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NEW DAY SATURDAY

Former Israeli Prime Minister Dies; West Virginia Water Contamination; Neiman Marcus Investigating Possible Security Breach; Fallout from New Jersey Bridge Scandal; Saving the Black Rhino

Aired January 11, 2014 - 09:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks so much for starting your morning with us.

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: We've got so much more for you ahead on NEW DAY SATURDAY which continues right now.

9:00 right now and we are so grateful for your company. I'm Christi Paul.

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell. Pleasure to have you with us. It's 9:00 here on the East Coast. As Christi said 6:00 out on the West Coast. This is NEW DAY SATURDAY.

And Israel is mourning a man who was truly a giant in Mideast conflict politics.

PAUL: Former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon died today. He spent the last eight years in a coma. His death may not be a shock necessarily but it's still resonating across the region and at home here. Former President George W. Bush noted his importance, Sharon's importance to Israel on one of his last trips to Israel while still in office.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He is a warrior for the ages. A man of peace. A friend. The prayers of the American people are with Ariel Sharon.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL: CNN's Wolf Blitzer joining us from Washington with more.

So just how strong a figure was Sharon in Israel, Wolf?

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR, THE SITUATION ROOM: He was a very formidable figure in Israel. He was involved literally in every Israeli war going back to 1948. Israel's war of independence in '56, the Sinai campaign, the six-day war in 1967, the Yom Kippur in 1973.

He had ups and he had downs. He was a fierce fighter. He believed strongly that in order for Israel to survive, you needed a strong army, a strong national security. You have to be tough in a tough neighborhood, if you will. At the same time, in his more recent years, when he was prime minister, he clearly evolved. He was willing to give up settlements -- after Anwar Saddat, the president of Egypt went to Jerusalem in Sinai as part of an Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty. Later unilaterally withdrawing from Gaza.

And he was moving in a direction that was clearly more moderate. He had a hawkish reputation. But in recent years -- in his recent years when he was prime minister, he moved in a more moderate -- in a more moderation direction, even establishing a personal relationship with the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

But, as you know, eight years ago, he suffered a stroke, went into a coma and has now passed away.

He'll leave a mixed legacy in Israel, in the Middle East, and around the world. He did enormously powerful -- he made enormously powerful decisions on the battlefield and also in the world of diplomacy. Some will remember him fondly, others not so much.

BLACKWELL: So if he had not had that stroke almost eight years ago do you think -- you mentioned pulling troops out of Gaza. Do you think the troops would have been out of the West Bank, too?

BLITZER: You know, he was moving in that direction. He clearly had a -- and he became a strong supporter of what's called a two-state solution, Israel moving alongside Palestine. And he was really -- was willing to make concessions. The question is, were the concessions he was willing to make enough to satisfy the Palestinians?

We'll never know because he -- had a stroke and he went into a coma. And Ehud Olmert succeeded him, the prime minister of Israel, who by the way still didn't move in that direction of accepting a two-state solution. But the historians and the diplomats, they'll debate that for a long time to come.

PAUL: All right, Wolf Blitzer, thank you so much for sharing your perspective with us on a Saturday morning. We appreciate it.

BLITZER: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: Back in the U.S., a public health crisis in West Virginia. It's now getting worse. Imagine you waking up this morning and you can't use your tap water. So you can't cook for the kids, you can't take a shower. You can't brush your teeth. There's no coffee.

PAUL: That's pretty bad for some people without the coffee.

BLACKWELL: Yes.

PAUL: But, look, we're talking about 300,000 West Virginians who are dealing with this after a chemical seeped out of a coal industry facility and into the water supply there. Now tests are showing the chemical level is dropping, which is the good news, but the bad news is there is no telling how long it's going to be before they can have that water supply back. BLACKWELL: Yes. Alina Machado has the latest from Charleston.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now it's utter chaos. Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I see people just grabbing every ice bag they can.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Yes. Yes. It's about gone.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's hard. I got to use bottled water.

