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Mudslide Fears Force Evacuations; Airport Overtaken By Armed Gunmen; Interview with Ambassador Michael McFaul; Veterans Bill Dies In Senate; President Obama's Emotional Moment; Interview with Valerie Jarrett

Aired February 28, 2014 - 08:00   ET




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's dangerous. I feel bad for the people.


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: temperatures nose dive across the East. The Midwest battling 40 below. On the West Coast, they need rain but not this much. Not all at once. Communities being evacuated as flooding fears spread.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: And breaking news, claims of an invasion. The Ukrainian government says the Russian military has sent armed men to one of its airports. The world now watching to figure out just what is going on.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: Time for Oscar. We're live in Hollywood at the start of the biggest weekend in entertainment. Everything you need to know about the big show. Who will win and if they don't how much will they walk away with in that free gift bag. I'm telling you, you won't believe it.

CUOMO: Your NEW DAY continues right now.

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

BOLDUAN: Good morning and welcome once again to NEW DAY, everyone. It's Friday, February 28th, 8:00 in the East.

Just keep reminding yourself as we are, spring is right around the corner, but before we get there, some places are going to break some new winter records. Temperatures are going to drop 30 below normal in some areas and on top of all of it, more snow is in the forecast for early next week.

Indra Petersons is here with the details -- Indra. INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: We were all talk about how miserable this winter was even before this latest arctic blast. Look at this -- the Northeast starting to wake up with wind chills feeling like below zero. New York City feels like minus 5. Boston feels like 6 below.

Even as we warm up as we go through the afternoon, we're talking about feeling below freezing, 30 degrees below where we should be. It's not even the big headlining story, it's about what's going on out West. What? Huge -- biggest drought they've ever seen, 26 percent of the state, the highest category for drought conditions.

And now, they are looking for the biggest rain storm they've seen in three years. The fact is the ground cannot handle it. It acts like concrete. The water will run off and huge flooding concerns in the region and the system is so powerful that once it makes its way across the country, it's going to be a snow maker potentially Sunday and through Monday.

Who's going to get the heaviest snow? That's the big question. Maybe the Northeast, the other one brings it further south towards the mid- Atlantic. We'll have to northern to see where this guy goes once it exits California.

What we do know, it's staying cold and it's staying cold for some time. Even by next week, still another reinforcing blast of cold air. Just keep in mind, for Oscar Sunday, the storm is supposed to be gone by 10:00 a.m. What they do with the carpet, hard to say -- Chris.

CUOMO: All right. Let's revisit the first part of the story, cold in the East, you got the drought in the West. Indra tells us that California is facing a historic drought situation.

But the soggy irony is the rain coming won't help. Just too much all at once as much of the state expected to get hammered over the next couple of days with heavy rain and snow. That could spell disaster in that mudslide prone area with the foot hills east of L.A.

Michaela Pereira went out there to cover the Oscars, but the news comes first, watching the storm as well -- Mick.

PEREIRA: Always.

Yes. You know, that old saying Chris, be careful what you wish for. Well, California needed rain desperately. Here it comes, in fact. Well, right now so much of it, so fast all at once it's expected and that's what's putting folks on 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 six inches of rain onto dry parched land in California and as much as eight inches up in the mountains. But instead of drought relief, experts say the deluge may bring disastrous floods and mudslides. SGT. JOHN MADALDIN: We are not going to be dragging people out of their homes, but 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. Severe weather is also putting a damper on Oscar preparations. But storms are expected to move out in time for stars to hit the red carpet Sunday night.


PEREIRA: Back here live on the red carpet in Hollywood, it is soggy and there's a lot of people, all hands on deck trying to keep this rain off the red carpet which is tented. There's plastic over the 600 feet of red carpet that the stars will walk down. There's even guys here whose sole job is to use big sticks to lift up the tent to get the rain off of it, so that it won't weigh it down and threaten a collapse.

I mean, it's a serious issue. They've also put special gutters alongside the red carpet to sort of redirect that rain. They don't want it soggy. They don't want it wet. They need to dry out before Sunday, obviously.

Back to some of the conditions out there, one area, Glendora, was -- there was a great concern about mudslide fears, Chris. In fact, they placed an evacuation order. There was 1,000 homes that were ordered a mandatory evacuation.

We're told only 25 percent of the people follow the evacuation order. The rest of them had to sign a refusal to evacuate form, if they were going to stay in their home. So, a lot of people choose to. It's not something we suggest or authorities suggest. But people want to protect their property.

