Return to Transcripts main page


Hoboken Mayor Accuses Christie Administration of Corruption: Olympic Security a Concern in Russia; Cold Weather to Hit U.S. Midwest and South; Chris Christie's Biggest Problem

Aired January 20, 2014 - 07:00   ET


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

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Welcome to NEW DAY. It's 7:00 in the east on this Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Monday, January 20. And new this morning, the most direct challenge to Governor Chris Christie's administration yet, this time from a fellow jersey politician. Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer says Chris Christie ordered the withholding of Sandy recovery funds unless she backed an unrelated redevelopment plan that he wanted. The message was allegedly delivered by the lieutenant governor. This morning the mayor is expected to speak out and Chris Frates from CNN investigation is here with what she's expected to say. Chris, what do with know?

CHRIS FRATES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Chris, good morning to you. A source telling me Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno is expected to "categorically deny" these allegations. Remember, this weekend Mayor Dawn Zimmer said Guadagno told her that Sandy relief funds for Hoboken would be withheld unless she backed the redevelopment plan that Governor Chris Christie supported. Sources are telling that the lieutenant governor remembers talking to the mayor that day but recalls a very different conversation. Guadagno recalls discussing redevelopment of Hoboken and says Zimmer is the one who pressed for Sandy funding during that conversation.

According to the source, the lieutenant government said she told the mayor, quote, "you can't tie those two things together," the two being Sandy funding and redevelopment for Hoboken, but that Zimmer continued to push for more Sandy funding. So we're getting a much different version this morning from the lieutenant governor.

CUOMO: So let me try and get this straight. So the lieutenant governor is saying, yes, we talked about the Sandy funds in this plan, but it wasn't me. It was the mayor who was tying them together, pushing if there were any quid pro quo, not the lieutenant governor pushing it. Is that right?

FRATES: That's right, Chris. My source is telling me she doesn't specifically recall discussing this project that Mayor Zimmer said had been brought up by the Rockefeller Group. She says she doesn't remember discussing that with the mayor.

And another interesting point here, Chris, Guadagno isn't supposed to have anything to do with Sandy recovery efforts. Her home was damage by Sandy. So inside the governor's office, she's always been kept separate from Sandy funding because she was personally affected. My source told me "She can't talk about Sandy." The lieutenant governor remembers this as a friendly conversation, and she says that after this conversation, she twice visited Hoboken and Zimmer never brought up any concerns she had about this conversation or told the lieutenant governor that she had been upset by it.

CUOMO: Boy, this is going to get deeper and deeper into the weeds and also makes the mayor's personal journal entries, contemporaneous writings of these conversations, even more interesting. Chris Frates, thank you for digging down on this, appreciate it.

FRATES: Thank you.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Also breaking news this morning from North Korea where we're seeing and hearing from Kenneth Bae, an American jailed there for more than a year now. He's speaking out to reporters, admitting guilt and asking for help from the United States government. CNN's Paula Hancocks is live with more details from Seoul, South Korea. So what more are we learning from Mr. Bae?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, this was an unexpected press conference today. We understand from associated press saying that Kenneth Bae said he called it at his own request. That has to be taken at surface value. He is a prisoner in North Korea and prisoners that have been released have said they've done this sort of thing under duress.

He was wearing a gray prison jacket and he basically said he wanted the U.S. government to do more to try and secure his release. He also said he called this press conference to clarify some false media reports, saying that he has in fact committed a crime in North Korea, that the authorities there, the regime says he carried out hostile acts against the government. Now, this could allude, according to Associated Press, to a comment from the U.S. vice president Joe Biden who said last month that he was many held for no reason, that Bae had not committed a crime. So basically what Bae has said is I did commit a crime, I am sorry for that crime, and I ask the U.S. government to do more.

So a very interesting press conference we're seeing here. He also went on to Saturday North Korean government does not abuse human rights. On the contrary, he said, it gave me a lot of humanitarian support. So very interesting this press conference, clearly some of it under duress.

BOLDUAN: It seems like it. Paula, thank you very much for the last details from South Korea.

We're also talking about signs of war and peace today in a Russian city torn apart by terror. The Olympic torch on its way to Sochi passing through Volgograd weeks after dozens were killed there in twin bombings. Now the people behind that attack are causing real concerns about security at the Olympic Games with a new video warning of more attacks during the games. With just two and a half weeks to go, officials in Russia say they have security under control, but not everyone is convinced.