ALINA MACHADO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There is growing outrage and concern this morning in West Virginia where at least 100,000 people are without usable running water, thanks to a chemical leak at Freedom Industries.

GARY SOUTHERN, PRESIDENT, FREEDOM INDUSTRIES: We are very, very sorry for the disruptions.

MACHADO: Gary Southern, the president of the chemical company, offered few details during his first press conference more than 24 hours after the leak was discovered.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: So can you give us an exact timeline as to how this all happened?

MACHADO: Southern says his employees found the leak Thursday morning. The chemical is typically used to clean coal and can be harmful if ingested.

State officials say they were alerted to the problem when residents of the Kanawha County reported a foul smell similar to licorice in the air. The leak was traced to one of Freedom Industries' 35,000 gallon storage tanks along the Elk River, about a mile from the water plant.

GOV. EARL RAY TOMBLIN, WEST VIRGINIA: We're doing water tests on an hourly basis and the chemical level is declining but we're just not sure exactly how long it's going to take until it's acceptable to lift the do not drink ban.

MACHADO: The warning has rattled those who live in the nine counties, where a state of emergency has been declared.

MAYOR DANNY JONES, CHARLESTON, WEST VIRGINIA: It's a disaster. And it's caused us -- it's caused us more problems than you can ever imagine. Not only can we not wash dishes, we can't wash our hands after we go to the bathroom. You can't wash your clothes and you can't drink the tap water, you can't cook with the tap water.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MACHADO: The chemical that leaked into the river was being kept inside that storage tank. We're told the chemical is no longer there. The company has also been ordered to empty out all of the remaining aboveground storage tanks and to cease operations until it can prove that those tanks are safe. Meanwhile, the U.S. attorney's office has said they are looking into what happened here -- Victor, Christi.

BLACKWELL: Hopefully there is some relief for those folks soon.

Alina Machado in Charleston, West Virginia, thank you.

New this morning, upscale retailer Neiman Marcus may be the latest victim of cyber hacking.

PAUL: Which means you may be a victim as well. The company said it's investigating a possible security breach that may have compromised customer's credit card information.

Let's bring in CNN's Jennifer Mayerle with what do we know about how broad this might be so far.

JENNIFER MAYERLE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, they really don't know how far-reaching this could be but it was mid-December when Neiman Marcus was alerted about the possible security breach and that caused customers' credit card information could have been compromised. They don't know how many people at this point could been affected or exactly what the dates are that that information could have been compromised.

Here is what Neiman Marcus is saying. When they found out in mid- December that -- about this breach, they contacted law enforcement and they started working with the Secret Service. They also started working with a forensic team. And it was just on January 1st that that team that they were working with discovered evidence that confirmed the company was the victim of a criminal cyber security breach. And that some of those customer credit cards may have been compromised after shopping at Neiman Marcus.

You know, they are trying when possible to notify customers that may have been affected and Neiman Marcus says they are taking steps to enhance security. But of course this comes on the heels of Target's security breach.

BLACKWELL: Yes. Let's talk about Target because we now know that there weren't 40 million people affected, 70 million people affected, and more than just the debit PIN numbers and the numbers.

MAYERLE: Right.

BLACKWELL: How can people tell if they were part of this breach?

MAYERLE: You know, it may be hard to tell. You know, the first thing is for people who were shopping between November 27th and December 15th, they know that they should be on alert. But for other folks, they may not find out until something happens or until they find out that something has been compromised on their end.

So let's take a look at what was stolen in the Target security breach. OK. We know that names, we know that some of the credit card information was taken. And there's also ways that you can protect yourself.

OK. So some of those ways to protect yourself, take a look at your credit card statement. Monitor your bank statements. Make sure, you know, some of those things may even be a $1 or $5. They may be testing out to see what they can purchase.

So look at those very closely. Don't click on any strange links. There are people -- maybe people that tried to e-mail you for additional information. Don't click on strange links, anything that you're not sure of or aware of. And that's the same of phishing scams. Looking for more information there.

