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Cold Front Hits Parts of U.S.; New Jersey Governor to be Inaugurated for Second Term; Scandals Surrounding Governor Christie's Administration Examined; Looking For the "Black Widow" in Russia

Aired January 21, 2014 - 07:00   ET


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking overnight, the federal government shut down this morning because of a massive snowstorm dumping a foot of snow in major cities. Making matters worse, it will be followed by a deep freeze. Where will it be worst, ahead.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Black widow. Is this a photo of a female suicide bomber already in Sochi? Russian security forces are now hunting for her. We're live with the latest.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: Chris Christie's inauguration for a second term just hours away. Will he address the scandal? The mayor behind the latest allegations speaks out to CNN.

CUOMO: Your NEW DAY starts right now.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What you need to know.

KIM GUADAGNO, NEW JERSEY LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: Any suggestion that sadly funds were tied to any project is completely false.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What you just have to see.

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


CUOMO: Good morning. Welcome back to NEW DAY. It's Tuesday, January 21st, 7:00 in the east. Right now millions of people from the Midwest to Maine are either getting walloped by a massive winter storm or they are about to be. Take a look at the map and look at the size of the system. It reaches to mid-Atlantic this morning and works its way up the east coast, dropping up to a foot or snow of more in parts of New York and New England by tonight. Traveling already awful. Take a look, blowing snow taking visibility down to near zero. We will be tracking this storm so you will be prepared for whatever comes. Let's start with George Howell in cold and snowy Chicago. George?

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Chris, good morning. So what you see here behind me is headed your way right now. We're seeing really the beginning of this storm. In fact the lake effect snow here where we got snow overnight. Right now, it is seven degrees, so as you mentioned, very, very cold. And it's caused flight cancellations. At this point we know of at least 1,900 flight cancellations so far. And as the storm continues, we can only expect that number to rise.

Keep in mind, though, it is so cold in so many places that we're seeing more than two dozen states issue emergency declarations for propane shortage. Many people need it. What we're finding is that states are easing restrictions on drivers to expedite shipments into places, these communities, where people need that propane to stay warm. So, you know, that's the effect we're seeing here from Bismarck to Fargo, here in Chicago, and again the storm system, Chris and Kate, moving your way into the New York and D.C. area. So right now I can say it's cold and headed your way.

BOLDUAN: All right, George, thanks for the heads up.

Straight over to Indra now looking at just how bad this could be.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Unfortunately, this system is still expected to develop. What George is dealing with is just the typical Alberta clipper. But you can see those totals not very impressive. We have to get a moisture source. That's what's expected to happen. By the time it makes it to a snow flurry it develops even more. Then we're going to start seeing some of these large numbers.

We're talking about a foot of snow right out towards the cape, six to ten 10 for Philly and even D.C., so there's that low. Notice by 10:00, 11:00 this morning, D.C. starting to see some of that snow, 11:00, 12:00 out towards New York City, then by this afternoon making its way in through Boston, hangs out throughout the entire day for many of you. Not really until about 11:00 tonight does it exit out of the D.C. area. New York City, 6:00 a.m. tomorrow, still talking about the snow, finally exiting out of New York City, and all the way through tomorrow exiting out toward New England.

So with that those winds are going to intensify. Any snow on the ground, that's going to be blowing around. That visibility is going to be very poor out there. A lot of delays thanks just to the wind alone. So keep in mind, it's cold, it's snowing, the temperatures well below were normal. D.C. looking at a high of 36 today, so everyone looking at below normal temperatures in through tomorrow. It gets colder behind the system. Once you add in the wind-chill, we're talking about single digits on the east coast, 16 below out towards Minneapolis. So there's a lot going on, cold, airy kind of snow, really blowing around, the visibility extremely poor.

BOLDUAN: Definitely, especially with the morning commute today, for a lot of people it's very tough. Indra, thank you.

In a few hours, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie will kick off his second term. Only this inauguration day is loaded with controversy. Investigations ongoing, his top aides subpoenaed in new allegations that he bullied Hoboken's mayor in exchange for super storm Sandy aid. CNN's Erin McPike is in Trenton, New Jersey, with the very latest on this. Good morning, Erin.

ERIN MCPIKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kate, good morning. From the excerpts of this speech that we have seen, it looks as though Christie is still prepared to pitch his record of bipartisanship to a national audience. But yet another new poll comes out today at 3:00 this afternoon, this one by Quinnipiac, so we'll have a better indication of just how much these controversies may have hurt his presidential ambitions.


