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European Leaders Meet in Brussels; Explosive Interview with Pope Francis; RT Anchor Resigns On Air; Mom Drives Kids Into Ocean

Aired March 6, 2014 - 06:30   ET


JOE CARTER, BLEACHER REPORT: Very nice for the little boy and obviously a nice gesture I hope on the part of the Brazilian soccer team, Kate.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: His dad's like oops. I promise, I was not behind that, or maybe I was.

CARTER: Well, you see at the very beginning, is dad actually is on the pitch and then starts to pull him away. But somebody from the soccer team runs over and says, it's OK, it's OK. And the team accepted him on and obviously a memory he'll never forget.

BOLDUAN: It doesn't hurt that he's adorable. Joe, you're so adorable. Joe, thanks so much.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: One minute, that guy was just like chatting with a buddy, yes, I told my wife, I bring the kid to the game and it was really cool. By the way, where is he? Oh, no --

BOLDUAN: She's going to -- oh, it's OK. Now, the problem is kids all over like I have a great idea when I go soccer match.

CUOMO: Make a lot of the games more interesting.

All right. We're going to take a break here on NEW DAY. When we come back, in a wide ranging interview, Pope Francis hinting at significant changes to the role of women in the church. For real? That's what he says. Details just ahead.

BOLDUAN: Plus, an American news anchor for Russia's state-run television quits her job live on the air. This morning, we're going to hear from her and why she did it.


BOLDUAN: Welcome back.

Let's get over to John Berman, in for Michaela, for some of today's big stories.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks so much, Kate.

Welcome back, everyone.

Now, the headlines this morning: major developments in the Ukrainian crisis. European leaders are meeting this morning with the interim Ukrainian prime minister in attendance. And today, the U.S. House will vote on sanctions and an aid package for Ukraine.

Plus, we've learned that the pro-Russian parliament in Crimea has voted to join the Russian federation and leave Ukraine. That vote unanimous and what's more -- Crimea will hold a referendum, the whole population gets to vote on this in 10 days.

Meantime, earlier this morning, riot police faced off with pro-Russian demonstrators in Odessa, that is northwest of Crimea.

The terror trial of Osama bin Laden's son-in-law is underway in New York. Prosecutors say Sulaiman Abu Ghaith conspired to kill Americans, provider support to terrorist and served as al Qaeda's chief spokesman. His defense says there is no direct evidence linking him to any attacks on Americans. He does face life in prison if convicted.

A high-ranking U.S. military official accused of sexual assault is pleading guilty to lesser charges. Attorney for Brigadier General Jeffrey Sinclair says he will plead guilty to having sexual relationships with female subordinates. Sinclair will plead not guilty to threatening to kill his main accuser or pulling rank to force her to continue their sexual relationship. If the pleas were accepted, Sinclair would likely not face prison time -- Chris.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right, John Berman.

How about this story? It seems that the pope is saying things that only he could get away with in the Catholic Church and on Ash Wednesday no less.

Here's the story. Pope Francis seems to be opening the door to civil unions and hinting at an expansion of women's roles in the church. Now, the pontiff is wildly popular. And often it's because of what he says on issues like this. He gave a wide-ranging interview in which he down plays the superstar status. But, now, Vatican officials are trying to downplay the significance.

Here's the story from CNN's Miguel Marquez.


MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Pope Francis making headlines worldwide again. This time, the pontiff discussing the possibility of civil unions, maybe even between same-sex couples.

FATHER EDWARD BECK, CNN FAITH & RELIGION CONTRIBUTOR: What he seems to be indicating is he would not be for gay marriage, gay sacraments on marriage. But he seems to open the door for civil unions, with protection of rights and for economic issues and for medical issues.

MARQUEZ: A Vatican spokesperson later clarified, the pope was not weighing in on the gay marriage debate, only speaking "about the obligation of the state to fulfill its responsibilities towards its citizens."