Let's bring in Fran Townsend, CNN's national security analyst, to talk more about all of this. Fran, a lot to cover. First off we call always say security around an Olympic games is always a concern, any large, public event with so many people coming together is always a concern. But here it seems to be a higher concern than usual. First on that video, what do you make of what we learned, two men claiming responsibility for those 2010 bombings and threatening more attacks to come?

FRAN TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, Kate, it's a pretty bold move, right? You've got their faces are clearly seen, they're taking responsibility for the two Volgograd bombings and threatening more. So presumably Russian authorities are trying to track down and identify these individuals and take them into custody. So pretty brazen, right, two and a half weeks before the games again.

But Russian officials ought to be unnerved by this, as I believe are athletes around the world gathering at Sochi now. These terrorists have demonstrated the capability by virtue of those Volgograd bombings, and there's no reason to think they're not serious and don't have the materials and people to execute additional bombings.

BOLDUAN: Fran, Vladimir Putin says they have security under control, there will be a show of force and everyone is going to be, but where do you think the biggest concerns are surrounding the games, where are the biggest vulnerabilities do you think going into the games?

TOWNSEND: When you look at prior Olympics when we worked with host countries, the Olympic Village where the athletes are living is the most protected, as well as the personal security of the dignitaries that are visiting. So those are the tightest secured sites. But once you move out from the venues, out from the Olympic village, it becomes more and more permissive an environment. And so especially transportation nodes, the public lobbies of hotels, public sites and tourist sites, things that are open and very difficult to secure and to screen for people, that's where you're most vulnerable.

BOLDUAN: I also want to get your take, because the cooperation between the governments seem to be a point of concern at this time. Mike Rogers, he used the kind of wording like it there's been a cooperation. They're not giving us the full story in terms of the levels of intelligence sharing going on between the two countries. That might not be so surprising, but it's no less troubling, right?

TOWNSEND: That's exactly right, Kate. Look, I can remember when we were preparing for the Olympics in Athens. The intelligence sharing was extraordinary. There was a real degree of transparency between American and Greek officials so that we could identify threats before they showed themselves. That's not going to be the case between Russia and the United States. There's a very difficult sort of scratchy, intelligence shared relationship. We remember recently they threw out an alleged CIA spy from Russia. We've thrown out from the United States alleged Russian spies. And so there's a really contentious relationship. You're right, it not surprising that the intelligence sharing isn't fulsome, but it ought to be very concerning to the U.S. Olympic Committee and to the athletes. Remember, athletes have trained for years to get to this moment, and now they're going to worry about not just their own security but the security of their families who don't enjoy the sort of level of protection that the athletes enjoy.

BOLDUAN: With that you will of this in mind, Fran, I found it surprising that we're now seeing reports that U.S. officials are sending over fewer American security experts than in any other previous Olympics in recent memory.

TOWNSEND: It is surprising, but, again, that's a function of the bilateral relationship. You can offer tons of security assistance and tens of thousands of personnel, but that only works if the Russians are willing to accept. The Russian security services are very capable. I think they believe they don't need it and they don't want the help because there's not a degree of trust between the Americans and the Russian security officials that there won't be independent reporting going back to your home country.

BOLDUAN: So many people are preparing to go over there, I mean, I think you just keep in mind you can lock down one city, but you can't lock down an entire country and all the airports folks might be traveling into. So we'll be talking much more about this in the coming days. Fran, thanks so much.

TOWNSEND: Thanks, Kate.


CUOMO: All right, Kate, here we go again, another blast of dangerous cold. Much of the nation is about to be in a deep freeze because arctic air will send temperatures plummeting across the Midwest and northeast, and then it will move south. Indra Petersons is here with this forecast. Did I get it even close to accurate?

INDRA PETERSONS, CNN ANCHOR: On the money, right. Another game of how low can you go. Yes, here we go again. Look at all that cold air. It's going to be diving down to the south and spreading into the northeast day by day. So where are we today? Let's take a look at the upper Midwest. Chicago already seeing temperatures below freezing for your high today. That's four degrees below average. Not too bad, right? Minneapolis in at about 21. Anywhere on the east coast, still seeing above normal temperatures. Enjoy it. That is going to be changing quickly.

