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What Did Christie Know?; New Terror Concerns

Aired January 10, 2014 - 05:30   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Heartbroken and humiliated. Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey, apologizing after his employees are tied to a traffic scandal. This morning, new reaction as new evidence in the bridge closing case is set to become public.


ROMANS (on-camera): Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm John Berman. It is 30 minutes past the hour. Great to see you this morning. A lot of news. We are watching this morning the new evidence that will be coming out today on what many people are now calling Bridgegate. This, of course, is the political scandal surrounding the office of Governor Chris Christie over the shutdown of lanes to the George Washington Bridge.

This came as a parent political payback against a mayor who would not endorse him. Now, this is what happened. Christie is now fire a top aide. He's asked his campaign manager to step down from a high profile Republican job, and the governor has apologized a lot, saying he was deceived, he is embarrassed, humiliated, he's disappointed. That was yesterday.

Today, a lot more going on in this. The state committee plans to release hundreds of pages of documents from its investigation. And CNN has learned that the FBI is now looking into the shutdown as well for possible federal charges. Now, Governor Christie insists he knew nothing about it. And as you will hear, he apologized again and again and again.


GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE, (R) NEW JERSEY: I am responsible for what happened. I am sad to report to the people of New Jersey that we fell short. We fell short of the expectations that we've created over the last four years for the type of excellence in government that they should expect from this office. But I have repeatedly said to them that while I promise them the best governor's office I can give to them, I can never promise them a perfect governor's office.

And so, when I find those imperfections, those mistakes, those lies, my obligation as a chief executive of this state is to act. I had no knowledge or involvement in this issue, in its planning or its execution, and I am stunned by the abject stupidity that was shown here regardless of what the facts ultimately uncover. This was handled in a callous and indifferent way and it is not the way this administration has conducted itself over the last four years and not the way it will conduct itself over the next four.

I will do everything within my power to assure the people of New Jersey that and I thank them for their willingness to consider my apology on behalf of this government. And you're darn right, what they did hurt the people of New Jersey and hurt the people of Fort Lee and the person who needs to apologize for that is me. And I have. And I'm sorry to all the people of the state that they have to be, you know, occupied with this matter.

It's embarrassing. And as I said before, the whole matter is humiliating to me. But, all you can do as a person when you know this is to stand up and be genuine and sincerely apologize and hope the people accept your apology. I think I have built up enough goodwill over time with people of New Jersey that I'm very hopeful they will accept my apology.


ROMANS: 108 minutes of I'm sorries and kind of a different tenor from this governor than many in New Jersey and his political stage -- national political stage are used to. Let's bring in CNN political editor, Paul Steinhauser. He's in Washington this morning. Talk to me a little bit about, this different tone and tenor from Chris Christie yesterday. And is that going to be a new Chris Christie as we head toward 2016?

PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: Yes, it just may be. A very good point, Christine. You know, what was gone from this news conference that lasted nearly two hours, as you mentioned. Yes, you're right. What was gone his -- the change in his tone, his traditional swagger and bluster were gone. Instead, you had a contrite politician there who said a number of times he was humiliated and embarrassed, and as you mentioned, apologized dozens of times.

So, a very different tone. He did a lot of other things that were right as well that he needed to do. He fired close aids. Very important, he took action right away within 24 hours. So, he -- that was an important, important step. He also, you know, was contrite and that was key. That was very key. But what this news conference was allow Chris Christie to fight another day, that another day now starts right now today with those 907 documents that will be released by the state Senate committee that was investigating.

There are other investigations on the federal level as well that could happen, possibly a civil lawsuit. So, a lot of questions remain. And Chris Christie does not give himself much wiggle room now by saying he had no knowledge and what his closest aides were doing in this bridge controversy. He leaves himself very little wiggle room as we go forward, Christine and John.

ROMANS: It's more refreshing than what you hear, sometimes, in politicians get in the corner -- I can't recall or I'm not sure or let me check. I mean, he was pretty definitive.


