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Christie Camp In Crisis; Lane Closures Slowed EMS Responses; Rodman Apologizes; American Jailed in UAE Freed; New Mortgage Rules

Aired January 9, 2014 - 06:00   ET



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think the story's beyond belief. You don't hold people hostage for whatever political reason.

CUOMO: Bridge to trouble. Scandal ignites overnight for Chris Christie. Hearings held today after incriminating e-mails surface suggesting that governor's office did punish a political foe (ph). Will it affect his political future?

BOLDUAN: Breaking overnight, Dennis Rodman apologizes, saying he shouldn't have attacked Kenneth Bae and even apologizing to Chris Cuomo. And look at this, new video of Rodman with Kim Jong-Un.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Super lawsuit. An NFL fan taking on the league saying Super Bowl tickets just too expansive costing thousands of dollars and that pricing is illegal. Does he have a chance of winning?

CUOMO: Your NEW DAY starts right now.

ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo, Kate Bolduan, and Michaela Pereira.


CUOMO: Good morning. Welcome to NEW DAY. It's Thursday, January 9th, six o'clock in the east. And the Chris Christie camp is in crisis mode this morning. The bridge to political payback scandal just got real. The New Jersey governor is facing hearings, potential investigations that could, could derail any shot at higher office. Here, look at the headlines. He's getting it from right and he's getting it from the left.

Christie's in a jam, hold it up, thank you very much.

That chance is what the "Daily News" is now saying obviously talking about political ambitions for the presidency. So that is the hype, but here is the issue, did the New Jersey governor approved lane closures on the George Washington Bridge in September simply to punish a Democratic mayor who wouldn't support him.

Now it's just about traffic, the allegations are now that EMS workers may have been delayed. Someone may have even died as a result. Hearings are being held. Today some critics are now calling for a criminal investigation as we wait for the governor to step forward and speak.

Joe Johns is live from Washington monitoring the situation. Joe, what is the latest?

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Chris what was a hometown inconvenient story on a bridge between New York and New Jersey has become national news all because of newly exposed e-mail traffic between members of the governor's inner circle raising questions about abuse of power and political retribution.


JOHNS (voice-over): The scandal involving closed lanes at the nation's busiest crossing has exploded and ensnared Governor Christie just as he takes a prominent role on the national stage as a leading potential candidate for the 2016 GOP presidential nominations.

It started in September when several lanes of the George Washington Bridge were shut down for four days without warning including on the first day of school in nearby Fort Lee, New Jersey resulting in an hour's long traffic nightmare for the town. And now a letter from an EMS official suggests even emergency responders were delayed, one case involving paramedics responding to a woman suffering a heart attack.

There were questions whether the gridlock was politically motivated payback for the Democrat mayor of Fort Lee who had declined to endorse Christie's last re-election bid. CNN obtained text and e-mails that seemed to be the closest thing to a smoking gun.

"Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee," it was sent August 13th. A message from the e-mail account of Brigitte Ann Kelly, the governor's deputy chief of staff to David Wildstein, one of governor's top appointees at the agency that controls the bridge. "Got it," he replied.

When the mayor of Fort Lee called about the gridlock, Kelly then e- mailed Wildstein to find out if anyone had called him back. Radio silence was the response. The official excuse for the bridge snarl, a traffic study reviewing safety patterns for toll lanes. Christie later denied his office was involved in the bridge problem.

GOVERNOR CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: I actually was the guy working the cones out there. You really are not serious with that question.

JOHNS: Late Wednesday the governor issued a statement responding to the revelations. "I am outraged and deeply saddened to learn that not only was I misled by a member of staff, but this completely inappropriate and unsanctioned conduct was made without my knowledge." The question now is whether any state or federal laws were broken.

MAYOR MARK SOKOLICH, FORT LEE, NEW JERSEY: Those that are responsible for this most heinous act, they can no longer be in positions of power in government.

JOHNS: But now residents of New Jersey are angered by the scandal. YORMAN BORG, NEW JERSEY RESIDENT: I think the story is beyond belief. The whole concept that it is politically motivated is wrong. I mean, you don't hold people hostage for whatever political reason.