In this sprawling interview given to the Italian newspaper "Corriere Della Sera", Francis both reiterated church policy on contraception, but also called the church to be merciful and attentive to concrete situations.

And the pope wasn't done on women's issues yet. He said the church needed to heighten the power of women and not just in his administration.

BECKEL: What Pope Francis is saying is that they need to be part of the decision-making process of the Catholic Church, but also it needs to be more than just functional. That the very essence of who women are needs to be integrated into who the Catholic Church is.

MARQUEZ: Pope Francis is changing the language and image of the church and may be on the road to changing the institution itself. In the interview, he warns, though, he sometimes wears a cape, but is no superman. He laughs, cries, and sleeps like everyone else. He also can't bring about changes as quickly or grandly as some might like.

Miguel Marquez, CNN, Los Angeles.


CUOMO: I'll tell you, I was raised Roman Catholic, right? So I'm clued into the community here dialogue.

And I'll tell you what's interesting about this? Are you going to see huge changes with women in the church? Maybe, but probably not. Are you going to see the church saying, hey, we're OK with gay marriage? Probably not.

But here what may -- this may be just as important: when it comes to religion, I believe the dialogue about religion especially in this country is all about exclusion. It's all about negativity. You know, religion gives you the right to judge other, it seems.

BOLDUAN: And he's flipping on --

CUOMO: He's flipping that dialogue. He's saying, look, my faith is about love. My faith is about service to others.

Why are you asking me about who I don't like? And who shouldn't love whom? And I don't want to focus on those things. That's not what the focus of my faith should be.

That may be equally powerful for people of faith, because I'll tell you, it's not the predominant thinking that we see here.

BERMAN: I also think he's a very shrewd political thinker in a way. His language seems very carefully chosen to open the doors to some possibilities. It's open to interpretation so people can look at it and say, well, it wasn't certain that he said that, but he may have. Let's discuss that now and move the issue --

BOLDUAN: And the acknowledgment that it is -- it may take years and years for major change, as it always has for the Catholic Church, of these changes to come about. But flipping kind of the way you approach the discussion on its head I think is exactly --

CUOMO: It's not what should matter first, that you know, being religious doesn't mean you spend all your time figuring out who's not as good as you are, you know?

BOLDUAN: Yes. Let's take a break.

Coming up next on NEW DAY, we're learning more about the Florida mother who drove her minivan into the ocean. We've talked about this story. She was in the minivan. She had her three children inside as well.

Did she do it on purpose? An update on that story ahead.

CUOMO: Plus, a news anchor on Russia's state-run television quits live on the air over Putin's military action in Crimea. Now, she's telling the world why she had to do it.


BOLDUAN: Welcome back to NEW DAY.

An American news anchor who worked for Russia Today, Russia's state- owned TV station, quit pretty dramatically on air and now she's speaking on explaining why.

Liz Wahl says she decided to leave because the propagandist nature of RT, that's Russia Today, came out in full force during its Ukraine coverage.

John is taking a look more at this very dramatic, I guess, resignation, we'll call it.

BERMAN: It was high drama on television. You know, RT is basically a Kremlin-owned news organization, the mouthpiece of Vladimir Putin and Kremlin interests, very big on the Internet, got a huge following.

And now, in just the last few days, there have been two high-profile demonstrations by its anchors over the occupation in Crimea.


BERMAN (voice-over): It was at the end of the newscast when suddenly this --

LIZ WAHL, RESIGNED ON-AIR: And that is why personally I cannot be part of network funded by the Russian government that whitewashes the actions of Putin.

BERMAN: Liz Wahl making a dramatic statement.

WAHL: I'm proud to be an American and believe in disseminating the truth. And that is why after this newscast, I'm resigning.

BERMAN: With that, the D.C.-based correspondent for the Kremlin- funded news network Russia Today quit live on the air. The newscast simply ended and she walked away.

Soon after, she spoke to Anderson Cooper criticizing her network even further.

WAHL: What's clear is what's happening right now amid this crisis is that RT is not about the truth. It's about promoting a Putinist agenda.

