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Northeast Buried By Winter Storm; 10,000 Flights Canceled Since Monday; Jury Deliberations Enter Day 3; Interview With Sen. Al Franken

Aired February 14, 2014 - 08:00   ET




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's snow on steroids.


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: the monster storm that dumped more than two feet of snow in areas is finally moving on. Now comes the mad rush to get the airports back up and running and the power back on for hundreds of thousands before the holiday weekend.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Day three: the jury in the so-called loud music trial is still deliberating today. Many thought it was an open and shut case. But now, what does it mean?

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: Caught on tape. The bus driver who left the wheel while it was still moving to fight back against a teen who hit him ultimately crashing the bus. Should he lose his job? His colleagues are defending him this morning.

CUOMO: Your NEW DAY continues right now.


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

BOLDUAN: Good morning and welcome back to NEW DAY. It is Friday, February 14th.

What does that mean?

CUOMO: Happy Valentine's Day.

BOLDUAN: Happy Valentine's Day, everyone. Eight o'clock in the East.

Over 100 million Americans waking up to more misery this morning, unfortunately. Right now, the back half of a bruising nor'easter is battering the Northeast yet again. The relentless snow and ice is being blamed for 16 deaths at this point. At this hour, parts of Maryland are buried under two feet of snow and more on the way.

CUOMO: And under the snow is ice which is heavy and dangerous and a big reason why power is out for half a million people from Arkansas to Maine. Most of the outages were reported in Georgia, in the Carolinas, in Pennsylvania. More than 8,000 flights have been canceled in the last 24 hours.

So, there's snow on the ground in 49 of the 50 states. Can you imagine that? Our storm coverage begins with meteorologist Indra Petersons in White Plains, trying desperately to dig out of the situation there -- Indra.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Dig out would be the perfect example. By the way, I want to let you guys, New York City now, the official 12.5 inches of snow. That means we've had 54 inches of snow in New York City making it the ninth snowiest since we've been keeping records. So, definitely a tough winter for you out there.

Notice, you know, Glen out here has convinced me to do some shoveling. Let me tell you, this is tough, guys. We have so much snow out here but even tougher is all of the ice left at the bottom. It's this last inch everyone has to deal with thanks to the snow, but also the ice that came through last night and that's 100 million of us dealing with it today.


PETERSONS (voice-over): Overnight the backside of the monster nor'easter slammed the East Coast again.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's crazy. I wish the winter would stop. We keep getting hit over and over.

PETERSONS: Along with the pummeling snow, flashing light.

Portions of the north east hit by a phenomenon called "thunder snow" caused by thunderstorms producing snow instead of rain. The first round of snow, sleet and ice making travel nearly impossible on Thursday, cars sliding, tires spinning and people unable to dig out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come to get a couple things from the store, and we got truck.

PETERSONS: In Maryland, tractor trailers jackknifed near I-95 Corridor losing traction crashing into guard rails and sprawling across the highway. Officials say this monster nor'easter arrival passed epic storms in upstate New York.

JOSH SHAPIRO: We saw a more damaged, more power outage in this storm than during Sandy.

PETERSONS: The crippling blast proving deadly from Texas to Connecticut. In New York, a pregnant woman was fatally struck by a small snow plow, rushed to the hospital, her baby delivered by C- section.

LINDA PEREZ, BROOKLYN, NY RESIDENT: It is terrible. She just gone to the supermarket and this happens.

PETERSONS: In Connecticut, record breaking snowfall up to 6 inches an hour combined with winds up to 45 miles per hour causing whiteout conditions.

GOVERNOR DAN MALLOY, CONNECTICUT: What's going on right now is a very serious band of snow.

PETERSONS: In New Jersey, the weight of nearly 9-inches of snow collapsed the roof of this Verizon parking lot.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's amazing. I think three guys got a couple scratches.

PETERSONS: This nor'easter topping Philadelphia's fifth snowiest winter on record with some parts of the Northeast seeing upwards of 24 inches of snow.


PETERSONS: Here in White Plains, a lot of neighbors have been shoveling. They say, a total four or five hours to keep their driveways clear, because you can see, if you didn't shovel, some of these snow drifts are a good four, five feet tall. And yes, it's all the eyes left on the road, such a trouble spot for many drivers this morning. In fact, we just had a driver get stuck behind us. Good news for them, they got away, which is great news. But, unfortunately, still a lot of clean up under way, guys.

CUOMO: Well, you have been excellent with the weather but terrible with the shoveling. Put your back into it, get your legs lower.

PETERSONS: It's so true.

CUOMO: There'd be no hot cocoa for you from your new friend over there.

PETERSONS: All right.

CUOMO: All right. So, a big problem is not just digging out but getting out, all right? Flying, over 10,000 flights canceled by storms this week. It's been nothing but chaos at major airports and with the back end of the nor'easter causing all kinds of havoc still this morning, airports from Washington to New York are virtually at a standstill, heading into what is, of course, a very busy holiday weekend.

