Return to Transcripts main page


Protests Continue in Ukraine; White House Rejects Lowering Social Security Pay Increase; Airline Bombing Threat Announced by Homeland Security Department; Winter Olympics Continue; First Lady Visits Jimmy Fallon; Christie Faces Questions on Weight; Mystery $425M Powerball Winner in California;

Aired February 21, 2014 - 7:00   ET


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: And we begin with extreme weather because it is back. Severe storms threatening millions along the east coast this morning after slamming the Midwest. As many as eight tornadoes touching down in Central Illinois, thousands without power again. Three inches of rain on top of melting snow triggering heavy flooding, seven buildings destroyed in a town near Springfield. Luckily, no one hurt.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: And look at this lightning strike shaking up the music city overnight. Thousands are without electricity in Nashville and Memphis this morning. One inch hail and winds clocked at 95 miles an hour overnight taking down trees and power lines throughout the middle of the state.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Look at that. As many as 20 vehicles were involved in Thursday's crash, including seven semis. And 12 people were injured. Investigators say low visibility from dense fog was a factor.

CUOMO: Blizzard conditions in the twin cities. Listen to this. After two-days in the mid-40s, wind chills now 10 below with Minneapolis and St. Paul now buried under a foot of snow. Officials declared a snow emergency there, and in one five hours stretch yesterday, police responded to 174 accidents.

BOLDUAN: Passengers on a coach bus were lucky to escape major injury after they went skidding off an icy road in Iowa. Mega bus says it happened as the coach traveled on I-80 heading from Omaha to Des Moines. You can see the front window was shattered. Fortunately the coach came to a rest right side up. This could have been much worse.

LEMON: And the severe weather not letting up, 30 million people along the east coast in the cross hairs today. Our meteorologist Indra Petersons is tracking it all. Indra?

INDRA PETERESONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Just take a look at the last 24 hours, so easy to see what the squall line has done. And 13 reports of tornadoes in Illinois in just the last 24 hours. And look at all these reports of damaging winds. The squall line continues to push off to the east. Very easy to see why we're so concerned with the system again this morning. Look at the way the clouds look. This is the west coast, not really showing much activity. But look at them really kind of explode or blow up here along the squall line. We know there's so much activity still in action this morning.

Take a look at the southeast, still a severe thunderstorm watch until about 2:00 p.m. into the south east. But it's not just only in the southeast that we are concerned with. If you are south of D.C. going all the way down through Jacksonville, that's where we have a slight risk today for severe thunderstorms, including tornadoes. But again, even thunderstorms lining the entire eastern seaboard today, so that's one of the stories. The other one we continue to follow, the upper Midwest still looking for another six to 10 inches of snow out there, strong winds kicking up the snow. But a nice weekend at least once the line moves out.

CUOMO: All right, Indra, four are dead and two in the hospital after a horrible rampage in California. Police say Sherrie Rhodes was attending a tribal eviction meeting when she started firing. When she ran out of ammo she allegedly grabbed a knife and stabbed another victim. Rhodes taken into custody.

BOLDUAN: Overnight a suicide attack on a policy compound in Afghanistan. At least one officer was killed and two others were wounded in the attack outside Kabul. Afghan officials say a car bomber first broke through the compound gates, then two gunman wearing women's clothing opened fire. The Taliban has claimed responsibility.

LEMON: Venezuela's president sending a paratrooper to crack down on anti-government protestors. Six people have died during more than a week of violence. The security forces against demonstrators challenging Nicolas Maduro's socialist rule. Maduro blames opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez for inciting the crowd. Lopez remains jailed, but murder charges have been dropped.

CUOMO: Now to Ukraine where the government and opposition are inching toward a deal to stop the violence there, maybe. Here's the good news, Ukraine's president announcing on his website that he plans to fulfill through key opposition demands -- new presidential elections, a return to the 2004 constitution, and the formation of a national unity government. Senior international correspondent Nick Paton Walsh is there. Nick?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Chris, we know those three things are being put forth by the president. But we don't know the timing, and that's really key here. That's what's playing on the square behind me. We're hearing from opposition leader sources that they're not really happy with this deal. The EU diplomats who have negotiated are actually going down to the square to try and sell it again to the opposition more importantly to the protestors down there as well.

