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Former Ukrainian President Wanted for Murder; Protests Continue in Venezuela; President Speaks to Governors Association; Winter Olympics End with Closing Ceremonies; Jeopardy! Champion Causes Controversy; Interview with Debbie Wasserman Schultz

Aired February 24, 2014 - 07:00   ET


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: In Egypt, the prime minister and his entire cabinet just said "I quit." The interim government has only been in power for six months and no reason was given. But there has been a lot of economic strife recently. No word on who will replace the prime minister even if the interim president has accepted the resignations.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Pressure is mounting on Arizona Governor Jan Brewer to not sign a law that could make it harder for gay couples to eat and even shop. The state legislature passed a bill allowing businesses to refuse to serve gay couples if it conflicts with their beliefs. Opponents are outraged and they're calling the measure state sanctioned discrimination. Governor Brewer has until Friday to decide if she'll sign the bill.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: Gas service is slowly being restored at a mall where one person died and 27 others were sickened by a carbon monoxide leak. And 55 year old manager Steven Nelson was found dead in a restaurant basement Saturday night. One other victim remains hospitalized in stable condition. Police are blaming a faulty water heater flew for the leak.

Breaking this morning, the Pentagon is planning to downsize the army. The "New York Times" says Secretary Hagel is about to announce changes that would shrink the army to its smallest size since before World War II. Now, is this just about budget cuts or new military strategist and capabilities, that's the question. Barbara Starr is live at the Pentagon. Barbara, what are you hearing?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Chris, either way it's going to be about politics and a big political fight with Congress. The Pentagon, according to the "New York Times," wants to make drastic cuts is about to unveil the new budget. Do you need an army as big as the one you had in World War II with the advances in technology? So look for actual increases, perhaps, in cyber defense, in drones, in unmanned technology, all the things the military has been using.

But what Hagel is saying in this budget is no more big land wars. Iraq, Afghanistan, all of that is over. So he's looking to cut things like the 810 aircraft, decades old, originally designed for war against the soviets. The famed U-2 spy plane, now you can use drones. But, and it is a huge but, Congress doesn't like budget cuts in military spending because that means votes, it means jobs, it means veterans groups. All of that is going to be a huge problem for Hagel and the administration as they debate this budget in the coming weeks.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely, Barbara, thank you for that.

Breaking overnight, Ukraine's ousted president is now a wanted man, wanted for mass murder. A criminal case was just opened, but Viktor Yanukovych is nowhere to be found. All of this happening as an interim president has been appointed and lawmakers are working on a national unity government. CNN international correspondent Nick Paton Walsh has been there for us in Kiev. Do we even know, Nick, where the former president is at this moment?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We don't. Last sighting was apparently at a private house in Crimea in the south of Ukraine. People really concerned behind me here in Independence Square that he's brought to justice. This mass murder charge relating to the shooting of dozens of protesters not far at all from where I'm standing. But today the urgent issue is where has the money in Ukraine gone? They are talking about the country being bankrupt and the coffers being simply empty. They need $35 billion pretty much now from the U.S. and even from Poland or the EU, whoever will help out to keep the country afloat. That's an urgent crisis forming now. Behind me people in the square still mourning the dead and still very angry, barricades still. But the country does seem has moved away from the era of Yanukovych. Back to you, Chris.

CUOMO: Nick, thank you.

Protesters are also filling the streets of Caracas as the push for reform picks up in Venezuela. President Nicolas Maduro is not calling for a national peace conference. But the opposition is saying the time for talk has passed. Carl Penhall is in the heart of the conflict with the latest. Carl?

CARL PENHALL, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Chris, President Nicolas Maduro has called for the peace talks later on this week, but he says while he does want to put an end to three weeks of often violent protests, he doesn't want to share power and he doesn't want to reign back what he calls his socialist revolution.

