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Crimean Crisis Continues; Russia Calls for Crimean Referendum on Joining Russia; February Jobs Reports to be Released; Army's Top Sex Crime Prosecutor Under Investigation

Aired March 7, 2014 - 07:00   ET


MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Chris, last night was the third phone call since the crisis started between President Obama and Russian president, Vladimir Putin. The U.S. is saying that both sides understand that there should be a diplomatic way forward. Russia even emphasizing the importance in the U.S.-Russia relationship.

A lot said, there are still these big differences in approach and assessment of what's even going on in that region. President Obama telling Putin to talk to Ukraine, let international monitors into Crimea, and pull troops back to their bases. The U.S., of course, has now led the world in imposing sanctions on Russia, something that the EU has threatened, but so far, has not done.

And Russia -- the foreign minister met with Secretary Kerry yesterday, another leaders. He is saying that he has not yet found common ground with the west, but that discussions would continue -- Kate.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Michelle, thanks so much. Russia is weighing in on Crimea's referendum to join Russia this morning. Let's go to Anna Coren in Crimea where the vote is just nine days away. What's it looking like on the ground?

ANNA COREN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, as you say, Crimea has agreed to have international observers come in for the referendum that's going to take place on the 16th of March. Not surprising most of the observers will be coming from Russia. Russia says it will form a team. We don't know where the other observers, from what other countries they will be coming from. That has not been announced as of yet.

Obviously, the acting Ukrainian prime minister has come out and said that no one in the civilized world will recognize the result of this referendum. They believe that what is taking place here is illegitimate and unconstitutional and that there can only be a national referendum, not a regional referendum.

There is a big pull towards Russia in Crimea, 60 percent of the people here are ethnic Russians. The government that's only just come in, they took power a week ago, self-elected. They are really trying to control the information that a leaving -- or coming in, I should say, into Crimea. Not only were we told to stop broadcasting from our hotel last night, threatened to be kicked out if we didn't stop broadcasting, several Ukrainian TV stations are also being forced to shut down, their signal no longer being broadcast here in Crimea. There's only one message they want to get into this country, and that is a very pro-Russian message. Back to you.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Anna thank you very much. Let's get some analysis on this situation. Let's bring in CNN military analyst Major General James "Spider" Marks, former commanding general of the U.S. army intelligence center, and Ambassador Kurt Volker, the former U.S. ambassador to NATO and the executive director of the McCain Institute at Arizona State University. Thank you gentlemen for joining us this morning.

Let's start with the issue of the referendum. Let me ask you something, Ambassador Volker. Can you make the case that the United States is acting anti-democracy here by not allowing the people to decide their own fate in Crimea if that's what they want?

AMBASSADOR KURT VOLKER, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, THE MCCAIN INSTITUTE: No I don't think you can make that case incredibly at all. Ukraine is a state. They have a government. This is a region of Ukraine. They don't have access or control over that anymore. You've seen Russia insert its forces into the Crimea, occupy that territory, have a parliament scarcely representative of the entire population now pushing forward with a referendum.

I agree that there's a major proportion of the population in Crimea that is pro-Russian and would like to be associated with Russia, but this is against every international law or norm that you would expect in a democratic process.

CUOMO: You say it's not as easy as wanting a vote, that there are standards involved that they haven't been met yet.

VOLKER: Absolutely.

CUOMO: That's that issue. Major General, let me ask you this now, the mystery men in green. One, have you ever heard of a situation like this before where you have these unidentified massive supply of troops, and they have these equipment and vehicles that suggest an obvious affiliation yet it's denied by that country?

MAJ. GEN. JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Historically I'm sure, Chris, there are examples. What's significant here is that there's no doubt these are Russian troops. It allowed the international community and folks like us to sit here and scratch our chins trying to figure it out while Putin accomplished what he was trying to do, which was isolate Crimea and make sure that he continued to maintain control over Sevastopol.

CUOMO: Two different looks at Putin right. One is that he is kind of flailing, he's desperate. He wants a seat at the table, he doesn't have one. World politics are moving away from him. And the other one is crazy like a fox. Every one of these moves, blocking the entrance, having these little skirmishes, the mystery men, this is all tactical and thought out. How do you see it? MARKS: I see this as Putin acting in his national interests. Russia forever has felt threatened by its neighbors. It's a land-locked country two-thirds of the year. In comparison we tend to act in national interests and define those very clearly. Putin looks at threats and realizes I have to do something about that. And this example in Ukraine clearly fell into that box for him. And he realized I have to do something. I would not use the word "crazy" or "irrational" when I would describe Putin. These are very rational moves in his case.

CUOMO: Ambassador on the U.S. side of the equation, is the U.S. playing its hand the right way here in terms of the timing, the urgency, and the tactics?

VOLKER: Not at all, in my view. First, I agree with Spider. I think Putin is acting very rationally. But for him, it's not a threat, it's an opportunity. He sees the opportunity to grab land, destabilize a neighbor, advance what he sees as his interests.

In the United States or in western Europe, I'm not sure we have a clear goal. What is it that we are trying to do? I think for the past 25 years we've been advancing this idea of Europe whole, free, and at peace, democracy, freedom, market economy, security. That seems to be being derailed right now. And we are not reacting fast enough and assertively enough to stand up for those rights.

CUOMO: What are we supposed to do? I shouldn't say "we." It's tempting because I'm an American. But when you look at the U.S. objectively in terms of what the calculations should be, what should have been done differently and what should be done now?

VOLKER: When I say "we," I'm thinking NATO. We're a community of democracies in the west and we stand for certain rights. We ought to be supporting and speaking out on behalf of the rights of those people who don't have freedom, democracy, security in their own societies now. And when those things are violated by a military action like this such as Putin has taken, we've got to be prepared to try to apply sanctions right away, we've got to draw clear lines, we've got to send in observers, and we should be thinking about what the next steps are. How do we make sure that is Putin is grabbing Crimea, we're doing things now that are going to prevent him from thinking about what's the next territory to grab.

