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South Braces for Another Winter Blast; Debt Limit Deal?; Bridgegate Investigation Widens; Deadly Brain Disease Scare; Shirley Temple Has Died; Interview with Alberto Gonzalez

Aired February 11, 2014 - 07:00   ET

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


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Also breaking overnight, U.S. embassy officials in Afghanistan confirming that two civilian contractors killed in a suicide bombing Monday were both Americans. The attack targeted a NATO-led military convoy in eastern Kabul. Six other people were injured in the attack. Officials say now an Islamic militant group has claimed responsibility.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: The breaking story. The -- FBI along with Italian Police carrying out a major anti-mafia blitz in New York and several cities in Italy. The operation is nicknamed "New Bridge" and it is targeting dozens of people for international drug trafficking and organized crime. So far raids and arrests have been made in the Italian region of Calabria and in Naples.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking overnight, Iran says it tested two new missiles and those tests were successful. The U.S. says Iran's missile program is a danger to the region and is being monitored. Today is the 35th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution.

BOLDUAN: North and South Korea are planning high-level meetings tomorrow in advance of reunions of families separated in the Korean War 60 years ago. There's no agenda set for the talks. But a top priority is ensuring a smooth operation for the reunions of about 100 people from each country later this month. This will be the first meetings of divided families since 2010.

PEREIRA: Right now there's said to be a fierce debate within the Obama administration over whether to target a U.S. citizen in a military drone strike overseas. The American is member -- a member of al Qaeda and is suspected of plotting attacks against the U.S. Sources telling CNN military commanders and national security officials are involved in the talks, but ultimately the president would have to sign off on any operation.

Back in 2011 the Obama White House ordered the strike against an American citizen killing Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen.

CUOMO: But drones are not the only weapon against terrorism. New this morning, a first look at a dramatic army raid that captured an alleged al Qaeda terrorist Abu Anas al-Libi, snatched outside his home in Tripoli last year. The surveillance video shows Special Forces wasting no time. The capture taking under 30 seconds.

Al-Libi is being held on conspiracy charges, suspected of plotting two attacks on U.S. embassies. The footage first obtained here by "The Washington Post."

BOLDUAN: The south bracing for another winter blast. Just two weeks after a storm crippled the city of Atlanta, the snow and ice could be even worse this time around. Across the Deep South, preemptive measures are being taken with states of emergency in effect in Georgia, Mississippi, and Alabama.

We have the storm coverage, of course, as only CNN can. Let's start with Nick Valencia on the ground in Atlanta for us this morning.

Good morning, Nick.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Kate. We did have a storm that moved through here last night. And it did cause some problems to be expected with a harsh storm. The worse that we saw was in the grocery stores where people flocked to places like Publix here, other supermarkets to make sure that they had enough groceries before the second round of storm hits.

Right now it's raining and officials aren't so concerned about what happened last. It's what's predicted to happen later tonight. More snow coming and what we saw two weeks ago any slight bit of snow or sleet or ice could cause major problems here in the southeast -- Chris.

CUOMO: All right, Nick. There's uncertainty because last time the authorities got it wrong. The meteorologist didn't. They had early warning. This time, more complicated. So let's get to our meteorologist Indra Petersons.

What are we looking at here?

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: You know, the warning is out and the warning is strong. The National Weather Service in Atlanta now categorizing this ice storm to be historical and catastrophic. Why? Amounts over half an inch and possibly significantly over an inch. Some places looking for over an inch of ice and we're not stopping there.

This is not just an ice storm. Eventually it will turn into a snow storm especially as it makes its way up the coastline where D.C. could see its worst snowstorm in five years. You remember February in 2010? This could be worse. Some of the models bringing even 14 inches of snow. The other models over five inches. Either way it's going to beat what they saw just four years ago.

What's going on? Here's the first wave. We're already looking at this morning this guy making its way through throughout the day, exiting overnight. But there is a second system, the second wave, even stronger than the first wave. This guy expected to make its way through starting tomorrow night, into through tomorrow, throughout the day, eventually lining that coastline.

