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Flights Grounded as Massive Snowstorm Slams Northeast; Interview with Congressman Mike McCaul on Sochi Security; CNN Reporter Roughed Up; Can Christie Overcome Scandals?

Aired January 22, 2014 - 08:00   ET

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


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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Canceled. Canceled all across the board. Probably three times now so far.

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CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: white out. More than a foot of snow dumped overnight in part of the Northeast, schools closed, thousands of flights canceled. And as another arctic blast send temperatures plunging, snow becomes cement as propane runs short.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Terror hunt. Russia cracking down on militant groups in this deadly shoot-out caught on tape. We talk live to the U.S. congressman on the ground there trying to assess if Americans can be kept safe.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: CNN exclusive, does Richard Sherman regret his rant? His first sit down interview with our Rachel Nichols. What's he saying now about that post-game performance?

CUOMO: Your NEW DAY starts right now.

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

BOLDUAN: Good morning and welcome back to NEW DAY: It's 8:00 in the East, where people are digging out from a major snowstorm and braving bitter cold this morning.

Double digit snowfall numbers along the northeast, some 14 inches in Philadelphia. About a foot in New York City and close to 16 inches in parts of New Jersey.

CUOMO: But we know it bears repeating. All that snow and ice makes driving dangerous and slow. In New York City, people sat in traffic for hours and only move a few week. Bitter cold is another problem, especially because it's here to say. Another mass of cold system is moving in today to the Midwest. And New York is expected to stay below freezing through the rest of the month, except for a brief reprieve this weekend. We are covering this story from angles.

Of course, let's start with meteorologist Indra Petersons in snow- covered Boston.

Indra, how is it now?

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good news, guys. The winds have picked up. Yay, it's a good 25-mile-per-hour gust are out here, between yes, the windchill has also gotten a little colder. We're talking about now feeling like 13 below.

The actual temperature here in Boston right now, about seven degrees. But one of the few spots that we're still talking about the snow, I mean, just south of us here, they've actually have snow just right now that are 18 inches high. So, definitely, an intense evening, many places seeing record snowfall last night.

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PETERSONS (voice-over): Throughout the night, blinding snow and bitter cold temps impacting millions from the Carolinas to New England.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All of a sudden, boom, snow ever where.

PETERSONS: More than a foot of snow piling up along parts of the heavily populated I-95 corridor, making it challenging for plows to keep up. At the storm's peek, the white stuff falling at a rate of 2 inches an hour. Stencil, New Jersey, hit the hardest with over 15 inches.

MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO, NEW YORK: If you have any option not to go out, stay home. The safest thing to do tonight is stay home.

PETERSONS: Around D.C., icy roads sent this car spinning out of control. The Washington Monument barely visible by the snowfall as around six inches covered our nation's capital. The heavy snow putting federal offices under a two-hour delay and causing the president to scale back his schedule.

In Massachusetts, blizzard-like conditions blanketing Eastern Massachusetts with up to 12 inches of snow. Governors in several states declaring states of emergency.

This morning, school districts in Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and Boston closing their doors, while New York City opting to remain open. Some kids using their snow day to turn the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum into a sledding frenzy.

But the dangerously cold temperatures continue to fall fast.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I've got double layers on today. PETERSONS: Much of the East Coast is 25 degrees below normal through this weekend.

GARY SCHENKEL, CITY OF CHICAGO, OFFICE OF EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT: Windchill factors will be dragging temperatures into the negative teens. These are extremely dangerous conditions.

PETERSONS: In Chicago, officials are using tugboats to break up the ice covering 60 percent of the Great Lakes. And the frigid cold isn't going away any time soon. At least five states are forecast to stay below freezing through the end of the month.

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PETERSONS: All right. So the bulk of the storm is over. But the danger from the storm is far from over. Think about it.

We still have dangerous cold air in place. Another clipper is expected to make its way through reinforcing the cold air.

So, all this record breaking snow that's already on the ground is expected to stay here. Meanwhile, the low that's actually making its way offshore, the actual low that produced this snow, that's still going to be strengthening as it makes its way offshore, and kind of moves to the north, to places like Massachusetts -- you're still talking about blizzard warnings right there on the cape until 1:00 p.m. today.

And these strong winds are going to take all the snow on the ground and blow it around.