So, that's the latest here on the soggy red carpet for Oscars on Sunday. We're keeping an eye on it. We're staying dry. We're keeping an eye on conditions out there because we know it really is a concern.

CUOMO: All right. We'll check back in with you a little bit. Find out what's going on out there. But also breaking this morning, nearly after a week of having fleed -- fleed, it's not even a word, of having fled his country, Ukraine's fugitive President Viktor Yanukovych has turned up in Russia. All right.

And we're hearing he could speak out at any time. Meanwhile back in southern Ukraine, armed gunmen are patrolling two airports there now. Ukraine's foreign minister says that it is the result of an armed invasion from Russia. That is not confirmed.

Let's get reporting from the ground right now. Phil Black in Kiev.

Phil, what is the latest about the identity of these people?

PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Chris, good morning. Some of these gunmen look and sound like local civilian militia but others appear to be far more professional and the Ukrainian government believes, they are Russian soldiers, military personnel deployed from a nearby naval base 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 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 Yatsenyuk 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: The latest information, multiple Ukrainian media out lets are reporting seeing Russian military aircraft, helicopters flying through Ukrainian airspace towards the direction of one of these airports that is now currently surrounded by pro-Russian government. Kate, back to you.

BOLDUAN: Phil, thank you very much.

Let's discuss more about this unstable situation going on in the Ukraine and what it means for the United States.

For that let's turn, to Michael McFaul. He's the outgoing U.S. ambassador to Russia and just left a couple of days ago. He's now professor of political science at Stanford University.

Mr. Ambassador, thank you very much for waking up early. I'm sure you're dealing with a significant time change as you just returned to the United States.


BOLDUAN: I want to ask you about what Phil Black just said that there are several Ukrainian media reports that Russian military aircraft are flying through Ukraine's airspace.

What do you make of that? That seems to be heightening tensions, ratcheting things up even more than previously thought.

MCFAUL: Well, this is just being reported as I drove over here. So I don't want to confirm it yet. If it's true, obviously, it's a major escalation in what Russia is doing inside the Ukraine but even if it's not true it's a very dangerous situation, extremely tense.

You have soldiers with guns very well armed in Crimea, a part of Ukraine, saying they want to be, are now loyal to Russia. Very, very dire situation, it reminds me unfortunately of other parts of the former Soviet Union where you had breakaway regions that were in this kind of suspended sovereignty, neither here nor there that led to conflict, I'm thinking principally of Georgia in August of 2008.

So, I'm quite nervous about what's happening there right now.

BOLDUAN: When you look at what's happening on the ground, there seems to be at least some confusion if not a complete disconnect of what you're hearing from officials. The Russian foreign minister is saying they will stay out of the Ukraine. His terminology was they will respect territorial integrity.

When you hear that and then see the images and the reporting on the ground in Ukraine, do you believe him?

MCFAUL: Well the idea of respecting territorial integrity is an international norm that President Putin and foreign minister have often talked about usually in criticism of the United States and Western countries. Obviously, in previous times and Georgia comes to mind in 2008, when they deem it to be in their national interest they will violate that norm.

This is a very uncertain time when there's more ambiguity because there are Russians, ethnic Russians in Crimea not citizens of Russia, but ethnic Russians that pledged their loyalty to Russia and the Russian media is calling the soldiers that are at these two airports right now self-defense units, that is kind of local militias that are helping to defend the ethnic Russians in Crimea.

Either way, it's a revolutionary situation that needs handled very delicately. Nothing could be worse than an all in all combat between ethnic Russians and ethnic Ukrainians in Crimea.

BOLDUAN: With that in mind and as you just are leaving your post at this critical moment, you truly have a more unique perspective on the situation than any. What do you see as Russia, more importantly, Vladimir Putin's end goal here?

MCFAUL: Well, the first thing to understand is that they were extremely disappointed with President Viktor Yanukovych. In their mind he was weak, he should have used force to remain in power and that he fled and as you just reported he'll shortly be doing his first press conference from Russia. That's a real sign of weakness from their point of view.

Second, they see what's happening in the Ukraine as something that could bleed into Russia. They call it the Ukrainian virus and, therefore, they are extremely concerned about what the outcome might be and how it might affect domestic politics in Russia.

Third, they want Ukraine to be part of what they call the Eurasia Union. This is one of Putin's major foreign policy objectives right now. If Ukraine does not go that way it will be a big blow to that dream that he has.

