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Uprising in Kiev; Kerry to Raise Chance of Ukraine Sanctions; Juror Says Michael Dunn Got Away with Murder; Venezuelan Protesters Not Letting Up; New Efforts to Free Captive U.S. Soldier

Aired February 19, 2014 - 09:00   ET


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Happening in the NEWSROOM, crisis in Kiev. In the shadow of Sochi pro-Western protests erupt. Behind walls of fire the fight to become part of Europe.

PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is effectively the front line.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People are fighting here for their future, their lives.

COSTELLO: Also Juror number four, Valerie.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think Michael Dunn got away with murder?


COSTELLO: And the loud music murder trial for the first time the road to conviction.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What convinced you?

VALERIE: To me it was unnecessary.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You didn't think Michael Dunn had to kill Jordan Davis?

VALERIE: I don't believe so.

COSTELLO: Plus outrage over the Wisconsin National Guard and this photo.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To me it's just completely unacceptable.

COSTELLO: The caption reading, "We put the fun in funeral." This morning the fallout has begun.

And the American dream team.

RACHEL NICHOLS, CNN SPORTS: The idea that in four minutes, six minutes, you have to be on.

COSTELLO: Rachel Nichols one-on-one with ice dancers Meryl Davis and Charlie White.

MERYL DAVIS, OLYMPIC GOLD MEDALIST: As athletes we really planned so much of our lives. So we're just trying to enjoy this moment.

COSTELLO: You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.


COSTELLO: Good morning, I'm Carol Costello. Thank you so much for joining me. We begin this morning with the long shadows of the Cold War and new explosions of that era's bitter east versus west divisions.

This is Ukraine where thousands of Americans live and more than 25 people died in escalating violence. Protests first flared back in November when the Ukrainian president backed out of a trade deal with the European Union. Instead he chose closer ties to Russia and President Vladimir Putin. That angered people in Ukraine who want closer ties to Europe and the United States.

International tensions rose further with Russia's accusation that the United States is meddling and crudely interfering in Ukraine. So Ukraine, as you can see here, is stuck in the middle both geographically and politically.

And in a breaking development this morning, the U.S. may be inching closer towards greater involvement. We'll have more on that from Jake Tapper in just a minute. But let's begin in Kiev with CNN's Nick Paton Walsh.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Carol, behind me we've seen bizarre scenes with a pace that's sort of fluctuating into this protest for the last hour or so. Significantly larger numbers of riot police now moving in to flank this demonstration and I've also seen police, in fact, with shields run forward and then men in their midst throw Molotov cocktail into the crowd.

The tension here as dusk approaches escalating. Certainly we went down in the crowd earlier on today to talk to people about why they were there.


WALSH (voice-over): It's been nearly a decade-long struggle here between Ukraine turning east to Russia or west to Europe. This is where it stood after its most violent day. Stalemate. The police closing in but looking tired, even with fewer protesters here the morning after still moving in.

(On camera): After all those hours of violence and casualties, they have been pushed back to a small area on the square but still this violence standoff persists. The question being, is there any kind of negotiation that can bring an end to these scenes?

(Voice-over): The United States seemed to hold President Yanukovych more responsible.

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Force will not resolve the crisis to -- restore, rather, peace and stability we urge President Yanukovych to de-escalate immediately the situation and end the confrontation at Maidan.

WALSH: But Yanukovych held brief talks with the opposition and afterwards demanded they renounced radicals in their midst. The talks were pointless said opposition leader Vitali Klitschko.

VITALI KLITSCHKO, UKRAINIAN OPPOSITION LEADER: I'm very unhappy because there was no discussion and the president didn't want to listen to opposition.

WALSH: Fury continued into the morning, fueled by police violence, evidence of pellets and rubber bullets displayed. This man told me he was here for the future of Ukraine. Molotov cocktails and stones, weapons against a modern police force, several of them died, too.