JOHNS: The other headache for Governor Christie is that he did not apparently know what was going on in his own office. While he says he was misled by a member of the staff, the e-mails seemed to suggest that others including people at the Port Authority may have had knowledge of what was going on. The governor has promised accountability for those responsible -- Kate.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, those headaches may only be beginning. Joe, thank you very much for starting us off this morning.

So no matter who authorized those lane closures on the George Washington Bridge, as Joe mentioned, an Emergency Services coordinator says that it delayed response times to at least four medical situations going on in the area. One of those emergencies involved a 91-year-old woman who was unconscious waiting for an ambulance to arrive. She later died of cardiac arrest.

CNN's Alexandra Field is live from Fort Lee, New Jersey this morning with much more on that angle of this developing story. Good morning, Alexandra.

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Kate. It took Fort Lee EMS exactly one day to raise the red flag warning that lane closures leading to the George Washington Bridge were causing traffic in Fort Lee that could have life threatening consequences.

According to Favia emergency responses that should have taken a matter of minutes were taking up to three times that long. He cites four cases in which there were delays, two involving people with chest pains and a fourth involving a car wreck with four people who were hurt.

In that case, Favia says traffic was so bad he had to jump the curb in order to reach the scene and a fourth case, when a 91-year-old woman suffered a heart attack, Favia says paramedics were stuck in traffic. They couldn't reach the scene. They had to meet the ambulance en route to the hospital where that woman later died.

Favia noticing these delays, he immediately wrote a letter to the mayor of Fort Lee. In that letter, he writes in part, quote, "This new traffic pattern is causing unnecessary delays for Emergency Services to arrive on scene for medical emergencies."

The letter goes on to say, quote, "perhaps some type of modification or change can be made to this new traffic pattern." Favia says when he noticed that traffic in Fort Lee back in September he immediately contacted a police officer. He explained it was all caused by a new traffic pattern here at the toll booth -- Chris.

BOLDUAN: All right, Alexandra, I'll take it. Thank you so much for that side of the story. We're going to have much more on the Christie crisis throughout the show today and we're going to talk to one of his Democratic rivals on this topic, of course.

CUOMO: Also breaking overnight, former NBA star, Dennis Rodman, apologizing for his melt down here on NEW DAY. In a statement, Rodman blames his behavior on stress and drinking, but he is not abandoning his friend, Kim Jong-Un. That's why he's getting hit in the first place, right?

So he even serenaded him during his birthday singing happy birthday to him. All these comes new criticism for Rodman after that little situation. Let's get to CNN's Jim Sciutto live in Washington with more on the fallout from Rodman's basketball diplomacy -- Jim.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Chris. Good morning. Well, Dennis Rodman still in North Korea. In fact, we're hearing reports this morning that he's going skiing with Kim Jong-Un, but now as you say, he is apologizing. His publicist sent CNN his statement where he blames booze and stress for his bizarre outbursts and comments about American captive, Kenneth Bae.


SCIUTTO (voice-over): Overnight, former NBA player, Dennis Rodman, admitted in a statement to CNN that he was out of bounds. He says, "I want to apologize. I take full responsibility for my actions. It has 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 were quickly falling apart."

Rodman's apology comes in the wake of a wild week playing exhibition basketball in North Korea where he exploded in an interview with CNN's Chris Cuomo.

DENNIS RODMAN, FORMER NBA PLAYER: I don't give a rat's ass what you think.

SCIUTTO: In his apology, Rodman explains his outburst, "I had been drinking. It's not an excuse, but by the time the interview happened, I was upset. I was overwhelmed. It's not an excuse, it's just the truth." Rodman ended his alarming North Korea trip with even more bizarre --

RODMAN: Happy birthday to you.

SCIUTTO: Singing happy birthday to Leader Kim Jong-Un and giving him a bow.

RODMAN: You, sir, let me know --

SCIUTTO: Rodman sparked a fire storm with the seeming justification for the imprisonment of American Kenneth Bae to Chris Cuomo leaving Bae's family back home shocked and disappointed.

RODMAN: Do you understand what Kenneth Bae did? Do you understand what he did in his country? CUOMO: You tell me. What did he do?

RODMAN: You tell me. You tell me. Why is he held captive?

SCIUTTO: But now Rodman is back pedaling saying, I want to first 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'm truly sorry.