Remember, Chris, they're not united by any one particular leader. They didn't come here on the one man's instructions. They won't go home on the one man's dictate either. They want the departure of the president Viktor Yanukovych. That's not in the deal proposed ahead of them. So we're entering a dangerous time here. Concessions from the president who in the past has shown his willingness to use violence against the protestors here, and a protest that thinks it's on the front foot and made demands more. Dangerous hours ahead. Back to you, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Nick in the middle of it all, thank you very much.

Controversy at the White House now where in just a few hours, President Obama is set to meet with the Dalai Lama. It's a meeting China does not want to see happen. They're urging the president to cancel the meeting, warning it would cause grave damage to U.S. relations with China. This meeting would be the third time the president has met with the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader while he's been in office.

LEMON: And new this morning, Republican Senator John McCain makes a presidential prediction that Hillary Clinton would likely win if the election were held tomorrow.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) ARIZONA: I would met, my friend, as much as I hate to admit it, that right now -- this is why we have campaigns. But right now, if the election were tomorrow, Hillary Clinton would most likely be the president of the United States.


LEMON: McCain was responding by a question about Minnesota Congresswoman's Michele Bachmann's recent comments that many Americans aren't ready for a female commander in chief.

CUOMO: Cuts to cost of living increases and Social Security checks will not be in President Obama's 2015 budget proposal. The White House said that offer the president made last year to Republicans is now off the table. The reason, economic recovery is just not there for too many. The administration's spending plan will be released in the next two weeks, and the GOP is already blasting it for not addressing the deficit. The question is, what will their plan be? We'll see. Let's go to Jim Acosta live at the White House. Jim?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Chris. That's right. You said that very well. The White House is starting to release some details from the upcoming 2015 budget. The big headline, as you mentioned, is the item called chain CPI. Basically it was a formula that was being proposed that would have resulted in smaller cost of living increases for Social Security recipients. The White House had been amenable to that idea when they were pursuing a grand bargain strategy on the budget with Republicans. But the White House now believes that the Republicans are not interested in that kind of a deal.

And no surprise the House Speaker John Boehner's office is now accusing the president of throwing in the towel. But the president, Chris and Kate and Don, was coming under some pretty heavy pressure from Senate Democrats to abandon that proposal. So the president giving that one up is an indication, another indication that this White House is getting into battle mode for the upcoming midterm elections. At a speech last night at the Democratic Governors Association, the president said that the White House Democrats are pretty good at winning national elections but not midterm elections because maybe perhaps Democrats don't think they're sexy enough. Don?

LEMON: Jim Acosta, thank you very much.

More people are using prescription meds to fall asleep. That is based on the result of a public study which suggest insomnia is on the rise. Researchers looked at 32,000 men and women and found that three percent of them use add sleep aid. That's up from two percent in 1999. Kate?

BOLDUAN: And politics aside, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul is coming to President Obama's defense, blasting rocker Ted Nugent for his comments that we've talked so much about, calling the president a subhuman mongrel. Paul tweeted this, "Ted Nugent's derogatory description of President Obama is offensive and has no place in politics. He should apologize."

CUOMO: New details about the shoe bomb threat we fist told you about here. A source is telling CNN that the threat is believed to be tied to Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, specifically to its chief bomb maker. While this plan is in the, quote "aspirational stages," the source said the PDSA wouldn't warn airlines unless the threat was real.

Let's get some perspective. Fran Townsend is here. She is CNN's national security analyst and a former Bush Homeland Security advisor, also a member of both the department of homeland security and the CIA's external advisory board.


CUOMO: That intro. You are so qualified that I am embarrassed to ask you any questions, but I should because you know all the answers.

TOWNSEND: There you go.

CUOMO: People get warning fatigue, threat fatigue. So when we hear about this, it's aspirational, we want you to know but we don't know what we want you to know -- what do we need to care about here?

TOWNSEND: OK, so let's break down the government language we hear around threats. Is it specific and is it credible? All the sources CNN has spoken to says it's not a specific threat. That means they don't know time or place or when or where, right? But they wouldn't put it out if they didn't think it was credible. What does that mean? That means that the source of the information that is behind this threat, the government at some level has deemed the information itself is credible.

So what do we know about kind of the history here, the background to it? This bomb maker in Yemen, he is part of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, this is the guy who brought you the underwear bomb, the computer cartridge bomb. CUOMO: Right. I'm told, yes, we know there have been shoe bombs in the past, Reid obviously famously here was found. But they say now tying it to this guy, that this bomb maker, he's real enough that if he is making these, we have to be careful.

