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Crisis In Ukraine; Winter Blast Turns Deadly; Bone Dry To Drenched; Evacuations Underway In California; Delaying Afghanistan Exit; NSA Chief Considers Less Data Collection; Darren Sharper Turns Himself In; Veterans Bill Dies in Senate; Obama's Emotional Moment

Aired February 28, 2014 - 06:00   ET



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I expect Russia to be transparent about these activities.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news. Has Russia invaded Ukraine? The government there claiming Russian military has taken over a Ukrainian airport. The world is scrambling to confirm who these armed men are. If it's true, what will the U.S. do?

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Coast-to-coast misery. A cold week just got colder. Temperatures sitting 40 below. The east coast gets it today. And out west, towns evacuated amid flooding fears.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: And we are live from the red carpet in Hollywood where they are bracing for rain on this Oscar weekend. We have everything you need to know about the big award, but the performance everyone is talking about? The president and vice president racing through the White House.

CUOMO: Your NEW DAY starts right now.

Good morning. Welcome to NEW DAY. It's Friday, February 28th, 6:00 in the east. Right now, 150,000 Russian troops are conducting what's called military exercises near the Ukraine border. Hundreds of fighter jets, helicopters and tanks seemingly poised to take action.

Now we keep hearing there's no real chance Russia will ignore U.S. calls to stand down, but this does not look good, most troubling. Armed men have taken up position outside the main airport in the pro- Russian region of Crimea. The government there says they are Russian military.

Adding fuel to the fire, Ukraine's fugitive president has surfaced in Russia declaring he is still the country's rightful leader. We are going to tap into our resources here at CNN to bring you to the most comprehensive coverage of what could be a developing crisis beginning with Phil Black live in Kiev -- Phil.

PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Chris, some of those gunmen surrounding that airport, they look like the civilian militia. Others look far more professional and the Ukrainian government says they are indeed professional Russian soldiers and that's why they are calling this an invasion.


BLACK (voice-over): Overnight, dozens of armed pro-Russian forces seized control of the international airport and military airport in Ukraine's Crimea region, a day after pro-Russian gunmen took over a government buildings in the city and raised the Russian flag. As the crisis in Ukraine deepens, their fugitive president is expected to emerge from the shadows.

A week after being ousted, this morning reports the humiliated leader will hold a news conference in Russia. His announcement likely to echo the indignation of pro-Russia demonstrators against Ukraine's new interim government.

On Thursday, Yanukovych told Russian news agencies that the parliament's activity is, quote, "illegitimate." His defiance comes as opposition leader, Arseniy Yatsenyok takes charge. Voted into the seat of prime minister.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We'll do everything and use all legal means to stabilize the situation in Crimea.

BLACK: He's concerned about images like these in Crimea. Pro-Russian demonstrators chanting outside the encampment overnight on Thursday. Crimea remains the last stronghold of opposition to the new leadership in Ukraine. This embattled region near the border representing a country divided where many in the west want to increase ties with Europe, while some in the east want to rejoin Russia.

Just over the border, Russia continues to ratchet up their military exercises positioning fighter jets along their western borders and deploying armored personnel carriers in Crimea.

CHUCK HAGEL, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: I expect Russia to be transparent about these activities and I urge them to not take any steps that could be misinterpreted.


BLACK: Those Russian military exercises across the border in Russia now include 80 combat helicopters flying along next to the Ukrainian border. But there is still no confirmation from the Russian government that these exercises, these drills are connected to the events here in Ukraine. Kate, back to you.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Phil, thanks so much.

The crisis in Ukraine is raising tensions between the U.S. and Russia as we now see, setting off an intense round of phone calls between the two countries. Let's talk more about what this all means with our international correspondent, Fred Pleitgen live from our Moscow Bureau and Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Star live in Washington for us. Fred, first to you. Now, we have confusion at the airport in one region of Ukraine. You have Russia conducting military exercises on the border there. I want to know what your take is on what you think -- did we lose Fred? We lost him for one second.

Barbara, let me get your take on what you think is really unfolding from the U.S. perspective over there. What's your take?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you know, Kate, I think that what the U.S. is worried about right now may not be not so much that full-scale Russian invasion, 150,000 troops crossing the border. Nobody really thinks at this point that's what's going to happen. But are we seeing this morning at the airport and these other areas, the emergence of the actual Russian strategy.

Small incursions, if you will, small areas, key areas, like parliament building, like airports where Russian-backed, Russian supported either militia or troops go in and take control. If they are supported by Moscow, Vladimir Putin clearly exercises his influence in this region.

What does the U.S. do about it? There's no possibility at this point of any U.S. military or NATO military action. Diplomacy is the road they are going down, but if you don't have an invasion and you have this drip, drip, drip, if you will, of individual areas then what do you do about it?

