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CNN NEWSROOM

New Evidence May Emerge in New Jersey Bridge Scandal; Interview with New Jersey Congressman Frank Pallone; New York Increases Security ahead of Super Bowl; Cold Weather Affects Parts of U.S.; California Undergoing Water Shortages; Amanda Knox Found Guilty by Italian Court; Effect of Marijuana Legalization on Voting Analyzed; Jay Leno Stepping Down from "Tonight Show"

Aired February 1, 2014 - 10:00   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE, (R) NEW JERSEY: I had no knowledge of this, of the planning, the execution, or anything about it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: What did he know and when? That's what many are asking this morning after a new letter challenges the accuracy of some of what Governor Chris Christie said in that two-hour long news conference. The claims and the political implications, that's ahead.

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: And one day away from the big game. I know you're counting down. While so many of you may be consumed with party planning, law enforcement has a laser focus on protection right now. And did a white powder scare yesterday show just how massive the security presence and the threat really could be?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AMANDA KNOX: I will never go willingly back.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLACKWELL: But Amanda Knox may not have a choice. A U.S. treaty with Italy means she could serve 28 years in prison or create an international fire storm that puts nation against nation.

PAUL: I hope it's a lazy Saturday for you and you're getting to relax a little bit. I'm Christi Paul.

BLACKWELL: Those are the best Saturdays, by the way. I'm Victor Blackwell, 10:00 here on the east coast, 7:00 out west. You are in the CNN Newsroom. This morning we're starting with new drama and Chris Christie and the George Washington Bridge scandal.

PAUL: It centers around this man, David Wildstein. There he is. He is a former New Jersey Port Authority official who carried out a Christie staffer's order to close access lanes to the bridge. His attorney is suggesting Christie knew about the incident as it was unfolding even though Christie said in public on several occasions that he did not.

BLACKWELL: Erin McPike is live in Washington this morning. Erin, what have you learned?

ERIN MCPIKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Victor and Christi, this new revelation surfaced yesterday afternoon in a letter David Wildstein's attorney sent to the Port Authority. So he claims evident exists tying Mr. Christie to having knowledge of the lane closures during the period when the lanes were closed, contrary to what the governor stated publicly in a two-hour press conference. There's no indication yet of what that evidence is or if Wildstein himself even has it. That letter was an attempt by Wildstein's attorney to get the Port Authority to pay Wildstein's legal bills.

On top of that it may be less damaging than initial reports suggested yesterday because it doesn't necessarily state that he knew about the underlying scandal at the center of the investigation. Also the Christie investigation made some of those points in its response, and this reads, "Mr. Wildstein's lawyer confirm what's the governor has said all along. He had absolutely no prior knowledge of the lane closures before they happened." The statement goes on to point to these comments he said in press conferences in December and January. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTIE: And I knew nothing about this, and until it started to be reported in the papers about the closure. But even then I was told this was a traffic study.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MCPIKE: Still some confusion about exactly what Christie was referring to in that last statement, the closures themselves or the retribution plot. But the New Jersey star ledger had an editorial this morning calling for Christie to resign if Wildstein's claims are true. But that's still a big if.

BLACKWELL: Still a big if. And for people just joining this story line late who haven't been watching over the past couple months, David Wildstein's, his role, detail it for us.

MCPIKE: So Wildstein is the Port Authority official. He was a Christie appointee who carried out the order to close the access lanes to the G.W. Bridge. And you may remember Christie's deputy chief of staff Bridget Kelly e-mailed to Wildstein "Time for traffic problems in Ft. Lee," and Wildstein replied, "Got it." What's so interesting about Wildstein as character in this story is he and Christie met in 1977 in high school long before Christie appointed him at the Port Authority. But Christie down played their friendship in that memorable marathon press conference a few weeks ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTIE: David and I were not friends in high school. We were not even acquaintances in high school. We didn't travel the same circles in high school. I was the class president and athlete. I don't know what David was doing during that period of time. We went 23 years without seeing each other.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MCPIKE: So just perhaps not the best way to inspire loyalty. Christi and Victor?

BLACKWELL: Erin McPike with us, thank you.

PAUL: Joining us now, Congressman Frank Pallone, a Democrat from New Jersey, Democratic congressman, I should say, thank you so much, first of all, for taking the time to be with us. I know you call this disturbing, these new claims. Does this claim though, how much merit does it hold? How much credence do we give it at all until any evidence is actually provided?