TOWNSEND: That's right. And we know that he's been trying to make different kinds of bombs that will guess passed screening methods. And we know that without intelligence help from our allies around the world he may have been successful. So we do take threats emanating out of this particular bomb maker's entourage, if you will, his group very seriously.

CUOMO: "Shoe bomb" sounds small, but what is the damage potential?

TOWNSEND: Well, it depends on sort of the mass of the bomb, it depends on the purity of the mix, the detonation, the ability to detonate. We've seen successful bombs, like the underwear bomb, the detonation mechanism was not successful. And so it depends on a lot of things.

But if they can put -- assembly a bomb that has the sort of blast effect and they can get the detonation right and they can get it past our screening methods, it could have a very serious impact. And we've seen sort of experts explode bombs and show the impact of them blowing out the side of a plane. But it requires a whole lot of things to go right. And fortunately up to now, they haven't been able to pull it off.

CUOMO: And the good news we weren't blind to this threat before, so there are screening methods in place.

TOWNSEND: Especially at flights in emanate outside the United States heading in. We know that's a particular focus of this threat.

CUOMO: So go back to the shoes that are easy to get on and off.

TOWNSEND: Exactly right.

CUOMO: All right, Fran, thank you very much, appreciate the perspective as always.

LEMON: We're going to take a look at the morning papers. Chris, we're going to start with the "Washington Post." They're reporting a significant decline in the size of Iran's most dangerous stockpile of uranium. The U.N. Atomic Energy Agency says Tehran's supply of 20 percent enriched uranium is now well below the level needed to process a nuclear bomb. The decline coming in the wake of a temporary deal Iran struck with six world powers back in November.

Turn now to "The New York Times." They're reporting, critics are calling it a state sanctioned discrimination. A new measure passed in Arizona that would allow businesses to refuse service to gays and others by citing their religious believes. Supporters say it is a First Amendment issue necessary to guard against increasingly activist federal courts. Governor Jan Brewer, a Republican, still has to approve the measure. She vetoed, by the way, a similar bill last year.

And now to "USA Today." You see the picture of the snow there. You may not believe it, but the earth is coming off of its fourth warmest January on record since 1880. That is according to NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The report says that while the U.S. was only slightly cooler than average, much of the rest of the world was warmer than average.

CUOMO: Don, thank you very much.

Eight medal events today in Sochi, including the women's slalom and three in short track speed skating. But all eyes are going to be on the American men's hockey team looking for revenge against the Canadians. Their semi-final matchup comes a day after the American women blew a late lead and settled for silver against Canada. Yes, that means I lost my bet with Nikki. I will wear the mittens. It will happen. But what happened in the game was Team USA blew a two- goal lead late. There were only three minutes to go. They wound up losing in overtime.

BOLDUAN: And it was also a disappointing finish for the American figure skaters. Three were in contention heading into the lady's free skate, but none managed to crack the top three. This is the first time no American stood on the figure skating podium since the 1930s. A 17-year-old from Russia delighted the home crowd winning the gold.

CUOMO: We have a medal count here for you. Spoiler alert, take this moment to brush your teeth. With the lady's ski cross final in the books, no change at the top, U.S. still leading with 25 overall, followed by host Russia, and Canada. And gold and silver in the ski cross event leaps into a tie for third with the Netherlands. Norway rounds out the top five. Don?

LEMON: Time now to look at what is trending. This may look like a kaleidoscope but it's actually the core of a super nova. NASA's new star telescope is showing astronomers something they have never seen before. It's a glimpse inside the heart of a dying star. Experts can now study the remnants of Cassiopeia A, a star that was once eight times the size of the sun. Nischelle?

NISCHELLE TURNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Here's something else about another star. She has three academy awards and a staggering 18 nominations, and now Meryl Streep has been thanked more than any other individual in Oscar acceptance speeches over the past dozen years. According to a "Slate Magazine" survey, when it comes to honored mentions, it's Meryl Streep, followed by God, then Sidney Poitier and Oprah Winfrey. Don't be surprised if Meryl gets her name checked by someone else at this year's Oscars. They're March 2nd.

LEMON: Isn't Oprah on the top of that? And forget the national pride, there's something real riding on today's Olympic hockey semi- final between the U.S. and Canada.

A billboard in Illinois suggests the loser of the game has to keep embattled pop star Justin Bieber. The singer has Canadian citizenship, but he lives in California. He has Canadian citizenship, but he lives in California. In the last few months, though, he has been arrested for DUI and investigated for egging a house causing tens of thousands of dollars in damage.

