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Massive Winter Storm; Former Virginia Governor Indicted; Snowden: I'm Not A Spy

Aired January 22, 2014 - 05:00   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: She is in Washington, D.C., and I am live out on the cold streets of New York, where the snow is blowing around from side to side. It is very, very cold this morning.

Good morning, everyone. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm John Berman.


It is Wednesday, January 22nd. And it is exactly 5:00 a.m. in the East.

BERMAN: So, if you are watching this at 5:00 a.m., the good news is, you made it. You haven't lost power or maybe on the flip side, you're stuck in an airport.

Whatever the option, we hope you are warm. It did snow here in New York for more than 15 hours. Right now, it stopped, but the wind keeps pushing it around every now and then, about a foot of snow here, much more down in Philadelphia. Really this is grinding things to a halt up and down the east coast.

In Washington, D.C., federal workers are being told it's OK to come in late this morning. Stay home if you can't get in. But the government will be open for business today. It was closed on Tuesday. The D.C. area, they received around six inches of snow. And roads there were slick.

I want you to take a look at these pictures from Alexandra, Virginia. That car just spinning out of control on the D.C. Beltway. Yikes. Ooh.

And there's also a fatal accident in Andover, Maryland. Both of those being blamed on bad driving conditions. Temperatures down there are plunging. So, these conditions are going to stick. The wind-chills are right now five to 15 below. Roads also slick here in New York today. It's going to be a bad commute. These pictures from Long Island, hit hard by the storm. About 10 inches of snow fell out there.

I want to show you a little picture from Brooklyn, New York, looking awfully uncomfortable even to walk for people there. The snow was falling so hard, the plows and shovels could barely keep up.

This morning, also issues in North Carolina. Charlotte, North Carolina, ice cold -- maybe even colder than ice, actually. Temperatures plunging to around 20 degrees. They had plenty of snow there and that made the driving treacherous.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They were doing 180s down the road earlier.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We got behind a scraper that let us go for a little bit, but it didn't work after that.


BERMAN: Plus, we saw guys wearing ski goggles in Charlotte. A state of emergency in Delaware, a level 1 driving warning. That means get off the roads. Stay off the roads. Do not drive.

Well over a half foot of snow falling in parts of Delaware. The governor has approved the deployment of the Delaware guard if emergency officials make the request.

Back out in the Midwest, single-digit temperatures and close to 2 feet of lake-effect snow recorded around Chicago and northwest Indiana -- just giant traffic jams there late into the night around Chicago. It is difficult for plows to clear the roads there is so much traffic. There is no relief in sight there with wind-chills today and tomorrow. They will plunge to about minus 25, ouch.

All right. Things are bad enough here in New York, about 16 degrees right now.

Let's go to Boston. That is where Indra Petersons is where it is colder and the snow is blowing around even more. She is keeping her cold eyes on the conditions there.

Indra, what are we going to get today?

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Is it wrong, John, that I feel better knowing you're in a little bit of misery with me? I think we both know that it is freezing out here, this morning. We're talking single digits right now. It's 9 degrees here in Boston with the wind- chill.

It's gusting to about 30 miles per hour here. So the windchill feels 11 below. Let me tell you first hand, this does not feel good this morning, and so many of us are dealing with this as heavy snow really dropped overnight.

Let's talk about some of these totals, unbelievably impressive. Talk about Jersey, 15 inches of snow, places like Jersey. Looks like places like in Pennsylvania seeing over a foot snow. Even in New York City, almost a foot of snow.

Here in Boston itself, only about 5 inches. Other places in Massachusetts seeing those numbers right around that foot mark. So, what happened, we have the clippers. Remember, clippers only come from Canada. They're driving, usually drop only several inches of snow. But this system, intersected with the ocean, it strengthened, this low developed, and that brought the moisture off the Atlantic. It really enhanced snowfall amount today.

Today, the low is still there. It's pulling offshore. So that's a piece of good news. We are going to see the snow tapering off. Last place being Massachusetts and maybe New England.

What are we talking about? We're still talking about several inches of snow. Maybe about 10:00 or so in the morning. We're starting to see this kind of lift out of the area.

But blizzard warnings still out from the cape. They're getting battered out there from something we mentioned last time in Boston just a few weeks ago. Ocean-effect snow.

You saw the winds going over the ocean, the air's so cold up here, that you talk about producing extra snowfall even towards the early afternoon. So, that's one side of it, we know the snow's on the ground.

But temperatures, they're cold. So the snow is not melting anytime soon. This arctic air is going to be reinforced by another clipper over the next few days.

So, yes, the cold air is going to remain below normal in the morning hours, teens, single digits in the afternoon, New York City. Boston is still looking for the teens today.