BERMAN: And it wasn't just a pro-Russia viewpoint that bothered her, but what she viewed as an anti-American slant.

WAHL: It's also about bashing America. I could no longer work here and go on television and tell the American people that this is what's happening and have it posed as news.

BERMAN: Wahl was not the first RT reporter to speak out in recent days. Abby Martin, also based in Washington, made a shocking statement on her show earlier this week.

ABBY MARTIN, HOST, RT'S "BREAKING THE SET": Just because I work here on RT doesn't mean I don't have editorial independence. What Russia did was wrong.

BERMAN: She told Piers Morgan last night that RT was actually supportive of her editorial freedom on her show.

MARTIN: I said, you know, if I disagree with something that Russia's doing, I will continue to speak out. And, they give me the complete editorial freedom to do whatever I want on my show.


BERMAN (on-camera): RT America responded to Wahl's resignation by saying "when a journalist disagrees with the editorial position of his or her organization, the usual course of action is to address those grievances with the editor and if they cannot be resolved, to quit like a professional. But when someone makes a big public show of a personal decision, it is nothing more than a self-promotional stunt."

There's a lot of questions here. Look, Anderson last night in his interview with Liz Wahl put it (ph) right away, this editorial slant from RT is nothing new. Yes, the occupation of Crimea is new, but the idea that this is a (INAUDIBLE) for the Kremlin, an anti-American is not new. So, why did she choose to do this now? That is an open question.

BOLDUAN: Was it the last straw or --

BERMAN: It could be.

BOLDUAN: Something else? We can't answer that, obviously. Thanks, John. CUOMO: We'll get some insight into where she winds up next.


CUOMO: Coming up on NEW DAY, new details about this situation. Do you remember this? Doesn't feel right to everybody, right? Now, we're hearing more about the mother who drove her kids straight into the ocean. The question is, why did police see her earlier in the day? We have some answers for you on the other side.


CUOMO: This morning, police say three children are in protective custody after the disturbing video we brought you Wednesday. Their mother driving them into the ocean seemingly on purpose. Luckily, the other people you see, good Samaritans, they raised into the rescue. And now, they're speaking out as we learn new details about the mom who is pregnant and 32 years old.

She also spoke with police, and it was just hours before after the incident. So, we're getting more of a picture went into this horrible situation. CNN's Alina Machado is in Daytona Beach, Florida with more -- Alina.

ALINA MACHADO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Chris, we still don't know what this woman was doing in this area. We do know, though, that it is very common for people to drive on this beach. And the two men who were involved in this rescue say they knew something went terribly wrong when they saw that van inside this rough water, and then, they heard the children screaming for help.


TIM TESSENEER, RESCUER: It was scary. The water was so rough, so windy.

MACHADO (voice-over): Tim Tesseneer is one of the men seen here rushing toward this minivan with a pregnant woman behind the wheel and her three children inside.

TESSENEER: One kid was in the backseat with his arms out crying. And one kid was on the mother's lap like wrestling her for the steering wheel, trying to stir her away from the ocean.

MACHADO: Tesseneer and Stacey Robinson helped rescue the children, ages three, nine and 10 Tuesday in Daytona Beach, Florida. The mother, according to the men, had a blank look on her face.

STACY ROBINSON, RESCUER: She wasn't -- past that they were OK. She just kept repeating they were OK. They were fine.

MACHADO: The children survived so did the woman who police say is undergoing a mental evaluation.

BEN JOHNSON, VOLUSIA COUNTY SHERIFF: We need to determine is this a medical incident. Is it a mental incident? Also, at this time, we have to evaluate it even if it is a crisis incident, do we file charges or not?

MACHADO: Earlier Tuesday, the woman's sister called Daytona Beach police after hearing her talk about demons before leaving with the children. When police caught up with her, the woman appeared to be suffering from some form of mental illness but was lucid. The children, police noted, showed no signs of distress.

JOHNSON: They could not do anything with her, but then two hours later, it had escalated to this.