Ten years ago the Orange Revolution tried to turn this huge nation towards Europe but failed. Now the EU is struggling to fend off Russian economic pressure, but many here say they want to be free of Russia's grip.

We're here for freedom, we're patriots and we're slaves now, these men tell me. This outburst so unexpected many will hope for calm while Ukraine comes to terms with it.


COSTELLO: Nick Paton Walsh reporting.

And I just want to show you a picture before we get to Jake Tapper. This is a picture of a woman wearing a pan on her head. And at first glance you're saying, what? What is with this woman? Well, I'll tell you why. The Ukrainian president has banned helmets in the country. And while some of those protesters you saw were wearing helmets many others have gone without.

So instead people are actually putting pans on top of their heads to protect themselves from the police retaliation. That's how desperate these protesters have become.

All right. Let's get to chief Washington correspondent and anchor of "THE LEAD" Jake Tapper now because he's reporting the Obama administration is about to respond to this crisis in the Ukraine.

What can you tell us, Jake?

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR, THE LEAD: Carol, this morning I'm told Eastern Time in the afternoon in Paris Secretary of State John Kerry will make remarks about Ukraine and he will raise the very real possibility of sanctions against the Ukrainian government.

It is something that the Ukrainian government has been trying to fend off. But it was alluded to actually yesterday in a tweet by the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine who wrote, quote, "We believe Ukraine's crisis can still be solved via dialogue but those on both sides who fuel violence will open themselves to sanctions."

Of course Secretary of State John Kerry will be talking about specifically sanctions against the Ukrainian government. I'm told by a senior administration official that Kerry in his remarks will reiterate what Vice President Biden told the president of Ukraine, Yanukovych, yesterday basically that he is responsible for the safety of his own people and he has a choice. He can choose dialogue and compromise with the opposition or violence and mayhem.

I'm also told by the senior administration official that the U.S. is corresponding its response with friends and allies including these very real threats of sanctions against the Ukrainian government -- Carol.

COSTELLO: All right. Hopefully you'll have more for us next hour. Jake Tapper, many thanks to you.

Now to Syria. Because peace talks there have hit a wall again. Now Secretary of State John Kerry places the blame squarely on the shoulders of Russia and Iran. According to "The Washington Post" Kerry is accusing those countries of undermining the talks by stepping up military support.

The White House is scrambling for a new strategy, which may include increasing assistance to Western backed rebels and drone strikes.

Senator John McCain suggests to CNN's Anderson Cooper a shift in tactics is needed.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: The president of the United States who said, you know, it wasn't a matter of whether but when that Bashir al- Assad would leave and all that ridiculous statements that he made in the past. That was before 5,000 Hezbollah came in and this farce, this joke, this sad tragedy of the Geneva agreements thinking that somehow Bashir al-Assad would negotiate his departure when he's winning was just the height of insanity and an insult to the intelligence of all of us who know this.

The only thing that Bashir will understand will be a shift in the battlefield. And also that the Russians have got to pay a price for continuing this supply. The Iranians have to pay a price. Hezbollah has to pay a price.


COSTELLO: This comes as new video shows the Assad's regime use of banned buster bombs in Syria's civil war. According to the Human Rights Watch, Syrian forces deployed a cluster rocket in an attack on rebel positions in northern Syria last week. Cluster bombs are banned by more than 100 countries around the world.

In other news this morning, the parents of Jordan Davis are speaking out once again after a Florida jury could not reach a verdict in the death of their son. On Saturday that jury convicted Michael Dunn on three counts of attempted second-degree murder for shooting at Davis and his friends outside of a Jacksonville gas station. The prosecutor said after the verdict she would retry Dunn on first- degree murder charges. Well, this morning Jordan's parents Lucia McBath and Ronald Davis told "Good Morning America" what justice would mean for their son.