So, really, the conditions we're experiencing right now are only going to be staying with us for the next several days. Picture temperatures just 20 if not 30 degrees below average from pretty much the Midwest to Northeast stretching down the southeast to the middle of the weekend, guys.

BOLDUAN: So, prepare for it.

All right. Indra, thank you so much, from a snowy Boston to really almost a snowy everywhere around here.

Let's turn now to New Jersey. We told you about those 16 inches of snow packing in the state, but on top of that windchills are well below zero. Residents are being warned to stay off the roads because of it.

Let's go to Maggie Lake, who is in Red Bank, New Jersey, for that angle on this massive storm -- Maggie.

MAGGIE LAKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And, Kate, I can tell you, it is painful to be out there. The windchill is well below zero right now. And this is what people have to contend with.

We have snow drifts well over a foot. This are of New Jersey was really hard hit. Some people didn't make it home to dig out their cars in this commuter parking lot.

And that is really the challenge today. If they managed to come in or essential workers to make their way to work, this is what the problem is, packed ice. You could see a tiny bit of black top. That despite the fact that plows have been at it all morning long.

These frigid temperatures are making it the side roads travel on all the side roads, extremely treacherous. If you made it here and try to get on one of the buses that had been pulling up because the main roads are OK. There's speed restrictions on the parkway.

Main roads are fine. But getting here, people slipping on the ice. I just talked to the dispatcher. No one is getting hurt. But it is very difficult to get around.

Schools in the area are closed. So, a lot of people based on the fact this lot would be absolutely full right now. It looks like a lot of people heeding advice of officials and if able to stay home or work from home are choosing to do so -- Chris.

CUOMO: You know, if you look behind Maggie there, you see the real SUVs are the ones that made it there. The cars that are snowed in are the ones you know not quite as capable vehicles.

All right. Thanks for being out there for us. Appreciate it.

Now, we're going to have all these attendant issues that come with the snow, and the wind and cold, bad weather is hitting several major cities means that thousands of flights around the country will be grounded.

At last count, here it is -- 4,400 flights have been grounded since yesterday. So, let's check in on that angle, Rene Marsh, Reagan National Airport.

Rene, what's the situation now?

RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION AND GOVERNMENT REGULATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, the situation is, Chris, you know, you spoke about grounded flights. Passengers just, they've been trying to get out of here, haven't been able to do that since yesterday. Many of them ended up just spending the night here at the airport, and was likely the seen at many of the airports in the bull's eye of this storm.

This is what it looked like here at Reagan National. When we walked in this morning, people cozied up under their blankets, on the heaters here, as they waited for their flights hoping, that they would be able to get to their destination.

So, at this point, we can tell you some of the hard hit areas, we're talking about, LaGuardia, Newark, Philadelphia, Boston and JFK. The big question that many of these people who are probably watching us right now is how long will it take before these airlines can catch up to themselves?

Well, we know that after the storm finally moves out there was, on average, about two days. So, the moral of the story is we're going to see more cancellations today. And more delays -- Chris, Kate.

BOLDUAN: All right. Rene, I'll take it. Thank you very much for that.

Let's turn to another big story that we are following and continue to follow. The opening ceremony for the Sochi Olympics just 16 days away. And Russian officials are still dealing with serious security concerns there, as the search for two or more "black widow" terrorists continue, some officials worry terrorists may have already positioned themselves within the security perimeter.

Joining us now from Moscow to discuss, the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee Congressman Michael McCaul from Texas. He's been in Sochi, meeting with officials there.

Congressman, thank you very much for your time.

REP. MICHAEL MCCAUL (R), TEXAS: Thank you, Kate. Thanks for having me.

BOLDUAN: Of course.

So, as I said, you've just returned from being on the ground in Sochi, assessing the security situation there.

From what you have seen, how would you characterize at this point the level of cooperation between U.S. and Russian security teams? Because that's been a bit of a question.

MCCAUL: I think it's better. I think our diplomatic security service who takes a lead in these operations overseas tells me the cooperation has been very good. We have FBI agents now coming into Sochi to work in the counterterrorism effort with the Russians -- the FSB, if you will.

I think the area that needs to be improved, quite frankly, is the intelligence sharing component that the Russians have not been quite as candid with us. I think we could help them a great deal if they would open up information sharing more to us.

The other area that I think the president called Putin on this issue that I know the joint chiefs of staff both from the United States and Russians talked about the IED technology that we have to detect IEDs. This is obviously, you know, Dagestan, Chechnya, IEDs are the weapon of choice. We need the technology in there to detect and stop these devices from going off.