<10:05:00>

REP. FRANK PALLONE JR., (D) NEW JERSEY: Well, I think it's pretty significant because here we have, you know, one of the governor's chief aides, through his attorney, basically signaling that what the governor said at the press conference is not true. And so it goes to the governor's whole credibility.

Again, it's an allegation, but if it is true, and this is coming from, you know, he says not something who was close to him historically but still close to him as governor, he's essentially saying in this letter that the governor wasn't telling the truth when he said he didn't know that the lanes were closed when they were.

So I think that the "Star Ledger" and others saying that this could be the beginning of the end of this administration are accurate if the allegations are true. And of course we don't necessarily know that, but it's pretty serious in that it's coming from someone who was directly involved in the whole mess.

PAUL: It's also coming from somebody, though, who may have another card to play here. When we look at the purpose of this letter, is he just trying to get the Port Authority, as some have said, to pay his legal bills and what about immunity?

PALLONE: Well, I think that's very possible, Christi. I think that this may be a way for his attorney to say, look, you give me immunity and I will tell the whole truth in the matter. And this isn't the first time that Wildstein has said that. He also said it before the state legislative investigative committee, which is also having hearings. So he's clearly signaling that he's willing to talk and, you know, give his version of the truth, and it may very well be expecting some sort of immunity.

PAUL: Well, you know, Christie has been emphatic that he knew nothing about this, that he knew nothing about the motivation, the alleged, you know, political motivation behind closing those lanes. But there are two very different things at play here. I mean, it's one thing to know about the closures. It's another thing to know about the motivation behind it. Yes?

PALLONE: No, I agree with you. I think that we don't really know that Wildstein is saying that he has evidence or that he's going to indicate that the governor knew the motive or actually gave the order to close the lanes. But I think it's significant enough that he's saying that the governor wasn't telling the truth. I mean, after all, you know, it's not just a question here of the legality but also that the governor is being honest with the public. I think if the governor isn't being honest, then you start seeing efforts to impeach him or say that he should resign. So it is significant in that he's charging that the governor wasn't telling the truth.

PAUL: Congressman, I mean, you know the governor. I'm just wondering, do you think Chris Christie is the kind of man who would get up for two hours in front of the world basically and spout over and over again that he's innocent and that he didn't know about any of this if there could be evidence out there that he did?

PALLONE: I'm not -- I really can't answer that, Christi. I mean, I think my concern all along has been this whole abuse of power. In other words, there's a whole series of indications here that the governor's administration was using threats, bullying people, you know, trading Sandy money for, you know, approval of developments or using it improperly. So I think that it's about the abuse of power and, you know, what this Christie administration was doing wrongly.

You know, whether it goes to the actual, you know -- whether the governor lied or not, I can't really tell. But certainly Wildstein is alleging that the governor wasn't telling the truth, and that's a very serious matter in addition to all of these other concerns we have about how Sandy money was used, whether it was used improperly and the whole mismanagement of that.

PAUL: Yes, because if that did happen, I mean, you I think pointed out in another interview that would mean that he would be a liar. Do you believe that we're going see federal prosecutors question Christie over this?

PALLONE: I think that's where we're going. I mean, you know, I think it's inevitable that the U.S. attorney gets involved with this. Obviously that's what Wildstein is asking happen. I think, you know, he's looking for some sort of immunity. This isn't the first time his lawyer has suggested that. So this is going to be thoroughly looked at by the U.S. attorney, by the state legislative committees that are looking into this.

And you know, more and more keeps coming out every day. But I know you maybe don't want to talk about this so much, but my biggest concern is this trading of money that came from the federal government for Sandy relief, you know, for other political favors. And we're getting more evidence of that every day, too. So there's a lot that has to be looked at here.

PAUL: That is certainly something that we've talked about and we've covered and will continue to do so. And Congressman Frank Pallone, we appreciate you taking the time to be with us this morning. Thank you. PALLONE: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: New this morning, two emergency landings to tell you about.

<10:10:00>

One involved a Delta flight leaving Philadelphia airport this morning. It returned to the gate after the captain smelled smoke in the cockpit. All 150 passengers on board that plane made it off safely, and the aircraft was sent in for maintenance. The plane was also on its way -- I should say it was on its way to Salt Lake City. The other emergency landing, last night, United Airlines flight, was forced to make an emergency landing at Newark airport after, again, smoke was smelled in the cabin. The plane had been traveling from Washington to Frankfurt, Germany. United says the plane landed safely around 11:30 last night. All of the flights, 210 passengers, were given hotel rooms for the night and their flight will continue later today.