By tomorrow morning you'll feel that chill again that you'll probably remember from the beginning of the month. Minneapolis is expecting temperatures with the wind chill at 30 below. I want to put it in perspective, its' not 65 below, but either way, still about 30 degrees lower than the last round of this cold, arctic square.

New York City looking for a wind chill of 16. So yes, this chill is out there. Look at the frigid highs by Tuesday afternoon. Temperatures still stay in those 20s, D.C. also only looking for a high at about 31 degrees. And now there's another side to this. The latest weather model brought in the second clipper that is now going to be talking about bringing some snow. And not a little bit of snow. Notice the taps in all this moisture right off the ocean.

Look at the advisories here as the low puts all of that snow right along the coastlines here in New York or D.C. Heads up, look at these totals, anywhere from four to eight inches of snow, D.C. looking for a good three to five inches. I hope you guys are ready, snow and cold air on the way. Do you guy like me still?

BOLDUAN: The polar vortex was kind of like a boot camp, right?

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: All right, let took a look at the rest of our headlines right now. A big recall to tell you about this morning involving some pretty popular products that you very well may have in your pantry right now. Nearly 2 million pounds of Craft shelf stable items including cheeseburger mac are being taken off the shelves because they contain soy and it is not declared on the label. So far no reports of anyone getting sick.

The nuclear deal between Iran and major world powers going into effect today. Reuters is now reporting U.N. nuclear inspectors are now disconnecting the centrifuge program at Iran's primary nuke site. In the meantime strong split reaction from the international community to Iran's surprise invitation to the Syria peace talks. Some support it, some don't. The Syrian opposition says it will withdraw until Iran's invite is revoked. But Iran's says, for its part, it will attend.

Breaking overnight, New Zealand cleaning up now after a strong 6.2 magnitude earthquake rattled an area just north of Wellington, the nation's capital. Power is out for thousands. We're told train service has been suspended. So far fortunately no reports of casualties. The quake did shake loose a giant eagle sculpture which was promoting "The Hobbit" movie trilogy.

New video this morning showing a scary rescue from an icy lake in Missouri. The man, who has not been identified, was trying to save his dog who had fallen into the water not far from St. Louis. He was able to get the dog back on to the ice but then he fell in about 75 feet from shore. Fortunately firefighters were able to pull him out. He is now being treated for hypothermia.

Here were go, the NFL's two best teams will meet in Super Bowl 48. The Denver broncos beating the New England patriots 26-16 to take the AFC title. In the NFC title games the Seahawks' top rated defense helped carry them to a 23-17 win over the rival San Francisco 48ers. And the big about game will be played on February 2, MetLife stadium in New Jersey. Where will you be? What kind of cheese dip are you making? BOLDUAN: Are we going to -- is there an alternative to this?

CUOMO: Where are we going to do it? I have the most room but I have the kids there.

PEREIRA: That's OK, I'm a great aunt.

CUOMO: You'll be picking them out of your hair for like two hours. BOLDUAN: Got to love it. We'll take a break. Coming up next on NEW DAY, the Christie crisis deepens. Another mayor comes forward, this time accusing the New Jersey governor directly of using Sandy relief money for political gain. Will the latest allegations derail his presidential ambitions?

CUOMO: Plus, President Obama like you've never heard him before. Brutally honest commentary on everything from the NFL to pot. Plus, the surprising items he carries in his personal bag. You know you want to know. We'll tell you.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, let me ask you a question, Peirce (ph), how long's your drive to work?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know, maybe 15 minutes?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, well, that's a nice commute. It would be a real shame if something were to happen to it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Governor, are you threatening me?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know. Am I?



BOLDUAN: "Saturday Night Live" poking fun -- I'm sure you don't need me to tell you -- at New Jersey's Governor Chris Christie.

This morning, Chris Christie's team, though, is fighting back against more allegations of political strong-arming. First, there was Bridgegate, as we now call it. Now, Hoboken's mayor Don Zimmer claims Christie threatened to withhold Superstorm Sandy aid in order to push a political agenda of his own.

Joining us now to discuss this, Democratic strategist and former aide to Senator Chuck Schumer, Christopher Hahn, and from Miami, CNN political commentator and Republican strategist, Ana Navarro.

