Return to Transcripts main page


New York and New Jersey Prepare for Super Bowl; Governor Christie Facing New Charges in Bridge Closing Scandal; Former Boy Scouts Charged for Knocking Over Ancient Rock Formation; Stock Market Dips in January; Russia Prepares for Winter Olympics in Sochi; Iran Turns Former American Embassy into Museum

Aired February 1, 2014 - 14:30   ET


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello everyone. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. Here are the top stories we're following in the CNN Newsroom.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is facing new allegations involving the political scandal that has rocked his administration. A former Port Authority official claims he has evidence that shows Christie had knowledge of the lane closures at the George Washington Bridge while it was happening back in September. David Wildstein oversaw the lane closures and resigned after allegations surfaced that he and a Christie aide ordered them closed as political payback against the mayor of Ft. Lee, New Jersey.

Wildstein's lawyer makes the new accusations against Christie in a letter to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Governor Christie's office released a statement last night, saying in part, quote, "Mr. Wildstein's lawyers confirmed what the governor has said all along. He had absolutely no prior knowledge of the lane closures before they happened," end quote. Here's what Governor Christie said at that marathon news conference back in December.


GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE, (R) NEW JERSEY: Never. No. It wasn't. And, in fact, one of the things I thought was interesting, when you listen to Mr. Foye's testimony earlier this week, he said he didn't know about it until Friday. Now, he's the executive director of the Port Authority, and no one brought it -- if the traffic was so awful, no one brought it to his attention until the fifth day in. So if it didn't get to the executive director of the Port Authority, you can be guaranteed it didn't get to me.

A, factually, it did not get to me, and the first I ever heard about the issue was when it was reported in the press, which I think was in the aftermath of the leaking of Mr. Foye's e-mail. I think that was the first I heard of it. But it was certainly well after the whole thing was over, before I heard about it.


WHITFIELD: An editorial in the "Newark Star Ledger" is weighing in on the new allegations, saying, quote, "If this charge proves true, then the governor must resign or be impeached, because that would leave him so drained of credibility that he could not possibly govern effectively. He would owe it to the people of New Jersey to stop the bleeding and quit. And if he should refuse, then the legislature should open impeachment hearings," end quote.

All right, we'll keep a close watch on that story as new developments may arise.

All right, now to that deadly volcano eruption in Indonesia. We want to warn you some of the images in this next video might be difficult to watch. This volcano erupted this morning in north Sumatra, killing at least 14 people. A spokesman says the victims were hit by hot ash clouds. They were all found in a village close to the volcano's crater. This volcano has erupted hundreds of times in the past. In January it forced 22,000 people to clear the area.

Back in this country, in Florida police say evidence in more than 2,000 drug cases across the state may have been tampered with. The investigation centers around a chemist who worked in a police crime lab.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So far we've identified several dozen evidence submissions where prescription drugs were substituted with over-the- counter medications. As you know, this has the potential of impacting hundreds of drug cases across our state. (END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: The chemist has been suspended from his job. The investigation covers cases in 35 of Florida's 67 counties.

All right, now to those ex Boy Scout leaders who face serious jail time for pushing over an ancient rock in Utah's Goblin Valley State Park.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wiggle it, just a little bit.



WHITFIELD: Well it was funny then, at least to them. But now they are facing felony charges. Our Nick Valencia has more.


NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The so-called "Goblin topplers" have been charged with third-degree felonies, charges stemming from an October, 2013, incident that was posted online that shows the two men toppling over a more than 2 million-year-old rock formation. Each man has come to his own defense, saying that they were doing for safety reasons and they simply didn't want any passerby to be injured by the precariously positioned rocks. Both men lost their positions as scout leaders within the Boy Scouts because of the alleged incident. If they are convicted each faces five years in jail and a $5,000 fine.


Nick Valencia, CNN, Atlanta.


WHITFIELD: In 24 hour, tens of thousands of people will be flocking to MetLife Stadium in New Jersey. It's almost Super Bowl time. And while fans get excited, security officials are focused on one thing -- safety. They're making sure all the bases are covered. Alexandra Field takes a look how they're managing security from the skies.


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.

Alexandra Field, CNN, New York.


WHITFIELD: And this programming note. Join CNN's Rachel Nichols and NFL stars at the center of the action. Super Bowl Boulevard is the place where it's happening. It all starts today at 4:00 eastern time, 1:00 Pacific right here on CNN. California's historic drought is getting even worse. Officials announced Friday that the state water project will halt deliveries for the rest of 2014. That means 25 million residents and 750 acres of farmland will now have to rely more on reservoirs and other resources. Many reservoirs are far below normal levels, and some areas could run dry within months.

We are less than week away from the opening of the winter Olympic Games. So what happens if there's no snow on the ground? Meet the man who's got it covered, next.