Still of come in the Newsroom, just days after snow and ice --

PAUL: That's not him but he was out in the middle of it.

BLACKWELL: -- paralyzed parts of the south, at least three other states -- that caught me off guard -- now under winter storm warnings.

PAUL: You can see why there right now, too.

And let's go to New York here. Police on the ground and in the skies, they are determined to make sure the Super Bowl goes off without a hitch.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLACKWELL: The NFL knew that holding the Super Bowl in New Jersey was high risk, high reward.

<10:15:00>

PAUL: So far the reward has been pretty big for the most part but the risk, of course, is still there at least for the next 48 hours. So big question is can police keep one of the biggest cities safe for one of the biggest sporting events?

Yes. CNN's Alexandra Field joins us now from New York. How are they going to do that?

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Victor. Naturally we're all going to expect to see a big effort on the ground, exhaustive screening of those 80,000 fans who will file into MetLife stadium tomorrow to see the game. But there will be an equally exhaustive effort in the air. We're talking about a coalition of military, police, and border protection assets that will be patrolling overhead, their goal, their only job, to keep intruders out of Super Bowl airspace. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FIELD: Protecting MetLife stadium and patrolling the spectacular airspace around it. It's expected 180 million fans will have their eyes on the field while U.S. customs and border protection agents take over the skies above it. We took a ride on one of three Blackhawk helicopters that will form part of Super Bowl XLVIII's defensive line, a ten-mile perimeter, a strict no-fly zone. If anyone breaches that perimeter for any reason, they should expect to see a Blackhawk up close.

Sort of a scary experience if you're up there flying and you, say, unintentionally breach the perimeter.

PHIL PETRO, AIR INTERDICTION AGENT: Exactly. Unless you've been trained in the military, you're highly -- it's highly unlikely you've ever flown in formation with another aircraft, meaning that you've never been within 500 feet of another aircraft when you're flying.

FIELD: In the case of an airspace intruder a black house would be first to intercept, flying alongside the offending aircraft and escorting it to the ground where federal agents would be waiting.

PETRO: They're going to first be shocked to have a large aircraft like this come up very close to them and, secondly, they're going to come to the realization that something's wrong.

FIELD: On our tour we got our own surprise although this was a welcome one. A fleet of military helicopters appearing in the distance and then heading for MetLife stadium where military aircraft will perform ceremonial Super Bowl duties on Sunday, an exception to the no-fly rule, and a stunning one.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

The agents tell us that during previous Super Bowls they have seen some pilots make a mistake and unintentionally breach that perimeter, but the agents say that could be less likely to happen here in the New York City/New Jersey area. They say that's because pilots are used to heavier air traffic and are sometimes more up to speed with the air regulations.

BLACKWELL: So Alexandra, how about some of the other technology, beyond Blackhawks and the Chinooks. Facial recognition, anything on the ground?

FIELD: Yes, certainly this is going to be a high-tech Super Bowl like some of the Super Bowls before it. The helicopters will have infrared and night vision capabilities. We're told there will be boats patrolling on the water near the stadium. They'll have sonar detection on them and on the ground, radiological detection equipment. That's the technological side. But we also need to talk about the manpower. There will be some 4,000 law enforcement and security officers who will be working on game day to keep that big game safe.

BLACKWELL: Yes. High risk, high reward. They're doing everything to make sure that they get the reward. Alexandra Field, thank you so much.

So get ready for more snow. I don't know if you want it, but it's coming. The Midwest is bracing for another round of winter weather.

PAUL: Yes, and thinking about friends of Chicago, even my mother-in- law who is probably complaining right now. Live picture of Chicago, a storm warning is in effect there, and you all could see up to eight inches of snow again this weekend.

BLACKWELL: In Denver, snow and freezing rain created icy conditions for drivers but they are driving, so that's good.

How much more is on the way? Let's bring in CNN meteorologist Jennifer Gray, who battled rough weather of her own this week.

JENNIFER GRAY, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Atlanta got it, too, but it's warming up in the south. The Midwest is what we're seeing, the cold temperatures, the snow. It's not letting up. We had snow in Michigan. More is expected as we go through the next couple of days, as well.