And remember this video that we showed you of a wolf roaming the halls of a Sochi hotel? Well, it turns out a prank pulled by Jimmy Kimmel and U.S. -- did I take your story there?

TURNER: It's all right. Keep reading, buddy.

LEMON: I'm sorry.

TURNER: It's all you. I'm listening.


LEMON: -- U.S. star Kate Hansen. Kimmel filmed a different wolf at an American studio that looked exactly like Hansen's dorm in Sochi. And Hansen, well, he then tweeted a video. Jimmy showed the rest of the clip last night.


UNIDENTIFIED SKIER: Garfield? Garfield?


Have you seen my wolf?



LEMON: Apparently Hansen had to deal with a few security issues after the video went viral.


CUOMO: Hate him for that. That's the second time. He got us with the woman who -- she was twerking.


TURNER: Yeah, the twerking on fire.

BOLDUAN: Then she broke the table.

LEMON: Where's that video? I mean, wearing those tights, that is ouch.

BOLDUAN: Yeah. That goes into the eeew category.


BOLDUAN: All right. Michelle Obama getting in on the fun -- speaking of eeew -- during Jimmy Fallon's "Tonight Show" premier. She appeared last night with Jimmy and Will Ferrell playing herself in a talk show sketch called "Eeew".


MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: In fact, I brought some with me. You both should try one.


OBAMA: Well, thank you, Sarah. I do try to exercise every day.

FALLON: Really? Because I think exercise is eeew.


OBAMA: Exercise is not eeew.



You just have to find an activity that's right for you. For example, I like to dance, play tennis, even do some push-ups.

FALLON: Wait a second. Dancing is exercise?

OBAMA: Sure, as long as you keep moving around and get your heart rate up.

FALLON: That's totally (inaudible).

WILL FERRELL, COMMEDIAN: Are you saying what I think you're saying?

FALLON AND FERRELL: Eeew! Dance party!



BOLDUAN: Amazing.

CUOMO: Look at Ferrell. Will Ferrell, did you see what he was doing?

TURNER: It was like the shimmy (ph) twerk.


LEMON: It was kind of, like, creepy.



CUOMO: He is so perfect, that guy.

BOLDUAN: Nischelle, you're the only one at the desk that has not given their eeew rendition. Can we get it, please? TURNER: Like, eew.

BOLDUAN: Yours is actually really good.

TURNER: Like, yeah.

CUOMO: First lady did well.

LEMON: You've been in California way too long.

TURNER: I know.

BOLDUAN: You haven't done one yet.

CUOMO: I don't. I have a man law.


TURNER: Here's the thing, though. You know, guys, how there's this the new battle of late night, Kimmel and Fallon? I think they also have the battle of the viral videos. Because they are both really going at it.

CUOMO: That's the future.

BOLDUAN: That's the future. You got to get pick-ups so people are talking about it the next day.

TURNER: Exactly. Exactly.

LEMON: Kimmel's, I love.

BOLDUAN: I'm letting Jimmy Fallon win tonight because I'm mad at Kimmel. Because we talked about the video yesterday, oh my gosh.

TURNER: I know. I know.

CUOMO: He's making a fool out of us with these things though.

TURNER: He does, and he's loving every minute of it. He's sitting there with the evil laugh, mwah mwah mwah.

CUOMO: Somebody's going to do it to him.

BOLDUAN: That's right. And it's going to be NEW DAY.

LEMON: My thing, I will have made it when I make the unnecessary bleeps on Kimmel, when they -- when they -- unnecessary censorship.

BOLDUAN: Yeah, we have to unnecessarily sensors you all the time.


CUOMO: It's never been unnecessary.

TURNER: Very necessary. CUOMO: (inaudible) got yelled at by the boss.

LEMON: Oh, I know. Live on television.

BOLDUAN: Well, that was --

LEMON: Whoops.

CUOMO: That was very necessary.

BOLDUAN: That was very eew.

CUOMO: As is this break.

Coming up on NEW DAY -- I know, I had to stop you. We're going to break. Chris Christie is ready to discuss something that is worth listening to, his weight loss efforts. He's been mostly quiet on the topic since his surgery last year, but he did talk about it at a town hall meeting. We're going to tell you what he said.

BOLDUAN: And would the new multi-millionaire please stand up? No, Nischelle, sit back down. We're still waiting for someone to claim that $425 million Powerball prize in California. What's in store for the winner?

NEW DAY returns in a moment.