MACHADO: Robinson and Tesseneer say they'd love to see the children they helped save. As for whether they're heroes --

TESSENEER: Not really a hero. I'm just glad that we were there. I'm glad Stacy was there. Rough (ph) time. And I was there for a purpose at that particular moment. And it all turned out to the good.


MACHADO (on-camera): Now, what happened here remains under investigation. At this point, police say they are not sure if they will be filing any charges against this woman -- Chris and Kate.

BOLDUAN: Alina, thank you very much for that update. It's such a troubling story to hear, I mean, for anyone, especially any parent who has to like see those children getting rescued by strangers.

CUOMO: Yes. So sad. I mean, they can say they're not heroes, but the truth is they did something very brave. You see what the waves were and getting into that car. They definitely did great things in the most important moment. I think there's almost no chance it doesn't involve some type of mental breakdown. Whether that will forgive the action under the law is probably doubtful.

But, it will be important to find it out just for that family as they try to move forward with those kids who were screaming, "mommy's trying to kill us."

BOLDUAN: All right. Let's take another break. Coming up next on NEW DAY, the latest -- we're going to bring you the very latest from Ukraine. The conflict spreading, leaders meeting today on both sides of the Atlantic. We're going to have the very latest on the search for a resolution to this crisis.

CUOMO: Outrage this morning from some shoppers after a mall posted a controversial image about hoodies, as in don't wear them in the mall, not allowed, could be dangerous. Are you offended? Big debate. NEW DAY returns in a moment.


CUOMO: Good morning. Welcome back to NEW DAY. It's Thursday, March 6th, now seven o'clock in the east. We're going to start out with our news blast. This is, of course, the most news you can get anywhere. Let's go.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All 28 European heads of state hold a special session with a view to impose sanctions on Russia today.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I hope this serves as a reminder to all how dangerous the situation has become.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hillary Clinton clarifying her thoughts on Russia.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: His goal is to re-sovietize a Russia's (INAUDIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I tried to open the airway and look for signs of life.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The politics of pot, pitting policy against patients.


CUOMO: Up first, lots of developments this morning from Ukraine. European officials are desperate for diplomacy. They're going to hold emergency meetings in Brussels today. Representatives from all 28 members of the European Union are there along with Ukraine's interim prime minister who says a political solution is needed. That's key. Also key, no one from Russia at the table.

BOLDUAN: And hearings on Capitol Hill this morning on U.S. foreign policy toward Ukraine. The House Foreign Affairs Committee will be voting on a resolution laying out some sanctions against Russia. The resolution is informal as legislation, but a bipartisan statement from the House of Representatives.

BERMAN: On the ground in Ukraine, the crisis is shifting west as riot police face off of pro-Russia demonstrators in Odessa this morning. That key port city and historic city about 150 miles northwest of Crimea where Ukrainians have been trying to resist an incursion from the Russians. And at least half a dozen Ukrainian naval ships have been boxed (ph) into their port. Ukraine say that the Russians moved an old warship to block the entrance to a lake trapping the boats.

CUOMO: And back in Crimea, the parliament there is decided to vote on whether or not to become part of Russia. The vote is in 10 days and the parliament calling for it is heavily pro-Russian. Now, a top Ukrainian official says splitting from Ukraine would be unconstitutional and call this referendum illegitimate.

Let's get more from the ground. Let's bring in Anderson Cooper from Ukraine's capital, Kiev. Anderson, good morning. What's the situation?

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Chris, as you said, this vote by the Crimean parliament, this breakaway parliament, is obviously the last thing a lot of the diplomats who are meeting in Europe would want to hear. This certainly complicates the diplomatic picture significantly. Essentially, the Crimean parliament has indicated their intention to join Russia and they want to put it to a referendum in Crimea to a vote in Crimea.

Now, as you said, from the perspective of the Ukrainian government officials in the central government of Kiev, the idea of having a referendum is not legal. They even said that the parliament there in Crimea is not legitimate.