Chicago, you are having your third snowiest winter on record, and so more is to come. Winter storm warning in effect for you, winter weather advisory in the surrounding areas. You can see that rain-snow line. We have some pretty heavy showers pushing through places like Indianapolis, and that is a cold, cold rain. Otherwise, though, snow through Chicago, you just saw from those pictures. It will be coming to an end as we get into the late afternoon, around 3:00 to 4:00. But it could be dumping anywhere from four to six, maybe isolated amounts of eight inches of snow, four to six inches in Detroit.

<10:20:00>

Also around the Great Lakes we could see anywhere from two to four inches, some areas up to five.

So temperatures are going to be chilly, 30 degrees in Chicago for today, dropping down to 20 tomorrow afternoon, and then even colder on Monday at 18, your high temperature. Very different story for us in the southeast -- high temperatures in the 60s, even 70s across the southeast by tomorrow afternoon.

BLACKWELL: 70s.

PAUL: Nice!

BLACKWELL: Break out the flip-flops.

GRAY: New Orleans is the place to be.

BLACKWELL: New Orleans. Well, not here. All right, Jennifer Gray, thank you.

So Amanda Knox, she was once convicted but then acquitted.

PAUL: And now that she's free in the U.S., she does not plan to go back to an Italian prison even after a second guilty verdict.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PAUL: This week an Italian court convicted Amanda Knox a second time for the 2007 murder of British student Meredith Kercher.

BLACKWELL: But Knox says she will never go back to Italy. CNN's Elise Labott has more on what could be an epic expedition battle for Knox. Elise?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Christi, Victor, this time Amanda Knox is fighting her conviction at home instead of from an Italian prison cell. And she says she's determined to remain here in the U.S.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

Once again, a convicted killer under Italian law for the murder of her roommate in Italy Meredith Kercher. Amanda Knox was distraught yet defined Friday when she spoke with ABC News.

KNOX: I will never go willingly back to the place where I -- I'm going to fight this until the very end.

LABOTT: After four years in an Italian prison Knox was freed in 2011 when an appellate court threw out her conviction and that of her former boyfriend Rafael Sollecito.

<10:25:00>

But the Supreme Court demanded a new trial where Knox was found guilty and sentenced to more than 28 years in prison.

KNOX: This really has hit me like a train. I did not expect this to happen. I really expected so much better from the Italian justice system. They found me innocent before. How can they say that it's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt?

LABOTT: Knox vowed to appeal the verdict before the Supreme Court. But if she loses she could face extradition back to Italy. The state department wasn't ready to go there.

MARIE HARF, DEPUTY STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESWOMAN: The case is still, my understanding, still working its way through the Italian legal system, so we don't want to get ahead of that process.

LABOTT: Under the U.S. I Italian extradition treaty, an offense must be against both countries. Knox could claim double jeopardy, having already been acquitted, and she's already hinting at irregularities by Italian prosecutors, making a case against extradition.

KNOX: I really hope that people try to understand that like when you have overzealous prosecutors and when you have a biased investigation and coercive interrogations like these things happen. And I'm not crazy. BRUCE ZAGARIS, EXTRADITION LAW EXPERT: And she could also argue that she's already spent a lot of time in detention in Italy and that justice would not be served by extraditing her. So, and then ultimately, the secretary of state is going to have to, you know, make a decision.

LABOTT: Extradition law expert Bruce Hagar says the U.S. could simply ignore the extradition request, but that it would be highly unusual in the case with a close ally like Italy.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

Now, the U.S. risks damages its relationship with Italy if it refuses to extradite Amanda Knox. Italians point to a number of high profile cases in which U.S. suspects were convicted of wrongdoing but got off, including 22 CIA agents who were convicted in absentia for the rendition of an Egyptian cleric. They have not served any time.

PAUL: CNN's Elise Labott there, thank you, Elise.

BLACKWELL: Still to come, the power of pot on your vote. Could medical marijuana measures bring out the democratic vote in droves at the expense of Republicans? We're going to find out next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

<10:30:40>

PAUL: Doesn't Saturday feel good even if you're stuck inside because of the weather? Still hopefully have a day off. I'm Christi Paul.

BLACKWELL: Sometimes that's a great place to be, inside. I'm Victor Blackwell. Here are five stories we are watching this morning.

