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Threat of Severe Weather; Shoe Bomb Threat Tied to Al Qaeda; Reports: Ukraine Reaches Tentative Deal; Juror: Dunn Verdict Not About Race

Aired February 21, 2014 - 08:00   ET




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Similar to a sardine can. It just kind of roll that roof right off.


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Outbreak. Severe storms tear through the Northeast, multiple tornadoes touch down, blizzards in the Midwest, rain and snow compromise life for millions, 30 million of us in the crosshairs today. We'll track it all.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking this morning. Are they closing in on a deal in Ukraine? The government says they reached an agreement but the protesters aren't celebrating yet as the fighting spills into parliament.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: And the amazing photos everyone is talking about, the bystander that saved this baby's life amid gridlocked traffic by performing CPR. One of the women that helped save that little life joins us live.

CUOMO: Your NEW DAY continues right now.

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

BOLDUAN: Good morning, once again. Welcome to NEW DAY. It is Friday, February 21st, 8:00 in the East.

And we have severe weather up first for you. Slamming the Midwest, and now targeting more than 30 million people up and down the East Coast. Severe weather alert stretching from Gulf of Mexico to New England. In the forecast, you've got everything from snow to rain to dangerous winds.

And this, twisters. This is one of at least eight tornadoes reported in Illinois and it did serious damage Thursday, leaving thousands without power. The threat continues in the East this morning. Meteorologist Indra Petersons is tracking the very latest -- Indra.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, it's definitely been a rough 24 hours. You can actually see all the storm reports as this squall line continues to progress off to the East. Thirteen reports of tornadoes already in Illinois. Look at the wind damage reports we had as the system progressed off to the east.

Unfortunately today, that severe weather threat remains.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hunker down Nashville.

PETERSONS (voice-over): Overnight, severe storms wreaked havoc across the Midwest and southeast. Multiple tornadoes reported touching down in Illinois.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was very loud. Just couldn't hear anything.

PETERSONS: Thunderstorms, damaging winds, and funnel clouds threatening millions of people from New Orleans to Detroit.

In Illinois, Thursday night, the severe storm knocking out power to tens of thousands bringing torrential down pour 60 mile per hour winds and fog.

Dense fog causing this 20-car pileup near Chicago, one car pinned underneath a semi as rows of emergency responders lined the highway.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You couldn't see your hand in front of your face.

PETERSONS: And in Mississippi, a day care caught on fire after an apparent lightning strike.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He said, "Dad, look," and I looked back and a bolt of lightning went straight down.

PETERSONS: A very different picture in Des Moines and Minneapolis, near blizzard conditions. Police closing some highways as treacherous ice blankets the road. This mega bus went carrying four passengers in Iowa went careening into embankment after hitting a patch of ice.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm 46 years old and I have never had a winter like this.


PETERSONS: We still have an active squall line, even currently. You can actually see a severe thunderstorm watch box moving in towards the Southeast until 2:00 p.m. today. It is not the only place we're looking for severe thunderstorms. Potentially strong, damaging winds and isolated tornadoes, if you're south of D.C., all the way through Jacksonville. That's slight risk.

But notice the entire Eastern Seaboard having that risk for those thunderstorms to continue -- Chris.

CUOMO: All right. Thank you very much for following it.

We have new information about the shoe bomb warning that went to airlines this week. Officials are paying attention for two reasons. One, they say the threat is linked to an aggressive al Qaeda affiliate in Yemen and two, it's linked to a master bomb maker.

CNN's Barbara Starr is live at the Pentagon for us.

Barbara, does it check out on your end?


Well, you know, this master bomb maker and his al Qaeda group in Yemen have been the big worry for some time. And now, they may be on the move again.


STARR (voice-over): A U.S. official says it's credible threat tied to al Qaeda, which has never given up its intent to attack the U.S. again. There's no specific target, but the concern is al Qaeda will try to place a shoe bomb on an airplane bound for the U.S.

A second U.S. official says the TSA warning stems from intelligence tied to the Yemen-based group, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

PAUL CRUICKSHANK, TERRORISM ANALYST: Al Qaeda in Yemen have a master bomb maker, Ibrahim Al-Asiri in their ranks who is still at large. Now, this is the guy responsible for several attempts on U.S. aviation in the last few years. He's ingenious at making bombs. He's constantly trying to come up with new ways to get past airport security.

STARR: Several officials in the administration described the threat as aspirational, a desire to attack. But the first U.S. official tells CNN, the TSA would not take steps to warn the airlines unless the threat was real. That official telling CNN this threat may represent a renewed effort by al Qaeda. This is not just some flip comment on the part of a bad guy.