Also appearing to have regrets, one of Rodman's teammates, Charles Smith, he says he now questions whether they did the right thing going to North Korea. In a birthday gift to Kim, Rodman lost along with his team of former NBA star to the North Korean national team. Their loss is another apparent victory for North Korea's propaganda machine.


SCIUTTO: On Kenneth Bae, the U.S. is still working very hard to get him out of North Korea. The State Department tell us they're working diplomatic channels through China and Sweden, which represents U.S. interest there. There's also a direct line of communication with North Korea through the U.N. Mission and they're trying to get their envoy back into North Korea to get Bae out. He was supposed in August, Chris, but North Korea abruptly canceled that visit.

CUOMO: All right, Jim, thanks for following up on this, appreciate it.

It's nice that he apologized. I've been saying ever since this happened I believe that Rodman is well-intentioned but misguided. He did have to apologize to the Bae family though. Any suggestion that validates to why this man is being detained is very dangerous for his situation.

BOLDUAN: And to be clear, you never asked for an apology.

CUOMO: This happens in interviews all the time. It takes a lot to offend us in this business and we're not relevant. What is relevant is what's going on with Kenneth Bae and to separate out the team also. Kate and I have been discussing this all week, they say they went there for cultural exchange. That's fine. They were getting paid. That's a decision.

But when it is positioned as being a gift to this man, it makes it a little bit more complicated. And that's why we're going to bring on one of the wives of one of the players there to give her perspective on what her husband knew, Cliff Robertson. But remember, the headline is, Kenneth Bae is being held there. There are human atrocities you would not imagine that are going on in that country that deserve attention. Hopefully the State Department can use some of the energy that Rodman stirred up.

BOLDUAN: Let's turn back to Washington though right now. Happening today, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid could force a key procedural vote on unemployment insurance. Democrats and Republicans are at an impasse surprisingly over extending the benefits and how to pay for it. Now there are signs that prospects for passing the bill may be dwindling.

Senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta is live outside the White House this morning with much more on this. So what is the latest because it changes day by day?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It sure does, Kate. Here we go again. Just when you saw that very small surprise earlier this week when a handful of Republicans jumped on board with Democrats to begin debate on extending these unemployment benefits with the long term jobless. Now all of a sudden, a couple of Republicans who voted to begin that debate are saying, you know what, we may not vote to end this debate.

We are talking about Senators Rob Portman and Kelly Ayotte. They are insisting that there are offsets to cover the costs of these unemployment benefits. They want budget cuts essentially to pay for those costs about $6.5 billion for 1.3 million Americans who have been unemployed for a long period of time.

Democrats are now saying that they may not go along with it. They have not seen any proposals for these offsets from Republicans that they like and so we are pretty right back where we started.

On top of all of that, there is a new poll out, guys, that shows 58 percent of Americans support extending these unemployment benefits for the long-term jobless. But keep in mind, that same poll from Quinnipiac also shows Republicans against that extension. So here we go all over again, Democrats and Republicans squabbling over whether or not to push this through.

At the same time, we should point out, Kate and Chris, we're here earlier this week, prospects looked dim for this even getting going in the Senate. There's a lot of posturing going on. We're going to have to wait and see just how this plays out -- Kate and Chris.

BOLDUAN: Yes. All right, thank you, Jim. Thanks so much.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: All right, guys, let's take a look at our headlines at this hour. Good morning to you. Good morning to you at home. Beginning with new developments in a Navy helicopter crash off the Southern Virginia coast, a second sailor has now died. Two others were rescued and they are said to be in stable condition. The search meanwhile is on in ice cold water for a fifth sailor who was aboard that chopper.

Today, President Obama will sit down with congressional leaders to discuss reforming the NSA. The president met Wednesday with the heads of the NSA, CIA and FBI along with his director of National Intelligence. According to sources familiar with the White House review, the president is expected to tighten restrictions on spying on foreign leaders and is also considering limiting the NSA's access to phone records of U.S. citizens. The first known Avian flu fatality in North America has been confirmed. An Alberta, Canada's resident died after contracting H5N1 on a trip to China. Canada's health minister says the victim was likely infected through exposure to birds. They say it's an isolated case posing little or no risk to the general public.