But fourth, I would also remind people that Putin is pragmatic. He's not a risk taker. And I think, therefore, we need to leverage that and to make sure that he understands the consequences of genuine all in out Russian military invasion of Ukraine. That's not a scenario that neither the West nor Russia desires.

BOLDUAN: I want to get your take on what you think those consequences should be, but as we continue our discussion, I want to show you some live -- and to our viewers -- some live images of the former president of Ukraine, Yanukovych. He is speaking live now, and in part of his comments, he did say that he was going to continue to fight.

He's in Moscow. He's making these comments the first time we're seeing him since he fled. What should the Ukraine, the U.S. and European allies take from this, do you think?

MCFAUL: Well, it means he's done as a leader in Ukraine. And, you know, just a week ago, there was an agreement that had been signed by him and the opposition supported by Europe that could have led to a negotiation.

BOLDUAN: But the fact that he's making these comments from Russia, Mr. Ambassador, the country that you helped engineer for the Obama administration to reset policy, how does this influence the U.S./Russia relations now? MCFAUL: Well, for the United States, it's crystal clear. We want to support a peaceful negotiation for new free and fair elections to elect a new president. Yanukovych is done. He's in Rostov. He's not in Kiev. I don't see any scenario that he comes back. That's our first priority. And second, we need to de-escalate the tensions in Crimea working with Russia. We don't have another choice. We have to do this as part of the international community.

BOLDUAN: I think that's an important critical point that you make right there. Thank you very much, Mr. Ambassador, for coming on. I know it's very early for you out there in California. I hope to have you on again soon as we watch this truly play out in real-time and are uncertain where things are going to turn in the Ukraine on any given moment. Thanks so much. Welcome home.

MCFAUL: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Of course. Chris.

CUOMO: All right, Kate. Let's talk about a different type of crisis right now that's going on right here at home. You remember this? What a moment, right? Sergeant Cory Remsburg, this is at the state of the union. They say it could be the longest standing ovation anybody remembers there. Left and right standing, clapping, joined together. Seeing him as the face, right, the face of what? Veterans in need. Some of the most extreme need.

We all say we support the troops, right? They stood there. They said they would join, united by him and what he means and what all veterans mean. Why am I saying it that way? Because here's the real deal. Yesterday, the Senate took up a bill for veterans like Cory. It's a $21 billion bill brought by independent, Bernie Sanders, and it was supposed to improve veterans' access to health care, education, and job training.

Who's going to disagree with that, right? They're all areas of need. Should have sailed through, right? OK. Here's what happened. Senate Republicans tried to tack on additional sanctions against Iran on the bill. Now, something sanctions that some Democrats support but wouldn't tack on this bill especially when President Obama is trying to give diplomacy a chance, right? And they knew that.

So, they put it on. Republicans then claimed, by the way, the Democrats were needlessly shutting us out of the process trying to glory hunt for themselves here. So, the bill's sponsor in the end 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: No kidding. But guess what happened? You guessed it. Nothing. 41 of 45 Republicans voted against it. Democrats could not get the votes to overcome and could not foster cooperation. Republicans simply do what they do best these days, they blocked. But blocking our veterans? I don't have to tell you that that's outrageous. I know you feel it. The question is, what are you going to do about it?

You love to take to twitter and social media to complain about the slightest thing. What about this? Take to social media. Tweet about it. Let the politicians know that this is too much. Use the #helpvets. Remember that moment, Cory Remsburg, his amazing recovery. People standing saying they care about the troops.

Not just those like Cory the ones who need jobs, the ones who need opportunity, the families that are left behind making it work while others are fighting for our freedoms. Remember what just happened and do something about it -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Thank you, Chris.

Coming up next on NEW DAY, President Obama emotional and unusually candid as he launch as a new initiative to help young minority men. We'll ask White House senior adviser, Valerie Jarrett, why the initiative called "My Brother's Keeper" hit so close to home for the commander-in-chief.


CUOMO: It was a candid and very personal plea. President Obama, like we've rarely seen him, announcing an initiative aimed at creating opportunities for young minority men called "My Brother's Keeper." And in laying out the plan, the president spoke openly about his own childhood and mistakes he made and growing up without a father and really seem to resonate with people in the room.

Let's bring one person who there was, senior advisor to President Obama at the White House, Valerie Jarrett. Ms. Jarrett, thank you very much for joining us.

