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Suicide Bombing Suspects Identified; Perfect Storm Cripples Atlanta; Obama on the Road; Bieber Arrested Again; Interview With Sen. Tom Coburn and Sen. Angus King

Aired January 30, 2014 - 08:00   ET




MAYOR KASIM REED (D), ATLANTA, GA: We made a mistake. So I'll take responsible for that.


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: Atlanta drivers finally returning to get their cars off the highway this morning. Much of the city still frozen shut, and the anger still very real. The question, what went wrong?

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: NFL under fire. The league makes a fortune. Now, key senators want to know why is the NFL considered a non-profit organization? The new battle brewing over professional football's billions.

CUOMO: He's being called the most interesting Olympian ever. The Mexican downhill skier who is also a German prince, and a pop singer, and also wearing this as his uniform. The man of mystery joins us live.

Your NEW DAY continues right now.


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

BOLDUAN: Good morning, and welcome back to NEW DAY. It's Thursday, January 30th, 8:00 in the East.

And the cold and the chaos, it just won't quit in ice-choked Atlanta. Roads, businesses and schools shut down this morning. Nearly 48 hours after the start of the devastating storm, people are only now able to get the cars that they had to abandon in the bitter cold. But expect more frustration, because police are now saying those cars may not be where people left them.

For more on this, let's get to CNN "NEWSROOM" anchor Carol Costello live from Atlanta for us once again this morning.

Good morning, Carol.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Can you imagine that, Kate, having to go to a central --


COSTELLO: -- location and present your driver's license and your car keys and have a member of the National Guard take you to where you car might be?

Some of those cars were towed away, so people are just hoping they're there. And then, of course, you have to remember where you dropped your car off on the highway and made that five-mile trek to get somewhere warm. And then again, you also have to return to the scene of the zombie apocalypse.


COSTELLO (voice-over): This morning, highway officials are working to remove the vehicles still abandoned on Atlanta highways. This after a day-long stretch of the interstate looked more like a parking lot.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You just look at the map, you can see, it's filled up with red. It is jammed around town.

COSTELLO: Less than three inches of snow and ice fell on Tuesday afternoon, and it led to miles and miles of gridlock and chaos. A twisting traffic jam that even emergency vehicles and snow removal teams had a tough time breaking through. Overturned semis and a burning car left abandoned for hours.

MARI RAMOS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: OK, my car skidded off the road.

COSTELLO: CNN meteorologist Mari Ramos documented her treacherous journey home.

RAMOS: I'm going to go ahead and get out now because it's pretty scary to stay here. I'm not alone. There's emergency vehicles behind me, as you can see there. I need help, but they can't help me because it's a serious accident up the road.

COSTELLO: The slick roads causing over 1,200 accidents. State troopers tagging these abandoned vehicles to indicate there's no one inside, as tow trucks slowly haul away the mess. The National Guard handing out supplies to people forced to spend the night in their cars. Others like Don Giddons (ph) ditched his car instead to trek five miles by foot to get home.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The ice was awful. I'm must have fallen about five times.

COSTELLO: Fifty Atlanta school children finally slept in their beds last night after being forced to spend a bitterly cold Tuesday stranded on their school buses. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was scared that I wouldn't see my mom until, like, 7:00 a.m.

COSTELLO: Others hunkered down, spending the night at school, the perfect storm in a southern state crippled by a lack of preparation to prevent such chaos.


COSTELLO: The roads are fairly good this morning, but there is still a certain amount of fear. One of our writer producers who could not get to work yesterday morning brought his sleeping bag into work and slept under his desk last night just to make sure he'd get there. But keep in mind, it took his wife 21 hours to get home and he couldn't get to work yesterday morning -- Chris.

CUOMO: CNN tough, Carol. CNN tough.

COSTELLO: He's awesome.

CUOMO: And you as well for being there. Thank you, Carol.

Now, the big question is going to be who takes responsible and accountability. The blame game is in full swing. The political storm brewing in Atlanta may not be as bad as the actual ice storm that hit there, but it's making people plenty angry nonetheless.

Now, the mayor is saying the interstates that were so messed up, not his responsibility. The Georgia Governor Nathan Deal is saying it was the weathermen's fault.

So, where does that leave us?

Victor Blackwell continues our coverage live from Atlanta.

Accountability matters, Victor, if only to make sure you figure out how to get it right the next time, right?

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. And there are people in this city wondering how could this have happened after just two years ago, Atlanta went through a similar situation with ice and snow here in this area, and the city was shut down then? This time, it was shut down again. As the governor and the mayor not taking responsibility, people here in Atlanta are blaming both of them.