Rene Marsh is live from Reagan National Airport in Arlington, Virginia -- Rene.

RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, Chris, you know, if you were here yesterday at Reagan National, it was empty. I mean, with the exception of a few passengers sleeping on chairs, but what a difference a day makes.

I mean, take a look. This line of people, this is a good sign people getting rebooked and planes finally getting back up in the air.


MARSH (voice-over): Snowplows on the runways instead of planes. This week's winter storm battering the East Coast led to the worst single day of air travel this winter. More than 6,500 flights were canceled Thursday, according to a flight-tracking Web site, making it one of the first worst air travel days in recent years.

A February 2011 snowstorm beat this one out, so did Superstorm Sandy and Hurricane Irene.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We bought tickets and our flight just got canceled. Now, we just have to wait and wait and wait.

MARSH: The delays leaving frustrated passengers stranded at airports all over, from New York's LaGuardia --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I've got three kids, 5, 8, 9. And so, they're crying because they were excited about seeing their grandparents.

MARSH: -- to Charlotte International, Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson and Philadelphia International Airport.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We've been bumped about -- this will be the second or third time.

MARSH: Now, airlines are trying to dig out in the face of a busy holiday weekend.

MARK MURPHY, TRAVEL EXPERT: If you were scheduled to get out of Philadelphia today, you probably can't get rebooked until Sunday or Monday. So, bye-bye holiday weekend, you're not getting anywhere.

MARSH: Crews still busy deicing planes and trying to get the runways ready.

PAUL MALANDREINO, AIRPORT MANAGER, REAGAN NATIONAL AIRPORT: You have slush on the runway, you got to get rid of that slush. You don't want an airplane sliding off the runway.

MARSH: And it's not just the East Coast impacted. The cancellations could have impact on nationwide travel.

MURPHY: If you have a flight crew originating out of the east coast or connecting through any of those hubs, it could impact a flight as far away as Phoenix.


MARSH: All right. And back out here live at Reagan, people getting rebooked, getting excited that they are finally going to get to their destination. But although things look better today, it's still not smooth sailing. We still have cancellations, more than 1,000 cancellations today. It usually takes a couple of days before airlines can really catch up to themselves -- Michaela. PEREIRA: Yes, that's the problem. It's that chain effect.

All right. Rene, thanks for looking at that for us.

We're going to give you a look at more of your headlines on this hour.

Breaking overnight: a federal judge in Virginia ruling the state's ban on same sex marriage is unconstitutional. It is the first voter approved ban on gay marriage in the South to be overturned. The judge did issue a stay of her order, pending appeals. It prevents same sex couples from marrying immediately.

To Indonesia now, three people are dead, 75,000 people evacuated in Indonesia. A huge volcano is erupting there, spewing up to two inches of ash over the island of Java. It is simply blanketing entire communities. Most of the local airports are closed. There's hope they may be able to reopen tomorrow.

Veteran character actor Ralph Waite has died. He played many, many roles in his long and distinguished career. But Waite was best known perhaps as the tough but loving father of John Boy and six other children in a very popular 1970s TV series "The Waltons." He died Thursday at his home in California. He was 85 years old.

And breaking news from the sports world. Former Major League Baseball manager and player Jim Fregosi has died. He suffered two strokes on board a cruise to Grand Cayman. He was a six time all-star shortstop in an 18-year playing career, led the Chicago White Sox, the Phillies and the Toronto Blue Jays over a 15-year managerial career. He may be best known for being traded by the Mets for Nolan Ryan. Fregosi was 71 -- Chris.

CUOMO: All right. Thanks, Mick.

We're on verdict watch in the loud music trial. Jurors are weighing the fate of Michael Dunn, who claims he fired 10 rounds in self defense during a confrontation with teenagers over loud music in their SUV. Dunn claims he saw a shotgun inside the vehicle, no weapon was ever found.

Let's vet the case. We had the defense counsel on. Now, we have CNN legal analyst Sunny Hostin. She's been in the courtroom. She's been a federal prosecutor and she's joining us, of course, from Jacksonville.

And CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, also with federal prosecutorial experience.

Let's do this as a speed round, lady and gentleman. Let's go through the hot points since we got to hear the defense counsel.

On the first one, Jeffrey, I'll start with you -- what do you make of the timing of deliberations with this jury, relevant or not?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: It's not relevant at this point. You know, this is not -- this was a fairly complicated case. They only have been deliberating for a day. If they don't have a verdict today then you might have a concern about some sort of disagreement among the jurors. So far, it's going very smoothly, it seems to me.

CUOMO: The amount of time, what they've been asking for, routine.

TOOBIN: Very much.