BERMAN: A lot of apology there. You know, Paul, you talked about the sort of the legal future with the investigation, 900 pages that people will be pouring through. Let's talk a little bit about the political future here. One thing that a lot of politicians run into in terms of trouble is when their advisers tell them, oh, you have to be different. Try to tone down this aspect of your character.

You know, Chris Christie yesterday said, I'm not a bully. That's a phrase that's going to be played back again and again and again. And how careful will he have to be going forward about how he acts in public, how treats other people?

STEINHAUSER: Very careful. And you may see a different Chris Christie now in his interactions with the media, with reporters, and news conferences. You saw it yesterday. If you watch patch Chris Christie's news conferences, it's a very tough give and take between him and reporters. It was not that way yesterday. You can see a very different Chris Christie as well as he deals with other politicians, maybe Republicans on the presidential level.

Remember, we all consider Chris Christie a likely contender for the Republican nomination in 2016. So, you could see definitely a different change in tone from Chris Christie going forward, John.

ROMANS: What about the reaction in Republican circles? I mean, you've got some commentators immediately talking about IRS and Benghazi. They're just moving off of Chris Christie trying to talk about other things. And then in terms of supporters of Christie, you've got those who are criticizing him. You know, he was never a real base candidate for them, in the first -- talk to me a little bit about that different reaction among Republicans.

STEINHAUSER: You're right. You are seeing some Republicans defend him. Rudy Giuliani is one. He did it on CNN last night. Nikki Haley, the governor of South Carolina, another one putting out a statement. But, that was like the exception. Most Republicans really didn't want to talk about this saying it was a matter they knew very little about.

And you make another good point as well. Chris Christie was never beloved by the base of the Republican Party. The right, the conservatives, they haven't really trusted Chris Christie. They consider him a pragmatic northeastern politician who is willing to work with Democrats and they look back to his embrace of President Obama after superstorm Sandy.

So, this will not help him with those people and those voters are key if he has presidential ambitions, which we all believe he probably does.

BERMAN: All right. Paul Steinhauser with us in Washington. Thanks so much. You know, one of the most telling comments came from Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky who will likely run against Chris Christie in a Republican primary for president. Rand Paul, his response was, everyone knows how frustrating it can be to be caught in traffic. A little shift right there.

ROMANS: All right. Thanks, Paul.

All right. Congress is going to take another vote today over Obamacare.


ROMANS (voice-over): Two bills are before the House. Bills that Republicans say would strengthen security requirements for the website. It would also require weekly reports on how the site is doing. The bills do not seek to defund or repeal the health care law, something Republicans have been trying for a couple years now.

Republican leaders say that's not their goal anymore. They're now focused on fixing specific parts of the law now that it's in effect.

BERMAN (voice-over): Developing news overnight, extending jobless benefits does not look like it will happen in the Senate today. Still very much a battle with both sides unable to reach a deal to resume sending checks to more than a million Americans. Democrats now say they want to pass a ten-month extension that could cost about $18 billion to be offset by budget cuts.

Republicans are complaining that they're not being consulted enough. They're not being allowed to make amendments. What look like a possible deal only 24 hours ago now looks like it is in serious, serious trouble, and the betting this morning, it will not happen.

ROMANS: We'll watch that for you.

Also, Afghanistan could release dozens of high profile detainees as soon as today. Some of those men are accused of killing Americans. Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, says there's just not enough evidence to hold those men. But the Obama administration insists the men are dangerous criminals. They pose threats to the Afghan people.

This, of course, -- this dispute, of course, comes as the U.S. and Afghanistan are still unable to come to terms over a long-term security agreement.

A warning today from intelligence officials over a new terror threat. "The New York Times" says there are growing fears Islamic extremists in Syria are trying to recruit Americans who have traveled to Syria to carry out terror attacks here at home. The recruitment efforts are said to be in the early stages, and the FBI director now says tracking Americans have gone to Syria has become a top priority.