Secretary of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson, sought to calm fears about the TSA warning.

JEH JOHNSON, SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: The advisory we issued is one -- is the type that we routinely issue in response to the latest intelligence. As you know, concerns about shoe bombs have been out there for years, every once in a while, we update our advisories. We modify our procedures so that we remain vigilant.

STARR: U.S. officials also confirm there are a small number of American citizens in Yemen with al Qaeda with American passports. They could readily re-enter the U.S.


STARR: Now, officials will tell you problem number one is the master bomb maker. He knows how to make hard to detect bombs and he has trained other people to do the same.

Problem number two right now, there's growing intelligence that al Qaeda, including al Qaeda in Yemen operatives, are already, of course, inside Syria, and they're recruiting Americans and westerners in Syria to fight on their behalf and possibly train to go back to Europe or back to the United States to carry out attacks -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Terrifying thought. Barbara, thank you so much.

Also breaking news from the Ukraine. There are conflicting reports now that a deal has been reached. The opposition apparently said they'll sign the deal, but they say they need to talk more with protesters. And Ukraine's president announced on its Web site, that he plans to follow through on some of the major demands of the opposition. You're also seeing a fight that broke out in parliament over all of this.

Senior international correspondent Nick Paton Walsh is in Kiev following all the breaking developments.

Nick, what's the latest?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Kate, the president says he will call early elections, he'll change the constitution to weaken his powers and he'll also create a cabinet of national unity here. That's what the protesters have been asking for, along with his resignation. But he hasn't said when it will happen and he is certainly not going to leave his post. That's led to confusion.

The European delegation, diplomats, trying to get the deal off the ground, have gone down to the crowd behind me, the protesters that are represented by opposition leaders but not entirely controlled by them. They've gone to sell this deal.

Now, we've heard from a German diplomat with them that apparently the protest council, those wanting to protest, is giving the opposition leaders the authority to sign the deal, but I have to tell you we're dealing with a large crowd that feel embolden, feel their one singular demand, only one thing they agree on, is the resignation of Viktor Yanukovych, the president, is perhaps within reach.

So, the hours are vital because concession by a government that's been willing to use force in the past. The real question we have to ask now is exactly how long will it last here before Viktor Yanukovych resigns or will he stay in power and allow tension here to escalate further?

Back to you, Chris.

CUOMO: All right. Nick, thank you very much. Let's dig into this. It is a situation that's not going away. What is the U.S.'s responsibility and role? What could it mean for our troops?

We have General Wesley Clark. He's a senior fellow at UCLA's Burkle Center.

So great to have you. Obviously, you understand all the different ways this could go. You're very intimately familiar with the region. So, I ask you, do we have reason to believe that the situation there is going in the right direction?

GEN. WESLEY CLARK (RET), UCLA'S BURKLE CENTER: Well, I think that this is a matter of moving it in the right direction, click by click, degree by degree, and the more pressure there is on Yanukovych, the more he tends to see and tends to give up in these discussions, even if they're not finalized, then the greater the pressure on him with the next round of talks.

So, it is going in the right direction, but of course the protesters understand very well Viktor Yanukovych succeeds in dispersing the protest, the immediate threat to his government is gone and then the whole process will be dragged out.

This is not just about a civil war in Ukraine, this is not just people in Ukraine disagreeing, this is about geopolitics in the region, and the long reach of Russia under President Vladimir Putin.

CUOMO: So, put that into context for me, General, in terms of why should the U.S. be involved here and what should that involvement be in your opinion?

CLARK: Well, from the time the Soviet Union fell apart and the Cold War ended in 1991 and '92 in Europe, and these nations begin seeking benefits of democracy and integration with the dynamic economies of the West, Russia has struggled with its own modernization.

And when Vladimir Putin reached power in the late 1990s and became president, he saw the world in pre -- in Cold War terms let's say. He saw the world as a chess board in which countries are in one camp or another.

And this is a way the Soviet Union called geopolitics sees it. This country belongs to me, that country is yours. So, Putin has been struggling to put the pieces on the chess board back together. The critical piece is Ukraine. If Ukraine stays with the West, Russia is another large but nuclear armed country that straddles between Europe and Asia.

If Ukraine is put back in place as part of a revived -- don't call it Soviet Union, call it something else. But if it is bonded to Russia, then Russia is not just a nuclear armed European power, it is a world power with worldwide influence, and Europe's reach is curtailed.

CUOMO: OK. So, that's why it matters to the U.S. then it becomes what do we do? We're hearing about sanctions now. But are sanctions going to be effective when Russia -- who you point out is very invested here -- is giving Ukraine the things it needs most, cash and fuel?