LUCIA MCBATH, JORDAN DAVIS' MOTHER: Justice for Jordan will be ultimately really when we change the laws because that will be not just justice for Jordan and justice for Trayvon and justice for all the children at Sandy Hook and justice for Aurora and justice for Virginia Tech and the Navy yard.

It will be justice for everyone that has suffered because of these laws and will continue to suffer. So once the laws are changed that's the ultimate justice. For all.

RONALD DAVIS, JORDAN DAVIS' FATHER: And for me, I'm in constant contact with Tracy Martin, Trayvon's father, and I text Sabrina all the time, and I just want to let them know that every time I get justice for Jordan it's going to be justice for Trayvon, for us, and the ultimate justice for me -- I want Michael Dunn to be tried and found guilty of killing my son, of letting him know that it was wrong to kill my unarmed 17-year-old. You know.

And all the other 17-year-olds out there. They shouldn't have to fear the adults with the guns that are running around here shooting them at will.


COSTELLO: One of the jurors in the Dunn trial is also speaking out. Her name Valerie and in an interview with ABC she talks about how the jury arrived at its decision and what she personally believes about Michael Dunn.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think Michael Dunn got away with murder?

VALERIE: At this point, I do. Myself personally, yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How could you all convict Michael Dunn of attempting to kill the other teenagers in the car but not convict him of killing the 17-year-old?

VALERIE: And that is pretty much my sole purpose for being here because reading the social media and people looking at us like we didn't do a justice or a service. We had a lot of discussion on him getting out of the car. And the threat has now gone. And your intent is yet to still go ahead and pursue this vehicle.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So for you all, a dividing line was when he initially fired into the car, thinking that there was a weapon that's one thing. But when the car pulled away and he kept shooting.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You all thought, everyone thought he crossed a line then?

VALERIE: Yes. And that's the exact words we used.


COSTELLO: CNN legal analyst and former federal prosecutor Sunny Hostin joins me now.

Sunny, good morning.


COSTELLO: What do you make of this juror's comment?

HOSTIN: Yes, it's really interesting because you know I sat in the courtroom and I remember looking at that juror. She was right in the front row, she was number four. It sort of confirmed I think what we thought from their jury questions. Oftentimes it's like reading tea leaves. But I think we were right on in the sense that it was clear that they were struggling with the issue of self-defense as to Jordan Davis but not as to the attempted murders.

And I think the prosecution had a really strong case and it was very clear that he did cross the line certainly when the car was driving away and he continued shooting and -- and I think it's really interesting that we're not even talking about four murders because those other bullets came really, really close to killing the other boys.

I think what's also interesting in that interview and I know we didn't play this clip is that most of the jurors wanted to convict him of first-degree murder but some of the jurors bought the self-defense claim, and that, Carol, is absolutely fascinating to me because having seen Dunn on the witness stand, again, from the vantage point of the courtroom, I wasn't very far from those jurors, it just seemed to me like his story was so incredible.

Not credible that I'm shocked that someone believed him and that goes to show you that the Stand Your Ground laws and the self-defense laws in Florida just has to change.

COSTELLO: Valerie says he got away with murder. I mean, she's makes it very clear. Only three jurors thought that, you know, Dunn fired in self-defense on Jordan Davis.


COSTELLO: Valerie also weighed in on the issue of race. Here's what she said.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For a lot of folk in America they would say white man shoots and kills a 17-year-old black boy. How could it not be about race on some level?

VALERIE: Sitting in that room it was never presented that way. We looked at it as a bad situation where teenagers were together and words were spoken and lines were crossed.


COSTELLO: OK. So Jordan Davis' father said he believes that you give the white businessman the benefit of a doubt even if it's not -- you know, subconsciously even you think about that. Is he right?

HOSTIN: Yes. I think he is. You know, race and justice in our country, Carol, is sort of always the elephant in the room. No one really wants to talk about it. We didn't talk about it much when I was a prosecutor. I don't think jurors want to talk about it. I don't think lawyers want to talk about it. And this prosecution certainly shied away from the issue of race. In fact, the defense filed a motion trying to preclude any discussion of race.