CUOMO: Sunny, next issue -- this case overcharged, looking at Zimmerman which was second-degree murder, manslaughter this one first degree murder not death penalty, but first degree murder -- overcharge?

SUNNY HOSTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: No, I don't think so at all. I mean, having been in the courtroom for so much of the testimony, I think it's pretty clear that the prosecution had enough evidence to go forward on first degree. But let's remember that there's also attempted first degree, attempted second-degree, manslaughter. There are a lot of possibilities in front of this jury.

So, no, I don't think an overcharge at all.

CUOMO: So, big basket of charges, important to know. Staying with you, Sunny -- the idea of bias, the amount of evidence that got in from the prosecution side that shows where Dunn's head was, what he thought about kids like this. His lawyer argued, it's not about color, it's about culture. That was what he was talking about. Your take.

HOSTIN: Yes. You know, I don't really think that that's accurate. Again, having been in the courtroom we're hearing a lot of this sort of code word, thug, subculture, that kind of thing. I don't think that's been lost on the jury.

This is -- a lot of folks have been saying this is different from the George Zimmerman case. I don't think so. I think this is very much about the fear of the inherent criminality of the black kid, black teens, four black kids in a car listening to what this defendant has described as rap crap or thug music and he felt threatened. So, I think race is pretty front and center in this case.

CUOMO: Anything on that, Jeffrey?

TOOBIN: I think that's right. His state of mind, Dunn's state of mind is a crucial issue in this case. What he's thinking, what he's thinking about people like those people in the car is relevant, and, look, I don't think you can see why he shot these kids other than the context of the music and who they were? I mean, it's just relevant evidence.

CUOMO: The take off box compared to Zimmerman much more proof of bias than in the Zimmerman case, much more proof of a need for self-defense than in the Zimmerman case than here -- much better actions by the defendant before and after the event than here.

TOOBIN: Absolutely. And remember, I mean, George Zimmerman stood there and talked to the cops right away, gave lots of interviews. I mean, perhaps the most incriminating evidence seems to me in the Dunn case is that he took off. He fires 10 shots in a gas station and then leaves, doesn't call the police because he says he has to walk his dog? I mean, it's just absurd.

CUOMO: Right. And the defense wanted to bring in an expert on what kind of psychological stress could explain that behavior and the judge wouldn't entertain it, wouldn't even say that the person could be qualified as an expert on such things.

All right. The last big issue, gun or not? The defense counsel argues very strenuously the investigation was botched, they didn't take opportunities to search for the gun and the kids hid it.

Sunny, how do you think that is played at trial?

HOSTIN: You know, it's such a red herring. That is because Dunn as Jeffrey just said ran from the scene. Didn't report this until days later and didn't mention a gun until days later. Never mention a gun to his fiancee who was in the car with him right after this shooting.

And so, to suggest somehow that the police botched by not looking for a gun that no one had ever mentioned is really, really very nuanced but it's a red herring, and I can't imagine that the jury missed that.

The prosecution in rebuttal really honed in on that and explained to this jury there just was no gun. If no gun was found, it is the fault of Michael Dunn not these kids or the cops.

TOOBIN: This is where fiancee's testimony really buries Dunn, because you know, here they are right in the car after the shooting and she says he never said anything about a gun.

CUOMO: On cross, the counsel says for the defendant, "I asked her is it possible he mentioned it and you didn't remember because you're so distraught," and she said "yes." Does that change the analysis?

TOOBIN: No. Come on. How could you not remember whether someone has, you know, said they had a gun or not. I mean, you know, look, the defense lawyer has to say what he's going to do to help his client. But I mean, I just think, you know, there are some facts that are simply just bad for the defendant and that's a very bad fact.

CUOMO: Sunny Hostin, thank you so much. You've been brilliant down there, giving us the perspective from inside the courtroom, putting (ph) through the filter of understanding prosecution. Jeffrey, always value --

TOOBIN: Thank you, sir.

CUOMO: Appreciate it -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Coming up next on NEW DAY, a mega merger involving two cable giants, Comcast buying Time Warner for $45 billion. What does that mean for your cable bill? We're going to ask Senator Al Franken, one lawmaker with very big concerns about this big merger. And also this, look at this fight. Does the bus driver trading punches with a 15-year-old teenager deserve to get his job back? We're going to talk to his union representative who says absolutely yes, he should be back at work.


BOLDUAN: Welcome back. Your cable bill could be hanging in the balance after Comcast announced it's going to buy Time Warner Cable in a $45 billion deal. This is a mega merger. So, what does this mean for your cable bill, anyone's cable bill, really? Joining us to discuss, Senator Al Franken of Minnesota who's raising serious concerns about the potential of this deal.

Senator, it's great to see you. Thanks for coming in.

SEN. AL FRANKEN, (D) MINNESOTA: Great to be here, Kate.