BOLDUAN: And that obviously is the big lingering question, what kind of assistance can the U.S. provide? We know that Vice President Biden spoke with the new interim prime minister, I guess we could call it, expressing U.S. support. But what additional assistance could the U.S. offer at this point in.

STARR: Right now, what the U.S. is looking for is economic and financial assistance to this emerging government in Ukraine. Many other countries in Europe as well looking to what they can economically and financially do to support them. That seems to be their biggest weapon against Moscow at the moment.

BOLDUAN: Let's bring Fred Pleitgen. We've reconnected with Fred real quick. Fred, I was talking to Barbara about what this looks like from the U.S. perspective. But from your perspective in Moscow, you have confusion at the airport and military exercises going on at the border, on the Russian side of the border is you have the U.S. and the Ukraine saying Russia, you do not need to be getting involved. Is this Russia blatantly ignoring the warnings? What's your take?

FREDRERICK PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I wouldn't say they're ignoring the warnings. I think it is Russia flexing its muscles. They're trying to show the world that they have the power if they wanted to, to significantly influence the events that are going on in that part of Ukraine. On the other hand, I also think it's absolutely unbelievable that these forces down there on the ground in Crimea would be doing that if they didn't at least have the consent of Russia.

I've been down in that region the last couple days, you can see the leaders there very carefully monitoring their moves. They least have Russia's consent to do all of these things. A lot of that is domestic consumption. Vladimir Putin is walking a very, very fine line. There's a lot of people in this country who want him to take very tough action -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: And a lot developing yet this morning. I think we're going to have to keep close eyes on all of this throughout the day. Barbara, thank you very much. Fred, great to see you. Thank you so much as well -- Chris.

CUOMO: All right, when it comes to the weather, we both know how lousy it has been. But there is renewed danger across the Midwest and northeast. It is literally deadly cold. A 6-year-old in Minnesota lost her life from exposure to subzero temperatures in this latest arctic chill. Now, more snow on the way next week. So more trouble. Let's get to our meteorologist, Indra Petersons with the latest. What do we see?

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Looks like these deadly windchills this morning are not just a story for the upper Midwest anymore. Today you can actually see that this deadly, very cold air is spread all the way even into the northeast where windchills this morning make it feel like it's below zero. In New York City right now feeling like 8 below. Unfortunately, this cold air is expected to last and on top of it, another winter storm is expected on the way.


PETERSONS (voice-over): The cold that won't let up just got even colder. Across the Midwest, this was the scene, temperatures tumbling with windchill to 30 below. In Green Bay, Wisconsin, a new record, 49 days below zero.

In Minnesota yesterday, the cold turned deadly with frigid temperatures claiming the life of a 6-year-old girl who was found in the entrance of her apartment building wearing a hat, coat and mittens.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are developing a timeline as to when the child was last seen and how long the child was exposed to the elements.

PETERSONS: In Detroit, schools are closed today as the National Weather Service says windchills are expected to be 20 degrees below zero. Forecasters say Detroit has been particularly hard hit this season with the motor city getting more than 79 inches of snow and more than a dozen days of below zero temperatures.

And in New York City this morning, temperatures are already below zero with windchill and they're expected to be a good 20 below average by the afternoon. And all of this cold, it's not going anywhere fast. It's here well into next week.


PETERSONS: Here's what we're expecting through the afternoon today. Notice the northeast, temperatures are expected to be below freezing, a good 20, 25 below average for this time of the year and this cold arctic air is not even a headline story today. It's this huge low. The biggest storm California has seen in three years on top of the biggest drought they've ever seen.

So unfortunately the threat of mudslide and flooding is high and this applies to everyone else, but once this huge system exits out of California, it is expected to be a huge snowstorm affecting the Ohio Valley and the northeast. As far as who gets snow and how much, it all depends on where it goes.

Right now, one of the models bringing most of it towards New York. The rest of it out towards D.C. and of course, that does mean a concern out towards L.A. for the Oscars as well. It looks like the biggest chuck will be today, but by Sunday, still some showers on the red carpet.

BOLDUAN: No way of avoiding it. Indra, thanks so much. Let's head out west, actually. Parts of California as Indra said is now getting drenched. Much of the state expected to get hammered over the next couple days with heavy rain and snow that could spell clear disaster in the foothills east of Los Angeles.

Our Michaela Pereira went out there to cover the Oscars, but now she's pulling double duty and watching the storm. Michaela, how is it this morning?

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: Kate, you know, I thought I'd come home to California and get a little bit of sun. I might have to wait for that. Look, as Indra was just saying, this is being considered the worse drought in modern California history. Get this number, 94 percent of the state is in drought. A lot of people are praying for rain, hoping it comes. But too much of a good thing in some areas is a real concern. Now some folks are being put on high alert.


