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Former Players Heading Home; Jobs Report to Come at 8:30AM ET

Aired January 10, 2014 - 06:00   ET


GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE, (R)-NJ: I come out here today to apologize to the people of New Jersey.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: 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 ANCHOR: 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 ANCHOR: 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.

Let's begin with Pamela Brown live from Trenton, New Jersey -- Pamela.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Chris, as much as New Jersey Governor Chris Christie tried to distance himself from this scandal yesterday in that press conference, it appears far from over. Class action lawsuit from six people caught up in that traffic jam have now flapped that lawsuit against Chris Christie and four of his staffers and appointees and also the FBI teaming up with the U.S. Attorney's Office to see if any federal laws were violated.


GOVERNOR CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: I come out here today to apologize to the people of New Jersey.

BROWN (voice-over): New Jersey Governor Chris Christie embarking in an apology tour for the so-called "bridgegate" scandal.

CHRISTIE: I am embarrassed and humiliated by the conduct of some of the people on my team. I knew nothing about this. I had no knowledge. I had no knowledge of this. I wasn't told the truth.

BROWN: This in response to the four-day long traffic jam on the George Washington Bridge last fall.

CHRISTIE: By 9:00 this morning, Brigitte Kelly was fired. By 7:00 yesterday evening, Bill Steppian was asked to leave my organization. That's pretty swift action for a day's work.

BROWN: And alleged active retribution by several of Christie's senior staffers and officials by altering traffic patterns creating gridlock on the George Washington Bridge, a punishment of sorts against a New Jersey mayor who did not support him in his re-election.

CHRISTIE: I am responsible for what happened. I am sad to report to the people of New Jersey that we fell short.

BROWN: Several New Jersey residents have now filed a class action lawsuit against the governor and former staffers and appointees. The suit seeks damages for being trapped on the roadways causing them to be late for and/or miss work being docked pay and injured as a result of the clogged local roads. After his mea culpa news conference, Christie traveled to Fort Lee to meet face to face with the city's mayor.

MAYOR MARK SOKOLICH, FORT LEE, NEW JERSEY: He was gracious. He was apologetic. We believe sincere, but it's an ongoing investigation.

BROWN: The scandal has created a fire storm of commentary.

BILL RICHARDSON, FORMER AMBASSADOR: There's potentially a legality here. There's little kids on the bridge that can't get through.

RUDY GIULIANI (R), FORMER MAYOR OF NYC: He didn't act like a person who had knowledge before the fact. He acted like a person that got blindsided because he never would have made some of those remarks that he made.

BROWN: The damaging e-mails at the center of this scandal have been now former appointee, David Wildstein, pleading the fifth.

DAVID WILDSTEIN: I reserve my right to remain silent.

BROWN: Wildstein's silence leaves many questions unanswered. Were Christie's staffers going rouge or were they executing orders from their chief? ALAN DERSHOWITZ, CONSTITUTIONAL LAWYER: If they are prosecuted successfully, they may well turn on the governor and say, we're not taking this fall by ourselves. We were led to believe this is what you wanted.


BROWN: The New Jersey Governor's Office says there is no public schedule set for today. Even after that nearly two-hour press conference yesterday, there are still many unanswered questions, like whose names are redacted from those damaging text messages. We hope to learn more today when the State Committee releases nearly a thousand pages of documents later this morning as part of its investigation -- Chris and Kate.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: A lot of reading for many people ahead on that one. Thanks so much, Pamela.

So federal prosecutors in New Jersey are confirming that they've opened a preliminary inquiry into Christie's political scandal. They want to determine whether any federal laws have been violated. CNN's Joe Johns is checking this angle of the story for us this morning live from Washington. Good morning, Joe.

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Kate. Actually the investigations are just getting started with sources telling CNN, the FBI is now working with the U.S. Attorney's Office to determine whether any federal anti-corruption laws were broken. It appears to be a very preliminary investigation. We do know the federal government has successfully prosecuted state and local officials for corruption in the past.

And our understanding any such review would likely at least take a look at the way public money may have been spent on the bridge controversy and the statements that were made to justify it before and after the fact.

I have to underscore it's not clear what, if any, laws may have been broken and legal experts have said making a federal case out of this is likely to be a stretch. Chris Christie used to be a federal prosecutor and he said he welcomes any inquiry and that he has nothing to hide.