PAUL: Number one, a former New Jersey official is making new claims against Governor Chris Christie, all part, of course, of the scandal over lane closures at the George Washington bridgeB David Wildstein's attorney said in a letter that, quote, "Evidence exists to contradict Christie's claim that he didn't know about the closures until after they happened." No evidence has tied Christie to ordering the lane closures, which a lot of people suspect was political retaliation.

BLACKWELL: Number two, the FBI says the white powder found at several hotels near the site of the Super Bowl is harmless, but authorities are running tests to learn more about it. The powder was also found at the Manhattan office of former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani along with a strange letter that included the line, "you're being my best friend." Good news here is no injuries have been reported.

PAUL: Number three, police right now are hunting for the person who dumped garbage bags full of human body parts along roads of rural Michigan. Police say they're investigating a report, too, of a woman seen dumping the bag out of a light colored SUV. Investigators think the victim is a white male and an autopsy was scheduled for yesterday.

BLACKWELL: Four officials at Utah elementary school are apologizing after dozens of students had their lunches taken away and tossed into the trash. The school says the students didn't have enough money in their accounts for a full lunch, so they were given fruit and milk instead. Now, the cafeteria manager and her supervisor have been put on paid leave.

PAUL: Number five, do you remember these guys, the ex-Boy Scout leaders? This is this viral video, they're seen laughing and pushing over an ancient boulder in Utah? Well, now they're facing felony criminal charges of criminal mischief. CNN could not reach either man for comment, but if convicted, each of them could face five years in prison and thousands of dollars in fines.

BLACKWELL: President Obama is talking about pot and politics in an exclusive interview with CNN's Jake Tapper. The president referred to marijuana use as a public health issue, not as a crime. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Marijuana for casual users, individual users, is subject to abuse just like alcohol is and should be treated as a public health problem and challenged.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLACKWELL: The state of Florida is also jumping into the fray over pot. The State Supreme Court this week narrowly approved the ballot initiative that would allow pot for medical purposes. So in November Floridians will vote to determine if it will be legal for medicinal use.

Now support for marijuana initiatives the traditionally, you know, the province of Democrats, so could this latest referendum put Republicans at risk? Let's talk about it. Joining me to discuss, two CNN political commentators Ben Ferguson on the right, Hilary Rosen on the left. Thank you both for joining us.

HILARY ROSEN, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Hi, Victor.

BEN FERGUSON, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Good morning.

BLACKWELL: Hilary, I want to start with you. We remember from 2000 when Karl Rove pushed to have traditional marriage put on the ballot in states across the country brought out Republicans who then voted for George W. Bush. Could this be the equivalent for Florida and Democrats, this medical marijuana ballot initiative?

ROSEN: You know, it's interesting. This -- marijuana initiatives don't really cut down traditional lines. The key voting bloc that it attracts, obviously, are younger voters. And so in states where they have ballot measures that need to go hand in hand with younger voters, like, for instance, in Oregon where there will be a marriage ballot and also a marijuana initiative, you know, maybe that helps both cases to bring out younger voters.

When it comes to medical marijuana though, there's a presumption that might target older voters, but there just isn't enough analysis of that.

The other issue is there are a lot of conservatives and libertarians who actually are for legalizing marijuana and at least decriminalizing it. So I think we have yet to see sort of the bigger politics here. What we do know is that every time these initiatives go to the voters and virtually every state, they win.

BLACKWELL: You know, Hilary brings up a good point, Ben.

<10:35:00>

We had on state representative, Matt Gates, this morning who said if Republicans are serious about being a small government party and they want to stay out of people's personal business they have to mean it. And two things they brought up, one, was marriage equality, which was a surprise, but the other one was medicinal marijuana, which he favors. Is this the new face of the Republican Party, or should it be?

FERGUSON: No, and it shouldn't be either. I think he's totally ill- advised on those ideas. I think, look, Democrats are really smart on this issue. They know that they are a little bit in trouble in this midterm election. They need to energize their base. Legalizing marijuana is very popular with Democratic voters, and that's why they're going to use this to their advantage. I think it's a really smart political move.

I don't know long term if you want to be the party that's saying let's get high. And if you have to use getting high to get young voters out to come vote for you I think you have a bigger problem maybe with your platform.