As it does, though, the closer it is to the coastline, we're going to be talking about that threat for heavy snow. So the positioning of this is going to mean either five inches or even 14 inches in through D.C. and then after that heading straight towards the northeast -- Chris and Kate.

PEREIRA: I'll take it here, Indra. Thanks to much.

A newly released government report finds there is no evidence suggesting the cyber attacks against retailers were coordinated to hurt the U.S. economy. The report obtained by the Associated Press does not identify the retailers but it does come after recent attacks on both Target and Neiman Marcus.

CUOMO: New this morning, the Obama administration is giving midsized and larger companies a break, allowing them more time to comply with Obamacare's rules. Midsized companies, those with 50 to 99 full time employees will now have another year, that's until 2016, to provide affordable coverage to their workers. Larger companies are getting a bit of a break, too. They have to provide coverage to 70 percent of full time workers in 2015. That's better than what -- it was before, 95 percent of workers.

BOLDUAN: And breaking over night, Republican leaders are going to push to increase the debt ceiling limit in exchange for undoing cuts to military pensions. That's the latest from our Capitol Hill unit. GOP leaders briefed lawmakers last night in hopes of passing it this week, maybe even -- maybe even Wednesday before leaving for a week- long recess.

But many conservatives, they aren't going for it, saying any spending increases should be off the table.

CNN's Jim Acosta is live at the White House with much more.

Jim, this is a fight that has been long brewing in this new year.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Right.

BOLDUAN: Where do things stand now?

ACOSTA: Well, I can tell you, Kate, that right now the White House is balking at this latest proposal from House Republicans which as you said -- would raise the debt ceiling along with some -- restoring some pension cuts aimed at military veterans.

Pressed on some of these details yesterday White House press secretary Jay Carney said that the White House is, quote, "just not going to pay a ransom in exchange for Congress doing its job." And there is some pressure building on this process. Late last week the Treasury Secretary Jack Lew sent a letter to Congress warning lawmakers that they have to raise the debt ceiling by February 27th or the nation runs the risk of going into default.

But at this point, you know, there is a -- there is the hour glass that is starting to, I guess, loom large over this town because lawmakers are scheduled to leave town tomorrow, as a matter of fact. And so that does really compress the timetable. That means that when lawmakers return at the end of the month, on February 25th, they may only have two days to work out a deal. And at this point House Republicans are saying they don't even have a proposal at this point that could get past the House, although House Democrats are arguing, that if they pass a clean debt ceiling bill, that would have the votes to get out of the house -- Chris.

CUOMO: All right, Jim. Thanks for the reporting this morning.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is getting new pressure in the Bridgegate investigation. Eighteen new subpoenas have been issued. And the longer this drags on, the less love Christie is getting from his own party.

Chief congressional correspondent Dana Bash is in Chicago with the latest -- Dana.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Chris, the main reason Chris Christie is here is to give a public speech. Actually, it's more of a Q&A at the very prestigious Chicago Economic Club. And that is going to be a roomful of a thousand plus pretty influential business people here in Illinois.

But the other reason is, he is going to be raising money and that is really a prime job that he has as chairman of the Republican Governors Association. And coming here, we talked to some people at the RGA who wanted to underscore that he raised $6 million last month alone in January.

Now why are we told that? Because they want to make sure that we see the fact that he still has fundraising prowess despite the scandal that he's involved in. And the other thing that they're trying to clearly beat back are some stories about the fact that the two states that he has visited, since the scandal started, Florida and Texas -- he has not appeared publicly with the governors or the with the gubernatorial candidates.

Now here in Illinois the governor is a Democrat and those running to unseat him haven't finished the primary season yet. So we don't expect any of those candidates to be with him today -- Chris.

CUOMO: All right. So let's strip away the reaction and get to what matters in terms of the investigation. What do we think about these new subpoenas? Is this expanding of the investigation and if in a meaning full way or is this just part of the process. What's the take?