Of course, Paul Fishman, the United States attorney in New Jersey is an Obama appointee. He's been politically active. He's given over $12,000 to Democratic candidates over the last several years, which is not an extraordinarily large amount of political activity for a power lawyer -- Kate and Chris.

CUOMO: All right, Joe, thanks for that. You've got the court of law, but of course the court of public opinion may be much more harsh for Governor Christie. So let's discuss, shall we? We're going to bring in CNN political analyst and executive editor of the "Daily Beast," Mr. John Avlon and the CNN political commentator and Republican consultant, Margaret Hoover. Great to have you both here.

BOLDUAN: Welcome back, Margaret.


CUOMO: Margaret Hoover, the best part of John Avlon. Let's do this. Let's do a little meter, OK? On one side you have he's in the soup and on the other side, you have he's in the clear. Margaret Hoover, where is your needle after yesterday what we know so far? Where is he?

HOOVER: He's airing towards in the clear.

CUOMO: Over the past of halfway.

HOOVER: We're over the past of half halfway certainly. The data that was going to come today, they are going to be, you know, thousand plus e-mails are coming out. As long as everything that Chris Christie said yesterday remains true, I think he's in the clear and I think he's handled this pretty well. The main transformation and by the way, this has to be transformative for Chris Christie.

He has to transform from tough guy, Jersey guy, you know the guy that they call potentially a bully into a statesman if he's going to be ready for prime time, if he's really going to go for national politics. You have to think Woodrow Wilson with Chris Christie after this. Not Tony Soprano. Two New Jersey -- ones for politics. That metamorphosis has to happen.

CUOMO: Woodrow Wilson?

HOOVER: Also from New Jersey, remember?

BOLDUAN: A lot of syllables for the morning, Chris. If everything sticks to be true, he did not leave himself a lot of wiggle room here. He said I've done nothing, I know nothing. I'm an open book. You can ask me any question. There's very little wiggle room for someone who came out to say that he didn't know much about what happened.

JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: That's an indication that he's telling the truth. Look, tone comes from the top and there's a larger question about the environment he created in his team. But you know, history is full of examples of underlings doing things that the executive never really intended. So he is climbing out of the primordial soup.

But the strategy yesterday, a 90-minute press conference, where he said ask me any question, keep it coming, that's an indication that he really -- and you saw him get his sea legs back. He is angry at his staff. He went back and apologized to the mayor of Fort Lee. So these are all steps in the right direction, but the real question is if he chooses to go forward in '16, does this stick or does, as Margaret say, it's a transformable, teachable moment.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: It's interesting what you were saying Margaret about the statesman transform because you think about how people come into greatness is how you get back up from something that's knocked you down, right?. HOOVER: Absolutely that's true. The other piece that I would have liked to hear Chris Christie yesterday talk a little bit more about the people that were hurt because of this bad decisions, as opposed to the fact that he felt personally betrayed by his staff.

Conservatives have a compassionate deficit, right? So you want to hear him define these stereotypes in every way. Not being a bully, being a statesman. Not being the guy who cares more about him being betrayed by his staff, but the people in New Jersey who are hurt because of these bad decisions.

CUOMO: Two things I want to throw out that you guys can chew on any way you like. One is very high on responsibility he was, right? Zero on accountability, OK.

HOOVER: But he fired two people, right?

CUOMO: That's on them. Not on him. He said, I am responsible for every New Jersey and this is on me. He never suggested that this would in any way affect him personally. He's soul searching but not about whether or not to step down. Not about whether or not I don't know how to pick people around me. Let's remember that. This is counterintuitive to how the system works.

The idea you said, the history is filled with underlings doing things at the top. I don't know how filled they are. Your intimates at the governor's office know everything that's going on. The governor is blind to very little, believe me, I know. You have no idea. You have no idea. What your most trusted people are doing, that's not easy to swallow. It's highly unusual.

HOOVER: Keep in mind, Chris, though, this in the minds middle of a campaign, clear firewalls between what's going on in the campaign and what's going on in the governor's office. So it does seem believable that the governor is out running the state and he is running for re- election, but the campaign guy over in the corner is making some decisions, is doing things to try to get his boss over the finish line.

AVLON: I want to return to this point about tone comes from the top because that's more believable than Chris Christie ordered this. It's about an environment that gets created and the fact that this was done at the height of a campaign that Chris Christie was cruising to a landslide. I mean, that's where things get a little nixing because they didn't need to do this. They don't need to be retribution to a Democratic mayor.