BERMAN: We're finding out details of a new report due out today about sexual assaults at military academies. The report from the Defense Department suggests that bad behavior and disrespect by athletes at West Point, the Naval Academy and the Air Force Academy, the athletes might be contributing to the sexual assault problem in the military overall. This report calls for more training for the athletes and coaches.

Breaking overnight, she's on her way home. An Indian diplomat at the center of an international crisis. Devyani Khobragade was arrested back in December accused of visa proud. This sparked an international diplomatic crisis, really, between the U.S. and India. Her country refused to waive her diplomatic immunity so she could not be arraigned. She got on a plane overnight insisting she's innocent. The key here is she's out of the U.S. right now. So, this crisis may be over.


ROMANS (on-camera): Is it the best jobs market since 2005? That's likely what a big government report is going to show today later this morning. Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics, said earlier this week that the job market ended 2013 on a high note. In less than four hours, we're going to find out if that's true.

Economists surveyed by CNNMoney, they expect 193,000 jobs added in December. That would put the tally for the year, net new jobs, 2.3 million new jobs, the strongest in eight years. Unemployment is expected to hold steady at seven percent, but one big problem area is still the long-term unemployed. The median time a person is out of work now, 17 weeks. That's just over four months.

The problem is the longer you're out of work, the harder it is to find a job. The odds of getting a job are about 31 percent if you've been out of work for less than five weeks, right? Newly unemployed? Odds of getting a job quickly, 31 percent. The odds drop to just nine percent if you've been out of work for a year. A very big difference.

CNNMoney has a look at the faces behind those numbers. They span from former managers making six figures to factory workers, all kinds of people affected by this. But for today, the jobs report is giving stock futures a modest boost right now. Europe is climbing higher. European stocks are higher. Asia closed today mixed, concerned there about China's economy.

BERMAN (on-camera): But stay with us for these jobs report really, because it could provide a whole entire new outlook on this economy.

ROMANS: Yes, and a new narrative in Washington.

All right. New developments overnight in a deadly terror attack near the site of the next Olympic Games. We are live in Moscow with how the U.S. is stepping in to help keep people safe.

BERMAN: Plus, South Florida just soaked overnight. So, what's going to happen this morning after flash floods left communities there underwater? Indra Petersons tracking this for us. We'll have the latest, coming up.


BERMAN: In Russia this morning, new concerns about security ahead of the winter Olympics. The game now less than a month away. U.S. security teams now on the ground. And this morning, police are trying to explain a series of killings just 150 miles from Sochi. Six bodies were found in booby trapped cars.

And this comes just a couple weeks after a series of terror attacks left dozens dead. Big bombings in that country just a few weeks ago, now this. Nic Robertson in Moscow with the latest. Nic, what can you tell us?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the direction of FBI, John, has said that there are about 12 U.S. law enforcement and federal officials already here in Moscow with different specialties that will be able to advise and help the U.S. Olympic team and others if they may need it.

Obviously, they -- he says that they lead responsibility for security around the Olympics lies with the Russians, but he says this will be a particular challenge because Sochi is close to areas that have known terror threats in them. He says he's been in close contact with Russian security officials in the months leading up to the Olympics.

And we also know that the U.S. Ski Association that's had an eight- year association with a company called Global Rescue that provides air lift capacity aircraft for medical or other types of evacuations. They also have a plan on standby should those aircraft be required for any incident, medical or otherwise, surrounded by -- surrounding the Sochi Olympics.

So, there are a lot of steps are being put in place, but again, the bottom line for security, it lies with the Russian here -- John.

BERMAN: And day after day, there are new concerns that keep popping up. Nic Robertson for us in Moscow. Thank you so much.

ROMANS: All right. Back to this country. Florida, it's used to severe weather, right, but nothing like this. Heavy rains upwards of six inches falling on Fort Pierce. The water got so high on some roads, some cars just shut down.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It stopped. The muffler. The water was over the muffler.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It came almost up to the door. It looked fine. The engine shut off. I tried to back out and leave and I went through that and it shut down again.