Now at the same time he's offering peace talks, a retired army general took to his own rooftop armed with assault rifles in one Caracas neighborhood, and says he's ready to make a stand against what he dubs Venezuela's Cuban-backed dictatorship. Right now that army general is being backed by opposition supporters. They've thrown up barricades around his house to stop security forces getting there. And now the opposition is calling for more barricades across Caracas to cause chaos.

PEREIRA: Very unstable there. Carl, thank you for that.

Wiretaps and informants, that's how officials say they captured Mexico's most-wanted drug pin. Joaquin Guzman, known as "El Chapo," or "Shorty," was seized at a Mexican beach resort. He'd evaded capture for 13 years after breaking out of prison. Guzman has been indicted in at least seven U.S. federal district courts, some already seeking extradition saying he should face trial here in America, not in Mexico, where he could escape again.

BOLDUAN: And take a look at this frightening flight, especially for a pilot, in Florida. A camera on board a small plane captures the moment when a bird crashes into the windshield, sending shards of glass and feathers all over the cockpit. He was flying at 170 miles an hour and was just a few miles away from landing in Fort Myers, Florida. Luckily he only suffered minor cuts on his forehead.

CUOMO: Another possible noro-virus outbreak on a cruise ship. More than 120 passengers on a Holland America ship got sick on a week-long cruise in the Caribbean. This ship received a failing grade during a CDC sanitation inspection last September.

PEREIRA: Despite the spring-like temperatures over the weekend, guess what, another blast of arctic air is set to move in. The Midwest is in another deep freeze and parts of the east coast already starting to feel it. Indra Petersons is here tracking it for us.

INDRA PETERESONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: At least you delivered the news, not me. But yes, cold air is returning. We're already feeling it in the Midwest. Let's take a look at the highs, 15 or so degrees below normal in the Midwest. Not so bad in the east, the south still seeing above normal temperatures. By tomorrow we'll see that shift into the northeast. By Wednesday even the south, you're into the mix, 15 degrees below normal highs. Notice what's going on in the Midwest, starting to see 20 if not 30 below average temperatures. Thursday we are all cold. We're hanging on, still seeing temperatures a good 30 degrees below, Minneapolis looking for one below as your high.

It's not the only story, even some snow Tuesday through Wednesday, several inches towards New York City. If you're in the south, it looks like several inches of rain there as well.

CUOMO: Thank you very much, Indra.

National Security Adviser Susan Rice says she has no regrets about her take on the 2012 Benghazi terror attack. In an appearance on "Meet the Press" she blasted critics who accused her of a cover-up of the truth.


SUSAN RICE, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: That information turned out, in some respects, not to be 100 percent correct. But the notion that somehow I or anybody else in the administration misled the American people is patently false.


CUOMO: Remember Rice initially called the Benghazi attack a spontaneous protest against an anti-Islamic video. Evidence now shows it was a planned terror attack.

BOLDUAN: More on tap today between President Obama and governors from across the country. They are in Washington for the annual meeting of the National Governors Association. Obamacare has been a constant point of contention, of course. Some of those governors, even Republicans, are saying it's time to accept that Obamacare is here to stay, just one of many topics they will be addressing. Athena Jones is live in Washington at the White House with much more. Good morning, Athena,

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Kate. Getting rid of Obamacare has been a well-publicized goal of the Republican Party at the national level. It's an issue that's front and center as we approach these midterm elections later this year.

As you mentioned, it's looking like on the state level at least some governors are coming to accept that the law is here to stay. Iowa's Republican Governor Terry Branstad told "USA Today," "We're just trying to make the best of a bad situation. We're trying to make the law work for the people of Iowa," even though he called the law unaffordable and unsustainable.

Keep in mind, there are 21 states, most of them led by Republican governors, who have refused to expand Medicaid, which was a big part of the Obamacare law to try to help cover more people. And Louisiana's governor Bobby Jindal told "USA Today," "Maybe it's not impossible to repeal the law. I done think it's so deeply entrenched it can't be repealed. But if we argue for repeal we have to show people what we're going to replace it with."