As you mentioned I do believe this ring of steel is effectively in place. The problem is how many of these black widows, if you will came into the area before the ring of steel came up. And we also know one of these black widows actually was able to penetrate the ring and enter the Sochi area.

BOLDUAN: Congressman, that is a real concern. Coming from Sochi, now that you've just come from there, how confident can you say you are that the ring of steel is going to be safe, that the Olympics are going to be safe?

MCCAUL: Listen, Russia has deployed about 100,000 security officials, special forces, the military is down there. I've seen them. They have these rings that stretch out into the mountains to stop them from coming into this area.

So, it's quite fortified and very impressive but it only takes one suicide bomber to get in to cause a real problem.

I think the -- I think what we're going to see are more explosions like we saw at the train station and the bus. There are softer targets outside of the perimeter that are close to the Olympic village where they can make the same statement. They know the eyes of the world now are on these Olympics and what better way to make a statement than at these Olympics and that's my concern.

They have been in a struggle with Russia for really 150 years and I think, you know, you see the leader of this extremist group, the bin Laden of the caucuses if you will calling for attacks on the Olympics. I think that's the great concern that we have.

BOLDUAN: Chairman, I want to ask you about these new reports we're hearing about letters, emails being sent to more than one Olympic team warning of terror threats, warning these Olympic teams they are basically in danger.

Also some reporting they are not seeing as completely credible. But what have you heard of this?

MCCAUL: Well, I know that, you know, in addition to our security measures over there that the Olympic teams themselves are also hiring private security contract officers, and so you have the combination of U.S. forces through our diplomatic security service in addition to this private security to protect our teams.

I think first and foremost my concern is the 10,000 to 15,000 Americans who will be at these games and our Olympic team itself being protected from these potential suicide bombers we're hearing about. It's very eerie when you go into Sochi and see the mountains and think about these black which dose as they call them who have had their spouses killed by the FSB now retaliating through suicide bombing.

It's eerie to think of them coming out of these mountains into the Olympic village. I think the village itself is very well-fortified and very well protected. We're all very hopeful this will be safe and successful games.

And what I saw is very impressive showing of force by the Russian FSB and military down there, and I think they are going to have to balance that military might with also having sort of a more invisible presence so that the games can go forward in a friendly and less hostile environment.

BOLDUAN: Chairman, are you aware of any direct threats coming to the U.S. Olympic team?

MCCAUL: Not to the U.S. Olympic team.

BOLDUAN: To Americans?

MCCAUL: There are threats. I can't go into specifically into these but not the American team.

I think -- I think historically the battle between the radical Islamic extremists in this Caucus region which Sochi is in it's more of a beef against the Russians and the historical precedent over the last 100 years of them fighting and cracking down on them in the Caucus region. It's a retaliation against Russia and the Russian military I think more so than the Americans.

BOLDUAN: Mr. Chairman, I've got to ask you, with all of this context that you're offering and everything that you've seen on the ground and the concerns that I've heard you say you are concerned over and over in this interview, 15,000 Americans are expected to be heading over for the games. You've said that there are some kinds of threats, though, I understand you can't go into detail.

What would you say to your constituents who might be wanting to go over or planning to go over? Would you recommend that they attend? What should they do?

MCCAUL: Well, I would say this, I think there is -- this security operation is the most impressive and well-fortified that we've ever seen in Olympic history. So, I would give them that, you know, assurance. Nothing is ever safe. But I would say that these are historic games that we should all enjoy, and I think if we let the terrorists detract us from attending and enjoying these games, we're letting the terrorists win.

BOLDUAN: I hear that, Mr. Chairman, but it's one thing to say that these are the most impressive kind of security situation that you've seen in an Olympic Games, but also, this is facing probably more of a credible threat than we've seen in recent memory in terms of Olympic games. I mean, would you go over there with your family from what you've seen?

MCCAUL: Well, I just came back there. I will tell you that, yes, this Olympic is different from the other ones. The proximity to the terrorists in the northern caucus region, Dagestan, Chechnya concerns me, the suicide bombers. You know, we were down there. We saw the wanted posters for the black widow who penetrated the ring of steel. All of this greatly concern me.

