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U.S. House Holding Ukraine Votes; Emergency Meeting Of European Union; Referendum Called By Crimean Parliament; Oscar Pistorius Murder Trial

Aired March 6, 2014 - 06:00   ET



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don't accept anything that President Putin said as fact.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Under pressure. The U.S. set to move today to slap unilateral sanctions on Russia as European powers meet in Brussels on what to do next. This morning, Ukraine says Russia has blockaded its ships. We are live everywhere that matters.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Rethinking the church. Pope Francis shaking things up yet again this time opening the door to same-sex unions, and, he talks about giving women more powerful roles in the church hierarchy. How real are these shifts?

CUOMO: Breaking now, a dramatic day in the trial of Oscar Pistorius. The doctor who was first on the scene on the stand. What he saw inside that house and what Pistorius said to him in the moment.

Your NEW DAY starts right now.

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


CUOMO: Good morning. Welcome to NEW DAY. It's Thursday, March 6th, 6:00 in the East.

And we're going to begin with breaking news on the Ukrainian crisis. Diplomacy ramping up on both sides of the Atlantic. Now, in Europe, 28 nations are meeting right now in Brussels searching for a way to apply for pressure on Vladimir Putin. But Washington is not waiting for European resolve. America is signaling it may go alone. There are hearings today on sanctions that the U.S. could impose unilaterally against Russia.

BOLDUAN: And on the ground, the situation is still extremely volatile. Riot police right now are facing off with pro-Russian demonstrators outside of key government buildings in the port city of Odessa.

Also breaking overnight, at least half a dozen Ukrainian naval ships have been boxed in to their port. Ukraine says the Russians moved in old warrior ship to black the entrance to a lake trapping the boats, if you can believe it.

And we have also learned and this is a very interesting move, the pro- Russian parliament in Crimea has called for a referendum on whether to join the Russian federation or to stay part of the Ukraine. The parliament there have voted for the referendum and say they want their referendum to take place in ten days' time.

We have this crisis covered from all of the pressure points for you this morning. Let's begin with Michelle Kosinski at the White House -- Michelle.

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Today, we see a sort of symphony of diplomacy. The U.N. Security Council meets. All 28 European heads of state hold a special session with a view to impose sanctions on Russia today unless there is de-escalation. Something that's also being actively prepared for right here.


KOSINSKI (voice-over): Well, Russia still insists all those soldiers who have taken over Crimea aren't even Russian. In the U.S. at the highest levels, many voices are united in putting an end to it.

CHUCK HAGEL, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: We don't accept anything that President Putin said as fact.

KOSINSKI: Carefully.

JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: The United States with our partners is focusing intensely on a remedy.

KOSINSKI: Secretary of State John Kerry for the first time since this crisis met with his Russian counterpart who then refused to meet with Ukraine. The west have been a long string now of calls and meetings. It is urging Russia to pull back its troops, let in international observers who yesterday were blocked from getting into Ukraine and continue discussions. The result now moves towards sanctions by Europe and by the U.S. on its own.

JENNIFER PSAKI, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESWOMAN: We're at a critical point. That's sending a strong message using all of the political and economic levers we can pull. It's essential. So in terms of what that will manifest itself in, we'll see what happens over the next 24 hours.

KOSINSKI: A bipartisan group of U.S. senators is working on a resolution to condemn Russia's actions pushing for asset freezes, visa ban. Today, the House Foreign Regulations Committee will vote on its own resolution calling for crippling sanctions to send a message to the Kremlin, forcing Putin to reverse his aggression.

This as the State Department put out this fact sheet called President Putin's fiction debunking all the stuff he said about why Russian troops are in Crimea. Absolutely no evidence, it reads of things like threats to Russians there or a humanitarian crisis.


KOSINSKI: Look positive here, Russia has agreed to continue discussions. The prime ministers of Russia and Ukraine have spoken. And just yesterday, Vladimir Putin talked to German Chancellor Angela Merkel about options. But what the west has repeatedly asked Russia to do has still not happened -- Chris.

CUOMO: All right, Michelle, thank you very much.