I should mention that the debate over health care did not come up last night when the president addressed the governors. Jindal was one of the governors who are potential presidential hopefuls. The president addressed those folks, making a joke, saying "Tonight we want to make sure all of you are comfortable here. That's probably the plan for many of you, to be comfortable here at the White House." So a little bit of a joke about those 2016 hopefuls. Michaela?

PEREIRA: A few of them wanting the position. Thanks so much, Athena.

Let's take a look at what's in the papers this morning. In "The Washington Post," arguments today in the Supreme Court showdown over greenhouse gases. The Environmental Protection Agency sued for seeking to tighten emissions standards for stationary gases like those emitted by power plants. Opponents call it a gross overreach of executive power and want the justices to agree.

In the "L.A. Times" doctors believe they have identified as many as 25 kids in California suffering from a polio-like virus that's capable of paralyzing limbs. This trend began back in 2012. Doctors say they know definitively it is not polio. Public health officials are looking to see if there are similar cases outside of the state.

And in "The Wall Street Journal," Sony is desperately trying to make a big dent in the smartphone market. It's hoping it's D2 will become a bigger player. It has a bigger battery, a bigger screen, more RAM, an upgraded processer, and 4k video recording. The struggling electronics maker is also releasing a tablet. That one is waterproof and available next month in Europe. CUOMO: Waterproof, I like that.

The 2014 Winter Olympics are in the books. The games wrapped up with an elaborate closing ceremony. The Russians mocked their own glitch in the opening ceremony by having dancers wait a minute before expanding into the fifth Olympic ring. The ceremony serves as a handoff to the next Winter Olympic host. That will be South Korea welcoming the world in 2018.

BOLDUAN: And on the final day of the games, Canada captured another gold medal in Olympic ice hockey. Their men's team boasting a 3-0 shutout of Sweden. The U.S. men's team finished fourth. Better luck for the Americans in the four-man bobsled competition. They took home the bronze for the U.S.

As far as the overall results, Russian athletes did the host country proud with 33 medals, including four on the final day of competition. Team USA States finished in second, followed by Norway, Canada, and the Netherlands.

PEREIRA: I was just basking in that. Let's look at what's trending at this hour. Former Food Network star Paula Deen turned a beachside cooking demonstration into a bit of a public apology riding on the back of fellow celebrity chef Robert Irvine. Listen to what she told crowds Sunday at the South Beach wine and food festival.


PAULA DEEN, CHEF: If anybody did not hear me apologize, I want to apologize.


PEREIRA: During a legal dispute with a former employee, Deen acknowledged she used racial slurs in the past. Many of her endorsement, book, and TV deals crumbled afterwards.

NISCHELLE TURNER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: Michaela, Apple is rushing out a new version of their IOS system for tablets and phones after discovering a major security flaw. The problem allows hackers to see data that was supposed to be encrypted, allowing them to view and change e-mails and passwords. The fix has only been issued for the most recent iPhones, iPods, and iPads. For now, Mac computers still appear to be left unsecure.

PEREIRA: Check this it out. A popular voice is going silent. Remember Mr. Moviefone. His lines are being disconnected.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hello. If you know the name of the movie you'd like to see, press 1.


PEREIRA: Callers are told that the automated service would no longer be available mainly because of new technology and changing consumer habits. Moviefone will live on as a free app for your smartphone or tablet.

TURNER: I like to hear that voice still.

It seems there's a shortage of Beliebers in Atlanta. Pop star Justin Bieber is reportedly eyeing a home in the affluent community, but neighbors are saying stay out. A protest is taking place this morning and organizers even started a Facebook page over concerns that the singer will bring unwanted attention to the neighborhood. Bieber's camp has not commented on this rumored move. You know it's bad when you don't even know that he's moving there and there's protests already.

BOLDUAN: They already knew. They are not happy about it.

Some folks are not happy about a certain "Jeopardy!" strategist. "Jeopardy!" Arthur Chu has been called everything from unsportsmanlike to even some going as far as calling him a super villain. His "Daily Double" strategy has him dominating the game. And now the controversial four-time winner returns for the tournament of champions. But is he breaking all of the unwritten rules? Is it fair, Nischelle Turner?