MCPIKE: In his prepared remarks, the embattled New Jersey governor is expected to discuss the need for smaller government and unity among the people. But apparently missing, the scandals engulfing his administration. On Monday, forceful denials and charges of lying flew back and forth between Chris Christie's lieutenant governor Kim Guadagno and Hoboken's Democratic Mayor Dawn Zimmer.

KIM GUADAGNO, NEW JERSEY LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: The suggestion that anyone would hold back Sandy relief funds for any reason is wholly and completely false.

MCPIKE: Gaudango, a Sandy victim herself, called Zimmer's accusations false and illogical. Zimmer spoke exclusively to Anderson Cooper Monday night about the alleged threat.

DAWN ZIMMER, (D) HOBOKEN MAYOR: This isn't something that you forget when the lieutenant governor of the state of New Jersey tells you in a parking I will deny it, you remember it. I was very upset. I did a journal entry, you know, a few days later.

MCPIKE: Zimmer also accused New Jersey Community Affairs Commissioner Richard Constable of intimidation for the project. He says the claims are absurd, adding "I welcome a full and thorough law enforcement review of her libelous claims." Complicating matters, Zimmer herself has given different versions of her story and still supports Christie's record as governor.

ZIMMER: He has done very good things for Hoboken. I think he's done terrific things for the state overall. I do think that he has been a great governor.

MCPIKE: A new national poll from the Pew Research Center shows his unfavorable rating doubling in the past year from 17 to 34 percent. A majority of respondents who have heard of the George Washington Bridge controversy say they don't believe Christie when he says he wasn't aware his aides ordered the lane closures.


MCPIKE: As if things couldn't get any worse for Christie, this blizzard today that's pounding Trenton and the whole east coast might make it difficult for all these Christie fans who need to get from Trenton to Ellis Island. So it could be a much more difficult day.

CUOMO: Travel is the least of his concerns. Erin, thank you for the reporting. New Jersey assemblyman Jon Bramnick joins us now. He is state assembly's minority leader in New Jersey and a Republican. Thank you for joining us.


CUOMO: All right, so you obviously defend the governor against these allegations. When you look at bridge-gate, the mayor of Hoboken and this kind of simmering controversy about what the A.G. did taking and dismissing this indictment, you were aware of that one as well?

BRAMNICK: I read about it.

CUOMO: When you take all these together, as different as they are, you see one main defense, and what is it?

BRAMNICK: This is a formal federal prosecutor indicted over a hundred politicians. He is the last guy on earth that's going to do illegal activity. This is repugnant to him and repugnant to the lieutenant governor who prosecuted racketeering case. No one at the end of the day is going to believe that these people were involved in anything that was sinister.

CUOMO: Polls say different.

BRAMNICK: Well, look, the national media, this is a very popular guy. I'd listen to people speak in politics I didn't know what they were saying. He changed that dynamic. He speaks directly, so people loved him. It's very tough to be very popular in this country because people will come at you, and the media has.

CUOMO: Did media create the e-mails on bridge-gate?

BRAMNICK: No. Look, there was bad stuff that happened. When you run any type of organization, stupid stuff happens. He said, I take responsibility. He hadn't had a problem in that administration for four years. Some people did bad things. We're investigating that, and we support that investigation. But to hold him accountable for some bad stuff that happened and not give him credit for changing New Jersey, he did things that no one in New Jersey could do.

CUOMO: One doesn't have to follow the other. They're not mutually exclusive. He gets the credit for what he did well, but the idea that he's totally blind to what those closest to him do is a little naive, isn't it?

BRAMNICK: People in any organization can do some dumb stuff, and he took responsibility for that.

CUOMO: He handpicked those people.

BRAMNICK: You pick people here who work in this studio, but they can do something stupid. I deal with them in my law office, and you take responsibility and then they go.

CUOMO: You want to be president of the United States and we can't trust that you pick the right people you have around you?

BRAMNICK: There is not anyone who's run for president or a governor that they haven't focused on and found somebody in their staff has did wrong. That's the nature of politics. Negative works. It's unfortunate, but that's the way it is.

CUOMO: The mayor comes forward from Hoboken, says, look, I like the governor. And I made journal entries because this was so disturbing that I was getting strong-armed by the lieutenant governor to do what the executive wanted. Why not believe her?