BOLDUAN: They didn't need his endorsement. Why would you ever -- political revenge do this traffic jam --

AVLON: That's it. That's where the teachable moment comes. Whether he really tries to transform the tone inside his team and say look anyone who thought this was the kind of action I would condone doesn't understand me and doesn't understand the kind of tone I want to set as a former U.S. attorney and now, of course, the current U.S. attorney is going to be investigating this too. There are a lot more to come here.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely right you two.

HOOOVER: Great to see you.

BOLDUAN: Margaret, welcome back. Thanks, John.

Breaking overnight, a major water emergency in West Virginia that we're tracking, some 200,000 people in nine counties are being told not to use tap water because of the chemical spill that's contaminated the water supply there. A state of emergency is in effect and even West Virginia State University has canceled all classes today because of it.

"EARLY START" anchor, Christine Romans is here with more details on this -- Christine.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Kate, West Virginia's governor warning people not to use tap water for anything, not drinking, not cooking, and not washing. Still, many residents fear they may have already been contaminated.


ROMANS (voice-over): Thousands of West Virginians left scouring empty store shelves grate for bottled water.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is actually the third place I've been to trying to get water so I've resorted to ice.

ROMANS After a massive chemical spill contaminated the water supply for hundreds of thousands, residents warned not to use their tap water for any reason.

GOVERNOR EARL RAY TOMBLIN, WEST VIRGINIA: Do not drink it. Do not cook with it. Do not wash clothes in it. Do not take a bath in it.

ROMANS: Two hospitals operating on backup water have canceled elective surgeries.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's clear that that has migrated through to our finished water.

ROMANS: The situation now declared a federal emergency with the White House approving aid for all nine counties. Early Thursday, the water company discovered a hole in a 48,000-gallon storage tank at a chemical company, but didn't report the spill until four hours later according to a county official while residents began reporting a foul licorice odor in the air. It is unclear how much or how long the chemical had leaked.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It took some time to understand what the nature of this chemical was.

ROMANS: The chemical is a type of methanol used in preparing coal. It's not toxic. But is harmful is swallowed. Still residents flooded emergency rooms for fear of contamination after the order was issues. Using absorbent booms like sponges to soak up the chemical, the water company is now working to clean up the spill as the state promises to bring water from elsewhere now that so many grocery stores lay bare.


ROMANS: A real scramble in West Virginia this hour, this morning. Even if you just come in contact with this chemical, it can cause skin or eye irritation. The local water company says the chemical was diluted in the river, but still it's harmful and people in West Virginia, you should not use the water for anything still this morning.

CUOMO: All right, Christine. Thank you for the caution there.

We are also following new developments this morning in the nation's capital where efforts to restore unemployment benefits to more than a million Americans remains bogged down in the Senate. Both sides seemingly locked in battling over the latest compromise offer.

CNN's Jim Acosta is live at the White House with details. Where do we stand, Jim?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Chris, it may be January, but it's starting to feel like Groundhog Day when it comes to these unemployment benefits for the long term jobless out there. There was this compromise that looked like might get passed yesterday or at least might start getting into the process of getting passed over in the Senate.

This was a compromise that would have extended these emergency unemployment benefits through November. Remember we were talking earlier this week about three months. This would have done it through November. But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was starting to say to Republicans, I'm not going to look at any of your amendments.

That was leading Republicans to say Harry Reid is being an obstructionist and the partisan squabbling got going again, Chris, and that sort of killed that compromise as of yesterday. The Senate has left town, but they're hopeful one of the leading Republican senators involved in this fight, Senator Rob Portman from Ohio is saying that it's not dead on arrival just yet and that they will be working on this over the weekend.

Interesting to note, though, Chris, Michaela and Kate, on the unemployment front are those new -- the jobs report numbers will be coming out later on this morning. The White House will be keeping a keen eye on all of that because, of course, if this unemployment rate somehow dips below 7 percent, that is something that has not happened since President Obama was elected president back in 2008. So that is a number that this White House will be very much focused on later this morning.

PEREIRA: And a number of Americans waiting to find out if there's relief in store for them. Jim Acosta, thanks so much for that. Let's take a look at the rest of your headlines at this hour. A surveillance plane goes down in Afghanistan killing three Americans, all of whom were part of the international security assistance force.

Also new this morning, military officials say last month's Black Hawk helicopter crash in Southern Afghanistan that killed six U.S. soldiers was brought down by Taliban insurgents.