TURNER: He would say don't hate the player, hate the game, definitely. But he is back. Arthur Chu is coming back to defend his title on tonight's show. He's the one that some viewers love to hate for his unorthodox style. Despite the backlash, his methods seem to be working. He's won nearly $103,000.


ALEX TREBEK, HOST, "JEOPARDY!": Here's the clue to help you all.

TURNER (voice-over): He's been blasted by "Jeopardy!" purists for his unconventional winning strategy. Dubbed a "mad genius" and "villain" on social media, and is currently the quiz show's reigning champion.

The answer, who is Arthur Chu? Yes, Jeopardy's polarizing 30-year-old insurance analyst is back.

Tonight he's playing for more cash and to defend his four-game winning streak, much to the chagrin of many show traditionalists who feel Chu is gaming the system.

TREBEK: It's a wise champion that knows which categories are good for him. And that applies to Arthur Chu.

ARTHUR CHU, DEFENDING "JEOPARDY!" CHAMP: I Have the Wine, $1,000. Month of Annuals for $1,000. 31 Days of Oscars, $2,000. $1,200 Canadian Bodies.

TURNER: Breaking from the typical game playing strategy of going through one category from top to bottom, Chu jumps all over the board, throwing his opponents off with his unpredictability and upping his chances of finding the prized Daily Doubles early on. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Arthur Chu is rewriting the rules of "Jeopardy!" All he wants is the money.

TURNER: His tactics drew heated backlash on social media, but Chu says his strategy is fair game and he simply in it to win it.

CHU: Do you realize we're playing for money, right? Like, a lot of money. The rules are what the rules are.

TURNER: And while some of the adjectives used to describe him sound like they were ripped from the pages of a superhero comic book --



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jeopardy villain.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Jeopardy villain.

TURNER: -- it is Chu that just might be having the last laugh.

CHU: Even if I were to lose the next game, $100,000 is nothing to go home and cry about.


TURNER (on-camera): Sure isn't. You know, tonight's episode was shot back in November, for your information, and this was before all of the backlash began and before Chu knew anyone had a problem with his playing style. So if you think you see a gentler "Jeopardy!" contestant tonight, probably not.

BOLDUAN: Does he need to be apologetic? He's just trying to win a game.

TURNER: You know, and he said even if he could go back and change the way he played, he wouldn't. Because he says if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Listen, the guy's won $103,000 doing what he does. It's strategy.

CUOMO: I'm thinking it gets the Michaela Pereira's signature nontroversy. The rules allow it.

TURNER: Exactly. That's the key, right? This is a controversy.

CUOMO: It's a strategy-based game.

BOLDUAN: I can say that this is a controversy. People are not happy.


CUOMO: Just because people don't like it doesn't mean they are right. You know, you have a legitimate basis for your grievance, you know? Just because it's on Twitter, you know.

TURNER: I didn't know "Jeopardy" was a gentleman's game.

BOLDUAN: Why is it not?

TURNER: I mean, I thought the whole point of "Jeopardy" was to be the one who got the most money at the end of the day.

CUOMO: You know, like, who was it? We had the guy in the piece who said all he wants is the money. Hello, Herm Edwards the famous NFL coach, you play to win the game. That's why you play. I say it's a nontroversy.

TURNER: Yeah, I'm with Arthur.

CUOMO: What do you think? #newday.

Coming up on NEW DAY, he slammed Republican governors last week. Now President Obama is gonna be meeting with some of them in the White House this morning looking for cooperation. Good strategy? DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz is here. We're going to put her to test on that and prospects for the midterm elections.

BOLDUAN: And can a business owner claim it's a religious right to refuse to serve someone who is gay? A bill that says yes is sitting on the Arizona governor's desk right now. We're gonna take a closer look at what this bill means and what could happen.


BOLDUAN: Welcome back to NEW DAY.