And as we told you, delegates from the entire European Union are meeting on the crisis at this hour. Ukraine's interim prime minister is at the session pleading for diplomacy. Russia while saying it is only humanitarian intentions has refused to attend the talks.

So let's get the latest on that. Erin McLaughlin is in Brussels with the latest -- Erin.

ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Chris. Well, E.U. Foreign Policy Chief, Catherine Ashton was very clear here on Monday when she said that either Russia de-escalates or it risks damaging its relationship with Europe. Words that really set the scene for it. Today's meeting now underway. Heads of state and government have arrived.

On the table, a menu of sanction options including the potential for individual asset freezes. Also potential suspending negotiations over visas. So all of that being considered. The issue is any sanction needs to be met with the approval of some 28 member states unanimous approval, which could be problematic considering there are differing schools of thought.

For instance, countries in Eastern Europe favoring harsher sanctions and countries such as Germany and Britain with close economic ties to Russia leaning towards more negotiations. It will be interesting to see what, if any, decision emerges out of today's meeting and if the pressure Europe chooses to apply will have an effect on Moscow -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Huge lingering questions especially the question of can they get unanimous approval as you well point out. Erin, thank you very much, on the ground for us in Brussels. We'll check back in with you.

The situation in Ukraine seems to grow only more volatile by the moment. Now the pro-Russian parliament in Crimea has called for a referendum this month on whether to join with Russia or stay part of Ukraine. This could be a huge development. Let's get to Anna Coren who is live in Simferopol, Ukraine with much more -- Anna.

ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We are currently at a military base where tensions certainly remain high. As you can probably see there are Russian troops behind me and dozens of transport vehicles. They arrived here on Friday, 700 of them, and they are still here in full force. They've taken over the military base. Interestingly enough, the Ukrainian commander came out and spoke to us a short time ago. He says the situation remains calm, but it has the potential to become extremely dangerous as the U.N. special envoy to Ukraine discovered last night.


COREN (voice-over): Militia men surround this cafe in the Crimea region of Ukraine. Inside, a U.N. envoy takes shelter. His mission to assess the situation on the ground, halted after some harrowing moments. Earlier pro-Russian men in camouflage threatened Robert Serry at gun-point demanding he get into a car.

ROBERT SERRY, U.N. ENVOY TO UKRAINE: My car was blocked and somebody who did not identify himself was telling me that he had orders to immediately bring me to the airport. I refused.

COREN: Swarmed by angry protesters, Serry flew to safety in Istanbul. He says what happened to him illustrates how dangerous the conflict has become.

SERRY: There is a very urgent need to de-escalate this situation. I'm very, very afraid for what would happen if there is bloodshed.

COREN: Long simmering tensions are boiling over in the Crimean capitol and spreading across the region. At sea, Russian Navy ships asserting their presence blockading two Ukrainian military ships. The Ukraine's eastern border with Russia, a tug of war for control of a regional government headquarters near the hometown of ousted President Viktor Yanukovych.

Pro-Moscow demonstrators who stormed the building earlier in the week were removed on Wednesday, but they reportedly recaptured the building hours later. And scuffles between rival demonstrators continued into the night.


COREN: As you mentioned in your introduction, the Crimean parliament voted a short time ago to hold a referendum in ten days' time. Now in that referendum, the citizens here will decide whether or not they want to stay with Ukraine or become a part of Russia. Now there are very close historical cultural ties with Russia.

Obviously Crimea used to be part of the former Soviet Union up until 1954 when it was handed to Ukraine. Certainly from the people that we were speaking to yesterday, they are very pro-Russian. They want nothing to do with Europe, nothing to do with the west. So I think it's safe to say, Chris, that these Russian troops behind me won't be going anywhere.

CUOMO: If that's who they are, right, Anna, part of the mystery of this situation is that non-insignia soldiers, Russia hasn't claimed them yet, but what a harrowing image that is, for Anna to have all these Russian vehicles behind here. This mystery soldier, kind of speaks to the oddness of the situation. But Anna, thank you for reporting for us this morning. Appreciate it.