You also might want to contact a credit monitoring service. They can check your bank statements, they can check your credit to make sure that nothing has happened on that end. But of course, the biggest thing is to be aware. We know that this is happening and to make sure that you are vigilant in checking your own statements.

PAUL: Right.

BLACKWELL: Yes. And Target is offering that credit monitoring service for one year --

MAYERLE: They are.

BLACKWELL: -- for people who have been hacked.

Jennifer Mayerle, thank you for the information.

PAUL: All right. This morning, new insight into the investigation into the New Jersey bridge scandal. What are the legal implications for Governor Chris Christie, if any?

BLACKWELL: The Dallas Safari Club says it wants to save the endangered black rhino by killing one. It's a plan that conservationists are calling just a sad joke.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PAUL: So you know this morning that we're getting some new insight into the investigation on the intentional manufactured traffic jam on the world's busiest bridge.

BLACKWELL: More than 2,000 documents have been released by the New Jersey lawmaker who is leading the investigation. He wants to find out why Governor Chris Christie's officials caused this traffic jam in Fort Lee.

PAUL: Now six residents have sued him saying the traffic jam caused him to lose wages. Federal prosecutors are also revealing allegations against Christie's staff.

BLACKWELL: And Christie has denied any actual role in the scandal. But there's another big problem for Christie. How all this could affect his chances of running for the White House in 2016.

Joining us to talk about, HLN legal analyst Joey Jackson and Julian Zelizer, a historian and professor at Princeton University.

Good to have both of you.

Joey, let's start with the legal problems. The state legislature here is investigating, but one former Christie official, David Wildstein, has already pleaded the Fifth. Now they want to question Bridget Kelly, deputy chief of staff who was fired. What if she pleads the Fifth, too? I mean, does everybody get immunity here?

JOEY JACKSON, HLN LEGAL ANALYST: Good morning, Victor. Well, what happens is, is that certainly there is a criminal investigation also. And we'll aware of the federal government looking at this. The United States Attorney's Office. And whenever you have the potential for a federal prosecution, and I say potential because they'll look and they'll see if there's any federal laws that are violated beyond a service fraud provision. They'll take a look at that. They'll take a look at the Hobbs Act, which is generally used for federal prosecutions and public corruption.

Not suggesting there is any here, we'll see. But whenever there is the specter or the potential for a federal prosecution, any official who could be embroiled in that, Victor, is not going to expose themselves and so the attorneys who advised these people who are testifying will say take the Fifth at this point.

And they'll be well within their rights to do that under the United States Constitution.

PAUL: OK, so, Julian, let me ask you. I mean, the New Jersey Democrats as we know are gunning for Christie. But is there any chance that this investigation could backfire if Christie turns out to be a victim as well?

JULIAN ZELIZER, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY: It could. Christie essentially set the bar the other day and said he knew nothing about this and held the people who did accountable. If the story holds at that and fizzles as many scandals do in our modern age, the danger for Democrats is the story is about a partisan investigation or an obsession with investigation when New Jersey residents want attention turned back to the economy. And so that's the danger that Democrats do face in the coming months.

BLACKWELL: Joey, what about this class action lawsuit? The people who were stuck in traffic. Do they have a case?

JACKSON: You know, Victor, I really think they do. And it's predicated about a number of things. The first thing, of course, is a federal claim. People have the right to travel, they have the right to travel freely, and they have a right to due process under the law. Not to be denied life, liberty or property without that due process. And in addition to that, the state claims there, I think, are viable. And that they speak to negligence of officials.

Were they adequately hired, were they appropriately hired, were they adequately trained, were they appropriately supervised? And so, you know, when -- lawsuits, Victor, affect real people. And when you have anybody within three miles of that George Washington Bridge, you know, it's problematic.

