name, Kaley Cuoco? I don't watch this much --

ROMANS: I would pronounce it winner.

BERMAN: Just call her winner. That's important. She captured the favorite comedic TV actress award. And it was a trifecta for Justin Timberlake. I know how to pronounce that name.

He won the favorite male artist, favorite R&B artist, and favorite album for his album "The 2020 Experience." Ellen DeGeneres became the winningest female in People's Choice Awards history, capturing her 14th crystal trophy for favorite daytime TV host.

ROMANS: Wow. Congratulations to all of them.

BERMAN: Hopefully, we'll get nominated for favorite 5:00 show that airs on CNN, at some point.

ROMANS: I know, because we get up so early, we only see about a third of those things.

BERMAN: Coming up for us next, three big names making it into baseball's hall of fame, but I've got to tell you, there was some major, major snubbing that went on. Andy Scholes joins us in the "Bleacher Report," coming up next.


BERMAN: All right, the baseball Hall of Fame welcomed three new members, all fantastic players, to really, the most prestigious club in the world yesterday. However, once again, the biggest names from the steroids era remain shut out.

ROMANS: Andy Scholes joins us now with more in this morning's "Bleacher Report."

Hi, Andy.

ANDY SCHOLES: Hey, good morning, guys.

Yesterday, a big day for Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Tomas, they were all easily voted into the baseball Hall of Fame. The shocking result from yesterday's vote, Craig Biggio didn't get in. The Astros legend missed the cut by just two votes.

Now, the mega stars from the steroids era like Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Mark McGwire, they all fell way short of the votes they needed to get in and they actually lost votes since last year. It's starting to look less and less likely that these guys will ever get into the baseball Hall of Fame.

All right, it's official. Johnny Manziel will be playing on Sundays next year. The former Heisman Trophy winner announced yesterday that he will forego his final two seasons at Texas A&M and enter May's NFL draft. Johnny football, who had the best two statistical seasons ever for a quarterback in the SEC, is projected to be a top ten pick.

All right. Trending on today is shoelace gate. Now, if you haven't heard about this yet, it's pretty silly. On Sunday, the Knicks' J.R. Smith untied Shawn Marion's shoe during a free throw. The NBA warned Smith after the game, this was a big no- no. Smith then tried to do it again Tuesday night. The NBA said enough is enough and slammed him with a $50,000 fine.

Smith has apologized for his actions, but the Knicks are reportedly fed up with his act and are now trying to trade him.

All right, huge upset in college basketball last night. Georgia took down Missouri in overtime, and you've got to check out Georgia head coach Mark Fox on the bench. He was overcome with emotion in the waning seconds. His father, Raymond, who is a former coach as well, passed away five days ago. Fox couldn't hide his feelings on how big a moment this was for him, and his dad was definitely on his mind. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARK FOX, GEORGIA HEAD COACH: It is a special night. It was a hard week. The greatest compliments I got this week were from my dad's former players. And I'm sure he'd be really proud of mine tonight.


SCHOLES: That was a great moment, guys. This was a huge upset. Missouri had the longest home winning streak in the nation and Georgia lost their last five in a row. So, very unexpected outcome there, but a great, great win for coach Fox there.

ROMANS: Still, back on J.R. Smith, I'm unsure why he's untying his shoes, like me turning off your mike when no one's looking.

BERMAN: Yes, don't do that.

ROMANS: I don't get it.

All right. Thanks, Andy.

BERMAN: Andy, thanks so much.

ROMANS: Top headlines and everything you need to know for the day right after the break.