CLARK: Right. Well, sanctions are an expression of U.S. attention and U.S. interest and they're immediate, and no, they're not going to change the situation, but they signal U.S. engagement, so they're important symbolically, perhaps they might have some impact on the margins.

But the U.S. and Europe have enormous resources that could be put in place. Remember that what Putin is giving is not even cash. It's really loans, loans to own.

And this is what the Ukrainian people understand. They've seen this played before. They know Putin tried to do this in many guises for many years.

So, the situation has been brought to a head. It wasn't just Yanukovych's rejection of the deal with E.U., it is the long-standing simmering tension between those who want Ukraine to come to the West and those who have longed for the return of a vision that Putin has when Ukraine is part of a Russia.

CUOMO: And it is important for people to understand, certainly you do, that this is ten years in the making, but we seem to be at a flash point. The obvious concern for Americans, General, is going to be are we going to have to take military action, could boots actually be on the ground -- same situation that scared us with Syria given how close we came.

We hear in this context that the defense ministry is not picking up the phone, so to speak, from Secretary Chuck Hagel, our defense secretary. What does that mean to you?

CLARK: Well, first of all, there are not going to be any U.S. troops on the ground here in the foreseeable future. That's just beyond the pale. But, I think what it does show is that with the dismissal of the top Ukrainian general yesterday, that obviously, inside the Yanukovych government, they're asking about loyalty of the military.

We don't know everything publicly that's going on there, but this is a logical move by the Ukrainian government, it is to say you know, get ready, I may need to send you in there to reinforce the police and some of the military would be saying no, we don't want to go against and have to shoot our own people. They're our brothers and sisters out there. And that kind of struggle is what typically goes on in a moment like this, in a crisis.

And so, when you see the resignation of these top leaders, you get an appreciation for the turmoil and the stress that the military's institution must be under in Ukraine.

CUOMO: Where are we in 24 hours? Where are we in a week?

CLARK: Well, I think that what you're going to see is the see-saw back and forth over the implementation of this truce. You're going to see continuing pressure because the protesters understand that, unless, there's concrete implementation and they disperse, it's over. And so, there's going to be continued squeezing on the protesters. There are going to be reciprocal acts of violence.

There may be provocateurs in the crowd. We don't know that, for sure. But typically in cases like this in the past, the government forces send in provocateurs to shoot in the air, to provide the excuse for greater government repressive violence. So, all of this is going to be looked at. And, I'm sure people in the square are, they're getting to know each other.

These protesters say who are you, where did you come from, what's your background, and they'll be working their own efforts to try to clean up their mass of people, check for loyalties, and prevent the presence of the provocateurs. So, this is a long and deep struggle. It's far from over, I would say.

CUOMO: General, you make a very important point there at the end. To this point, the opposition is very separate. Now, they're getting a chance to coalesce. And if they wind up being a united front, it may change the dynamic here. But thank you very much for outlining this and we'll be watching it. Thanks for being with us, General Wesley Clark.

CLARK: Thank you.

CUOMO: A lot of other news as well, so let's get to Don Lemon in for Michaela with the top stories.

LEMON: Thank you very much. We're going to go now to the unrest in Venezuela. Paratroopers are now headed to an area that has been torn apart by protests.


LEMON (voice-over): Six people have now died in the violence. The latest victim, a supporter of socialist president, Nicolas Maduro, was shot during an anti-government rally. Maduro has renounced the protests as fascist and blames opposition leader, Leopoldo Lopez, for inciting the violence. Lopez is being held in a military prison, but murder charges against him have been dropped now.

Breaking overnight, four people are dead and two are recovering in California after a woman opened fire at a Native American tribal office. Police say Sherrie Rhodes (ph) was facing tribal eviction at a meeting when she started firing. She then allegedly grabbed a knife and kept attacking after she ran out of ammunition. Rhodes was taken into custody after that incident.

A warning from China to the U.S. over President Obama's scheduled White House meeting today with the Dalai Lama. They're urging the president to scrap the meeting, calling it a gross interference in China's internal affairs and saying it would seriously damage U.S.- China relations. Obama's met twice before with the Dalai Lama since he has been in office. The exile Tibetan leader, spiritual leader is currently on a U.S. speaking tour. Has California reached a breaking point? There's a new proposal to fracture the nation's most populous state into six easy pieces. It is the brainchild of Silicon Valley venture capitalist, Tim Draper, who says the state is just too big and too unruly to be governed. But efforts to split the Golden State go all the way back to 1850. And even California voters go for it, if they go for it, U.S. Congress would have to approve that plan first.