So, let's hang in there together, guys. We've got a ways to go.

BERMAN: Yes, with the windchills below zero as Indra says, that feels not good. That is a scientific term.

Indra, thank you so much.


BERMAN: And that not good feeling is having a major impact on travel. It is incredibly hard to get around anywhere by car, train, or air.

Rene Marsh is live at Reagan National Airport in Washington with the latest on the delays, on the cancellations.

Rene, is there any good news this morning?

RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION AND GOVERNMENT REGULATION CORRESPONDENT: John, I was going to say, do you want the bad news, or do you want to start with the bad news? Because I'm sorry, I don't really have a lot of good news to give you at this point.

Here's what I can tell you. Bad news is -- there will be more cancellations this morning. And the other bad news is, there will be more delays today as well. So, we're already starting out of the gate, more than 1,000 cancellations for flights. And we do expect to see even more as time goes by. If you are at an airport, either in Boston, New York City, also Philadelphia, you are the ones who are probably going through just the worst case scenario at this point because those are the airports that are really seeing the most delays at this hour. As far as a breakdown when it comes to different airlines, at this particular hour, JetBlue has the most, more than a quarter of their flights canceled. It makes sense because the bulk of their operations right there in the Northeast, which is right in the bull's-eye of this storm.

What does that mean for the passenger, the people stuck in the airport watching us this morning, it means that they are working on either plan A, B or C.

Things keep on changing and they're just rolling with the punches. Take a listen to this one person.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm stuck in New York. I'm supposed to be in Atlanta. I have a business. I'm supposed to make deliveries tomorrow. I got to figure something out. I can't get out until Thursday.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It took me two hours to get to the airport. And we sat on the runway for probably an hour, and they bumped us off. So, now, we're here.


MARSH: OK. So John, I do have a little bit of good news. And we had to dig deep for this one. This storm did hit in the middle of the week, not high volume. So, that just means passengers will be able to be rebooked a lot faster than we saw earlier this month -- John.

BERMAN: We'll take it. We'll take any good news we can get this morning.

Rene Marsh for us in Washington, D.C. -- thank you so much.

We're going to be out here all morning in the cold. I can tell you when the wind starts blowing, that's when you really want to go hide because it is rough.

Meanwhile, there's a lot of other news. Let's go back inside.

Christine Romans, how's it going?

ROMANS: Thanks, John.

Well, this morning, former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell and his wife have been officially indicted on federal corruption charges. The couple is accused of accepting thousands of dollars of gifts and loans from a head of a dietary supplement company who wanted help promoting his products. At a news conference, McDonnell said he did nothing illegal.


BOB MCDONNELL (R), FORMER VIRGINIA GOVERNOR: I never promised, and Mr. Williams and his company never received any government benefit of any kind from me, or from my administration -- no contract, loan, grant, funding, legislation, budget appropriation, regulation, border commission assignment, or any other official state benefit. And not one penny of taxpayer money went to him or to Star Scientific during our administration. Not one penny.


ROMANS: McDonnell claims prosecutors are guilty of what he called unjust overreach. He said he will be vindicated at trial.

This morning, Chris Christie is getting some new advice about his future from a Republican bigwig who says maybe it's time for the New Jersey governor to step back a little bit from his national ambition.

A former attorney general and gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli tells CNN's "CROSSFIRE", he thinks Christie to give up his role as chairman of the Republican Governors Association and focus instead on fixing his reputation at home.


KEN CUCCINELLI (R), FORMER VIRGINIA ATTY GOV.: I think just from the perspective of setting this aside an issue in other races, it makes sense for him to step aside in that role. He does not serve the goals of that administration by staying as chairman.

Every governor does better by setting everything else aside. If the goal is to be the best governor you can be, that's done better by setting everything else aside.


ROMANS: Worth noting this is a fellow Republican giving this advice.

Christie has said the scandal over allegations where top aides strong- armed political opponents, Christie said that scandal will not affect his ability to help other governors nationally. And he spent his past weekend helping fund raise in Florida for fellow Republican Governor Rick Scott.

We're hearing this morning from Edward Snowden who is denying he's a spy for Russia. The admitted NSA leaker tells "The New Yorker" he acted alone without any help from any government despite suggestions on the contrary from some in Congress. And Snowden says he never intended to live in Russia. He was actually planning to go to Cuba, but the U.S. canceled his passport before he could get there.

Breaking news in Switzerland where a Syrian Peace Conference is under way. Secretary of State John Kerry is saying there's no way Bashar al Assad will be part of a transitional government there. The Syrian foreign minister responding, saying only the Syrians can decide if Assad is the legitimate leader. Dozens of foreign leaders are in Syria for this important conference where the government is face-to-face with the Assad regime for the very first time.