BASH: It appears to be a part of the process because most of the subpoenas are going to aides of the key players who already got the subpoenas. The key players like Bridget Ann Kelly and -- and Bill Stepien, and other people who involved and may have the answer to why this all happened.

So what a source close to the investigation told me last night is that they want to see if these aides and associates have correspondence that they sent on behalf of the key players and so forth. But perhaps the most interesting is the fact that they are trying to get information about who was on a helicopter ride with Chris Christie which he apparently took on 9/11, going to a 9/11 memorial ceremony.

What the source close to the investigation told me is basically they want to see if David Wildstein was on that helicopter ride. He of course is now a notorious character in all of this. He was clearly involved in some way in the lane closures.

Chris Christie's office says that he was not on that helicopter ride. Flatly says not. But, you know, still gives us an indication, Chris, of jut the kind of direction this investigation is going. And clearly, it is just the beginning of this investigation, at least this particular part of it in the state house.

CUOMO: I think you picked the right one to focus on because, you know, the investigative committees they can issue pretty much willy- nilly. They're going to -- they have a lot of latitude but that one goes to whether or not he's on the helicopter. And also this idea of whether or not the governor would be aware of the lane closures by having flown over them, which to me has always seemed a red herring. Whether he knew about him or not.

This is still about fundamentally, whether or not Chris Christie was driving the decision as political punishment to close those lanes. So a little bit of a choice but we'll see where it leads.

Dana Bash, thank you very much for the reporting.

BOLDUAN: Also happening today, voters in San Diego are going to the polls to choose their next mayor. Two city council members are vying to replace that man Bob Filner, who resigned last summer after more than 20 women accused him of sexual harassment. It comes a day after the lawsuit at the center of this scandal was settled out for $250,000.

CUOMO: Florida star and possible 2016 presidential contender may be showing his political wiles with this situation. He's refusing to answer the burning question of have you ever smoked pot. Rubio told Fusion TV that he doesn't answer it publicly because if he says he didn't people wouldn't believe him and if he says he did kids would think it's OK.

Rubio also said he made, quote, "enough dumb decisions as a teen," and didn't need pot or alcohol contributing to more.

I'm not sure what it means, but that was his answer.

BOLDUAN: Also this morning, a startling revelations in air travel. According to the Associated Press, government safety data and news reports dating back to the '90 show pilots have attempted to land at wrong airports more often that you might realize. At least 150 passenger and cargo lights either landed at the wrong airport or the pilot started to land but change course in time.

CUOMO: Daring rescue to show you in Florida after workers doing repairs on a rail bridge were left dangling over a river. Officials say a scaffolding collapsed. The landing partly in the water. At least two of the workers were injured, one seriously after being trapped underneath debris. He was rushed to a local hospital and listed in serious condition.

BOLDUAN: New this morning, a North Carolina hospital says summer call tools may have exposed 18 patients to a rare and deadly brain disease. The surgery took place in Winston-Salem last month. Experts say the disease if incurable and once symptoms arise, turn -- quickly turns fatal.

Senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen is at the CNN center with much more on this.

Elizabeth, this is terrifying.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Kate, it is terrifying. As you said, it's an awful disease. But the chances that it spread because of this patient are really quite small. It's called Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. No one realized the patient had it. Later they realized it, but by that time, they had used the surgical instruments on 18 other people.

Now they sterilized the instruments, but not in the way that you would with sterilize them someone after operating on someone with Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. So these 18 patients have been told to, you know, be on the lookout for the symptoms but we don't think that this is going to say.

Experts say the chances are very small. The reason that they know this is that this has happened before in other hospitals over the years and it doesn't seem that the disease was spread to other patients -- Michaela.

PEREIRA: Wow. What a concern. Thanks for letting us know about that, Elizabeth.

Let's take a look at what is in the papers this morning. First up, in the "Wall Street Journal," the U.S. military now revising plans to withdraw troops from Afghanistan. The new strategy, wait until Afghan President Hamid Karzai leaves the office to seal a security deal and decide on a remaining troop presence. Up until now Karzai has refused to sign the security agreement the two sides negotiated last year.