PEREIRA (voice-over): Officials and residents on high alert overnight as the latest Pacific storm system threatens to wreak havoc on the west coast, dumping as much as 6 inches of rain onto dry parched land in California and as much as 8 inches up in the mountains. But instead of drought relief, experts say the deluge may bring disastrous floods and mud slides.

SGT. JOHN MADALDIN: We strongly recommend that they heed the warnings of the experts.

PEREIRA: Glendora residents just below these hills were ordered to evacuate. The fires that burned out the trees here left the land vulnerable. Residents are hoping that their prep work will payoff and protect their homes. The driest parts of California will need over 15 inches of rain to bounce back from the devastating drought. But too much all at once could be disastrous.

This semi lost control Thursday night on Interstate 210, the rain already causing a nightmare on the roads. It's also putting a damper on Oscar preparations. But it's expected to move out in time for stars to hit the red carpet Sunday night.


PEREIRA: Back here live, look, right now not such a glamorous hour on Hollywood Boulevard. A lot of folks behind us trying to keep this red carpet, 600 feet of it dry. You can hear it over the live shot location here, just pounding down. You see the guys with the polls?

They are trying to get that sitting water up off the tent so we don't have a collapse. They are doing what they can so dry it out when they walk down on Sunday. They installed special gutters we're told. It's all covered in plastic. I'm standing on plastic right now. Organizers are saying they are hoping for sun and clear skies on Sunday, not to contradict our Indra Petersons.

There is this system, it's a little bit unstable. We don't know how long it's going to stay in the area. The bewitching hour is on Saturday night. They have to make a decision then if they pull the tents down. If they think there's just a chance of showers, they'll leave the tents up.

If the sun comes out, it kind of makes a greenhouse effect in here and that's going to be funky. And that's an official weather term, Chris and Kate. I didn't know if you knew that.

BOLDUAN: I didn't know that either. All they can do to keep that carpet dry. They already had a problem with a soggy bit of carpet at the Golden Globes I remember.

PEREIRA: Soggy carpet, bad. It is a real concern. And I'm joking with some of our crew here that we need our sunscreen because you know it is sunny California. Don't need that today. Tomorrow maybe.

BOLDUAN: Maybe. We are keep it alive. Thanks for Michaela.

CUOMO: Swapping for an umbrella and obviously the Oscars is the least to the concern out there. It's too bad they can't collect some of this water because the drought conditions will remain after the flood threats. So it's just the worst of both worlds.

All right, let's get you some more headlines right now. Here's what you need to pay attention to today beginning with deciding when to pull coalition troops out of Afghanistan with the security deal less and less likely. NATO and the U.S. military are weighing two options. Waiting for the elections this spring to see if Afghan President Hamid Karzai to leave office or a plan for a complete withdrawal by December.

BOLDUAN: The outgoing director of the NSA is suggesting the agency could make do with less phone data collection. General Keith Alexander told the Senate Arms Services Committee. It's essential to collect domestic data, but the same can't be said for all calls. The general has forcefully defended the data collection since it was leaked by Edward Snowden.

CUOMO: Breaking overnight, Darren Sharper, the former NFL star now facing rape charges in a second state, Louisiana. Sharper was in Los Angeles turned himself into the LAPD. He's pleaded guilty to drugging and raping two women. He's been investigated in three other states.

BOLDUAN: The Clinton library is preparing to release 33,000 pages of previously confidential records from Bill Clinton's presidency. The first 4,000 to 5,000 are set to go online this afternoon. The rest will be released over the next two weeks.

President Clinton and President Obama could have requested the documents remain confidential. But both approved the release.

CUOMO: All right. I know it's busy in the morning, but you need to pay attention to this. Do you remember this moment? We're going to play it now. In is at the State of the Union.

They say could be the longest standing ovation in history.

Sergeant Cory Remsburg. Yesterday, we told you the story of his amazing recovery. You responded seeing him as the face of some of the most extreme need of our veterans. We all say we support the troops, right?

At that State of the Union, the left and the right, they stood up and cheered. Remember how they said they were united by him and what he represents because of what we have to do for our troops.

Why do you hear sarcasm in my voice? Because here is the real deal -- yesterday, the Senate took up a bill for veterans like Cory, $21 billion brought by independent Bernie Sanders. It was planned to improve veterans' access to health care, education, job training -- all good things, all things both parties say they should have. Should have sailed through, right?

Senate Republicans, however, tried to tack on additional sanctions against Iran on the bill. Have nothing to do with the bill. Something Democrats won't agree on, right, because President Obama is trying to give diplomacy a chance. And they knew that was going to happen, right?