All right so with that reporting, we now want to figure out what could come next. Joining us is CNN political commentator, Peter Beinart, to break it all down. Peter, always a pleasure. Let's start with this proposition. A referendum, the people will decide. That's what referendum means, right?

So in Crimea, they are going to take a vote. We want to be with Russia? We want to be with Ukraine? Is that OK, is it allowed? If so, is that the right outcome in the situation?

PETER BEINART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think you need to have international observers. I don't know how they are going to organize this in 10 days and what the circumstances are. But it seems to me unlikely that you are going to have the kind of international legitimate kind of process that you would need.

I think this is a pretty big deal. Right now you have a stalemate. The Russians are in control of Crimea, but they haven't moved into the rest of Ukraine. And so in this kind of stalemate position, maybe you can find some way of kind of quietly, diplomatically walking this situation back from the brink. But if Russia moves towards actually taking legal control over the Crimea then it seems to me we have another escalation.

CUOMO: Now the interim prime minister of Ukraine just said this referendum will be illegitimate. So they are going to dismiss it right off. That will complicate the situation. Yet for that scary image of Anna standing with the Russian, what are they? Just vehicles, right, those are personnel carriers behind her, the mystery soldier without the insignia, this referendum that could happen or not, what will Ukraine do with its own democracy. You believe we may have seen the worst here.

BEINART: Well, the good news in this very bad situation is that there's no evidence so far that Putin is continuing on into the rest of Ukraine. And the U.S., I think, is trying to figure out and Europe trying to figure out how to strengthen the government of Ukraine, but also offer the Russian some face-saving gestures to move back. I think the wildcard is the potential for a change on the ground.

Either this vote, this referendum or even worse some sparking of violence. I mean, you have as you see the Russian and Ukrainian soldiers right there (inaudible). You have protests and various different kinds of skirmishes going on in other parts of Eastern Ukraine.

So I think there's a real race here between the possibility of diplomatic de-escalation on the one hand and the possibility of events on the ground getting out of control on the other.

CUOMO: Because while Putin's allegations about Russian ethnics being under attack, maybe exaggerated or unsubstantiated, there is real tension within the country. They have real financial pressure. They have real ethnic pressure that they have to resolve. With time, it could go the wrong way. That's understood. All right, so that's basically unpacking the situation in Ukraine and Crimea as it stands. You then have this parallel problem going on back here in the U.S., which is the optics of the politics of the situation. There is a growing attack against President Obama.

And it is this, Putin is doing what he's doing right now because of you, you are weak. What they are calling the Russian reset. Peter, you tell me, you're the expert in the area. I look at Crimea and I see 2008 Georgia except that was worse. President Bush watched Putin go in to Georgia, took too much time, and was criticized by people here.

There was actual hostilities, actual killing. It seemed like if you were going to point the finger of where did Putin learned that he could do things without reprisal from the U.S., how do you start now and not then?

BEINART: Right, the problem with blaming this on President Obama is that as you said Putin did something very similar in Georgia. From the Russian point of view, this is not what to justify what Putin did, which was thuggish and lawless. From the Russian point of view, you've seen NATO's borders move from Berlin where they were at the end of Cold War all the way onto the grounds of the former Soviet Union.

And one of the things I think Putin's key strategic desires was to prevent NATO from expanding even further into countries like Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova, and by invading part of Georgia in 2008 and doing what he's done in Crimea, he's effectively stopped that march. That doesn't have anything to do with the policies of Barack Obama in Benghazi or Syria or anywhere else. It's the fact that Putin is trying to draw a line to NATO and saying here and no further. He is exactly the same thing with George Bush.

CUOMO: And he got the exact same results that are being criticized right now. Nothing harsh was done. Bush was slow to move. Everybody wanted to be deliberate. So it does seem they're playing politics here. That's a safe assumption.

BEINART: Right. Because everyone says, you want to be tough on Vladimir Putin, but nobody wants to ultimately put U.S. troops on the ground to fight in places like Crimea or Georgia. The Russians know that and we know that and limits our leverage.