BERMAN: They even saying it's raining harder than they've seen in hurricanes. So, a very serious situation going on down there. Let's get a look at the forecast for today. Indra Petersons here with the latest -- Indra.

ROMANS: Good morning. INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes. It looks like we're still talking about some showers in through Florida, but nothing like what they saw yesterday. I mean, good 10, 12 inches of rain in some places, and even possibly a tornado. The National Weather Service is going to go out and check that out today and give you more details later on. Otherwise, the story is going to continue to be the warm- up.

The good news, yes, we're still talking about all that wind coming from the south. So, slowly starting to see the warm air making its way even into the northeast. Temperatures should be 20 degrees above normal into the northeast by tomorrow. Today, about a good 10 degrees above normal. Eventually, a cold front will slide through and kind of back those off a little bit by Sunday.

So yes, it's the warm-up, but there is, of course, some rain associated with it as well. Today, some light showers, even some possibly some snow on north of where that warm front is down to the south. Of course, that will all switch over to rain once that warm front kind of kicks on in. Otherwise, here comes the next system.

This one is a little bit more impressive kind of holding together here. Midwest looking for showers today in through Saturday. It looks like more rain to the northeast. All the way down to southeast, but I took you down through Sunday. So by then, it should clear out and everyone should be left with still pleasant temperatures. So, warm and rainy Saturday and Sunday. A little bit cooler, but dry. See, both good.

BERMAN: Yes. We'll take it. We'll take it both. All right. Indra, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

ROMANS: Thanks, Indra. Happy Friday.

Let's take a look at what's coming up on "NEW DAY."

BERMAN: Chris Cuomo here with us right now. Happy Friday, Mr. Cuomo.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, my friends. Obviously, Chris Christie is the news. The bridge scandal, the epic press conference he gave probably just the beginning. Why? Well, here comes the support stage. Will his story stand up? We're going to vet with about a thousand pages of documents that are being released this morning.

You're also going to have it tested with all the analysis that we can provide with people who've been following this story. We have a reporter who's digging into this, the 91-year-old woman who died. Was it really a result of the traffic problems created by this snarl on this political move? So, we're going to be dealing with all that, of course,

We also have a CNN exclusive. It's been one year since a Georgia teenager disappeared. You're looking at him right there with his father, Kendrick Johnson. He was just found dead rolled up in a gym mat inside his school. CNN has covered this story extensively. We have a live report with an in-depth look at every aspect of the investigation and to tell you what the FBI is doing now and there is something you're going to want to know

There's a timing issue in this investigation that raises a lot of questions. And we'll give it to you this morning so you can decide for yourself.

BERMAN: Looking forward to that.

CUOMO: JB, Christine.

BERMAN: -- with the questions there. Thank you so much.

ROMANS: Thanks, Chris.

BERMAN: All right. New this morning, an American thrown behind bars for posting a parody on YouTube, this young man finally waking up at home this morning. And this morning, he is opening up about his nightmare in the Middle East in prison. We'll have that, next.

ROMANS: Plus, shocking new video this morning. A woman trying to escape police plunges off a bridge.

BERMAN: Oh my!

ROMANS: Yes. What happened next, right after the break.


ROMANS: He's now home in Minnesota for the first time in nine months.


ROMANS (voice-over): Shezanne Cassim, an American who'd been locked up in the United Arab Emirates over a satirical video posted to YouTube. It took months for formal charges to be filed and for a conviction. Now, he's speaking out about what happened to him.


SHEZANNE "SHEZ" CASSIM, RELEASED FROM UAE JAIL: I think there's a misconception that I broke a law, but I want to say that I did nothing wrong. There was nothing illegal about the video even under UAE law. I was tried in a textbook kangaroo court and I was convicted without any evidence.