Syrian militants with ties to al Qaeda are trying to recruit visiting Americans to join their fight and bring terror back home to the U.S. That according to a report in the "New York Times." FBI Director James Comey says tracking Americans who have returned from Syria is now a top priority. At least 70 Americans have either traveled to Syria or tried to since the civil war begun there some three years ago.

President Obama is said to be close to a final decision on changes to the NSA surveillance program. "The Wall Street Journal" reporting the president is considering extending privacy protections to non-U.S. citizens and restructuring the spy agency's program that collects phone call data of nearly every American. Those changes could be announced as early as next week.

And developing overnight, the State Department expressing concern over the plan by Afghan President Hamid Karzai to release dozens of prisoners considered by the U.S. to be dangerous criminals. The Karzai government claims there's not enough evidence against 72 detainees being held at Bagram Air Base. This is the latest blow to U.S.-Afghan relations. The two sides have been unable to reach a long term security agreement.

We are closer -- this is kind of amazing -- to knowing the locations of long lost treasures from King Solomon's temple, or are we? Some newly translated Hebrew texts indicates they were concealed by prophets and hidden around Israel and Babylonia. That includes the Arc of the Covenant believed to contain the tablets with the Ten Commandments.

Now, of course, the text leaves the exact locations unclear, saying it only be will revealed when the messiah comes.

So, I bring you news of all sorts.

CUOMO: Yes, I like that. Although, it kind of drops off in the end there, with the messiah part. You think there's going to be a map, and then next --


CUOMO: We find the Arc the Covenant, the Ten Commandants.

PEREIRA: I was with you. I was like, this is awesome.

BOLDUAN: We can still pretend.

PEREIRA: Yes, we can.

BOLDUAN: Thank you.

Let's get over to Indra now, checking on -- watching the aftermath of some pretty nasty storms in Florida, Indra. What's it looking like?

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes. It's not unusual for Florida to have large cells develop in a short period of time. But once again, yesterday, they saw one of these cells potentially damaging or producing a tornado. As you can see the damage, about 30 structures in the region.

But very atypical is the amount of rain. Check out the flooding that they saw. Five to six inches of rain and in only about two or three hours, some places on the treasure coasts of Florida saw almost 12 inches of rain. So, that was the concern in the region today. There was still threat for showers, but not as strong as yesterday.

For the rest of us, we are still talking about this warm-up, notice where the warm front is. So, if you're north of the warm front, there's still chance of even some of snow today in the Northeast, you know, your wintry mix. But eventually that will switch other to rain as all that warm air does kind of push on through. Keep in mind, once the cold front passes, of course, we're going to cool off a little bit on Sunday.

So here we go, we can take another look at it. A little bit of left over energy in the East Coast, still some showers possible, some snow showers in the morning. But here comes the next system today, kind of makes it way in through the Midwest, producing some rain there. Eventually by Saturday, producing rains in the Northeast down in the Southeast, and then quickly exiting off to the East by Sunday. So, everyone gets the clear skies kind of behind that.

So, that's kind of the story there. As far as rain, not a big system, but it's enough. I mean, one to three inches of rain the farther north you are. Down to the south, here in the Carolinas, Virginia, about two to three of rain possible with this. But again, the bigger story is the temperatures. They're going to be rebounding significantly. We're talking about 60s in Atlanta, even in D.C. Let's take New York, going to the 50s, and only a tiny cool down once the cold front passes.

So, this time, cold front, pretty much ignore it. No biggie.

BOLDUAN: Yes, as we always say, now it's all relative, because that's nothing.

PETERSONS: I'm never going to say ignore the weather again. I'm taking it back. Pay attention.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, Indra.

CUOMO: Let's take a quick break here.

Coming up on NEW DAY: The team is back on American soil. So, where is Dennis Rodman? The Worm has not returned from North Korea, but his teammates are talking, and boy do they have a story to tell.

BOLDUAN: Plus, did the Chris Christie political payback scandal really contribute to the death of a 91-year-old woman? Her daughter is speaking out.


CUOMO: Welcome back to NEW DAY.

This morning, some of the former NBA players who took part in this week's game in North Korea are on their way home. But, not with them, Dennis Rodman. So, where is he? And what's next in his bizarre relationship with Kim Jong-un?

Karl Penhaul is in Beijing for us this morning.

Karl, what do we know?