New developments out of Utah where hundreds of same sex marriages will not be recognized while the matter is debated in the courts. The Supreme Court already issued an injunction stopping new marriages after they were temporarily allowed by a federal judge who ruled laws banning them are unconstitutional. The Federal Appeals Court could hear oral arguments as soon as March.

And the people have spoken and they've got a whole lot of love for Sandra Bullock. She won four, four People's Choice Awards including favorite movie actress, favorite comedic and dramatic actress and she shared the award for favorite movie with George Clooney. It's a big night also for Justin Timberlake. He took home three awards.

BOLDUAN: Sit down. I've been up here before.

PEREIRA: I think that's fun for them too, right, because it's the people that are watching the movies. I think it's great.

CUOMO: Macklemore, give it back to the people. So you know the expression, this too shall pass? Well, it goes even to the polar vortex. Here's the news, Indra made some calls and we will see some warning. Thank you for using your powers -- meteorological magic. What will happen now?

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Indra means god of weather. OK? Indra means god of weather.

Just so we all know, right? It's very, very smart. Let's talk about the cold air. It is retreating out there. We're only seeing below normal temperatures close to the poles right now. We like this.

Look at this. By Friday, especially see that recovery down in southeast Florida. It will be 11 degrees above normal. Notice in Minneapolis, 12 degrees above normal. What a difference.

We talk about the cold frigid air everyone's been dealing with. And then by Saturday, pretty much everyone is above normal. So much so in the Northeast, 20 degrees above normal temperatures are expected.

So, let's talk about why? There's a couple of systems out there. Here's the first one, pretty week, bringing some icing and some light rain around Arkansas, and maybe Tennessee today. It dissipates quickly.

It's the system behind it that will start to change everything. Notice, high pressure. This brought some cold air. The backside is bringing the winds out of the south. Then, there's a low moving in. Even though there's a cold front, we're talking about the winds coming out of the south as well. So, between the two, everyone is really warming up, but also some rain is coming our way. So, by the Midwest on Friday, we will start to see showers. That same system makes it way to the Northeast by the weekend. We're all feeling pretty good out there, maybe a 10 degree temperature drop when the cold front passes. But nothing like we saw the last several days.

Keep in mind, the first system, it takes some time for recovery. We'll bring a little bit of icing around the Ohio Valley. The second system should be pretty much all rain. Maybe a little bit of snow a little bit farther north.

But overall, not bad, temperatures 20 degrees above normal. Yes, you're welcome.

BOLDUAN: Thank you very much. You can even feel the change yesterday.

PETERSONS: Yes, right? I'm digging it.

BOLDUAN: I'm digging it. It's a meteorological term. Thanks, Indra.

Coming up next on NEW DAY, breaking news that we can tell you. We've been following the story very closely. An American who's been held for nine months in the United Arab Emirates over posting a parody video online. He has been released. A live report on that breaking news, next.

CUOMO: All right. And the Chris Christie bridge scandal. All right. You're going to have your legitimate issues. You're going to have your media issues. It is certainly national headlines right now.

Some are asking, why did it take FOX News six hours to even mention it? Was that just process or was that about purpose? We have an expert in to discuss.


BOLDUAN: Welcome back.

We have breaking news on a story we've been following closely here on NEW DAY.

An American who's been jailed in the United Arab Emirates for months is now free and could soon be heading home. Shezanne Cassim was arrested for making a parody video posted online. But the government there thought it was a threat to its national security.

Let's get straight to Sara Sidner, who's been following the story for us with the very latest.

Hi there, Sara. What do you know?

SARA SIDNER, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Look, we know that Shezanne Cassim has been let out of prison. What everyone is waiting for is for him, of course, to return home.

His family has been fighting for nine months. They went public with the story because they simply felt like nothing was being done for him. But he is going to be heading home.

We also do know there were several other people in prison with him. We understand also that they will be set free as well. Two have already been set free. They are from here in the UAE. So not only an American, but folks from here have been caught up in this case.

And none of them understand exactly why they were put in prison in the first place. But we do know that they were convicted of what the UAE says was embarrassing the UAE abroad. It's basically defaming the UAE's image abroad, as they put it. That's what they were convicted of.