BLACKWELL (voice-over): The blame game between government officials is in full swing.

GOV. NATHAN DEAL (R), GEORGIA: We have been confronted with an unexpected storm.

REED: There's no one who's doing any better job than we're doing in the city of Atlanta. BLACKWELL: More than 1,200 accidents on road, commuters trapped in unimaginable gridlock. Cars abandoned. Children stranded in schools overnight.

Georgia's Governor Nathan Deal blamed the forecast for not being prepared.

DEAL: The National Weather Service had continually had their modeling showing that the city of Atlanta would not be the primary area where the storm would hit.

BLACKWELL: Meteorologists say, not so. CNN's Chad Myers and other local meteorologists --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Could see accumulations of one to two inches.

BLACKWELL: -- predicted that two inches of snow would fall in Atlanta on Tuesday morning.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: For Atlanta, it is a devastating two inches of snow that will literally shut down the city.

BLACKWELL: Outraged Georgia residents are blaming the governor and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed for bringing the city to its knees.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I expected that Georgia would be more prepared since 2010, we had the same ice on the read, but I've noticed that there's -- I haven't seen any salt trucks, no DOT, no police, nothing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is the government's job to make sure that their citizens are safe.

BLACKWELL: So what did they know and when? A winter storm watch was issued early Monday morning, upgraded to a warning by early Tuesday. A full eight hours before snow started to fall.

DEAL: There's not anybody in this room that could have predicted the degree and the magnitude of the problem that developed.

BLACKWELL: Quite possibly the biggest mistake was not closing Atlanta area schools on Tuesday morning.

Governor Deal also waited until 5:00 p.m. to declare a state of emergency, long after other states had done so. Roadways quickly clogged up with thousands of drivers trying to head home at the same time.

But who's to blame?

REED: We have shared responsibility. But I want to state clearly, I don't have jurisdiction to clear interstate highways in the city of Atlanta.


BLACKWELL: Well, here in Atlanta, city offices are closed. Schools are closed today. And although you see some traffic here on the interstate, typically, this would be bumper-to-bumper at this hour. A civil emergency has been called in the Atlanta area by Georgia Emergency Management to try to keep cars off the road so they can pull those stranded vehicles off the roads and reunite people with their vehicles, as Carol discussed, that they had to abandon on Tuesday -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: All right, well, the thaw continues. Thank you so much.

So, as we've been mentioning, the people who were forced to abandon their cars during the storm, they can try to retrieve them today, but how are the roads looking?

We saw it behind Victor's shot, but how are they looking from the roads?

George Howell has been working his way around the city to check out the conditions, joining us live from the Atlanta roadways. Hey there, George.


Yes. So, we're on I-75 near the perimeter. And really, this is where you see a lot of those abandoned cars still on the roads. Duane, we can drive up and you can see here -- car after car after car. In fact, if we can switch over to the other camera view just so you can see exactly what we're dealing with here.

This is on the exit, the highway exit. And look at this. You know, you see so many cars that people will have to return to today. It is a mess out here.

And look, we're talking about rush hour right now. You'd expect a lot of people on the roads here in Atlanta. That's not the case right now.

It seems that people are staying home, you know? And they're keeping in touch with what officials have to say because this is where they're going to have to get their cars. They're going to have to go to officials and find out exactly where to pick up those cars.

There are two locations here in town. I want to also show you the road conditions. I want to give you an example of what we're dealing with here. Bear with me.

Here on the roads, there's still plenty of ice. And you find the ice out here on the overpasses. You find it also under the bridges.

This could be a real problem if you're not careful. In fact, our car is trying to come up with hill and they're not able to because of that ice. It's a real problem, Kate. So as drivers get out on the roads, as they do try to get those vehicles, they have to be very careful because there's a lot of ice still out here.

BOLDUAN: More and more reason to try to stay off the roads, if possible. I know that isn't possible for so many folks. But thank you, George, for giving us such a good look at things to look at this morning.

CUOMO: Really helpful. You see how far those people had to walk up the ramp once they left their cars in those conditions? Really tough. Really tough.

All right. We're also following breaking news just coming in here to CNN, eight days before the start of the Sochi Winter Games, Russian media report now, police have identified two suicide bombing suspects. They're believed to be militants behind the deadly Volgograd bombings. You'll remember those.

Phil Black has the latest from Moscow.

What do we know, Phil?

PHL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Chris, we've been talking to Russian security intelligence officials here.

You're right. They have identified the two men who were behind the attack in Volgograd at the end of last year. Two attacks, suicide attacks that killed 34 people. More than that, they say they have detained two people who are accomplices to that attack.