Good morning, you guys. A lot to dissect today.

Ana, first to you. I know you saw Chris Christie this weekend. He was in Florida, traveling around the state. What do you make of the latest allegations against the governor and his team's pretty fiery pushback?

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It was Christiepalooza down here in south Florida. He did several fund-raising events, first for the governor, and then he did a confab with Republican donors that for himself, though it was not a fund-raising event.

Look, about these new events, Kate, I'm in the same place I am with the old events. I don't know what's there. I think there's going to -- we still don't know what the there (ph) there is. There's a allegations -- there's a lot of allegations that flying around now. Frankly, it's getting a little hard to keep track of who's where and what's what and who's saying what.

So, I think it's -- you know, to some Republicans it's beginning to look like a pile-on, but the bottom line is, we don't know what the facts are yet. This is still developing.

They are pushing back very hard on this one. They say that the allegations are not true, that her numbers, that the mayors numbers are not true, that she has gotten considerable funding and that this is just a trumped-up political story.

So I'm seeing them go on the offense on this one and be a lot harder in pushing back than they were on Bridgegate where they admitted that there was bad things that were done under their watch.

CUOMO: Quick take on something because I want to get to Chris. Ana, very often in politics you wear your problems on your face. What did you see on the governor's countenance?

NAVARRO: You know, it was a remarkable big difference between Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday, I saw a Chris Christie that was worn down to the nub. He was tired. He was exhausted.

And then the, Chris, I can tell you the Chris Christie I saw yesterday in Palm Beach was dramatically different. It was almost like one of these boxers who's on the ropes and then shakes it off and just keeps on fighting. He was strong. He was calm. He was collected. He was human yesterday. He had a very good event with potential donors and was very well received by them.

BOLDUAN: Just for jumping on this then, too, about what do you make of what Ana and other Republicans are saying, that there's a sense now that this is piling on? Christie's spokesman said this is part of some politics at play. This is another mayor with an ax to grind who wants to get her face on TV.

CHRISTOPHER HAHN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Here's his biggest problem. I think he's worn his outward aggressiveness on his sleeve. It's been his calling card. So now when you have mayors coming out and saying, "Well, you know, I felt pressure. I felt bullied by the governor," people start to believe it, whether it's true or not.

Now, I don't know what's going on with New Jersey. Every politician says, "Hey, if you do this for me, I'll do this for you." It's been going on in American politics and politics in general for generations. So I don't know what will be different here. I don't know that the Sandy funding should rise above that or making sure that it goes smoothly for people.

But I think his biggest problem is perception. People see him as a bull in a china shop. So now if you're going to start seeing drips and drips and drips of different Jersey officials saying, "I was pressured. I felt bullied," it's going to be a problem for him.

And the question I have, and most Democrats have, are the Republicans going to aid him? A lot of the Republicans are taking -- a lot of national Republicans are taking glee in his misfortune right now, and I think that's unfortunate for him and for the debate.

CUOMO: Florida governor supposedly pulled back a little bit, wasn't as visible with Christie down there because of the optics going on right now.

But here's the thing, though, Chris. It's not that forensica (ph) look from your side.

HAHN: Right.

CUOMO: You know, Congressman Pallone is saying he should step down if this stuff is true. So which is it? I mean, you have one cable network that is dedicated to little but bringing down Chris Christie.

HAHN: Right.

CUOMO: What do you guys want and what do you think you have that warrants it?

HAHN: Well, look, here's what I want. I want a national figure on the Republican side that's a normal person, and Chris Christie was one of those normal people. I didn't actually think Chris Christie was a bad Republican.

Look, when things like this happen, it needs to be investigated. And if what he said at his press conference is true, if he had nothing to do with Bridgegate, it's going to pass over.

But if you're going to see all 65 or so mayors of New Jersey say, "I've had problems with the Christie administration. This guy bullied me," he's going to have a hard time moving forward. I don't think it's going --

CUOMO: Do you think you have a governor in the state where you couldn't find a local mayor who says I've been strong-armed about something?

HAHN: I think every local mayor thinks they're being strong-armed by anybody who is a level above them, whether it be the governor or the county executive, the member of Congress. Everybody who's in a lower level of office -- and I've worked for United States senators, and I've worked in the county -- and they always feel that they're being pressured from people above them in those.