A state of emergency today in Thailand, a serious situation there as mass protests spent on toppling the government are paralyzing parts of Bangkok. This follows weeks of deadly clashes. Opponents want the prime minister to step aside calling her a corrupt puppet of the former leader, that leader who was ousted in 2006.

The emergency decree could lead to curfews and bans on public gatherings. Thai officials say they have ruled out using force to end the rallies.

Dow futures lower. Dow was hit with disappointing earnings, finished 44 points lower. S&P and NASDAQ higher.

In Europe right now, stocks in London, Paris, Frankfurt mostly higher. In Asia, the day is finished. The Nikkei finishing with gain. Asian markets benefitting from the Bank of China's moves to ease fears of a credit crunch.

Here in the U.S., we're watching shares of IBM in the premarket down shy of 3 percent. Late yesterday, the company reported weaker sales. And the chief financial officer told analysts IBM is likely to take a $1 billion charge to, quote, "rebalance its workforce." Analysts say that could mean 10,000 to 15,000 IBM job cuts in 2014.

Coming up, new warnings of terror from the site of up the upcoming Olympics. Police searching door to door for terrorists. They believe maybe in position to make an attack. We are live with the latest developments on this.

And deadly plane crash caught on camera. What we're learning from this new video this morning, next.


ROMANS: This morning in Russia, police are on a desperate hunt for two women feared to be suicide bombers, including one, a so-called black widow who may already be in Sochi ahead of the Sochi Olympics, and another who may be planning an imminent attack.

Phil Black is live in Volgograd, Russia, for us this morning with the latest.

And, Phil, the security's been so tight, these women should not be anywhere close to the festivities in a couple weeks. That's what's got officials so concerned.

PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, indeed, that's right. They shouldn't be, but the concern is that they are. Not just in one case, but we are now talking about two separate terror plots involving black widows, female suicide bombers.

The first one, a woman who's believed to already be in Sochi, a 22- year-old who's thought to be planning a strike somewhere in the Olympic zone within that city. The second one, potentially more imminent a group of women targeting the Olympic torch relay in the city of Rostov-on-Don.

And that's where the Olympic torch, the Olympic flame, is today. They're actually concerned about a window of time, particularly today, the next day, the day after that as well. It initially involved three women, one of them we understand was killed in a security forces operation just over the weekend. But the whereabouts of the remaining two women, Christine, is still unknown.

ROMANS: Is the government there still sure the games will be safe? You know, the Russian president has very, very clear -- these will be the safest games in history.

BLACK: Yes, they have. Interesting to note, though, the only reason we can talk about these black widow bomb plots is not because the officials here have been talking about them publicly, but because they have gone to people on the ground, particular hotel workers and asked them to help in trying to find these women.

Publicly, the officials here still maintain that these games will be safe. They will be secure. That the plan is absolutely thorough and they've done everything they possibly can.

Presidents Putin and Obama have spoken just yesterday. President Obama offering all possible help to ensure the safety of these games. But we don't know what President Putin's response to that offer was, Christine.

ROMANS: Phil Black, we know that the U.S. is preparing contingency plans for Americans to get out if they need to.

Phil Black in Volgograd -- thank you, Phil.

We're getting a new look this morning at a deadly plane crash in Aspen earlier this month. A warming: some of you might find this disturbing. These images were taken by infrared cameras earlier this month. They show the plane bounce off the runway, fall again and then explode.

One person died, two others were seriously hurt, the cause of the crash still not clear. But the pilot had reported high winds and problems trying to land the plane. This video may help with that investigation.

We're getting the first look of the view inside an Orlando area restaurant when an SUV crashed right through the front window. Police just released this video from the crash on December 30th -- the crash that left several people hurt. Police say the driver of that vehicle was drunk.

Class is canceled today in Indiana's Purdue University in the wake of a deadly shooting. Officials say one student killed another in the school's electrical engineering building. Twenty-three-year-old Cody Cousins is being held on suspicion of homicide. His alleged victim is 21-year-old Andrew Boldt. Police say the shooting does not appear to be random. The suspect is being held without bond.

In South Carolina today, a judge is hearing arguments over a controversial conviction, an execution, dates back 70 years. Fourteen-year-old George Stinney was put to death in 1944 for killing two young white girls.

Police said at the time the 14-year-old confessed, but he had no attorney. There was no other evidence and no eyewitnesses. And all the trial documents from back then have disappeared.