Now, in the attacks in Volgograd, there was a bombing at a train station. Another one on a trolley bus killed 34 people in total.

The two accomplices that had been arrested, the alleged accomplices, are said to have driven the suicide attackers themselves to Volgograd from the Russian republican of Dagestan. Dagestan remains the hot bed of Russia's ongoing Islamist terrorist threat.

In addition to that, they have identified the people who they thought were the actual suicide attackers themselves. You may recall about a week and a half ago, a video was posted online featuring two men claiming responsibility for that attack, strapping on their suicide vests, saying they're going out to carry on those bombings in Volgograd, promising there would be more attacks in Sochi and across Russia in the lead-up to the coming Winter Olympics.

Now, Russian officials will not confirm if the men featured in that online video are the man they have identified as the actual suicide attackers. But one of them is going by the same name, Suleiman, identified in the video, also given by police today. They say they're continuing their investigation, looking for other accomplices and the mastermind behind these attacks.

All of it, Chris, is just another reminder of what we've been talking about so much lately. The ongoing security challenge for Russian authorities as they try to protect their own citizens and visitors, not just in Sochi, but across this vast country in the lead-up to the Olympics.

BOLDUAN: And it is outside that ring of steel that everyone says the real problems could be. Thank you so much, Phil. We'll talk to you very soon.

So, first, you had the speech. And now, you have the road trip. President Obama left Washington after his State of the Union Address, and today, he stops in Wisconsin and Tennessee. The tour is all part of his push for a year of action.

His plan for a series of executive action is meant to help the middle class. But it's the issue of gun violence that actually is expected to follow him on the road today.

CNN's Brianna Keilar is live at the White House with much more.

Good morning, Brianna.


President Obama will be talking about increasing the minimum wage, pushing Congress to do that. He'll be talking about manufacturing programs, as well as pushing Congress to increase, extend long-term unemployment benefits. When he visits Milwaukee today at a gas engine plant, and when he goes to McGavock High School in Nashville. This follows his visits yesterday to Maryland and Pennsylvania.

But as you said, the issue of gun violence following him on this trip because the high school that he's visiting today where he'll be talking about private, public partnerships is currently reeling from the death of one of its students. This happened on Tuesday after the president's travel was already arranged.

A 17-year-old student has been charged with killing a 15-year-old student. Witnesses telling police the 17-year-old was playing with a gun when it discharged.

So, we'll be waiting to see how President Obama addresses this issue. Something, Kate, that's been very frustrating for him. It didn't get but really a mention in his State of the Union, even though it was one of his top initiatives in 2013, which ultimately saw a failed effort in trying to expand background checks -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Very telling on how much attention will be focused on it in the coming year.

Brianna, thank you very much.

So, Brianna's laying out very well, there are a lot of hard questions facing the president this Friday. And this Friday, one of our best will be getting answers for you. CNN anchor, Jake Tapper, sits down exclusively with President Obama. You can see that interview tomorrow right here on NEW DAY, and again, of course, on Jake's show "The Lead" at 4:00 p.m. eastern.

CUOMO: A lot of news this morning, so let's get right to John Berman in for Michaela with the top story -- John.


BERMAN (voice-over): Making news right now, new details of an intensifying terror threat coming out of Syria. National Intelligence director, James Clapper, says the al Nusra front, the Syrian militant group with ties to al Qaeda, wants to attack the U.S. He says it is training fighters from Europe, the Middle East, even the United States. Clapper says al Qaeda-linked groups have started camps in Syria to train people to go back to their own countries and attack.

New details in the Maryland mall shooting that left two workers and a suspect dead this weekend. Investigators still have not found a connection between the 19-year-old shooter and his victims, but they now say that Darion Aguilar wrote about killing people in his journal, apologizing to his family, and saying he was ready to die. After the murders, Aguilar turned the gun on himself. His journals make no mention of the motive.

Later today, the Senate Oversight Committee will hold phone conferences with target officials regarding last month's massive data breach. This follows Attorney General Eric Holder's announcement that the justice department is launching a criminal probe into the breach. Target says the thieves act says the system using credentials stolen from one of the retailer's vendors.

New troubles for Justin Bieber to tell you about. The 19-year-old pop star turned himself into Toronto police last night, charged with assaulting a limo driver last month. Now, this comes just days after he was arrested in Miami Beach for DUI and resisting arrest. A petition to deport Bieber and revoked his visa now has about 180,000 signatures.

The White House has not responded yet, but the White House says they respond to signatures and petitions with more than 100,000 signatures, so you can expect they will say something about this, eventually.