And I'm doing everything I can. I'm glad President Obama talked to president of Russia, Putin, about greater cooperation on an Intel standpoint, but also a counter IED measure. I had assurance that the stadium was built and vetted. But, you know, we've seen stadiums built in this area with explosive devices in them. That's one of the concerns, you know, we have as well.

I've been told they've been swept, radiological detection devices. But we have some great technology in Afghanistan and Iraq that we can help the Russians with and I would hope the president of Russia would allow us to come in and assist them with that effort. I've been moving and pushing them to do so.

BOLDUAN: Just real quick, have you gotten any -- are they open to that?

MCCAUL: There's a sense of nationalistic pride in Russia, just as we would have in the United States. And so, while they've been very productive, cooperating with us on some issues, when it comes to the military, it gets a little sensitive. That's why I was very pleased to hear that we have the chairman of the joint chiefs talk to the Russian counterpart just today to talk about these technologies that can counter their weapon of choice which is the IED, not unlike what we saw in Boston.

This is the area that brought the Boston bombers. Let's not forget that. And so, that's always in the back of my head. My job as chairman of Homeland Security is to make sure that we are protecting American lives whether it's in the homeland or overseas at the Olympic Games, and we're only about three weeks away. So, we still have a lot of work to do.

BOLDUAN: Yes. Just 16 days away from opening ceremonies. It's important to have officials like yourself on the ground pushing for the safety of Americans. As you said, some 15,000 Americans are preparing to head there over there for the games. Mr. Chairman, thank you very much for your time. Safe travels back.

MCCAUL: Thanks, Kate. Thanks for having me.

BOLDUAN: Of course -- Michaela.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Kate. Thank you so much for that. Let's take a look at your headlines at this hour.

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PEREIRA (voice-over): Secretary of state, John Kerry, defiant at the opening of the Geneva II conference on Syria saying Bashar al-Assad will have no place in a transitional government. The state department also slamming Syria's, quote, "inflammatory rhetoric" at the start of the meetings. The conference got underway this morning.

World leaders there looking for ways to stem the conflict. The Syrian regime and opposition will come face-to-face at the negotiating table on Friday.

New this morning, 10,000 troops or none at all, according to the "New York Times." That's what the Pentagon is proposing to President Obama concerning the U.S. presence in Afghanistan once the combat mission ends after 2014. Some 37,000 U.S. troops are currently there in Afghanistan. Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, has so far refused to sign a security agreement that would allow an American force in the country until 2024.

Class is canceled today at Indiana's Purdue University after a shooting left one student dead Tuesday. Last night, a candlelight vigil was held for the victim who has now been identified a 21-year- old Andrew Boldt. His alleged shooter, 23-year-old Cody Cousins. Both reportedly were students in electrical engineering at the school. Police say Cousins turned himself in and that the shooting does not seem random. Cousins is being held without bail.

Before the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks kick off Super Bowl XLVIII, they'll be serenaded by opera star, Renee Fleming. The soprano has been chosen to perform the national anthem before the big game on February 2nd at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey, not the first time singing the anthem at a major sporting event.

She did it at the 2003 World Series at Yankee Stadium. Have some issues with the lyrics and had to ad lib a little bit, but I'm sure that we're thinking positively this time and we're very pleased to know that she'll be back.

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BOLDUAN: As I always say, as someone who failed but attempted many times to sing the national anthem when I was in college --

PEREIRA (on-camera): Really.

BOLDUAN: It is hard. It is very hard.

PEREIRA: Bless you.

BOLDUAN: Not just remembering the lyrics, seriously. Very difficult moment, but hitting that range is not easy.

PEREIRA: Oh my goodness! It's tough.

BOLDUAN: Yes.

PEREIRA: (INAUDIBLE).

BOLDUAN: That's why I stuck with this job.

PEREIRA: Good idea.

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CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Here's the headline for you. Roughed up in China. Our David McKenzie and a CNN crew are in Beijing. They get accosted as they tried to report on a trial of a prominent human rights attorney. Police first try to block them, then authorities in plain-clothes grab David and his troop, throw him into a waiting van. Take a look.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a public space. This is a public space. This is a public space. Don't push me. Do not push me. This is a public space.

They are physically man handling us. They are physically men handling me. This is a public space. I'm allowed to report. I'm allowed to report.

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CUOMO: Obviously, it's very upsetting to watch. But you have to have the contrast of how they're behaving versus how David and the crew behaved. True pros there. We're happy to report there is David McKenzie looking no worse for wear joining us for a little debrief. David, glad to be able to speak to you. Tell us what happened when they threw you in the van, my friend?