But as of now, for them to do this, I think it's a great decision for Democrats because it is going to bring out younger voters and a lot of young voters are in favor of legalizing pot. I don't think it's going to, per se, maybe hurt Republicans, and Republicans that want to sell out on the issue I think are dumb to do that. But overall, smart move by Democrats to want to get weed legalized and use those weed smokers to vote for them.

BLACKWELL: Let me ask you this. You say it's a smart move for Democrats. I'm reading the latest poll from Quinnipiac, November, 2013, where it says here that 70 percent of Republicans support using medical marijuana if a doctor prescribes it. There's no group below 70 percent.

ROSEN: Governor of Louisiana just came out this week and said so.

FERGUSON: I think there's a difference -- I think there's a huge difference between medical marijuana. I personally am in favor of medical marijuana. And I think a lot of people understand the ideas behind the medical science of it and why we should have a new look at it. I don't think it's evil to advocate for medical marijuana that's responsible.

Now, having a card that you can just go out there and get high like they had the abuse in California, that's something I'm not in favor of. But overall, I think medical marijuana is fine. But legalizing it like Colorado and Seattle is, again, not something that Republicans are going to be in favor of overwhelmingly or even close to 50 percent. I think for Democratic voters a lot of them like to smoke weed and they want it on the ballot.

ROSEN: You know, I think that people are actually struggling with this issue. Look, I'm a mom of teenagers. I have my doubts about the value of -- to society of legalizing pot. I'm just not so sure I'm there.

But the truth is that this has become a kind of generational issue. And I think what's going to happen when you get to the polls is you're going to see exactly what Victor just said, which is that there is a cross section of Republicans and Democrats, that this is an issue that cuts more around age than it does around party.

BLACKWELL: Yes. And this poll is the Quinnipiac, just in Florida of blacks, whites, men, women, Hispanic, age, income, there is no group below 70 percent in support of medical marijuana. So 70 percent are above for every demographic group that it was polled, 82 percent overall. Ben Ferguson, Hillary Rosen, thank you for joining us.

ROSEN: OK.

FERGUSON: Thanks for having us.

BLACKWELL: Of course, you can see more of the exclusive Jake Tapper interview with President Obama tomorrow on State of the Union with Candy Crowley, 9:00 eastern.

PAUL: California's taking drastic measures now in the severe drought that they're experiencing. What they're doing to curb the water shortage and what's at stake for the rest of us. All across the country we could be affected by this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

<10:41:50>

PAUL: I know so many of you have been, you know, shoveling mountains of snow and driving on ice. But, boy, the poor folks in California are dealing with the severe drought.

BLACKWELL: The golden state produces nearly half of all the fruits and nuts and vegetables for the country. So officials are now taking steps to prevent the reservoirs from going dry. David Bienick of CNN affiliate KCRA has the details.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID BIENICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT, KCRA: With the week's storm having barely made a dent in California's water shortage, state officials say the drought has taken on new urgency.

MARK COWIN, DIRECTOR, CALIFORNIA WINTER RESOURCES DEPARTMENT: This is not a coming crisis, this is not an evolving crisis, this is a current crisis.

BIENICK: The state's top water official said he is putting aside environmental rules scheduled to kick in. Those rules normally require more water to start flowing through the delta this time of year to preserve the delicate balance between where the delta is salty and fresh. The state says it instead will be keep that water we behind upstream dams in case the drought lingers and gets worse.

COWIN: Failing to take this action could result in our reservoir's running out of water later in the year.

BIENICK: The state which operates Orville Reservoir will also be telling farmers and water agencies, mainly in the South Central Valley, not to count on getting any Orville water this year. And state officials say they will soon order 5,800 farms and businesses to stop all pumping out of rivers and streams.

FELICIA MARKUS, CALIFORNIA WATER BOARD CHAIR: This decision, if it holds, and even at the moment, will cause a lot of concern and consternation. There are people who are hoping we would cross our fingers and wait a little bit longer. That's the judgment call.

BIENICK: The state will also open the gates in Walnut Grove that channel freshwater from the Sacramento River directly into the delta, even though doing so at this time of year may cause baby salmon heading for the ocean to become lost and die. Environmentalists said such losses would hurt the salmon population but probably not wipe it out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What the state water management is doing the reacting to a severe crisis, and unprecedented situation, really. So I can't blame them for doing what they're doing.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLACKWELL: KCRA David Bienick for us there reporting.