The nation's governors have descended on Washington for their annual meeting, of course. So while it seems like Congress won't be doing much in this midterm election year, Obama is looking for new allies. He's looking to nation's governors. But will he find any?

Joining us to talk much more about this and many topics, Democratic congresswoman from Florida and chair of the Democratic National Committee Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

Congresswoman, it's great to see you.


BOLDUAN: Thanks so much for coming in.

So the president last night, in speaking to the governors, he said that he wants your help in his year of action. But when you look at the reality, we're in 2014, we're in a midterm election, you know what it's like on Capitol Hill. Is there any chance in your mind that there's going to be anything significant coming from Capitol Hill this year?

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Well, it won't be for lack of President Obama and congressional Democrats trying. At the end of the day, if the Republicans in the Congress continue to want to do everything they can to stop anything that President Obama tries to do, then we're going to have an election about that, and the two contrasts and the new different paths and visions will be contested in the election, and we'll see where the American people land.

That happened in 2012, and they very clearly said that they wanted to make sure that we focused on fighting for the middle class and working families and job creation. And that's what President Obama is going to try to do on his own without Congress's help. He wants them to work with him, but if not, then he's going to do as much as he can without them.

BOLDUAN: But doesn't it seem like both sides have given up? I mean, that's not unusual in a midterm election year that we then focus on politics, not really on legislating. But it seems earlier than ever.

I mean, look at the president's budget. He's going to take a lot of heat for dropping this modification to how to calculate Social Security benefits.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Kate, thought --

BOLDUAN: He's doing it for the left.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: But I just said I'm not giving up. Democrats aren't giving up. If your question was do I think anything is going to happen, my answer was, it's not going to be because of the Democrats' lack of trying.

We need willing partners on the other side. The Republicans simply have only wanted to be obstructionists. Really focus -- I mean, that's why we (ph) voted nearly 50 times to repeal the Affordable Care Act or delay it or derail it or defund it instead of working together to try to iron out the kinks and fully implement. Even the governors who are in town this week in D.C. have said the Affordable Care Act is the law and it's here to stay. And we --

CUOMO: The other side is the reason we had all those votes is because you guys actually didn't work Obamacare the way you traditionally would. You forced it through and you left them no choice but to vote it.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: That's simply not true.

CUOMO: And the reason that you're going to have trouble working together is because you guys are too antagonistic. You know, the president is taking shots at the governors. Now he's going to meet with them and ask them for help. It's kind of like you set them up to disagree with you and then say it's their fault.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Come on, Chris. I mean ,how many times does President Obama have to -- extended his hand across the aisle, offered to sit down, said let's sit down and work things out, put things in his budget that our party has fundamental problems with, simply to be able to get the Republicans to understand that we want to find common ground.

The tea party extremists, sadly, that have been allowed to control the direction of the Republican party have a strangle hold -- on their party. And so it's prevented them. I've been in office 21 years, Chris, and 13 of those years I've been in the minority. I understand it can't be my way or the highway. Even as (audio gap) obviously, I support my party's agenda, but you have to put aside differences, figure out where you can agree so you can move forward together.

CUOMO: Members of your own leadership, though, say that the president has not been good at developing culture with the other side of cooperation, that he's been too stand offish. You know that.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Well, no, I don't know that. I beg to differ. I think there are countless times President Obama has said, let's sit down and work together. I mean, it's the Republicans that walked away from the grand bargain, who, you know, instead of focusing on the number one issue that's important to America's job creation and getting our economy turned around, that they focused on trying to do everything they can, including shutting the government down and costing our economy $24 billion, just to derail giving people access to quality, affordable health care. It's mind boggling.

BOLDUAN: When you talk about the grand bargain, which is never going to happen now at this point until things change in Washington, one element of the grand bargain was what I mentioned, this -- to change CPI, which is Washington gobbledy guck for saying there's a change how Social Security benefits are calculated.


BOLDUAN: Has the president explained to you, has the president explained to Democrats why he's dropping that from his budget this year?