ROMANS: Cassim says he's still not clear on why he was arrested. At one point, he said it was clear the judge had not even seen the video. He thinks the government was trying to message about free speech and what happens to people who practice it in that country.

BERMAN (voice-over): Young man with a serious grievance right now.

(END VIDEOTAPE) BERMAN: All right. Look at this, a police chase in Northern Oregon takes a scary turn when a woman bolts out of the car and jumps off the bridge.


BERMAN (voice-over): You have to see this. Cops say they initially tried to top the driver for a minor traffic violation. But you see her there, she takes off, and she gets out of the car, and she just jumps. They believe the car was stolen.

You can see her jump right there. The young woman, 26-year-old Rebecca Humphries (ph) after the jump (ph). It's really just stunning. Crews were eventually able to pull Humphries out of the water.


BERMAN: Really, just amazing to look at. This, you will not believe. Crews were able to pull the woman out of the water alive. She suffered only minor injuries. Again, police thought the car was stolen. That's why they were chasing her.


ROMANS (on-camera): All right. Coming up, it's a very big day for your money. The December jobs report due out in just a few hours. It could be huge. Details on "Money Time", next.


ROMANS: Welcome back to EARLY START. It's Friday and it's "Money Time." Jobs day on Wall Street. It's what everyone has been waiting for, the jobs report that be released in the headline. We're expecting the strongest annual job growth since 2005. If analysts forecasts come true, we'll learn that nearly 2.3 million positions were added in 2013. All week, some of biggest names on Wall Street have been raising their expectations.

Goldman Sachs, CitiGroup, Deutsch Bank, they're all optimistic because other economic reports have been strong. Stock futures are up modestly ahead of that release. I'm going to bring it to you live at 8:30 a.m.

How that jobs report comes in has a big impact on your money? It could lead to higher mortgage rates. Right now, the 30-year fix is at 4.5 percent, but the Federal Reserve has been propping up the economy with stimulus money that's kept mortgage rates low, but that stimulus is going to be reduced this year and the jobs report will help the Federal Reserve determine how fast it should pull out money.

A stronger than expected jobs report could mean less stimulus. Already, we've seen mortgage rates slowly rise over the past few months. 4.5 percent on a 30-year fix.

All right. Remember this guy, Watson? The super computer that famously beat Ken Jennings on "Jeopardy"? Soon, Watson could be your doctor, maybe your financial advisor, not my co-anchor, though. IBM announced its spending $1 billion to create a new 2,000 employee division -- startups to figure out ways to use Watson.

Some companies already lining up. DBS, that's an Asian bank, is going to use Watson to deliver personal investment advice. The Cleveland Clinic and Memorial (INAUDIBLE) teaching Watson how to recognize types of cancer so one day he could get personal care.

BERMAN: But he cannot be a television anchor. Not without anchor hair. And Watson hasn't come up with a way to do that yet. So -- not take over everything.

All right. Speaking of anchor hair, "NEW DAY" starts right now.


CHRISTIE: I come out here today to apologize to the people of New Jersey.

CUOMO: Bridge over troubled water. Chris Christie's epic press conference is not the end. Angry residents now filing a lawsuit. And today, hundreds of documents set to be released. The question, will his blind-sided but blameless argument hold up?

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT:State of emergency. A chemical spill in West Virginia, now the water for hundreds of thousands is toxic. A mad rush for supplies, hospitals even force to cancel surgeries.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Finally home. After nine months in the Middle East prison, American, Shez Cassim is back in Minnesota. We hear from him for the first time about his ordeal.

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 Friday, January 10th, six o'clock in the east, and he came strong, but did Chris Christie come correct? The answer to that may be found in about 1,000 pages of evidence set to be released just hours from now. The governor insisting in a nearly two-hour long news conference he had nothing to do with snarling traffic in Fort Lee, New Jersey last September as payback to a mayor who wouldn't support him.

The political fallout is just getting started, but already, Christie is facing the class action lawsuit from some of the people caught in that infamous traffic jam. We are all over this story.