CUOMO: So that's nothing new for Putin. The only thing that is new is he is getting to watch the U.S. attack itself, which didn't happen in 2008 because both parties worked together to figure out the sanctions. It's important perspective. Peter Beinart, thank you very much. We're relying on you in this discussion here as it continues. It's going on for some time, but hopefully the worse is over.


CUOMO: All right, so we're going to follow Ukraine, all the developments. Stay with us for that. There is also other news this morning. So let's get to John Berman for that. He is in for Michaela -- John. JOHN BERMAN, CNN GUEST ANCHOR: All right, thanks so much, Chris. Breaking overnight, an American eagle plane forced to make an emergency landing in Greenville, Texas after the pilots reported smoke in the cockpit. CNN affiliate WFAA says it happened just after takeoff from the Dallas Fort Worth Airport. Forty eight people were on board. One passenger tweeted, the crew kept everyone calm during the landing and evacuation.

President Obama making another health care push at the White House today. This time it's about selling the Affordable Care Act to Latinos. The event happening right after the White House announced a two-year extension for some health insurance policies avoiding possible election year insurance cancellations.

Some drama at a House committee hearing on former IRS official, Lois Lerner. Congressman Elijah Cummings furious that Chairman Darryl Issa adjourned the hearing and cut off microphones before he had a chance to speak. Listen to this.


REPRESENTATIVE ELIJAH CUMMINGS: What's the big deal? May I ask my question? May I state my statement?

REP. DARRELL ISSA (R), CALIFORNIA: You're all free to leave, we've adjourned, but the gentleman may ask his question.

REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), MARYLAND: The past year the central Republican accusation --

ISSA: We're adjourned. Close it down.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Darrell Issa was frustrated because Lerner once again took the Fifth without answering questions about the agency's alleged targeting of conservative groups. The House Committee could pursue contempt charges now, they say they will, against her.

New developments in the disappearance of Holly Bobo, the Tennessee nursing student vanished in April 2011. Now, a 29-year-old has been indicted on charges of aggravated kidnapping and first degree. Zachary Adams is being held without bond. He's due in court next week. Authorities have not said whether Bobo's remains have finally been found.

All right. This story's got a lot of people's attention.

In Massachusetts, the state's highest court ruling in favor of a man who took up-skirt photos of female subway riders in Boston. The supreme judicial court says while such actions should be illegal, they're not. According to state law, the woman would have to be nude or partially nude for it to be illegal. They overturned a lower court ruling that upheld the charges against Michael Robertson who was arrested in 2010 in a police sting. Massachusetts lawmakers now say the law needs to be rewritten. We will have much more on this later on the show.

I know you've been having a hot debate on this all morning.

BOLDUAN: Been having a field day with this. How is it when you're getting a cell phone picture taken up your skirt, are you not partially nude?

CUOMO: I don't know. But I do understand why this happened. There is no debate. Don't let John Berman (INAUDIBLE) throw me under the bus.

BOLDUAN: Chris is pro up-skirting.

CUOMO: I'm not pro up-skirting. And I'll tell you what the problem is, that the judge cannot go beyond the law. Judges don't make laws. The judge was saying, not like we like up-skirting, this seems like a good idea, it's constitutional, but that you drew the law in a way that doesn't capture this activity.

So, remake the law. We don't do that here in the court.

BOLDUAN: We will discuss this further.

CUOMO: Yes, but there's no debate.

BOLDUAN: He's trying to get you in trouble.

CUOMO: And it's working.

BOLDUAN: Let's get you in more trouble. You're also to blame for the weather.


BOLDUAN: Let's go to Indra Petersons and take a look at what's it's looking like outside your door today. How's it going --

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Now, I know it's a good day because you're blaming it on Chris instead of me. Love this.

And, by the way, you guys, you're all going to love it. Temperatures climbing as we go towards the weekend. We are talking 50s. D.C., you're going to be talking about some 60s over the weekend.

Hello, so nice. Just keep in mind, though, there are concerns. The low that's bringing rain into the gulf, that is the start making it's way down the coastline. It's going to intersect with the cold air that's been making its way further to the South.