WASSERMAN SCHUTLZ: Well, I haven't had a personal conversation with the president about it, but I can tell you that my -- my -- from having observed and been involved in the process, that is a tough thing. And -- as is the entire question of how you reform Social Security and safety net programs like Medicare, unless you have both sides willing to put some skin in the game, willing to set down and say, "You know what? We're going to spend a little bit of our political capital to make tough decisions together like Tip O'Neill and Ronald Reagan did in 1986."

But you have to have both sides willing to do that. If President Obama continually puts himself out there with -- and as a result the Republicans just take shots at him and continue to bash us. You know, when he put chained CPI in his budget last year, that they criticized him for proposing to cut benefits when that's an idea that their party has previously embraced.

Now, whether or not that's a good idea needs to be discussed and debated together. But, you know, to continue to put out only one side put out the tough stuff and the other stuff to just to get -- take hot shots at you, that makes no sense.

CUOMO: What's going to change it down there? You're going into the midterms, you have some things to worry about going into the midterms, what do you think changes the dynamic? Because we know the game, right? It's difficult to get things done. It's one that's based on hostility. But it's now gotten too far, too much inaction. The people are against both sides. What's going to change it?

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Well, I think what's going to change it is an election. I mean, we're going to have to have another election. We might have to have a couple of elections until it's clear to, at least from my perspective, to the Republicans that the path that they have chosen, the path of extremism, the path of doing nothing but obstructing the president's ability to get stuff done and choosing not to work with him is going to be rejected by the American people.

But in the meantime, we need to keep trying. We need to keep showing how we would move the country forward if we had willing partners to sit down and work things out, not to do it 100 percent our way, but to work together to find that common ground.

BOLDUAN: On that, I know a lot can happen and normally does between now and November. From your perspective, how are the chances looking that Democrats could possibly regain control of the House? I know the way it's described to me, is it's not likely.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Well, I think we have tremendous opportunities across the country. I think we're going to pick up seats. I think it's very clear that a lot of constituents across the country have buyers remorse from the tea party, Republicans that they elected in 2010.

The Republican party has essentially voted in lock step to shut the government down, to follow Ted Cruz and the tea party off the cliff and take the country with it.

And I think -- look, we don't all have to agree on everything, but people do want us to sit down and work together. You know, in the town hall meetings that I have when I'm home in south Florida, people just say, "Debbie, you know, you're all to blame." And they're fed up and sick of government. And they're losing their confidence that we actually have the ability to get things done that are meaningful in their lives.

BOLDUAN: They haven't been shown any evidence otherwise.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Exactly. Exactly. But, so that's why we have to, on our side, continue to do our best to work together.

I mean, sadly, the Republicans who actually used to be willing to do that are retiring because they are frustrated. The Republican party is in a civil war. They are in a battle for what direction their own party will go in. And they're beating the heck out of one another. It's very hard for any of them to focus on working across the aisle.

And we'll see what happens with their civil war, and, you know, hopefully it will shake itself out and we'll elect some willing people on their side to come to the table and work with us on job creation, on getting the economy turned around, on helping us build more opportunities and ladders to the middle class so people can work hard and play by the rules and have an opportunity to succeed and achieve their goals.

CUOMO: Get the economy stronger then you don't have to battle about the cost of living adjustment to Social Security because you have the sustainability of it. A lot of issues on the table.


CUOMO: Thank you for helping us break it down.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Thanks so much.

BOLDUAN: Great to see you. Thanks for coming. Thanks for being in studio with us.


CUOMO: Always a pleasure.

Coming up on NEW DAY, an amendment to an Arizona law could make it legal for a business to refuse service to gays and lesbians and other people. Is it a way to defend religious freedom or a license to discriminate? We're gonna talk to someone who helped draft this new amendment. It's a debate. You get in it on it.

BOLDUAN: And also this, this video that is difficult to watch. An elderly man gets run over by a car at a gas station and left on the pavement with very serious injuries. Well, now police are looking for that driver for an attempted murder charge. And that's why we're bringing the story to you, try to help out.