Meanwhile, easily, the craziest story of the day. A man in Washington State is recovering after going through a wood chipper and surviving. So, he works with bark and chips wood. He went inside the machine to fix a jam, this is what he was trained to do, but the engine's power came on and he was trapped inside the spite grind barrel for ten seconds. He was conscious the whole time.

He suffered multiple broken bones and a bruised liver. His company is paying the hospital bills, thankfully, and state officials are investigating, but you can see him right now. He is conscious doing well. He said the worst part was just not knowing when it would end.


BOLDUAN: Oh, my gosh.

CUOMO: Was it a tattooed on him, something about an angel. Boy, that is going to mean more than ever to him now. Wow! What a chances for that (ph). Thanks, John, for telling us about that. A quick heads-up for you about the show tomorrow. Dennis Rodman wants to come back on NEW DAY, but this time, he wants to be face-to-face and live and he wants to do it from the site of what has become his real struggle. This is not about North Korea. It's about his rehabilitation. He's at a hospital. He's trying to get control of his addiction. And it's such an important issue for so many. So, I will be there. Tomorrow, you'll see the interview right here on NEW DAY.

BOLDUAN: Let's talk more about this weather. The deep south still in the grips of this devastating deep freeze. Let's go to Indra Petersons keeping track of the latest forecast. So, where is it all heading?

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: The good news is the storm is gone, but it's not always the best situation because that means you have clear skies. Clear skies overnight translate to cold temperatures. So, a lot of people still stranded this morning trying to get to their cars with those clear skies. Temperatures have gone way down. In fact, there's a hard -- really amongst the south this morning.

So temperatures, what does that mean? They're below 20 degrees in many places in the south. In fact, a lot of places are cooler today than they were yesterday. The good news, temperatures will warm up as we go through the afternoon, so they are expecting temperatures today to get out of the freezing zone. So, anything on the ground eventually should melt.

That's why they're asking people to wait to get into their cars until afternoon today, right? Then 53 Friday, Saturday being up to 59. So, definitely going to get a lot better out there as temperatures go above normal. But every night, you still have that concern with refreezing overnight, but hopefully enough of it melts. There's nothing really to re-freeze tonight. Looking for the upside.

BOLDUAN: Exactly. Find it anywhere.



BOLDUAN: Thanks, Indra.

CUOMO: You've been right so far, right? You told us about this a couple of days out, so we're going to have to trust you going forward.

BOLDUAN: I'll take that.

CUOMO: Coming up on NEW DAY, breaking news out of Italy. A jury there is deliberating right now on the murder case of Amanda Knox. Yes, again. Remember, that's the way the system works there. A verdict is expected at any time. We're live in Florence. We'll bring you the latest.

BOLDUAN: And something a lot of folks don't know about revealed. Despite more than $9 billion of annual revenues, the NFL is operating as a non-profit organization. How do they get away with it? That's a question two U.S. senators want answered. They're going to join us live.


CUOMO: As you well know, I'm sure, the NFL is gearing up for the big game this Sunday. The league is projected to make a record profit. Now, that's bringing to light a little known secret. You see, the NFL league office is considered by the IRS a non-profit organization. That's right. The league office falls under a tax code of provision that exempts things like businesses, leagues, and trade associations.

But does it make sense given the scale of money here? Is it a loophole? Two senators think it doesn't make sense and they proposed a bill to change it, Republican senator from Oklahoma, Dr. Tom Coburn, and former governor of Maine, Senator Angus King. Thank you to both of you, gentleman, for being with us on NEW DAY this morning.

SEN. ANGUS KING, (I) MAINE: Good morning.

SEN. TOM COBURN, M.D., (R) OKLAHOMA: Good morning.

CUOMO: I want to talk about the NFL, and I want to get at it a little bit of an interesting way to test your bill, but I have to ask about the people's business in general. This is a beautiful demonstration of an Independent and a Republican coming together for a common purpose. We just had the state of the union, and it seemed to me that the parties have a lot of the same goals in mind.

The question is, do we see any prospect in your minds for cooperation this year? Any chance it's a year of action?

COBURN: Oh, I think so. There are certain things that can get done. But, you know, the history would say that the election years are not a year in which a lot of things get done. So, I think you'll see some things get done between now and July. I think, probably after that, it will be very difficult.

KING: Chris, I think you made an important point, though. Everybody around here has the same goals. I mean, every member of Congress wants more jobs, more opportunity. They want people to be able to get ahead in America. It's really a question of how you get there. And hopefully, I think we may make some progress.