BOLDUAN: You seem unsure about that, but I appreciate you for standing by, anyway.

FRANKEN: There's no other activity here, so I'm happy to come in.

BOLDUAN: At least you're working this morning. So, you are concerned about this merger. Why?

FRANKEN: Yes. Well, I am, like you said, I'm worried about consumers' cable bills. This is the biggest cable provider in the country, Comcast, acquiring the second biggest, Time Warner. There's not enough competition in this space as it is, and I'm concerned what this will do for consumers' cable bill, for their -- are they going to get worse service than they're even already getting?

Are they going to get less choice? So, yesterday, I sent a letter to federal regulators to take a look at this and express my deep concerns.

BOLDUAN: You know, Comcast seems to be saying, look, this is just business. Yesterday, when speaking to reporters, they say that this will, in the end, benefit consumers because it's going to offer access to faster broadband, more video offering, even saying this to reporters.

Once you get through the hysteria, this is pro-consumer and pro- competitive. No surprise in Washington they're already working with the slew of their lobbyist to try to fight any opposition, but do they have a point?

FRANKEN: They have a lot of lobbyists, that's true. They actually said yesterday, Reuters quoted them, the executive vice president saying "We're not promising that your consumers' cable bills won't go up even faster than they've already been going. We can't promise that." Look, when you have monopolies or oligopolies, very often you get -- with less competition, you get less innovation. This is something we very much have to look at. This is the number one, the biggest cable provider. They also in broadband. Comcast is the number one internet provider, hard-line internet provider in the country. This is going to hurt in that space as well. This is not -- we want to look at this to see whether it's going to be good for consumers.

BOLDUAN: When we say on Capitol Hill, we want to look at this, that means that you're not concerned that it is, you clearly as you're saying you're not sure that it's going to be good for consumers in the end even though you're clearly leaving open the possibility of listening to the argument from the cable companies. That's what I want to know from you.

Year-over-year, cable bills are going up, some six percent in recent history year-over-year. Is this just inevitable that they're going to go up? And then, I wonder, what can you hear from Comcast and Time Warner Cable that would make you support this merger going forward?

FRANKEN: Well, yes, they've been going up at many times the rate of inflation. And during that time, there's been a consolidation of media. So, this just continues that consolidation. And I was against Comcast acquiring NBC Universal, because there's not just the horizontal issue of monopoly, there's a vertical. Comcast owns NBC and all of NBC's cable networks.

There's dozens of cable networks, it's not just NBC, it's not just CNBC and MSNBC, it's Bravo, Telemundo. And so, now, Comcast and Time Warner can charge more for, if this merger goes through or this acquisition goes through, can charge more for the Olympics. If you're another cable provider, you have to have the Olympics.

And if they charge more for NBC content, Comcast has to pay itself the same price, but they're taking their money out of their right pocket and putting it in their left. There's not enough competition in this space. We need more competition. This is going in the wrong direction.

BOLDUAN: Can I ask you one quick question on a different topic. As you said, there's not a lot of work going on in the capitol, that's because Congress is going to be on break through next week. But right before you guys left, there seem to have been what's been described as a breakthrough in the Senate.

Senate Republicans standing up to a threatened filibuster by Ted Cruz over the debt ceiling, allowing the debt ceiling measure to go through and the debt ceiling to be raised averting another crisis. Do you see this as a turning point in the dynamic in the Senate or do you think when you guys come back -- more the same?

FRANKEN: We've had a number of these. We had a two-year budget agreed to. That's very good. And this is after, of course, the shutdown and the American people saw the shutdown and said don't ever do that again, please. And so, then we had the budget pass, Patty Murray, Paul Ryan. We then passed an omnibus appropriations bill, large majorities in both Houses. Now, we got passed the debt ceiling without a threat of, you know, defaulting on our debt. That's really -- that should be basic. And we got that done. So, at least we're not lurching from terrible crisis to terrible crisis, and that's good for business. They know that we have some certainty. I think, you know, in all those respects, we're much better off.

BOLDUAN: All right. Well, thanks for coming in and Happy Valentine's Day, senator.

FRANKEN: Oh, well, thank you and to you, too. Oh, I took that wrong. OK. No. I'm seeing my wife tonight.


BOLDUAN: Give Franny our best. Happy Valentine's Day.

FRANKEN: I will. Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Thank you very much -- Chris.

CUOMO: Ever polite, Kate. Happy Valentine's Day to the senator as well. (INAUDIBLE).

Coming up on NEW DAY, a teenager attacks a bus driver. It's all caught on video. We showed it to you. We're going to show it to you again. The teen was charged, but the driver was fired just for fighting back. The question is, should he have been fired. We're going to debate the explosive story.

And, team USA looking to get back on track on the slopes. Did Bode Miller medal in the event he won four years ago? We have the answer if you want it when we come back.