CUOMO: Welcome back. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is holding his first town hall meeting since his administration was rocked by the Bridgegate scandal. But no one even bothered to ask about that. Instead, he faced questions about Sandy relief and his weight, a lot of questions about his weight.

Now, you might remember last year, he secretly had lap band surgery to slim down. Here is CNN medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen with the story about it all.


ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Governor Chris Christie's very public weight loss struggle has ranged from late-night laughs --


DAVID LETTERMAN, TALK SHOW HOST: I make jokes about you, not just one or two, not just ongoing here and there, intermittent, but --



COHEN: -- to serious conversations about his health.


CHRIS CHRISTIE, NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR: You know, my doctor continues to warn me that my luck is going to run out relatively soon.


COHEN: At Thursday's town hall event, Governor Christie addressed the state of his slimdown.


CHRISTIE: A middle school student came up to me and said to me, "Governor, you're getting a lot smaller."


And I said -- I said to her -- I said, "Well, thank you." And she goes, "When are you going to get really small?"


And I said to her, "Well, my dear, Rome was not unbuilt in a day either, so, you know, we got a little work still to do. But thank you for noticing. I appreciate it."


COHEN: Last February, Christie underwent gastric band surgery, a type of bariatric surgery in which a silicone band restricts the stomach making it feel fuller sooner, and it does seem to have worked.

Here's Christie in 2013 and now one year later. But will the weight loss continue for Christie? Not necessarily.

In fact, a recent study of gastric band surgery patients found that after the first year, most patients stopped losing weight and many actually gained weight.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In general, by 12 to 18 months we see maximum weight loss. Typically what happens is your energy intake and your energy expenditure reach an equilibrium. And your weight will remain about the same.

COHEN: In the end, the lap band isn't a magic bullet. Whether Christie continues to lose weight depends on how much he exercises and what he chooses to eat and not to eat.

Elizabeth Cohen, CNN reporting.


BOLDUAN: All right, Elizabeth. Thank you so much for that.

Now to the jaw-dropping Powerball jackpot. The sole winner of that $425 million prize remains a mystery still this morning. But we do know the winner bought the ticket in northern California, and that, pretty much, we can guarantee that their life has been changed forever.

Here is CNN's Miguel Marquez.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get ready. This is Powerball.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Residents here wondering if the winner of Wednesday's $425 million Powerball jackpot will come forward soon. One lucky person shelled out just two bucks for a ticket to the sixth largest payout in U.S. history and woke up on instant multi millionaire. The lone ticket was sold at this Chevron gas station in the Bay area town of Milpitas.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My co-worker just told me right now, she's like, "Did you buy your ticket at the Chevron?" I was like, "No." She goes, "Oh, my God. Someone just hit it there. Crazy. It could have been me."

MARQUEZ: The gas station's owners' slice of the Powerball pie isn't too shabby either, a cool million just for selling the winning ticket.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's been surreal. I have no words to express how I feel right now. It's just a phenomenal feeling.

MARQUEZ: Two other tickets sold in California matched five of the six numbers. Those ticket holders would get $1.4 million.

If the winner elects to take a cash payout, they'll get an estimated lump sum payment of nearly $228 million. The lucky winner has one year to claim the life-altering prize, but the ticket holder can forget about staying anonymous. Their name becomes public record because of the golden state's disclosure laws.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I hope it's one of my regulars. I really do. These people that come in every day, they're loyal customers, and they play lotto.

MARQUEZ: The odds of winning the Powerball, one in 175 million, but clearly not impossible. This is the second time in just the past two months that the winning ticket was sold in California.

Miguel Marquez, CNN, Los Angeles.


BOLDUAN: A girl can dream, but I have not been to California recently.

CUOMO: So I think what happens now is there's so much sophistication in terms of what happens once you win that people kind of line up all their ducks. They get the representative. They make sure what debts they owe. There's a whole process now to becoming super wealthy.

BOLDUAN: It's tough to be super wealthy.

LEMON: You guys should know.

CUOMO: I've won the lottery three times, yet I still choose to come to work every day.

BOLDUAN: Such a good man.

CUOMO: Coming up on NEW DAY -- why are my suits so cheap?


Coming up on NEW DAY, evidence -- listen to this one. This is a -- we're going to talk about the NFL, most popular sport. However, new evidence in a case of domestic abuse, accusations of rape in another case, a bullying scandal. The NFL's image is taking hits. We're going to take a look at the league's problem and see how real it is.

BOLDUAN: And also ahead, U.S. women's figure skaters iced out in Sochi for the first time in almost 80 years. What happened?