So, for the morning commute tomorrow, Friday night, D.C. down to Raleigh, there is a threat for icing and sleet. Keep that in mind, but after that, smooth sailing for the weekend, unless you're in the Midwest. That's where another burst of cold is coming your way. Just a hint of snow, that Friday in through Saturday, but out west -- look at this -- look at all this moisture from south of Hawaii really pummeling itself into the Pacific Northwest. This is key because they've been having some flooding concerns.

Take a look at this video. A lot of mud slides already in the area and even 4 or 5 inches of rain still expected. So, big concern. Just keep in mind also is going to be the threat for avalanches, because what's going on -- we're talking about warming, a lot of snow, and then warming again to record warm. And with that, the concern is extremely high. They were still talking about avalanches over the next several weeks.

A lot going on across the country, you guys give me credit for 60s. Hello?

BERMAN: Well done, thank you so much.


PETERSONS: I know where to look.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, Indra.


CUOMO: Coming up on NEW DAY: some really major testimony at the Oscar Pistorius murder trial. What a witness saw after he entered the house after the shooting. And just as importantly, what he says the Blade Runner's reaction was then and then now in court. We're going to live to Pretoria just ahead.

BOLDUAN: Plus, another progressive move by Pope Francis, hinting at a larger role for women in the church's hierarchy. We're going to have those details, ahead.


CUOMO: Welcome back to NEW DAY. There was stunning testimony yesterday and again this morning in the murder trial of Olympian Oscar Pistorius. It's about a doctor who was first on the scene and it has revealed shocking details about what he saw and heard inside Pistorius' house after, of course, model girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp was killed.

CNN's Robyn Curnow is live at the courthouse in Pretoria -- Robin.

ROBYN CURNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, it was very compelling. Very emotional. Very moving. Quite shocking testimony we've just heard in this courtroom.

Now, this doctor was one of Oscar Pistorius' neighbors. He was on the scene before the police, before the ambulances, one of the first people. And the first description we've heard of what Reeva Steenkamp looked like and what Oscar Pistorius was doing in that house after the shooting. He described her lying on her back when he walked into the house. He said Oscar Pistorius was covering a wound in Reeva Steenkamp's thigh and he had two of his middle fingers in her mouth. He was crying and bending over her throughout the entire time the doctor tried to assess just how mortally wounded she was, checking her vital signs.

Pistorius was praying. At one time, he said he heard Oscar Pistorius saying he would give his life to God if Reeva lived. He also did immediately say to this doctor that he shot her and he thought she was a burglar, an intruder. The doctor then went onto describe how he saw blood, brain matter intermingled with Reeva's hair. And he quickly judged that she was mortally wounded. Very powerful.

Throughout all of this testimony, Chris, Oscar Pistorius had his head sort of bowed in his hands. At one point, the sketch artist tells us who was sitting close to Pistorius that he looked like he was about to start vomiting, dry heaving.

So, all of that, just in the last hour before lunch break, but before that, there was also more dramatic testimony. Take a listen to this.


CURNOW (voice-over): This morning, the defense laying on an aggressive cross-examination of Charl Johnson, one of Oscar Pistorius' neighbors.

BARRY ROUX, DEFENSE LAWYER: Your interpretation today is a designed one. It's designed to try and again sideline and incriminate.

CURNOW: Johnson, along with his wife, testified earlier this week they heard a woman screaming and gun shots the night of Reeva Steenkamp's death. According to notes written by Johnson recently released to the court, he was woken up by a woman's call for help.

CHARL JOHNSON, WITNESS: The screams did sound like fighting, but more like panic and distress calls of someone being attacked.

CURNOW: The defense insisting the amputee shot his 29-year-old girlfriend by accident, after mistaking her for an intruder, and claims what Johnson heard was Pistorius yelling for help.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The screaming that you heard was Mr. Pistorius.

JOHNSON: As I -- as I testified numerous times, I'm convinced that I heard a lady scream.

CURNOW: On Wednesday, the state maintained Pistorius killed Steenkamp in a fit of rage, calling a series of witnesses in an effort to paint the Olympic champion as trigger happy and irresponsible.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kevin Lerena is the next witness.