We're looking like we may be passing a farm bill this coming week, which has been sitting around for four or five years. I think there's some issues where we're going to be able to get some things done.

CUOMO: Well, that will be great, because there's so many big ticket items. The American people need so much help. So that will be great. Thank you for that vote of optimism here now. Let's turn to the NFL. We'll do it this way. I'll represent the NFL's position in this situation, OK, and then, you two can lay out the feeling. Now, it's not the teams we're talking about. The teams all make their money. They're all private entities. This is about the league office, and the NFL will say, well, we're just representing the trade of football. We're just like any other trade group. And as such, we are a not for profit. What's the problem with that, senators?

COBURN: Well, one is they don't represent arena football. They represent only the NFL. And the tax code specifically says in terms of trade associations you can't promote any brands. And they promote all the brands within the NFL only.

So, you know, this is a directed tax cut that when benefited to the league office, which means every other American pays a little bit more every year because we give the NFL league office a tax break and call them a non-profit, which, in fact, they're not.

CUOMO: Let me push back, Senator King, and I say, I don't really make the money. You are holding me responsible for profits that I don't make. Those go to the teams. They go to other corporate entities and subsidiaries, not to the league office.

KING: Well, our bill is only taxing the money that goes to the league office. It wouldn't apply to -- I mean, the teams are separate entities. They pay taxes and they have their whole situation. The league has a foundation charitable, wouldn't affect that. This is talking about -- what is it, 180 million a year or something like that, that goes into the league office. By the way, there are other groups of PGA -- there are other groups that are promoting a particular small industry, not the breadth of the industry.

The NFL doesn't promote college football, high school football, arena football. It's a group of teams. And by the way, I'm a huge NFL fan. I mean, sponsoring this bill may be wiping out my possibility of being a quarterback for the Redskins, which is a lifetime goal.

But, you know, I just don't think this is right. How do I look at my constituents in Maine and say you've got to pay a little bit more income taxes so these guys can be tax-free at this entity that's bringing in millions of dollars a year?

COBURN: Yes. I think one other point, Chris. If this is truly a tax-exempt organization, how is it that 20 percent of the revenue that comes in that goes to one individual in the organization?

CUOMO: Well, you raise an interesting point. And as the proxy representative to the NFL, I would like to avoid the fact that the commissioner makes $29 million and the next highest paid head of a trade organization makes but a fraction of that. That's a bad fact for me and I'd rather blame you, senator and doctor, for hating football. I think you hate football.


And that's what this is about, not the fact that the commissioner makes $29 million.

KING: That has nothing to do with it. COBURN: Have you ever heard of a non-profit where somebody's making $29 million a year?

CUOMO: My position with the NFL would be that every non-profit head makes $29 million a year. And it's a fact that you hidden (ph) for the purpose of your own bill.


COBURN: Look, Chris, I love football. I love professional golf. But I love a fair tax code. And this is a quirk in the tax code. It will generate a little over $109 million to the American taxpayers if this bill passes. You know, Major League Baseball dropped this in 2008. The NBA is not taking advantage of this, and rightly so, because they aren't a trade association. They know they're not a trade association.

CUOMO: Those are very important points, that other leagues haven't followed suit. I'm no longer the proxy. I'm getting killed and I don't like it, but I will ask you this, and both of you, please respond. I'll start with you, Senator King. How do you extend this principle on which logically is very sound, to other corporate interests?

We heard the president discuss and you heard an echo from the Republican side of the aisle that businesses who do business here should be rewarded, businesses who find loopholes and don't hire here who aren't good corporate citizens should not get loopholes. How do you extend what you want to do with the NFL to other corporate behavior that could fall into the same category?

KING: Well, I think you need to look at this bill as pulling up the corner of a big tent, because I think everybody around here agrees that we've really got to look at the tax code and what they call tax expenditures, because every time somebody gets a tax break, that means somebody else has to pay more.

And the problem with these tax expenditures is they live in the tax code forever, they never get reviewed. So, this bill is, I think, important in its own right, but also it's a way of sort of prying open this can that frankly I think needs --

CUOMO: But the lobbyists, Sen. Coburn, the lobbyists, they won't let you. The corporate lobbyists, they have all the money. Elections are about money, and they're going to come down to D.C. and say leave us alone, and more often than not, it seems that's exactly what happens. So, how do you think you get a good chance to make change at the NFL or anywhere else that has big money?

COBURN: I think the way you do it is you sunset the corporate tax code, and then you design a new one, which means the lobbyists have to lobby to put something new in, rather than to keep something that's there. If I were head of the finance committee, I would sunset the tax code for corporations, and then I would design a new bill that has none of this stuff in there.