In the "Washington Post," a new report to be released later today is blaming the White House and the State Department for ignoring heightened threats in Benghazi before the terror attacks that killed four Americans including Ambassador Chris Stevens on September 11th, 2011. The "Washington Post" also reports Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee largely exonerated the U.S. military from responsibility.

And in "The New York Times," the governor's landmark $13 billion settlement with JPMorgan chase is the target of a new lawsuit. JPMorgan was accused of overstating the value of mortgage securities it sold before the financial crisis. A suit by the nonprofit group Better Market claims the Justice Department violated the constitutional separation of powers by striking the deal without a judge's blessing -- Chris. CUOMO: American eyes around the world are on snowboarder Shaun White today because he's going for his third straight gold medal in the men's halfpipe. Losing to another competitor is one thing, but there are growing concerns that the course could mess up the competition and his three-feet end.

It is so warm and so lumpy and sloppy, it may be unsafe. Crews are scrambling to improve the course but there is doubt about whether it will be in great shape by competition time.

Meanwhile, the American women's hockey team, wow, watch out for them, they couldn't be slowed by anything going up against Switzerland. Team USA made the defense look like Swiss cheese on the way to a 9-0 win. The U.S. set an Olympic record with three goals in less than a minute in the first period. The wind assured the Americans a spot in the semifinals where the game looming against Canada, quite a match that would be. The American men kick off play Thursday.

CUOMO: A former Russian Olympic figure skater is apologizing this morning for a racist Twitter post. Irina Rodnina says that a tweet sent from her account featuring President Obama and wife Michelle looking at a banana was posted by hackers. When it appeared five months ago, the skater defended the post calling it, freedom of speech. But Monday she did an about face saying, quote, "I respect the Obama family and apologize for not clearly stating earlier that I don't support the Twitted photo or racism in any way."

BOLDUAN: It seems Sochi is out to get American bobsledder Johnny Quinn, the poor guy. The Olympic hopeful was trapped in an elevator Monday. He tweeted out this photo as proof writing the following, no one is going to believe this. Why? This comes after he got stuck inside a locked bathroom on Saturday and had to break his way through the door to get out because he didn't have any cell phone.

He said he was in there for an hour and no one came to help him. And who knows where he's going to get stuck next. There's still four days into the bobsled competition. That poor guy. He needs to watch out.

CUOMO: At least this time apparently he wasn't alone. Right? Because someone had to take the picture.

BOLDUAN: Right. Some of those are (INAUDIBLE).

CUOMO: Surprised he didn't bash through the door. This guy is so strong.

You want to take a look at the medal count? Here we go. Canada had a gold and a bronze in the women's slopestyle this morning. Raising its lead to nine medals. The U.S. in fourth with six medals after wining Silver in that event. The next medals will be handed out in the next hour. Those will be in men's and women's cross country.

PEREIRA: More now on our -- top story though. Shirley Temple Black, one of the most iconic stars of the 20th century has died at the age of 85. She became famous at the height of the Great Depression. You know her face so well. As a child star in the 1930s, Shirley Temple may have been the most famous person in the world.

Entertainment correspondent Nischelle Turner is joining us from Los Angeles with much more.

Hard to really -- you really can't overstate her impact on films?

NISCHELLE TURNER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's funny because earlier we had Leonard Maltin on and he was talking about the fact that she may have just been the most famous person in the world at one point in that -- you know, she came to prominence during the Great Depression when a lot of people felt like there wasn't much hope. And -- that she kind of gave people hope.

And it's interesting because when she was given the Presidential -- excuse the Kennedy Center honor, President Clinton said as much. I mean, he said that when she was 7 years old President Roosevelt asked to meet her and to thank her for the smiling face that helped America through the depression.