Now, the family is just hoping to finally get to hug and see Shezanne Cassim again. He came here trying to make his fortune in the Middle East in the place that is a big business hub that a lot of folk wants to come to. He's leaving with the whole different idea of what is possible here -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: And I do want to ask you about just that, what you just raised, which is to take a moment. You can only imagine this news is such welcome news to his family who's been here on NEW DAY, to everyone who's been supporting him, including big name comedians like Will Ferrell, the State Department and his lawmakers. They've all been trying to push to find out why he's been put behind bars in the first place.

But to ask you about just what you mentioned, one of the more surprising things about this was that it happened in the United Arab Emirates, a country that markets itself as modern, open, a hub for business.

What do you think -- what are you hearing this case does to that image?

SIDNER: Well, it's interesting, when this video was first put online, only a few people had seen it. But after the story, tens of thousands of people went online to see exactly what it was that landed these guys, one of whom was a business analyst in jail. So I think it's done quite a bit of damage in the lines of people who don't know what the line is and where the law is.

And as you also know, Shezanne Cassim was in jail for five months before he understood exactly what the charges were. So, there's a lot of questions here making a lot of people uncomfortable here about exactly what to expect when they come to the UAE.

ROMANS: You know, Sara, I remember Senator Amy Klobuchar from his home state said to me about this. She said he better be out before the Rolling Stones perform there, just kind of showing the juxtaposition or kind of the head fake of what really is going on, what they say they are and then what's happening with this case with Shezanne Cassim.

Regardless, we wish him a very safe and very quick trip home. Thank you, Sara, for following the story for us.

CUOMO: All right. How about some money time? Your money, even better.

We've got some big changes coming in mortgage rules. They're coming tomorrow. You need to know them.

Chief business correspondent Christine Romans has them. What's going to happen?

ROMANS: Hi, guys. These are tougher rules. They're meant to protect you. No more crazy teaser rates. No more negative amortization. No more interest periods.

And look at this your total debt burden, should not be more than 43 percent of your income. That's a calculation everybody with debt should make.

Look, lenders now have to make sure you can pay the money back. They have to make a good face, reasonable effort to make sure you can afford your mortgage. In the run-up to the financial crisis, some lenders didn't do that. That turned out to be affordable idea obviously.

Loan officers, mortgage brokers have to follow conflict of interest rules now. That means, anyone you help you to find a mortgage can't be paid by someone else. And you're going to get clearer information in your monthly payments. If you see a problem, your servicer must respond to your written inquiries quickly.

For some people with sterling credit, you probably won't have a problem getting a mortgage. But these new rules could make it tougher for some people to get a loan.

Now, important economic news that could make a difference for your money. We've got a jobs report from the private sector yesterday. We'll get the government's December report tomorrow. A Deutsche Bank economist thinks we could see 250,000 jobs created in December and guys, a jobless rate of 6.8 percent. That would be the best in years. We're getting bit by bit, you guys. Little pieces of positive jobs news. Expect we're going to see some tomorrow.

BOLDUAN: A trend, we hope. That's what you always point out.

ROMANS: A trend. Even if they're arguing about jobless benefits in Washington, we are still seeing these little signs that it is thawing for people.

CUOMO: Yes, that's what needs to be said. That's one the big frustrations of this debate, right? They're talking about extending unemployment benefits when you should just get past that and get to, how do you keep feeding this job market.

ROMANS: Right, exactly, we need more jobs, good paying jobs.

CUOMO: Appreciate it, Christine. Always a pleasure.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, Christine.

CUOMO: Going to take a break.

Coming up next on NEW DAY, a crisis for Chris Christie. Allegations of political vendetta circling the governor. The major networks are all over the story. It's a huge political story. But has some wondering, is FOX News looking the other way?

CUOMO: And you know the tell-all book by former Defense Secretary Bob Gates? Well, it is rocking the Obama administrations. We're going to tell you how the White House is trying to do damage control here.


CUOMO: Welcome back to NEW DAY.

The next few hours could hold the key to Chris Christie's future. The New Jersey governor is denying he had anything to do with closing lanes on the George Washington Bridge to punish a political rival.

But will the governor speak out about the scandal today, and if he does, what does he need to say?

Chris Christie's critics have long insisted he is a bully. But the governor's brash, unapologetic style has served him well in the past, propelling him to the national stage as a possible presidential contender.

Erin McPike has more from Trenton, New Jersey.