And they say every dog has his day, and as my mom would say sometimes two, this terrier from Irving, Texas, doesn't agree. Dillon (ph) is a seven-year-old Westie with a very loud bark. So, his owner, a political writer, filed a petition to get him on the ballot to run for mayor. He says, with all the cat fighting in city hall, it's time for a dog to take over. But the city just rejected Dillon's petition.

BOLDUAN(voice-over): Why?

LEMON: Because he is not a registered voter, Kate. That is not right. That's rough.

CUOMO: Rough!


BOLDUAN (on-camera): Is that what I saw you pondering for a little while?


BOLDUAN: That was eew.


CUOMO: I'm a fan of dogs, but I don't know that you would want to do that to that pooch, put him into politics.

LEMON (on-camera): Right. I know. That's a dog fight.

CUOMO: It would be inhumane.

LEMON: Yes. You would know.



BOLDUAN: Let's take another break. Coming up next ON NEW DAY, we're going to talk about more fallout from the loud music murder trial. A second juror is speaking out exclusively to CNN and she has a message for anyone who says this was a case about race.

CUOMO: Boy, and a story about people stepping up. A dramatic roadside rescue, a baby stops breathing. First responders, other drivers nearby step up, step in. The baby is saved. We'll tell you how. Wait until you hear what the baby's aunt says what happened.


CUOMO: Welcome back. What do you think? Was race a factor in the recent Michael Dunn trial? If you asked juror that you're about to hear from, she says no. Speaking exclusively to CNN, juror number 8, Creshuna Miles, says she never thought Michael Dunn fired into Jordan Davis' car because he was Black. She also says Dunn was guilty of murder, but faults prosecutors for going too far in the charging. CNN's Alina Machado is in Florida with more on the interview -- Alina.

ALINA MACHADO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Chris, Miles says that she believes Michael Dunn was guilty of second-degree murder, not first degree. She also says race was not a factor in the jury's decision- making process.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I never once thought about oh, this was a black kid, this was a white guy, because that wasn't the case.

MACHADO: So, people who say, you know, here's another white guy who got away with shooting and killing a black kid, what would you tell them?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would tell them that they really should knowledge their self on the law.

MACHADO: Creshuna Miles is setting the record straight.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just wanted to bring justice to whoever it was.

MACHADO: The 21-year-old was juror number eight in the Michael Dunn murder trial. She sat down exclusively with CNN to talk about the case and the heated deliberations.

(on-camera) What was it like inside that deliberation room?


MACHADO: Wild as --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There was shouting. There was a lot of yelling.

MACHADO (voice-over): Miles even shared her impressions about Michael Dunn and explained the partial verdict the jury returned.

(on-camera) What did you think of Michael Dunn?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I honestly think he was a good guy. I think he is a good guy. I don't think he hates everybody. I don't think he walks around wanting to shoot everybody. I think that he made that decision.

MACHADO: You still think he's guilty of murder, though?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. I really think he is guilty of murder, but not guilty as charged.

MACHADO: First degree. You don't think he is guilty of first degree.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think he is guilty of second-degree.

MACHADO: How difficult was is it for you to come back into that courtroom knowing that Jordan Davis' parents were there and that you couldn't agree on a charge related to his death?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We were confident and cool with it, but when he sent us back, we got really nervous because we didn't know -- this mean this throws out the whole case, is she going to retry him, or is the court satisfied with just what happened, is she going to do more, is Jordan ever going to get justice? We did not know. And walking back into there, I got so nervous. I'm just like what do we -- what if we completely messed up?

MACHADO: Do you feel like you messed up? Do you feel like the jury messed up?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. I feel like we did what we were supposed to.

MACHADO: What would you tell Jordan's family?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would tell them from my end, I tried. I really did try. I tried to fight for their son. I saw the look on his dad's face when we were on the stand and I know it hurts. It is like oh, you got this wound and somebody slices it open again. Now, they have to go through the whole process all over again.


MACHADO: Now, Miles says that if there is a retrial, she hopes the next jury will be able to reach a verdict on that murder charge -- Chris and Kate.

BOLDUAN: Alina, thank you very for that update.

Coming up next on NEW DAY, first responders in Florida scramble to save the life of a five-month-old baby. Just look at these pictures. An act of heroism captured on camera. We're going to speak with the aunt who was driving the car and the stranger who stopped to help administer CPR. They're going to join us live.

CUOMO: And, we have Bode Miller, the most celebrated American alpine skier in history here in our studio with his medal and his hat and his stories about what it was like to be in Sochi. We get to see him compete again in the winter games. We don't want to lose Bodes. Come on. Just by name alone, he's one of our best.