BRAMNICK: Lieutenant governor, who I know -- I don't know Dawn Zimmer, but I know the lieutenant governor. She stood up and said it's false, it never happened. That's who I know. That's how I believe. But once again, you have a mayor making an allegation against a governor. But for the fact that Chris Christie is one of the most popular Republicans in the country, that allegation would have never made this show or any other national news.

CUOMO: Because it's showing a pattern of somebody who wants to be president of the United States. It's got to matter.

BRAMNICK: When you're saying it's a pattern, that's a conclusion that maybe some have maid. I don't see any pattern. I've worked with him a long time.

CUOMO: Let's do a three-step dance. You say he's never had a problem before. Some of this isn't new. You've got the bridge-gate, that's new, although it didn't just happen. You have the mayor of Hoboken, that's months old, almost a year old. Then you have what bothers me the most but it's getting the least attention. The A.G., who is not elected by the governor goes into a local prosecution, takes the indictment, dismisses it, never retries any of the evidenced. The prosecutors who put up a rebuttal to that and say this was wrong, get fired. What does that say?

BRAMNICK: I don't know the facts of that case, but I'd be willing to refer all of this to the United States attorney, Mr. Fishman, who was appointed by Barack Obama. I just don't want to refer it to a partisan panel in Trenton, I don't want to refer it to the news media. Let the U.S. attorney investigate it. Let the chips fall where they may, and let's see what happens then.

CUOMO: I hear you on the partisan part of the investigation. A lot of politics goes that way, though. But now you do have the USA involved. You have subpoenas going out all over the place. And when you look at an A.G. that does something a little bit suspect, you have a local mayor complaining, you've got the bridge-gate thing, you don't see connective tissue here that raises significant questions about the governor's ability at a minimum to control his people?

BRAMNICK: These are allegations, and that's why we want the U.S. attorney to do it. Right now you have a former Democratic chair of the state Democratic Party running an investigation with a panel where he picks the attorney, he decides who gets subpoenaed, he decides what documents get released. Is that fair?

CUOMO: Having the USA involved also changes the equation. If this were a Democratic governor, would you be as open minded?

BRAMNICK: I'll tell you right now, I don't want a legislature running a prosecution or investigation on either side of the issue.

CUOMO: But the benefit of the doubt. Bridge-gate, he didn't know, why would he know. The mayor, I don't believe or I believe the lieutenant governor who has everything to lose in the situation. The A.G., I don't really know the facts but I'd like to see an investigation. You'd be that open-minded?

BRAMNICK: What I want is I want a fair and impartial panel or a professional prosecutor look at it. I don't want third parties doing it. I don't want politicians investigating politicians. That is not fair.

CUOMO: But as you look at the situation yourself, you believe that the governor here has nothing that is of significant injury to him?

BRAMNICK: He is the most straight-talking, honest, most charismatic, successful leader that I have seen in all of my life in New Jersey. He's done things that no one in New Jersey could ever think possible, working with Democrats, passing just incredible, revolutionary changes in law. He put on property counts. He did incredible work with arbitration reform. And no one could get it done before Chris Christie came to Jersey.

CUOMO: So does that mean it doesn't matter how he got it done?

BRAMNICK: There's no allegation that working with Democrats was wrong.

CUOMO: That's true, although we hear it in politics all the time.

BRAMNICK: And he works with your brother pretty well too.

CUOMO: That's true. And that may be his biggest fault.


BRAMNICK: You both seem very nice to me.

CUOMO: All right, thank you for taking the opportunity. This is a discussion we have to keep having.

BRAMNICK: Look forward to it.

CUOMO: Appreciate you being here. Michaela?

PEREIRA: Thanks for that, Chris.

Taking a look at your headlines now, Kenneth Bae's sister is asking the president and secretary of state to help bring her brother home from North Korea. In a NEW DAY exclusive Terry Chung says she is scared about what may happen next and that it's been difficult for her family watching Mr. Bae plead for help. He spoke yesterday acknowledging crimes, but the north has a history of forcing false confessions.

Protesters are still refusing to drink or otherwise use tap water in Charleston, West Virginia. It has now been nearly two weeks since the chemical spill that contaminated the city's water supply. In the wake of that spill, Governor Earl Ray Tomblin is proposing legislation to regulate above-ground storage tanks.

An eye-opening report that says China is essentially exporting its pollution to the U.S. Just published research shows filth from China's export industry is crossing the Pacific Ocean and contributing to the declining air quality in the western U.S. The scientist also noted less manufacturing in the U.S. does mean cleaner air in the eastern part of the country.