But let's face it at the root of this is Michael Dunn's perception of these boys as vicious, as threatening, as bad because of their race. And that's something that I think we need to talk about and it's unfortunate that that issue wasn't discussed in the courtroom. We've got to get past that.

COSTELLO: Yes, and we have to talk about it rationally. That would be nice.

Sunny Hostin, many thanks to you.

HOSTIN: Thanks.

COSTELLO: Still to come in the NEWSROOM, an American soldier held captive by insurgents begs Washington to win his freedom. Now after years of limbo new efforts are under way to bring him home and they involve the Taliban.


COSTELLO: There's no sign of let up in Venezuela, as thousands of people are protesting. It's their government. They are demanding peace, freedom of speech, better security and an end to the nation's shortage of goods. The outrage directed at President Nicolas Maduro and the government's crackdown on protesters.

Today, the leader of the opposition, Leopoldo Lopez, seen here is set to appear in court. He's accused of terrorism, murder and arson for his involvement in the protests.

CNN's Karl Penhaul live in Caracas with more for you.

Good morning.


Harvard educated Leopoldo Lopez, as you say, one of the main leaders of the opposition, turned himself into national guard yesterday, and it seems that that could be an effort to galvanize the opposition even further. And in about half an hour from now, we're expecting tens of thousands of anti-government protesters to flock to that courthouse where Leopoldo Lopez is due to appear and continue their protest against the socialist government of Nicolas Maduro.

Now, you're right about two weeks ago, there was a list of fairly simple but generic demands for the government to solve the crime wave, to get the economy under grips. But now, all that is boiling down to one thing, anti-government protesters want this government to quit and they want an end to Venezuela's 16 year experiment with socialism. So, it seems that's going set the stage for confrontation because neither side right now seems ready to back down, Carol.

COSTELLO: I don't think people realize how bad the economy is in Venezuela and how lawless it really is. We heard your crew was robbed by the way.

PENHAUL: Well, yes. Let me give you and idea on the economic front first. When you come in to the country here, you got a choice. You either exchange your dollars at an official exchange rate and I'll get six bolivars for $1 or I can talk to one of the hotel porters or one of the airport porters and I can exchange my dollars on the black market, I'll get time ten times more local currency on the black matter than I will on the official market.

So, that means for ordinary Venezuelans, if I'm importing goods with dollars into Venezuela, it makes my daily food basket much more expensive. Inflation here is 56 percent a year, a huge amount.

And just to bring the violence into perspective, last night we were covering a face off between government supporters and anti-government protesters. At one point, a group of armed thugs on motorcycles drove into the crowd of anti-government protesters, dispersed them. They then came to a grinding halt just where we were. The national guard were ten yards away from us, but very quickly I found myself looking down the barrel of a chrome plated .9 mm pistol and these motorcycle thugs then proceeded to steal our camera gear to stop us from transmitting or putting anything out.

I then talked to a major from the national guard and he says he believes that the perpetrators were actually plain-clothes cops. Just shows how far things have gone and the accusations of ordinary Venezuelans that the security forces are also resorting to dirty tricks to frighten the opposition off the streets, Carol.

COSTELLO: Be careful. Karl Penhaul, thanks so much.

Millions of Americans who have served in the U.S. military have lived and died under one solemn vow, to leave no comrade behind. But that has been put to the test by Army Sergeant Bow Bergdahl, who's been held in Pakistan for four years.

His case conflicts with a more modern vow not to negotiate with terrorists.

Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr has more on new efforts to bring Bowe home.


SGT. BOWE BERGDAHL, CAPTURED U.S. SOLDIER: Release me. Please. I'm begging you.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The U.S. has begun new talks to get Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl back home after more than four years in captivity.

BERGDAHL: Bring me home, please.