PAUL: So we are melting out here in the south, but we have not for dot gotten those of you who in the middle of winter have now, I think there are three states under winter storm warnings, all of you in the Midwest.

BLACKWELL: Chicago, let's look at Chicago, already snowing there. And not just a little bit of snow, quite a bit of snow. Bone cold, 30 degrees. So is the snow heading your way to where you live? Let's bring in CNN meteorologist Jennifer Gray.

GRAY: Chicago is on the back end of it right now so it is starting to wrap up for you. But more could be on the way. You see a little bit of snow back here to the southwest. So that could clip you as well as you go through the afternoon. But you are going to get a little bit of a break here in the next couple of minutes. It is pushing into portions of Michigan, Detroit, it has been snowing for you for quite a bit. That's going to continue as we go through the afternoon.

Should be clearing out, though, later today, could see four to six inches of snow, even isolated amounts up to eight.

<10:45:00>

And then as we time-lapse this you can see by this afternoon, snow wrapping up around Chicago, Detroit getting it into the late evening hours. The northeast though stays dry. New York City, Philly, D.C., all of you. You don't get it. You are going to stay completely dry, and that's good for those of you attending the Super Bowl. Chicago's forecast, though, for today, 30 degrees down to zero tonight, guys. So it is going to stay cold in Chicago the next couple of days.

BLACKWELL: Yes, but they're made for it. They're used to it.

PAUL: They're strong. They can handle it.

BLACKWELL: Jennifer Gray, thank you.

GRAY: All right.

PAUL: So comedian Jay Leno is getting ready to sign off after 22 years and thousands of monologues. He's going to say goodnight for the final time next Thursday.

BLACKWELL: Up next, we'll talk with a man who helped shaped Leno's voice and legacy, the former head writer of the "Tonight Show." Stay with us.

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(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAY LENO, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW": Well, Sunday of course a big day for the state of New Jersey, not only hosting the Super Bowl, it's also Groundhog Day. Did you know that? Groundhog Day is different in New Jersey. In New Jersey if Chris Christie sees his shadow, six more weeks of bad traffic. That's what it is, six more weeks of bad traffic.

(LAUGHTER)

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BLACKWELL: Oh, Jay.

PAUL: He's always so clever though. And I can't believe it's almost the end of an era.

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BLACKWELL: We're going to miss Jay.

PAUL: Not for him but for late night in general. So 22 years.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's the "Tonight Show" with Jay Leno. (END VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL: And more than 4,000 episodes people, funny man Jay Leno saying good-bye to the the "Tonight Show" next Thursday.

BLACKWELL: And taking his place, comedian Jimmy Fallon, a move by NBC to try to attract a younger audience.

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LENO: We've all fought, kicked, and scratched to get this network up to fifth place.

(LAUGHTER)

LENO: Now we have to keep it there. Jimmy, don't let it slip into sixth. We're counting on you, we're counting on you.

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PAUL: All righty. For fans who stayed up late over the years just to hear Leno's jokes, I mean, his signoff is going to be a sad one.

BLACKWELL: Yes. Joe Madero is the former head writer for "Tonight Show." He joins us live from Los Angeles. At this hour I thank you for getting up on the west coast.

PAUL: Amen.

BLACKWELL: So head writer sounds like a dream job. Tell us, how did you get it?

JOE MEDEIROS, FORMER HEAD WRITER, "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO": It's kind of a convoluted story. It is a dream job. I always watched the "Dick Van Dyke" show and saw Rob Petri as the writer of the "Alan Green Show," and I fantasized about that. I was in Philadelphia and working in advertising. But I always wanted to write jokes and be a comedy writer. I actually believe it or not took a correspondence course in joke writing. And for a number of years I wrote for a number of comics.

And then I heard that Jay was buying jokes for a stand-up act and he came to Philadelphia. And my wife -- I typed up a bunch of jokes and my wife drove it out to the box office and left it for him. And after his appearance in Philadelphia, 12:30 at night my phone rings and all of a sudden if the phone rings at 12:30 in the morning you're going, who is in the hospital, who is dead by the side of the road? It was Jay. So he -- he liked my stuff and he hired me.

BLACKWELL: Wow.

PAUL: Wow.

MEDEIROS: That was one of the pictures there.

BLACKWELL: So, you know, NBC is making this switch, taking Jay off, putting Jimmy Fallon on. This has been tried for. Conan O'Brien, to bring up his name.