Incredible new video to show you here from Indonesia, a volcano erupting. Mt. Sinabung has been spewing high levels of volcanic ash for months now. Thousands of people have been forced to flee into cramped government shelters. The toxic ash has triggered an outbreak there of respiratory infections. Officials say 16 people have died from illnesses since the shelter was set up last November.

And a Florida waitress received quite the surprise. She got a $500 tip. Nineteen-year-old Abigail Shiller (ph) got the money from a man we've told you about here on NEW DAY. Seth Collins, (ph), you might recall his name, travels the U.S. honoring the memory of his dead brother by leaving large tips for service staff in restaurants. So far, he has dolled out more than $41,000 in his brother's memory. As for Abigail, she said she was ecstatic because she really, really needed that money. I love this. I love following it.

CUOMO: The best. Thanks, Michaela.

Coming up on NEW DAY, the search for the black widow. This woman may be plotting a terror attack at the Olympics. Officials fear she might already be somewhere on the streets of Sochi. Can she be stopped in time? And how did she pierce the Russian's so-called ring of steel?

BOLDUAN: Also ahead, a shocking confession from former first lady Barbara Bush. Wait until you hear which powerful Democrat she says she's absolutely in love with.


BOLDUAN: Welcome back to NEW DAY. New developments this morning as Russian police scramble to try and stop any terror threats against the Olympics. They are urgently scouring the streets of Sochi, searching for a terror suspect known as a black widow.

CNN's Phil Black is following developments for us live in Volgograd, Russia this morning.

Good morning, again, Phil.

PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Kate. Yes, a black widow, a female suicide bomber they have attacked and killed in Russia many times before, usually to avenge the death of (inaudible).

In this case, Russian authorities now fear that one has traveled to Sochi at some point in the recent weeks and is working with a terror group to plan an attack somewhere near the Olympic region of Sochi there itself.

A 22-year-old woman, Russian authorities have distributed her picture, her description to hotels across the city. And that's the only reason we know about this. Russian authorities aren't talking about it, but they have taken this step in the hope that hotel staff can keep an eye out for her because they are desperate to stop her. They say she is distinctive in appearance. She has a large scar on her left cheek.

But the point is, the concern is, this was not supposed to happen. The security bubble over Sochi was designed, we are told, to keep people like this out, especially so close to the games. The concern is that this black widow has snuck in just weeks before the game's are due to begin.

Back to you, Chris.

CUOMO: All right, Phil. Thank you very much.

We've been talking about this threat a lot. Let's take a little bit of a closer look and figure out why people are so worried, OK? Now, just about a month ago here in Volgograd, all right, that's were there were two attacks on public transportation. Now the question is, where are these threats coming from?

Now, that's largely an area called the North Caucasus, all right? That's in this area here. A likely area could be what we have outlined, Dagestan.

Now, why do we say that? The black widow, Russian law enforcement is searching for, they think that she came from there, all right? It's also where one of the Boston bombs went to train.

When you're thinking about why do I care about what's going on with this threat, we just saw an extension of this threat in our own land, OK? So what do we know about the region? It's about 600 miles away from Sochi. That's where the Olympics are, right? That's the distance of, like, Washington D.C. to Lexington, Kentucky.

It's an area -- here's what we know. A lot of ethnic diversity, also a lot of poverty, predominantly Muslim, has dealt with years of conflict and insurgency. You gotta remember, a lot of bad blood here, a lot of motivation to act out.

Some of the militants in Dagestan want to secede -- they want to secede from Russia. They want their own state. That's been a developing problem there of ethnic diversity. They want a Muslim state in the North Caucasus area.

So what are there capabilities? This is what gets central to our understanding. They've been blamed, the militants there, for multiple drive-buy shootings, kidnappings, bombings. They're accused of killing local politicians and law enforcement. And as demonstrated by the bombings in Volgograd that we're talking to you about, they're able to strike far past Dagestan. And that's why with these types of capabilities, this type of built-in motivation, this kind of proximity, it really is a toxic mix of the perfect type of threat. That's why there's so much concern.


BOLDUAN: Absolutely, Chris.

Let's talk more about this. Joining me now to talk about the response to these threats is Don Borelli, who's a former member of the FBI Joint Terrorist and Task Force. He's now the chief operations officer of the Soufan Group, which provides security, intelligence services to governments and international organizations.

Don, thanks so much for coming in.