WHITFIELD: We've been talking a lot about the winter games in Sochi. But one thing we've taken for granted, that the weather would cooperate. Right now it's just 41 degrees in Sochi, Russia, and it's supposed to be in the 40s tomorrow as well. So what happens if it's just too warm? Ivan Watson says, don't worry. One man is guaranteeing snow no matter what the temperature.


IVAN WATSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We're just over a week away from the opening of the winter Olympics, and we're up here at the ski jump venue where workers are putting final touches on the entire operation here. But take a look. There's not that much snow on the slopes. In fact, it's been raining lately, and the frost line is above the altitude of the ski jump itself.

So we've come to speak with a snow specialist from Finland, Mikko Martikainen, who is consulting with the Russian winter Olympics. What are you going to do if it's still this warm when the Olympics begin?

MIKKO MARTIKAINEN, SNOW CONSULTANT: Yes. So first of all, don't worry about the snow. Snow will be guaranteed.

WATSON: Guaranteed?



MARTIKAINEN: Because the concept is based on three steps. First of all, backbone, ordering snowmaking system.

WATSON: Snow machines?

MARTIKAINEN: Snow machines, below zero temperatures we will start them. Next night, again. And then as of first backup, we have snow storages on the mountain. We transport snow.

WATSON: And this is snow from last winter?

MARTIKAINEN: Yes. WATSON: That you've been storing in case the weather is warm?

MARTIKAINEN: Yes. And then third we have an above zero snowmaking system also over there. So you can make snow. Even now it's working up to close 20.

WATSON: So you can guarantee snow even if it's bathing suit weather here?

MARTIKAINEN: Definitely.

WATSON: And there's some good news in the future from Mother Nature, right?

MARTIKAINEN: Yes. So it starts to cool down now, after the rain, and on Saturday, it start cool very fast. So in nighttime here, minus three, minus five, it is for us good snowmaking, and daytime, clear skies. Perfect.

WATSON: So there you go. We get a guarantee of snow from the Sochi Olympics official snow whisperer, if you have it that way.

And also, we can sense now the excitement building. The athletes are starting to arrive. The security measures certainly are getting more tight. And a little bit over a week from now, we can anticipate that this place will be thronged with enthusiastic crowds and quite a bit of Olympic spirit.

Ivan Watson, CNN, in the Caucasus mountains above Sochi in Russia.


WHITFIELD: OK, snow guaranteed, but security, it's still an issue for athletes and those going to Sochi. Our Jake Tapper talked to President Obama about the games and what he would tell people who are thinking about going.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: A lot of members of Congress, and not just like the fringe ones, the ones who actually are serious lawmakers, have said to CNN that they would not let their family members go to Sochi, that they are not confident that it will be safe. You see all the intelligence. I know you're not going. I know Michelle and Sasha and Malia are not going. But if close friends of yours or if close friends of the girls said, hey, we're thinking about going, what would you tell them?

BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'd tell them that I believe that Sochi is safe, and that there are always some risks in these large international gatherings. I'm always going to feel even better if it's inside the United States, because then we have full control over what happens. But the Russian authorities understand the stakes here. They understand that there are potential threats that are out there.


And we are coordinating with them. We've looked at their plans. I think we have a good sense of the security that they're putting in place to protect not only the athletes themselves but also visitors there. So what I would say is that if you want to go to the Olympics, you should go to the Olympics. And we're not discouraging in any way Americans from participating in what is just always an amazing, wonderful event.


WHITFIELD: The USA Department did issue a warning to those traveling to Sochi to be alert and aware of the dangers, but they stopped short of advising people not to go entirely.

The Dow just racked up its worst January since 2009. In a minute we'll get some advice on how to protect your investments.


WHITFIELD: Oh, just a little friendly advice. You may not want to check your retirement account today. The Dow had its worst January in five years, and that was right after the financial collapse. The Dow dropped another 150 points yesterday, ouch, and nearly 1,000 points in January altogether. So we're going to bring out the crystal ball now with our financial expert Wes Moss, a certified financial planner. Good to see you.


WHITFIELD: So many have said there was going to be a correction. Is this it?

MOSS: We are in the midst of one right now. So the Dow Jones now is down about 5.5 percent. The S&P 500, which is really the measure that we should be looking at, is only down about 3.5.


So as scary as this has been, it's really not that bad, at least just yet.

WHITFIELD: So there's room for it to dip even further you're saying?

MOSS: There's lots of room. At this point, there's lots of room.

WHITFIELD: So how do we look at this and perhaps detect we might be on the verge of a climb before we take another dip or the other way around?

MOSS: I think part of why you hear a lot of Wall Street expecting a correction, one, we had a great year last year, 30-plus percent on the S&P 500. That's rare.