What happens on the other side? Typical Washington fashion. The Republicans claim Democrats were needlessly shutting them out of the process, steal glory, try to own the issue, play politics. The bill's sponsor had to literally beg for the gridlock to end. Take a listen.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: Please do not inject extraneous issues in here for totally political reasons. I think that is just unfair to the veterans of this country.


CUOMO: And that is exactly what they did. So you know what happened? Nothing. The bill did not have the votes it needed to get through and the people who got hurt are our veterans. Remember that when you hear the men and women in D.C. say they care about the troops, remember about what just happened here. The question is, what do you about it? You love taking to social media, right? And complaining about the most trivial things.

Complain about this. Let your voice be heard. What happened on this bill is a mistake. It can be corrected.

We'll keep telling you the story all morning long and follow it through.


BOLDUAN: Still ahead on NEW DAY, a rare emotional President Obama. He's talking about growing up without a father, his experience with drugs even, and also why the state of race in America should break our hearts, he says. You're going to hear from him in his own words, coming up.


BOLDUAN: Welcome back to NEW DAY.

The president, like you've rarely seen him, opening up about his childhood in an emotional message to young minority men talking candidly about his father, his experience with drugs, and the fears he has for the next generation of African-American men.

Athena Jones is live at the White House for us this morning with more on the president's new initiative to help some of these -- many of these young men.

We've got an introduction yesterday, Athena, to this initiative, My Brother's Keeper. But no one really expected to hear the president this way.


The president has being criticized for years for not introducing targeted efforts to help deal with some of the problems in the black community in particular. With this announcement aimed at black and Latino young men, he answers those critics.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I can see myself in these young men, and the only difference is that I grew up in an environment that was a little bit more forgiving. When I was their age, I was a lot like them. I didn't have a dad in the house.

And I was angry about it even though I didn't necessarily realize it at the time. I made bad choices. I got high without always thinking about the harm that it could do. Groups that have had the odds stacked against them in unique ways that require unique solutions, groups who've seen fewer opportunities that have spanned generations. And the worst part is that we become numb to these statistics. We're not surprised by them. We take them as the norm. We just assume this is an inevitable part of American life instead of the outrage that it is.


And I -- and I believe the continuing struggles of so many boys and young men, the fact that too many of them are falling by the way side, dropping out, unemployed, involved in negative behavior, going to jail, being profiled, so we need to change the statistics. Not just for the sake of the young men and boys, but for the sake of America's future. And that's -- that's why in the aftermath of the Trayvon Martin verdict, with all the emotions and controversy that it sparked, I spoke about the need to bolster and reinforce our young men.


BOLDUAN: We've heard, Athena, him speak of his childhood before. But we do not often hear the president open us so candidly and in such personal terms to try to push this message.

JONES: That's exactly right. I mean, it's not unusual to hear the president talk about race. He talked about race in a speech during the 2008 campaign, you'll remember. He got a lot of attention when he talked about race during the Trayvon Martin case.

But it is unusual to hear him speak so movingly about the problems facing young men of color and to speak so personally about his own personal upbringing. He talked about how his mother and grandmother and teachers and others would get second chances, third chances, not give up on him. You heard him talk about the outrage that should surround the statistics for young men of color.

And I should mention, someone in the White House said that the president was more emotional than many of the event's planners expected. And he ended up improvising a lot of the speech, and you could tell that he was driven by emotion during that speech.

I should say this isn't just a speech. It was a big event launching a big problem with a lot of money behind it. And the president said that this is an important an issue as he's worked on in his entire administration -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: And let's hope that emotion and money is a call to action and actually does something. It's one thing to have a press avail, as you well know. And it's another thing to cause and help change these men's lives -- these young men's lives, as well needed as we're hearing these stories.

Athena, it's great to see you. Thanks so much.

JONES: Thanks.

BOLDUAN: Chris? CUOMO: All right. Coming up on NEW DAY, new explosive allegations in the Chris Christie investigation. We're going to tell you what new documents say and what else we may find out this morning.

Also, why the president and vice president taking a jog or are they on the run. Who's chasing them? We're going to tell you the story behind this. Pick it up. Pep in your step.


CUOMO: Welcome back to NEW DAY.

Here are the big things to watch this morning:

Armed gunmen in southern Ukraine have taken position outside on airport in Crimea. Flights appear to be operating normally, but the question is, who are they? Have the Russian military moved in?

Right now, 150,000 Russian troops are assembled near the Ukraine border. Moscow says they're participating in previously planned military exercises.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warns the Russians to be transparent and respect Ukraine's sovereignty. The question is, have they already ignored the U.S. warning?

BOLDUAN: And back here in the U.S., mudslide fears grip parts of California. People are now evacuated from a thousand homes threatened in the foothills of East Los Angeles. Torrential rains hitting slopes already cleared by wildfires, raising the risk of mudslides.