CURNOW: Prosecutors calling two owners of a restaurant and one of Pistorius' friends to rehash a January 2013 incident where a friend's gun was passed to him underneath a restaurant table when it accidentally went off in Pistorius' hands.

KEVIN LERENA, WITNESS: I don't know what happened, how the gun went off, but he did apologize and say are you OK, is everybody OK.

CURNOW: Pistorius allegedly asked his friend to take the blame.

LERENA: I do remember Oscar saying, please, Darren, just say it was you. I don't want any attention around me. Say it was you.

CURNOW: The accidental discharge occurring just a few weeks before Pistorius shot his girlfriend dead in his bathroom. Pistorius has pleaded not guilty to all the charges.


CURNOW: Now, of course, after the lunch break, all eyes are going to be on further testimony from this doctor and of course the cross examination.

Back to you, guys.

CUOMO: All right. Robyn, thank you very much.

Now, it's interesting. All this testimony about this gunshot a few days or weeks before this. That may not have come into an American trial. And many of you have been asking questions about the differences that seemed to be going on here versus when something is tried here. So, let's explain a couple of them, all right?

There are some differences here. Pistorius isn't facing a jury. You're right. You don't see jurors in the courtroom because there are none.

South Africa abolished jury trials in 1969 and for good reason. Under apartheid, there were fears of racial prejudice by white jurors especially against black defendant. So, instead, you have a single judge who will decide this case.

And the judge in this case, a woman, will have to give clear reasons why she's decided one way or another.

However, the judge is not alone. This is really interesting, OK?

In this case, in the high court which looks at only the most serious crimes, which is how their system works, the judge has two assessors to help her. Who are they? All right. They're legal experts who do nothing but this. They sort through evidence and make all determinations of fact.

So, what happened, when, and what's important the assessors decide. They then give those findings to the judge. The judge must accept them, but then she rules on the case and must explain why she ruled that way.

All of that is unusual and we don't see that here in the U.S. But we'll see how the system plays out -- Kate. BOLDUAN: All right, Chris. That was a good explanation, breaking that down for us.

Let's look at our "Bleacher Report": now.

Duke basketball upset last night by unranked Wake Forest. But if that wasn't bad enough for Duke fans, Coach K had a health scare during the game.

Joe Carter is here with this morning's "Bleacher Report and much more than that.

How is the coach doing?

JOE CARTER, THE BLEACHER REPORT: At this point, he's doing OK. Duke says he's going to be just fine.

But, you know, he's a very emotional guy. He's a very emotional coach. But, unfortunately, the stress from last night's loss really got the better of him. Duke says that Coach K suffered, quote, "dizzy spells toward the end of game" that actually forced him to a knee during one of the late game time-outs.

After the game, he decided to skip his usual press conference, but the school says that he was able to leave under his own power. Duke expects him to make a full recovery. So, while Coach K may have put too much emotion into the game, his team did not seem to have enough in the second half. Duke didn't score a basket for five minutes, which allowed Wake Forest to go in a 17-point run. They ended up winning the game, a 10-point upset for Wake Forest over number four Duke.

This story is trending this morning on It's great video of Jim Harbaugh. You know, we know he's a good football coach. He was a solid NFL quarterback as well.

But it turns out the guy can also hoop. Check it out. He drains a half court shot while visiting the Kansas Jayhawks during their practice session. It was just a shot around. Coach K went for the cameras to get on him and he drains a half court.

It's got to be the $8 khakis. What do you think? Wearing that usual outfit. The coach outfit, love it.

You know, running out on the field, we know of course is a bad idea, unless of course you're an adorable little boy. After yesterday's Brazil/South Africa game, instead of being carried off, he actually got carried around by one of the best soccer players in the world. That's Brazilian star Neymar embraces this little kid, they tossed him up in the air. A lot of the players posed with pictures with this little boy.

And it looked like this Brazilian team was enjoying this moment as much as this little kid was. You know, he's a South African soccer fan obviously, but the Brazilian team enjoyed having him around and gave him a great moment. Very nice for the little boy and obviously a nice gesture I hope on the part of the Brazilian soccer team, Kate.