WHITFIELD: People were so happy. They felt like there was a giant rebound, a recovery of their losses. MOSS: And there has been. Markets are up almost 150 percent since the very bottom way back in March of 2009. What happens is investors can get lulled to sleep a little bit. We've had great years back-to- back-to-back. But we typically have corrections of five percent at least every ten weeks. We went 30 weeks without one. We have 10 percent corrections every 32 weeks. We are two-and-a-half years since that. So we've got -- we really have had a nice run in the market without a huge amount of bumps, and to have one today where we're down five percent over the next week or two, maybe 10 percent, wouldn't be out of the question.

WHITFIELD: So what do you best advise now? After hearing this segment, I'm sure people will look and say, I've got to check and see where I am? How do they change investments? Do you want to make a move at this point, shifting priorities, or just wait?

MOSS: Investors tend to get very, very nervous, because markets take a long steady climb typically, then they drop quickly. So as soon as it drops quickly, you get nervous.

What investors need to do right now, if you're under the age of 60, let's say, you want to have these drops, because you're still saving. In your 30s, 40s, 50s, you're still putting money into 401(k) typically every couple of weeks for most investors. We want markets to pull back. So it's not a time to panic. It's time to really almost accelerate. Every time there's a drop it's good news for investors that aren't yet retired.

WHITFIELD: If you're over 60, then?

MOSS: Over 60 you really need to have a balance to begin with. So most investors who are in retirement, 60-plus, are not going to be completely exposed to the stock market anyway.

WHITFIELD: All right, Wes Moss, should we be optimistic? Sounds like you are?

MOSS: I'm very optimistic. The economy recovered. Not come back to where we were before the great recession, but the economy is in good shape, it's getting better, and we'll going to continue to see that with economic news throughout this year.

WHITFIELD: We like that optimism. Thank you so much.

MOSS: Good to be here.

WHITFIELD: And happy Super Bowl weekend. Have fun tomorrow.

MOSS: You as well.

WHITFIELD: Thank you.

Next, let's step back in time, 35 years. A look inside the U.S. embassy of Iran where our hostages were held. What is Iran doing with that building right now?






WHITFIELD: Oh, my. Gunfire erupts on the streets of Bangkok today amidst protests ahead of Thailand's Sunday elections. A hospital says at least 60 people were wounded when gunman opened fire on police and pro-government demonstrators for about a half hour. Witnesses say at least eight shooters emerged from the ranks of anti-government protests trying to stop the elections.

On to Iran now. The former U.S. embassy where Americans were taken hostage decades ago is being used in what some believe to be an outrageous way. CNN's Jim Sciutto got an exclusive look inside.


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: For years this is as close as reporters could come to the former U.S. embassy in Tehran. But now, a rare glimpse inside.

Was this where the marine guards were?

For 444 days this was a prison for some 50 American hostages in the 1979 takeover dramatized in the Oscar winning film "Argo." They took us to what was the secure part of the embassy.

Is it the same combination that it was? "It's the same," he said.

Now it's an anti-U.S. propaganda museum run by the Iranian government. While many in this country have grown disillusioned with the Islamic revolution, here the anger against America still survives.

Do you still believe it was justified to hold the Americans as hostages? "Yes," he said, "definitely."

Every room and every piece of equipment is an exhibit.

This is walk back in time.

A sound-proof meeting room complete with dusty mannequins, an encrypted telex machine marked to the NSA, and the shredder staff used to destroy secret documents as students took over, a panicked moment captured in "Argo."


SCIUTTO: This is where the embassy, including the CIA, would do its most sensitive communications. There's a pressure sensor here. And all the ways they would communicate back home, there's a teletype machine, an ancient fax machine. This looks like coding equipment, all of it now the prized possessions of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. Equally prized is more modern propaganda. A tacky mural tells a familiar Middle Eastern conspiracy theory, claiming the U.S. was actually behind 9/11.

Why would we do that to our own people? "You wanted to make their people believe they are in danger," he said, "so they could attack other countries."

What has yet to penetrate these walls is any optimism about the new diplomacy between Iran and the U.S.

Could you ever imagine American diplomats returning to the embassy and opening the embassy again? "You cannot trust America," he said. "America is the great Satan."

Jim Sciutto, CNN, Tehran.


WHITFIELD: The United States also has custody of the former Iranian embassy in Washington. This is it. It's closed and locked and has been locked up since diplomatic relations ended between the two countries.

All right, hello again, everyone. It's the 3:00 eastern hour. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. Here are the top stories that we're following.

Security sweeps, check points, and Blackhawk helicopters in the sky, all part of a huge operation to protect Super Bowl 2014. The unprecedented effort, straight ahead.

The New Jersey bridge scandal widens with Governor Chris Christie now facing allegations from a former ally. The new accusations and the governor's response.

Plus, the TSA is now weighing in on explosive revelations from a former agent about what really happens to passengers at security checkpoints. That story this hour.