You know, elected official thinks they should be president of the United States. Every mayor of New Jersey probably thinks they should be governor of New Jersey. I know that every congressman in New Jersey thinks they should be governor or senator in New Jersey.

So, you know, look, of course they're going to try to find a way to raise their stature and get in there and make a play for it.

BOLDUAN: Ana, I mean, if that is part of the reality, right, that you're dealing with political leverage here, friends get rewarded, people who don't work with you, they don't get so much rewarded, but Republicans nationally seem to themselves think this raises to a different level.

NAVARRO: You know, I'm not sure that's accurate yet. I think everybody is in a wait-and-see mode. And I think Chris Christie took lead on that this weekend.

I heard him on Saturday and on Sunday say 2016 is on pause. About 2016, he said yesterday to these very big potential donors, come see me next year. This is a year where I'm going to focus on doing what's right for the people of New Jersey, and we're on the political front, I'm going to focus on helping governors get elected, Republican governors get elected.

HAHN: And he --

NAVARRO: He said the same thing on Saturday. So he himself is pushing the pause button on 2016. And I'll tell you, I don't see this glee from Republicans. Yeah, there's a couple here and there, and there's going to be a lot made of what those, you know --

HAHN: Well, and Rand Paul was skipping what he was talking about --

NAVARRO: -- few people think. But the people --


NAVARRO: Let me tell you about what I saw this weekend. I saw some of the biggest Republican bunglers (ph), long-time Republican donors who flock to hear Chris Christie. The verdict is still out. But nobody's running from him like he was toxic waste.

HAHN: Well, Ana, the --

NAVARRO: They want to hear what he had to say.

HAHN: The difference between the people you were with in Florida, are those are the governing caucus members of the Republican party.

Unfortunately, the Republican primary in 2016 is not going to be decided by those people; it's going to be decided by people on the far right who really don't like Christie at all. He committed the biggest sin you can do. He hugged President Obama, and it's going to haunt him. And that's the problem.

When he really needs help from national Republicans, a lot of them are going to run from him because they feel he's too close to the president.

NAVARRO: Listen, but it -- who you're picking as a example is Rand Paul. They've had a long-going feud now that's lasted for months. And I can also tell you that, yes, both -- HAHN: But Lindsay Graham of South Carolina.


NAVARRO: But money matters, too. If not, ask Romney. The reason he was able to withstand months and months and months of primary is because he had the money and the structure to be able to withstand it.

Lindsey Graham, governor, Governor Scott, they're doing the right thing. They realize that right now what they the press wants to talk about is not Lindsey Graham's achievements, it's not Rick Scott's achievements in Florida. They want to talk about Chris Christie and what's going on in New Jersey. And they have absolutely nothing to gain. It would be --

HAHN: Rick Scott's achievements in Florida, I'm trying to think of one, I can't.

NAVARRO: -- insane for any politician to stand next to Chris Christie right now --

HAHN: Right.

NAVARRO: -- doing what? Looking like an idiot while Chris Christie is getting pummeled and peppered with questions on an issue that has absolutely nothing to do with it.


CUOMO: Ironically, Ana, that's why Chris Christie got out of New Jersey, is that he wants to expose himself to other political climates. But one thing's for sure --

NAVARRO: What do you mean, Chris? It's 70 degrees and sunny here. Why wouldn't he get out of New Jersey?


CUOMO: Well, that's a nice reason to go, too. And you're there. But one thing's for sure. The reason this could hurt him in 2016 is because if he doesn't run a clean shop, it's going to be hard to be an executive at the next level. That's why everybody's examining this so closely.

BOLDUAN: And we'll continue to see. Christopher, great to see you.

HAHN: Thank.

BOLDUAN: Ana, great to see you as always.

BOLDUAN: Gonna take a break.

Coming up next on NEW DAY, marijuana and the president. He's talking about his own drug use in the far, far past and what he thinks about pot. And that has a lot of people talking, shocker. What do his comments mean for legalizing the drug nationwide? CUOMO; And let's not forget today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day. And on this holiday, we want to honor him, a live look at the memorial in Washington. Remember this message. We need it today as much as ever. We'll be right back.