So you also have, you know, former presidents who echo that sentiment about Shirley Temple. We've been talking just about her life and her legacy. She started dancing at the age of 2 and singing at the age of 3. And it's that look and that smile that we definitely remember.

You know, we also were mentioning that she led the box office for three years straight. I mean, think -- just think about that. She led the box office for three years straight. And that was at the age of 7. All of this before most of us even could put a sentence or two together in our lifetimes. But not only did she have this illustrious career in Hollywood, she did kind of have a second career that she transitioned to after she retired.

She retired in 1950 and then went into this life of politics. I mean, in the '60s and '67 she ran as a Republican. She lost the election but she ran as a Republican to become a congresswoman in California. She also became a member of the United States delegation to the United Nations. She was an ambassador to Ghana, she was an ambassador to Czechoslovakia. Lots of things that Shirley Temple Black did in her lifetime, guys.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely, Nischelle. And you're listing off many of those accomplishments. Many of the things that she'll be remember for. We'll continue to honor her, pay tribute to her and her long life and career and legacy throughout the show this morning.

Thanks, Nischelle.

CUOMO: One message about how she endured as a figure is that it wasn't until 2006 that she got recognized by the Film Academy for a Lifetime Achievement Award.

BOLDUAN: It's so true. And it's been -- it sounds (INAUDIBLE) to point it out, but so many people, younger folks, they know Shirley Temple because she -- her name is the name of one of America's favorite drinks I would say.

CUOMO: Absolutely.

BOLDUAN: And that shows just how important she is to the country, I think.

CUOMO: My kids know it today.

BOLDUAN: I do, too.

CUOMO: I know it. And that matters. Very few people have a drink named after them. Let alone one that's as tasty as a Shirley Temple.

(LAUGHTER)

Coming up on NEW DAY, an American overseas is accused of plotting against the U.S. So here's the question. Can the U.S. go after him with a drone strike? Would it be legal? If legal, would it be right? Who better to discuss this than former attorney general Alberto Gonzalez? The judge is with us live.

BOLDUAN: Also ahead, the trial of the man accused of gunning down a teenager over loud music is drawing to a close.

Will the defendant, that man, Michael Dunn, will he take the stand himself? We're going to have an update for you.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CUOMO: Welcome back to NEW DAY.

It is a provocative question. But can the U.S. government kill one of its own overseas? How about at home? It's also not a hypothetical question because this legal and moral issue is actually being faced by the Obama administration because there is an American citizen living in Pakistan who is linked to al Qaeda and believed to be planning attacks against Americans.

So what can the U.S. do? Joining us now to discuss this is someone who's been at the center of this debate, former attorney general under President George W. Bush, Alberto Gonzalez. He's now an attorney with Waller, a Nashville based law firm and a judge of course.

Judge, thank you very much for joining us this morning. You were at the beginning of the debate about the use of drones, their efficacy, the legal and moral issues raised thereto. So when you look at this situation that the U.S. is facing right now, please give us a little bit of a background of what the considerations are.

ALBERTO GONZALEZ, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, it's a very complicated issue. And let me just say at the outset that I believe in using drones. They've been very, very effective on the war on terror. It's a wonderful technology and I think we should continue to do so.

And -- I wrote an article about this. And the question is whether or not the president of the United States on his own authority can designate an American citizen overseas as an enemy combatant, as in kill that individual using a drone. So there are the two clear decision points. The first decision point whether to put the American citizen on the kill list and the second decision point is whether execute on the kill order.

As for the second, you know, I think the president has the authority as commander-in-chief to once you identify where an enemy combatant is to take action, to take him out on the battlefield like you would any other enemy. But it's the first decision point which reported -- the reports are that the Obama administration takes months to make a determination as to whether or not someone out -- like Awlaki, an American citizen, is an enemy combatant.

And what I would worry about is that the courts have seemed to indicate that when you're talking about the rights of an American citizen, there are certain due process considerations that have to take into account before you put -- you designate someone as an enemy combatant and so walking into the Oval Office, I would have advised President Obama that Awlaki is an enemy combatant.