STARR: Working through intermediaries, most likely the Persian Gulf Nation of Qatar, the U.S. is trying to see what it would take to get Bergdahl free. He's been held since July 2009 when he apparently walked away from his base in Eastern Afghanistan.

It's believed the Taliban aligned Haqqani Network inside Pakistan has him. The Taliban, in the past, has demanded the release of five prisoners from Guantanamo Bay.

MAJ. GEN. JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS (RET), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: We do have a long history of talking and dealing with all manner of bad guys. So, if United States can make progress on returning this soldier back to the United States, we need to do it.

STARR: "The Washington Post" is reporting the U.S. has now agreed to release all five Taliban prisoners simultaneously to the Qataris to guarantee Bergdahl's release. Administration officials will say little other than they have never given up trying to get Bergdahl back.

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We are not involved in active negotiations with the Taliban. Clearly, if negotiations do resume at some point, then we'll want to talk with the Taliban about the safe return of Sergeant Bergdahl.

STARR: The Bergdahl family issued a statement saying, "We are cautiously optimistic these discussions will lead to the safe return of our son."

There is growing urgency as U.S. troops could be gone from Afghanistan by the end of the year.


STARR: And there is also urgency about Bo Bergdahl's health. There's an unreleased video of him made in December, CNN was the first to report the video existence. In it, he appeared frail we're told leading U.S. military authorities be very concerned about his current state -- Carol.

COSTELLO: We'll talk more about this in the next hour of NEWSROOM. Barbara Starr, many thanks.

We'll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSTELLO: Good morning. I'm Carol Costello. Thank you so much for joining me.

The fight for income inequality rages on with a new report from the Congressional Budget Office fueling the fire.

The CBO's report says if the minimum wage is raised to $10.10, 900,000 workers would be lifted out of poverty. On the other hand, an estimated 500,000 jobs could and I emphasize could be cut.

Now, those against raising the minimum wage are saying I told you so -- like our friend Stephen Moore. He's the chief economist at the Heritage Foundation and a contributor at "The Wall Street Journal".

Hi, Stephen.


I was going to say I told you so.

COSTELLO: I know you were. OK, you always said this was a bone headed move. So, Expound for us.

MOORE: Well, look I think this report has, has a real important message which is that when you raise the minimum wage some people will lose their jobs and some people aren't going to get jobs they will be priced out of the market.

Now, it is true some people will get a pay raise because people who are going to see that minimum wage rise are going to get a higher salary.

But I think the real victims here, Carol, in my opinion, are the people at the very bottom of the income scale, the people with the least skills who may not be worth $10 an hour but maybe worth $8 an hour and now can't find a job.

COSTELLO: I want to be clear exactly what the CBO is saying because it's easy to look at this in terms of black and white.

MOORE: Right.

COSTELLO: The CBO acknowledged that its calculation is an estimate and said actual job losses could range from very slight --

MOORE: Right.

COSTELLO: -- to as many as 1 million positions. On the other hand, it also says it would increase the earnings for 16.5 million Americans, 900,000 workers would be raised out of poverty.

MOORE: That's right.

COSTELLO: Many people would say I'm willing to take that bet. MOORE: I guess that's the question. Are you willing to destroy some jobs to raise the incomes of others?

COSTELLO: But it's not even clear it will destroy any jobs at all.

MOORE: Well, I mean, look, their median estimate -- and, look, economists make estimates, sometimes we're right, sometimes we're wrong, but the median estimate was 500,000 job losses and you're right they said as many as a million jobs might be lost if we did this.

Now, remember this comes on the heels of a report last week that says the Obamacare may reduce the number of jobs by 2.5 million. So, in just the last two weeks --

COSTELLO: But, again, you can parse that another way, too.

MOORE: How so?

COSTELLO: People voluntarily leaving the workforce because now they can afford insurance. A lot of people work simply to get health insurance.

MOORE: Carol, we want people working. One of the reasons the economy isn't performing up to standard is because we've seen this record dropout of people from the workforce.