So, his family is asking the judge for a new trial.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I believe that George Stinney could not have committed these murders. I believe George Stinney saw those children, but I don't think George Stinney was the last person to see those children.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They had no choice in how they died, and he did. I think justice was served according to the laws in 1944 when this happened.


ROMANS: The judge's only tasked with deciding whether Stinney received a fair trial. But has already asked both sides if she the judge really has the power to change what happened.

Sadness today for the family of a 14-year-old autistic boy in New York. Now, DNA tests have proven it was his body found in the east river. Avonte Oquendo went missing in October after he walked unsupervised out of his school. The search went on for months with the family holding out hope that the teen was still alive. The medical examiner has yet to determine the exact cause of death.

Many of this country's mayors are in Washington, D.C. for the annual conference of mayors winter meetings. The mayors will meet with congressional leaders and with White House officials to discuss technology innovations for cities, workforce development and their efforts to curb crime.

Anti-abortion activists say snow and bitter cold will is not stop the 40th annual march for life in Washington, marking the 41st anniversary of Roe versus Wade. Participants will march from the National Mall. Abortion rights groups also plan to rally today.

In today's "Road Warriors", you know you need an ID to get on a plane, but what happens if you forget yours at home. The TSA says you still might be able to board your flight if your identity can be verified in other ways, like answering questions from officers to make sure you're the person whose name is on the ticket. The TSA can also turn to databases to help in the verification process but there's no guarantee that you're going to be let through and you'll likely still face additional screening.

Better advice: stash a second form of ID on your carry-on so you're never left scrambling if you forget yours. That's "Road Warriors".

Coming up, A-Rod versus the union. The shocking allegations about the Yankee slugger and what his fellow players wanted to do. Andy Scholes has all the details in the "Bleacher Report", next.


ROMANS: Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig is apparently not the only one fed up with A-Rod. Many of his fellow players wanted to kick him out of the unions after he sued them last week.

Andy Scholes joins us now with more of the morning's "Bleacher Report."

Good morning.

ANDY SCHOLES, BLEACHER REPORT: Hey. Good morning, Christine.

Well, A-Rod really doesn't have any friends left. Last week, he filed a lawsuit against the union. That made some players so mad, they reportedly want him out of the union.

Now, the players' request to give A-Rod the boot came in a conference call after he sued them. They were, however, informed by the union lawyers that they could not kick a player out just because they don't like him. A-Rod is currently suing to try to have his suspension for all of next season and the postseason overturn.

Our March madness is around the corner. This year, you fill out a perfect bracket, you could be the world's next billionaire. That's right, billionaire.

Warren Buffett, one of the richest people on Earth, is offering $1 billion if someone can fill out a perfect bracket. Before you get too excited and start studying your college basketball. The odds of filling out a perfect bracket are one in 9.2 quintillion. Now, if you know a little bit about basketball, your odds are a little better, one in 128 billion. So, basically, everyone in the United States fill out a bracket, every year, we'd get a perfect one every 400 years.

All right. The Sacramento Kings will give basketball fans a view of the game they've never seen before. The team will use Google Glass technology during Friday night's game. The glasses are outfitted with tiny cameras, and the video will be used during the broadcast.

Now, players are not going to be using the Google Glass on the court, but you're going to get to see the game from the Kings' mascot, dancers and announcers. Pretty cool.

All right. Trending on today, Russia spent $50 billion on facilities for the upcoming Winter Olympics. But apparently, the planning for the bathrooms was not well thought out.

BBC journalist Steve Rosenberg tweeted out this picture from the men's bathroom at the Cross Country Ski and Biathlon Center. See that Christine, that's two toilets very close together in one stall. As the saying goes, you got to go, you got to go, apparently, not in Sochi.

Go back to the hotel.

ROMANS: I'm telling right now, they got bigger problems right now in Sochi than the bathroom stalls.

SCHOLES: Probably. That's a big problem to me, though.

ROMANS: OK. For sports fans everywhere.

All right. All the top headlines, and everything you need to know for the day, including live coverage from shivering John Berman in the cold outside on the massive snow storm that's buried parts of the country this morning. There he is, after the break.


BERMAN: A rude awakening for millions of Americans. This winter storm creating absolute chaos. Some parts of the country buried under more than a foot of snow. We have roads closed. Flights grounded.

Complete team coverage this morning as the snow continues to fall in some places.

ROMANS: Two political scandals creating double trouble for the GOP this morning. A former governor charged with corruption, while there are growing calls this morning for a current governor to step down from some of his responsibilities.

BERMAN: Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. I'm John Berman.

ROMANS: I'm Christine Romans. It's exactly 30 minutes past the hour.

BERMAN: And if you can see it on the ground behind me this morning, a lot of snow.