And to the extent that it might have affected them physically, mentally or, you know, not only the emotional, but actual economic damage where you're late for work or something like that, certainly if this was a purposeful act and a malicious act, there has to be some compensation here.

So it will be defended by the state, of course. But I think on its face it certainly is not frivolous. I think it has a lot of merit here.

PAUL: OK. So, Julian, look, at the end of the day, Christie, I think we can all agree, is Christie either didn't know about the scandal and didn't have control of his staff or he did know about it and some say he's lying. Does he look good in any of these scenarios? I mean, give us kind of a fast forward of what to expect with him politically.

ZELIZER: Look, in either scenario, he's already been damaged. He either knew about it and is lying, as you know said, or he didn't have full control of his staff, which is something he's always boosted about running a very tight ship.

I think the way in which this could move forward at least in a somewhat positive fashion for him, is if the story ends and he shows that he really does clean up his own office, take care of all the people who were involved in this wrongdoing and turns his attention back to the business of New Jersey, back to the issue of governing.

The thing is, this story has to end. Every day the kinds of revelations we have seen continue to raise questions that no politician wants to hear in the post-Watergate era about what someone knew and when they knew it. Until that ends, I think it's hard for him to reverse the story.

BLACKWELL: Unlikely it's going to end soon, though. I mean, we've just started to unpack this. And I know everyone now wants to hear from Bridget Kelly.

Joey Jackson, Julian Zelizer, thank you so much.

JACKSON: Pleasure. Take care. Thank you.

ZELIZER: Thank you.

JACKSON: Bye, Christi.

PAUL: Bye. Thank you, guys.

All right, the Dallas Safari Club has a plan to save the black rhino, but here's the thing, it involves hunting one of them. And that seems twisted, let's say, to some people.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PAUL: All right. Look at this. Meet Molly, 3-year-old Australian Shepherd, finally heading home. What a story. She recovered from surgery to repair all four of her broken legs.

BLACKWELL: Wow. During last month's snow storm, Molly was hit by a snow plow. And her owner didn't have the money for surgery and almost had to put her down.

PAUL: And that's when it gets really good here. Molly's story went viral, donations started pouring in. Look at her.

BLACKWELL: Yes. In fact so many donations came in that all Molly's surgeries were covered. And the vet has leftover money to help other sick animals.

PAUL: I love when people come out of the woodwork for stuff like that.

BLACKWELL: Good for Molly. Good for Molly.

Hey, it seems pretty obvious but if you want to save an endangered species, start by not killing any.

PAUL: You would think. But not so fast says the Dallas Safari Club. This has this controversial plan to help save the black rhino but it involves auctioning off the right to hunt one.

CNN's Ed Lavandera explains a plan that has animal rights groups obviously really ticked off.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Coming this close to a black rhinoceros is rare. There are only about 5,000 left in the world. In the country of Namibia in Southern Africa, there are only 1700 still alive. Thousands of miles away in this convention hall in Texas, the Dallas Safari Club says it has a way of helping save this ancient beast. The group will auction off a permit from the Namibian government to hunt and kill one black rhino.

The club's executive director Ben Carter says sacrificing one animal for the greater good is smart conservation.

BEN CARTER, DALLAS SAFARI CLUB: It's going to be able to raise more money than any other way you can do it to help provide for all the conservation needs that we need for the black rhino.

LAVANDERA: The auction has sparked death threats which the FBI is investigating along with a vicious debate over how to save this endangered species. Critics call the auction a sad joke.

(On camera): Marcia, tell us where you're joining us from?

MARCIA FARGNOLI, SAVE THE RHINO TRUST: I'm sitting in Swakopmund, Namibia, in Africa.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Marcia Fargnoli is CEO of Save the Rhino Trust and works with the Namibian government to protect the rhinos.

(On camera): Do you agree with this tactic, the way they're doing it?

FARGNOLI: I personally don't agree. This is actually saying that one rhino is worth dead much more than it is alive.