KARL PENHAUL, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Chris, we're hearing from two different sources that Dennis Rodman may have gone skiing. As you know, Kim was educated in Switzerland, and one of his pet projects has been to build a luxury ski resort. But as you say, some of the players did fly back from Pyongyang and we were in arrivals to greet them.


PENHAUL (voice-over): Just back from North Korea.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The trip was fantastic. Thank you.

REPORTER: Did you enjoy it?


REPORTER: How was the game?


CHARLES SMITH, FORMER NBA PLAYER: On behalf of all the players here who went on the trip, they asked me to do this interview and trust in me on what needs to be said.

PENHAUL: Game on. Time to meet the press pack.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's do it right here.

SMITH: We set out on a mission to use basketball as a bridge for cultural exchange and we accomplished that mission.

PENHAUL: The now apologetic Dennis Rodman was not with the group. Reports came some of the players felt Rodman hijacked the trip, without spoken comments, and by kowtowing to leader Kim Jong-un.

SMITH: There never any division with Dennis.

PENHAUL: The players say they're focused on basketball, not politics.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was a great experience.

PENHAUL: Their return comes on the heels of Rodman's volatile interview with NEW DAY's Chris Cuomo.

DENNIS RODMAN, FORMER NBA PLAYER : No, no, I don't give (EXPLETIVE DELETED) I don't give a rat's (EXPLETIVE DELETED) with the hell you think. I'm saying to you, look at these guys here. Look at them!

PENHAUL: An outburst setting a fire storm in motion. In an apologetic statement, Rodman confessed he'd been drinking and was overwhelmed.

"I take full responsibility for my actions. I'm very sorry. At this point, I should know better than to make political statements," he said.

The Bae family accepted Rodman's apology Thursday but underscored his relief.

"The fact is Kenneth's life is on the line. Though we understand Rodman enjoyed some laughs and smokes during a couple of basketball games in North Korea, to our family, this situation is no joke. This is not a game."

A game is what ended Rodman's bizarre North Korea trip.

RODMAN: Happy birthday to you --

PENHAUL: Along with his birthday serenade to leader Kim Jong-un and a bow.


PENHAUL: Now, of course, Dennis Rodman, the wild card ever, as ever, the big question now, what is he going to be doing for the time that he remains in North Korea? Is his only mission to be partying with a dictator or may he still be preparing some kind of diplomatic slam dunk?

Back to you, Chris and Kate.

CUOMO: That would be very nice, Karl. If something good could come out of this for the Bae family. That would be very nice. Thanks for the reporting.

BOLDUAN: All right. It's money time now. In a couple hours, we will get the final job report for 2013, which we will bring to you live, of course. What analysts expect, and what job growth does the country need for a healthy economy?

Let's get straight to chief business correspondent Christine Romans.

Christine, dare I say this could be good news?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, our expectations are high. Our CNN Money forecast you guys is 193,000 jobs added in December. And unemployment rate of 7 percent.

If that prediction is correct, that would be the lowest unemployment rate in five years, staying at that five-year low, continuing a steady improvement from the worst we saw in October 2009. Back then, remember, the jobless rate hit 10 percent.

We are on track now for almost 2.3 million jobs last year. That would be, you guys, the strongest year since 2005 for jobs growth. The important thing here though to remember is are we adding enough jobs to recover what we lost during the recession.

You know, the economy really needs to have 250,000 jobs each month consistently for a strong recovery. Where are? Our expectation here is 193,000.

Now the economy lost during the recession 8.7 million jobs between January 2008 and February 2010. That's a lot of jobs. Since then, since then, we've gained back 7.3 million.

The math on that, we are still 1.4 million in the hole from the recession. To get back to normal, to get back to normal, full employment, it would take five years of 200,000 jobs a month just to get us back to where we started before the recession hit. That's really a long way to go.

After we get the jobs numbers, go to to read more analysis, and looking to some real people who are affected by the statistics.

But, guys, this could be a strong report. It could really change the conversation about the economy. You could see the jobs recovery gaining momentum at the end of the year.

BOLDUAN: Let's end with that. I love it. Christine, thank you so much.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

CUOMO: Coming up on NEW DAY: did the New Jersey bridge scandal really cost a 91-year-old woman her life? We're going to hear from her daughter about the potentially deadly delay.

BOLDUAN: Plus, a story we've been following closely here at NEW DAY. A nightmare over for one family. An American is back on U.S. soil after nine months in jail in the United Arab Emirates. We have new video of Shezanne Cassim and his return home.