DON BORELLI, CEO, SOUFAN GROUP: Thanks, Kate. Good morning.

BOLDUAN; So not so much about the region, but let's focus specifically on this very unique type of threat, not so unique for Russia, but unique when we talk about it from our perspective. What are you hearing about the timing, the location, Sochi, and just all of the elements at play that explain why this woman could be such a threat?

BORELLI: Well, the one thing very unique about this is we are used to seeing threats come from various terrorist groups, affiliates of al Qaeda and so forth, and we know that they want to attack western targets. But we rarely get a specific event, a specific time. I mean, this type of threat, it's basically -- they've thrown the gauntlet down. They've said, "We are going to disrupt the Olympics." So we know where generally. We know when generally. We just don't know how.

Part of this tactic also could be just, you know, the mental, the psychological threat now that has us -- you know, that's why we're all talking about it.

BOLDUAN: Which is the point of terrorism --

BORELLI: Exactly.

BOLDUAN: -- to strike fear in people.

BORELLI: Exactly.

BOLDUAN: So when you look at all of this, we have almost more specifics in this situation than we often have, which begs the question, how do you go about tracking down this woman, this black widow, and why haven't they been able to pull it off?

BORELLI: Well, that's a good question. But the key for any major event, especially the Olympics, is robust intelligence. And it's not just on the backs of the Russians. I mean, everybody has a responsibility, the U.S., our European partners, everybody collecting intelligence and sharing it with one another.

If the events are going to go off successfully and safely, it's going to be on everybody to be working all hands on deck, collecting that intelligence and sharing it. Also, the training. It takes so many people to pull off an event like this. And a lot of times, you hire people at the last minute to perform various functions, security functions, hospitality functions, things like that. Hopefully, they've done a good job in training these people to be alert, be aware, recognize when threats are and then take the proper action and notify the authorities. So there's a lot that goes into these things.

BOLDUAN: And of course, one of the biggest concerns is that they think that she may already be in Sochi. How does that change kind of the security calculations as we approach the Olympics?

BORELLI: That's the difficult thing. If somebody's already on the inside, if she's already, let's say, has a job at a particular event or has special access, then she's already bypassed one of those layers of security. And it does take multiple layers of security.

Hopefully, you know, now that this warning has taken place, they'll find her, if in fact she's in the region. And I would imagine it's not just her. There are probably lots of people on the radar that the Russians are looking for.

BOLDUAN: And you also have to assume that she's probably not working alone, that there's more people that they need to be watching out for.

BORELLI: Exactly. And again, it's not just some of the major sports venues and the places that you would typically secure, which they will be well secured. But you have to be aware of the soft targets, the fan zones, the corporate parties, the hotels, things like that. If we look back in our own history of the Olympics in Centennial Park and Atlanta, it wasn't the major -- you know, the venue itself, it was the ancillary, you know, fun zones that was the target, the soft targets. These are the problems.

BOLDUAN: One thing that Phil Black was telling us is the reason we know about this threat they're looking for is because they've been handing -- police have been handing out fliers to area hotels saying keep an eye out. Does that tell you they're closer or further away from being able to track this person down?

BORELLI: Well, I think if we look at what happened when we were looking for the Tsarnaev brothers, you try to keep it under wraps as long as possible to do it discreetly, but then you reach a point of diminishing returns and you need public assistant. And I'm assuming that's where they're at right now.

Also, it's good that they want to sensitize all of the public, the workers, the volunteers, everybody that, not only this person, but anybody else, be aware. Be alert. There is a specific threat. They want the assistance of the public to help law enforcement.

BOLDUAN: And to keep an eye out that, your idea of someone to be sensitive to and keep an eye out for, is not -- in this situation, it is a woman, which is not a stereotypical of a terrorist.

BORELLI: Exactly. We've seen so much footage of what happens in Afghanistan and Iraq and elsewhere. And you've got this profile of a young man, 18 to 35 years old, and we certainly don't have that in this case.

BOLDUAN: Don Borelli, thank you so much.

BORELLI: Thank you.


CUOMO: All right. Coming up on NEW DAY, does Barbara Bush want to have her family's political dynasty continue? It's an interesting question. Why? Well, son Jeb is preparing for a possible run in 2016. His mom has a surprising answer about his future straight ahead.

And it is a growing trend, which would be shrinking airline seats. The flying public is sick of getting squeezed, but how bad is it going to get before we finally revolt? Wait until you hear what we have to tell you. It may be time.