LAVANDERA: The black rhino hunting permit will be auctioned off Saturday night. It's a closed event. You have to have a special ticket to get in. No cameras will be allowed inside. Organizers say it's to protect the identity of the bidders.

The Dallas Safari Club estimates the permit could sell to as much as $250,000, even up to $1 million.

(Voice-over): The Dallas Safari Club says all of the money will be donated to Namibia's conversation efforts to save the black rhino and that the government has picked a handful of rhinos that can be targeted by the hunter who wins the auction.

CARTER: They've already picked out two or three black rhino males that are old, non breeding males. They're not contributing to the population anymore. In fact, black rhinos are very territorial and they're very aggressive. And they actually are detrimental to the population when they get old like that. They are like a cranky old man.

LAVANDERA: But animal conservation groups say it would be better to keep the rhino alive and raise money through tourism, selling the opportunity to see these animals up close in the wild.

JEFFREY FLOCKEN, INTERNATIONAL FUND FOR ANIMAL WELFARE: I can't state how strong enough how perverse this is to say that killing these animals is the best thing for these animals. It is a critically endangered species.

LAVANDERA: The black rhino is in the crosshairs of controversy and both sides say they're doing what's best for this wild beast.

Ed Lavandera, CNN, Dallas.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLACKWELL: Well, coming up, we'll show you an amazing image captured by a NASA telescope. Some say it suggests -- well, we can show it now -- a divine presence in the universe.

(LAUGHTER)

PAUL: There it is.

BLACKWELL: We're not teasing it. We'll just show it in the break.

First, though, this week's "OPEN COURT."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I do make, you know, great money for a living and, you know, if I didn't want to play tennis again, I'd have enough money to live for the rest of my life. But I do respect the money that I made because I didn't grow up having a lot of money. It's so important to be able to look back and those age and think, you know, I really came from nothing. We had a dream and I had a talent and we moved to the United States.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Her hard work paid off when she stunned the world and won Wimbledon in 2004. Grand slams titles followed at the U.S. Open in 2006 and Australian Open in 2008, but in 2012, Sharapova won the French Open and completed a career slam.

SHARAPOVA: I don't know if it's lucky or it just things fell into place. That the four grand slams I won were all four of them that were different. You know, who knows what the future will bring me? And who knows what I may add to that list, but so far I can say that yes, I'm pretty fortunate to be one of the few that has achieved that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PAUL: All right, people, look at this in the Toronto Zoo. I know you cannot turn away from it. Whatever you do, look at your screen. Male polar bear cub turned two months this week. Takes his first is steps.

BLACKWELL: Why is he screaming?

PAUL: Because that's what -- that's what babies do, don't you know that?

BLACKWELL: I don't have it so --

(LAUGHTER)

PAUL: Yes, go to a restaurant, you know that. It's a bit of a struggle, obviously. But -- look at him. He's going to get up on all fours there. Temporarily. And zoo officials say that he weighs more than six times what he did at birth. Now at two months old.

BLACKWELL: And he screams. All right.

PAUL: I could just -- I could just sit around and watch him all day.

BLACKWELL: OK. Let's look at something else now.

(LAUGHTER)

This amazing pictured captured in the sky. NASA space telescope spotted what is now nicknamed the hand of god.

PAUL: And you can kind of see why, right? It's actually -- it's a star that exploded and created that enormous cloud of cosmic material. NASA's x-ray telescope called New Star captured it, the picture of that outstretched hand as you see it. And scientists say the Hand of God is 17,000 light years away from earth. It is beautiful, isn't it, though?

BLACKWELL: It is a great picture.

Coming up at the top of the hour, at 10:00 Eastern, a transgender teen girl fights back against classmates who bullied her for years.

PAUL: The school had actually punished everyone involved in the fight but the D.A. chose to file charges against the transgendered teen. Are they just prosecuting a crime or is a case of bias?

BLACKWELL: Yes. We'll talk about that. It's got a lot of different angles.

PAUL: "YOUR MONEY" is next.