MEDEIROS: Talking about Groundhog's Day in that one joke.

(LAUGHTER)

PAUL: Exactly.

BLACKWELL: What's the chance -- first, what do you think about the choice? But what's the chance that numbers slip and then they call Jay back after his 64th birthday to come back?

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MEDEIROS: I mean, anything is possible in television. I mean, that's what I learned in my 22 years of working with Jay. You go up, you go down. But the thing is, and Jay's, you know, this kind of guy, you just go in there and you keep swinging. You know, he can take a punch. You know, he's gotten knocked down at times but, you know, he's gotten back up.

But as far as the change, you know, it's kind of what television is. Nothing lasts forever. You know, the fact that I had, you know, a single job in show business for 22 years, I mean, I started with Jay when he was guest hosting up through 2010 when I left and retired. To me, you know, that's amazing. And Jay's had a great run. And, you know, but it's -- he will be the one to tell you. It's show biz, things change.

PAUL: Let me ask you. I have to ask you. Do you think his arch nemesis, Letterman, what is he going to do? What is he going to say?

MEDEIROS: I have never met Dave. I have no idea. I know we fought against him many years and we very happily won the ratings battle. You know, I mean, who knows what Dave's going to say. But, you know, these hosts, they know each other, and I'm sure they --

PAUL: Are they friendly?

MEDEIROS: You know, I don't know. I know that they had been in the past. Jay was on Dave's show a lot of times. But you know, when you're in head-to-head competition there's always that kind of rivalry.

PAUL: All righty. Joe Medeiros, we so appreciate you getting up early and sharing your memories with us. Thank you very much.

MEDEIROS: No problem. Now I can go back to sleep.

PAUL: Yes, you can. And congratulations on being part of, I mean, that's historical.

BLACKWELL: Yes, 22 years, television history there.

MEDEIROS: You know, I thank Jay every day.

BLACKWELL: We thank you. Thank you, Joe. Still to come in the CNN Newsroom, the wild sights and sounds of the Super Bowl and all the events that are happening next door in New York City.

PAUL: We're headed live to Super Bowl Boulevard.

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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Wow! Wow! Nice! Look at her.

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BLACKWELL: So that's Ashleigh Arno, a cheerleader at William Kerry University. Watch it again. This is in Mississippi. She has this ability to hit these front flipping half court shots. This is not the first time she's done this. Last year video of a similar shot went viral.

PAUL: You go, girl. That's awesome!

BLACKWELL: Wow!

PAUL: I wonder if anybody, well, they're talking football, not basketball down at Super Bowl Boulevard, but I wonder if there's any good tricks like that down there.

BLACKWELL: I'm sure there's something going on there.

PAUL: We can ask one Mr. Don Lemon.

BLACKWELL: Don, what's going head ahead of the game there on Super Bowl Boulevard?

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: I can so do that.

PAUL: Yes, OK, let's see it, buddy. Let's go ahead.

LEMON: I can do that with a big giant -- not with a basketball. That was amazing. How are you doing this morning?

BLACKWELL: Doing well.

PAUL: How about you? How cold is it?

LEMON: It's chilly. It's warmer today than it's been for the past couple of days. The crowds are starting to pick up. I was a little bit worried here as a New Yorker. It just looked like the normal New York crowd. But the last couple of days the crowds have been picking up. This morning there's already been a concert. People are out with their jerseys on.

I'm holding this football because I ran into really two champions, two legends. One of them was Roger Staubach. He got out here and actually showed me how to throw the ball. I think we actually have some video of it. He taught me how, Victor and Christi, to do the perfect spiral. He said you have to spin it inside instead of outside, instead of outside like most people try it. So we'd just be throwing out here, and he said, I'm an OK thrower, but he said I'm a really great catcher. He says I have really great hands.

And then let's go to Steve Rutherford. Steve Rutherford is a punter for the New York Giants, showed me how to punt as well. When I said I could do that with a football with a much bigger opening, that's me doing it, and you'll get to see me do it. I actually did it barefoot. So you'll get to see that.

PAUL: Barefooted?

LEMON: Barefooted, yes.

And then Joe Montana came the other day as well, and I spoke to him, and he gave me some lessons as well. It's really amazing to be out here. It's called Super Bowl Boulevard. As you guys have said, we're going to be out here all evening. I'll be broadcasting my show from here live later on today.

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