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Chris, it was like a mafia movie in a way. Threw us in this van (ph) and then transferred us to another vehicle, drove us about three, four miles outside of the court and then dumped us on the side of the street and went on their merry way. So, certainly, a very strange and very violent episode from the Chinese authorities -- Chris.

CUOMO: One step sideways, were you right? Were you in a public space? Were you supposed to be even in China allowed to report and what do you think their agenda was?

MCKENZIE: Well, look, here in China, on paper, foreign reporters like ourselves have the free reign throughout the country. We can do what we like. In practice, we often face issues reporting and particularly when it's on sensitive subjects, but this is a public street. We were some distance way from that court, and almost immediately, as you see, they started man handling Charlie and I and shoved our heads against the side of the van and threw a few punches here and there.

Nothing too serious, but certainly, very aggressive response. The government has responded and said they're going to investigate this case, but they did sort of put the issue on us saying we should be careful in cases like this, unless, chaos happens in China. Not sure exactly what they mean by that -- Chris?

CUOMO: David, most impressive to me, you and I have covered stories in lots of parts of the world together. You've always been respected as a true pro, as a journalist. You don't know how you're going to react in situations like that. How did you stay so calm when you know that the threat is real?

MCKENZIE: Well, I think part of it is Charlie is a very cool customer himself. And so, the two of us certainly feed off that reaction. I think the worst thing you can do as a journalist is react badly and certainly react physically to any provocation, because once you react physically, it all becomes about you crossing that line.

So, effectively, you need to take a beating. One thing to point out, of course, here in China, Chinese journalists and activists trying to get the word out are treated far worse in this and often detained sometimes for several months up to years because they're trying to expose truth in this country. So, while we get it bad, certain others don't get nearly that level of respect even what they did to us is certainly not respectful.

CUOMO: Listen, David, the issues that play there are very important. They need to come out. Obviously, you have to balance that with your own safety. Thank you for showing the right way to do it. I'm glad it turned out in your favor this time. Good luck going forward.

MCKENZIE: Thanks, Chris.

BOLDUAN: We're going to take a break. Coming up next on NEW DAY, former New York City mayor, Rudy Giuliani, is becoming one of Governor Chris Christie's biggest defenders. He joins us live to talk about it.

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CUOMO: Welcome back. Hope your morning is going well. New this morning, another tough challenge for New Jersey governor, Chris Christie. New poll numbers have been released and they say that as Christie was sworn in for a second term, his favorability ratings have dropped along with his chances at the 2016 presidential election. This, as he faces a new call to step down from his prestigious role as chairman of the Republican Governors Association.

Former New York City mayor, Rudy Giuliani, is and has been one of Christie's biggest supporters. He joins us now. Of course now with Giuliani Partners, a consulting firm, and I believe comfortably situated in Fort Myers, Florida. Is that correct, Mr. Mayor?

(LAUGHTER)

RUDY GIULIANI, (R) FORMER MAYOR, NEW YORK CITY: That is correct, Chris. My sympathies.

(LAUGHTER)

CUOMO: It's a good time to be out of the city. You made your stones as a city boy. You can be wherever you want. All right. Let's deal with the governor's allegations. You have three separate situations that go to different areas of leadership. Bridgegate means one thing about who he picked to be close around him. The mayor of Hoboken goes to the tactics that may be used by his government.

And then you have this other simmering scandal about his former attorney general taking an indictment from local prosecutors. They should be raising a lot of concerns for people. You somewhat dismiss them. Why so confident?

GIULIANI: Well, I don't just dismiss them. What I see, aside from the original allegation which I think needs to be investigated, you know, and his people acted improperly, I see the others as political pile on. It's the usual, you know, Democrats go after Republicans, Republicans go after Democrats. The mayor of Hoboken knew about this for months, never said anything about it.

She gave prior contradictory statements to the statement she has given now. She praised in this interim period Governor Christie. So, I see in the pile on effect the usual political thing that happens when you have a guy that's a front-runner. After all, this was the only Republican that was leading Hillary Clinton in any poll. Every other Republican has always lost to her.

He didn't lead her in every polls, but he was leading her in some polls. Also, the man running the inquiry for the state assembly and Senate has announced that Chris Christie is lying.