And Mr. President, you do have the authority to take him out in a drone strike. But I would also caution that given recent Supreme Court decisions, I'm not sure there are five of those in the court that would agree with that assessment.

CUOMO: So this is complicated, of course. So let's try and narrow it to where people's heads are on this. The first obvious question, does it matter if it's a drone or if it's a weapon in the hand of a U.S. troop member? Does it matter in the analysis? Probably not, right?

GONZALEZ: Well, again, there are two decision points. One is, are you an enemy combatant?

CUOMO: Right.

GONZALEZ: And second, are we going to take you out? With respect to confronting someone on the battlefield, that's all compressed really on the one decision point of if someone is pointing a rifle at you and is about to fire at you, you know, obviously you have the right of self-defense and you can take action to eliminate that threat.

CUOMO: Right. But I'm saying once the U.S. makes a decision to kill you, it doesn't really matter how they decide to do it, right? It could be drones, it could be using troops on the ground.

GONZALEZ: Absolutely.

CUOMO: But let me ask you this, Judge. And again, it is complicated, but I think people's minds are in this area. We're so sensitive to what we can do and what's right, what we have the right to do, what's right to do.

Why doesn't the president of the United States making a decision to kill somebody on foreign soil, citizen or not, trigger this as a declaration of war? It seems like now we've just moved past the Constitution when it comes to whether or not the president has the right to declare war which of course he does not, right? It's all about Congress. Congress seems to have been taken out of this process. Is this right?

GONZALEZ: Well, another very difficult question. And I think what the Obama administration would rely upon is the authorization to use military force. This is part and parcel a continuation of the attacks of 9/11. This is part and parcel of the war on terrorism and that Congress has played a role. And of course I think the administration would also argue that Congress' continued funding of the war on terror indicates some kind of agreement, tacit agreement, that the war on terror can continue and that these kinds of actions are in fact lawful.

And of course I would just remind your viewers that -- I'm sure the administration does provide periodic briefings to the Congress about what they're doing. And Congress apparently has no issues, no major problems with these kinds of tactics. So that's my response to your question.

CUOMO: I know. And I appreciate it, Judge. You know, it's interesting because there's such a push from some members of the Republican side of Congress right now saying that the president oversteps his power domestically, and yet it seems all of Congress have given the president a tremendous amount of power when it comes to what war is about in this country.

And here's why it matters. How close are we, Judge, to making a decision that there's an American citizen on American soil who's determined to be a pressing, imminent, continuing threat to U.S. safety and using a drone to take him out here in the United States?

GONZALEZ: Well, that's certainly a consideration. And I think it is a scenario that worries I think many civil libertarians. Again, I think we're going to see a continued use of drones because they are so effective. As we could talk -- consider the war on terror moving forward, it's very likely that we're going to confront terrorists here in this -- more terrorists here in this country. It's very likely they're going to be American citizens.

And if in fact this is an effective technology why wouldn't you use this technology to eliminate this threat? So it is something that I would be worried about and I suspect the Obama administration is also worried about in terms of developing the correct protocols to deal with this kind of threat.

CUOMO: And that protocol comes to what you're referring to earlier with due process. I mean, how can American citizens not get the benefit of the courts before they're effectively executed by the United States? I mean in simple legal terms, that's what it would be coming down to, wouldn't it?

GONZALEZ: Well, again, a due process concern comes into the first consideration whether or not you're an enemy combatant. Once you've been -- I think in my judgment, legitimately characterized or found to be an enemy combatant, then the commander-in-chief should be able to execute on that order at the moment of his choosing because you never know when you might locate that individual. You may only have minutes, you may only have hours. And that authority cannot be constrained. But when the Obama administration has been reported takes months to designate someone as an enemy combatant, I think the courts are going to ask if they finally take up this issue, well, if you have months to make this determination, why isn't there more due process given to the individual, to the American citizen?

CUOMO: And look, you know, those who want to do the research can see that you're one of the early litigants on this issue.