VALERIE JARRETT, SENIOR ADVISOR TO PRESIDENT OBAMA: My pleasure. Good morning. Good morning, Chris.

CUOMO: Pleasure is mine. What made this different to you?

JARRETT: Well, I think -- let's remember, as the president reflected on yesterday, he grew up with a single mom. He talked about the trouble that he got into, and the anger that he had, that he had to work through. And so, he really connected with those young men who were standing behind him and so many boys and men around the country who are in less forgiving environments than the one that the president grew up in.

So it was deeply personal, and I think he understands what an amazing role model he is particularly when he's so honest about his beginning. And he mentioned that when he met with those men from becoming a man in Chicago this time last year, one of them we finished talking about his life said to the president, "Are you talking about yourself? You did all that stuff?"

And so, I think it was a very special day, deeply personal for him. And I think that he galvanized an enormous amount of support from the philanthropy community, the business community, the faith community. Everyone who's so engaged and ready to help these young men reach their dreams.

CUOMO: What a window into the world of too many kids these days when you hear some of Black young kids saying that part of becoming a man is leaving behind childish things and that they think as part of childhood that that should include gun violence and gang banging and the drug trade that is on so many streets.

It was sobering that too many see that as just part of childhood. Now, one of the things that doesn't often happen from leaders or even Black leaders is to put onus on young Black men, to put blame on them for their on condition and challenge them to be their own change. The president did that as well. How did it go over?

JARRETT: Well, I don't think he put blame. What he said is that we all have responsibility to be disciplined and treat women with respect and work hard and stay in school and achieve your dreams and that the society has a responsibility to help young people do that. So, it wasn't so much blame at all. It was really encouraging them to strive and reach for your dreams.

There was a young man that the president recognized named Mo (ph) who works right here at the White House for Denis McDonough, and what Mo said to me the day before is that children will meet the expectations that adults set for them. And so, part of the president's message is as parents, as aunts and uncles and grandparents and faith leaders and everyone who's around a child's life set those high expectations.

There's really nothing wrong with the children. They just need adults to help them aspire for their dreams and what the president believes in is that every child regardless of zip code should have that equal opportunity for success. And yes, they do have to work hard and they have to act responsibly and play by the rules, but we need to teach them how to do that.

CUOMO: It's interesting. You know, you're on with Bill O'Reilly the other night. Watched it. Always interesting to see that type of dynamic. He made an interesting point to you. He said that you can't just call out the system, you can't even just call out the kids and tell them to be responsible. You have to call out the entertainers they look up to and push those men and women to do better.

He named Jay-Z and a couple of others saying you have to tell them to stop with the gangster lyrics, stop making that cool, stop glorifying materialism. Now, you didn't really give him a straight answer on that, but do you think that's something the president would do, turn to that community and say do better?

JARRETT: Well, you know what, I think -- my point to Mr. O'Reilly was this. Don't underestimate the children. Those young men in the room yesterday looked up to the president and many other leaders who were there. I think that we really need to just figure out how to have a positive message and encourage positive behavior and get people to be role models for the children and if that's a very effective way of helping them grow up.

You know, if people want to encourage many musicians who are great leaders and who are wonderful inspirations for children, that's important too. But I don't think anybody is off the hook. I think everybody has to accept responsibility for these young people and do everything we can to help them succeed.

CUOMO: Fear criticism that the president should have done this sooner so close to his heart he understands the conditions so well. Why only now?

JARRETT: Well, we have been working on this for a while and I think the fact that we were able to announce yesterday that foundations have already invested $150 million and that they're prepared to invest an additional $200 million, that's a result of a lot of hard work, bringing 10 foundations, some of our nation's largest foundations to the table. We had many members of the business community who were very supportive.

So, we've been working on this for a long while. And I think, yesterday was the launch of this new initiative, a new approach. But it's based on evidence. It's based on research. It's based on due diligence. And that takes some time.

CUOMO: Well, it's good to see you it happening, timing aside. Valerie Jarrett, good to see you here as well. Thank you for the perspective.

JARRETT: It's a pleasure.

CUOMO: Appreciate it.

JARRETT: Absolutely. Take care, Chris.

CUOMO: Thank you very much -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Coming up next on NEW DAY, an Arizona lawmaker maybe not as funny as he thinks igniting another controversy in that state for jokes he made about Hispanics. So, what did he say? That's ahead.

Also, who will be heading home with Oscar this Sunday? We're live on the red carpet in Hollywood for some academy award predictions.