CUOMO: That's interesting perspective in terms of the long game here as well. Ambassador, Major General, thank you very much for the perspective this morning.

VOLKER: My pleasure.

MARKS: Thanks, Chris.

BOLDUAN: So right now an American missile destroyer is heading to the region. Officials say the USS Truxtun was already heading to the Black Sea for military training before the crisis began. Let's get the very latest from right there in the sea. Let's go to Ivan Watson on the ship in the Bosporus Sea on where things are headed. IVAN WATSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Kate, right now, we're sailing through Istanbul's Bosporus Straight and awaiting the arrival of the U.S. Navy guided missile destroyer Truxtun, which is expected to come through here, through this natural choke-point, the location of this geopolitical drama now taking place with the Russian military occupation of Ukraine's Crimean peninsula.

The Navy says that the Truxtun's voyage here was previously scheduled and that it's going to be conducting joint naval exercises with Bulgaria and Romania. But it's very clear right now that there is a big conversation, argument taking place between Moscow and Washington, and that's being done diplomatically, but it's also being done with military signals and messages as well, with the U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel saying that the U.S. would step up joint air patrols in the Baltic peninsula. That's basically to bolster allies like Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia, and Poland which are all very concerned about the Russian military moves in the Ukraine, and also this move, sending this Navy ship into the Black Sea at this time. It's an example of how two powers conduct their negotiations right now when they are clearly in disagreement in what is a geopolitical argument.

BOLDUAN: Ivan, thank you very much.

Also back home, happening now, a frantic search for 11-year-old Caitlyn Virts of Maryland. An amber alert issued after her mother was found dead inside her home. Investigators say they believe Caitlyn was abducted by her father, 38-year-old Timothy Virts. They're concerned, of course, for her safety because Caitlyn isn't supposed to be with him. Caitlyn's two siblings are safe with family members.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Checking some other headlines, a shooting left one man critically wounded inside a busy mall in Memphis, Tennessee. Scared shoppers were sent ducking for cover in the back of stores. Police detained four men but no charges were filed as of late Thursday. They say it appears the victim and the potential suspects knew each other and that there had been a verbal confrontation before the shooting.

BOLDUAN: Investigators now say a poorly written contract is partly responsible for a massive 2012 hack of Navy data. Iran has been blamed for cyber-attacks, but according to the "Wall Street Journal," the contractor Hewlett Packard wasn't required to maintain certain parts of the network leaving it a much easier target for hackers. Officials say no classified information, though, was compromised.

PEREIRA: People in Alexandria, Virginia, across from the nation's capital, warned to be on guard against a possible serial killer. Authorities now say they found links between the bullets used last month to kill a teacher as she answered her door to two other unsolved killings. The FBI has sent in a profiler to help detective figure out whom they might be looking for.

CUOMO: Breaking this morning, in about 90 minutes, we're going to get the jobs report for February. Now, let's bring in chief business correspondent Christine Romans over at the magic wall. Christine, what's your best guess on what we can expect and why we should care?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: We care because it will tell us how healthy the labor market is. Economists surveyed by CNN Money say 150,000 jobs were added last month and the jobless rate remains at about 6.6 percent. This follows weak numbers in both December and January. The job market really in a rough patch here and a lot of people are blaming it on the severe weather. Without those winter storms, the forecast would be something like 193,000 jobs instead of the 150 that economists are predicting.

Parts of the country throughout February, blizzards, bitter cold can slow the economy of course. Offices closed, flights are canceled, businesses lose power, construction and other outdoor work basically stops. Job interviews can be canceled and new hiring postponed. So you might see that in these numbers.

Why do we think they're going to mention it? Because last week, the Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen told the Congressional committee she blames much of the recent economic weakness on the weather. Some people say, oh, you're using the weather as an excuse for what's really a weak economy. It's going to be hard to know the underlying strength of the economy, guys, probably until March or April. That's my guess.

BOLDUAN: Christine, thank you so much. We'll have Christine back to talk about that jobs report later in the next hour.

Now to the very latest in the blade runner Oscar Pistorius murder trial. Today, his ex-girlfriend, Samantha Taylor, testified about her relationship with the track star, saying their relationship ended when he cheated on her with Reeva Steenkamp. She also said he always carried his gun with him and said he screamed at her, her sister, and some friends, and that his screams could not be confused with a woman. We mentioned that because that was her testimony in discussion yesterday.

Big news coming out of Venezuela. The president there talking exclusively to CNN about the violent protests in his country and defending his response. Nicolas Maduro tells Christiane Amanpour those demanding he leave office are a minority. And he claims the U.S. would crackdown too if it were dealing with what he called a revolution. He adds he wants better relations with the U.S. You can see Christiane's interview this afternoon at 2:00 eastern on CNN International.

BOLDUAN: A hero's welcome perhaps for Chris Christie Thursday speaking at the annual convention of development leaders at CPAC outside of Washington. The embattled New Jersey governor took a dig at the media, praising American job creators, and bashing President Obama for a lack of leadership. Christie was snubbed by CPAC last year after praising the president about his efforts regarding hurricane Sandy.

CUOMO: Republican Congressman Darrell Issa apologizing to his democratic colleague Elijah Cummings for cutting off his mic during a statement. It happened Wednesday during a House Oversight Committee hearing about the IRS allegedly targeting conservative groups. Chairman Issa says he should have been more sensitive to the mood in the chamber. Cummings accepted the apology. The hearing continues next week.

BERMAN: Let's take a look at what's happening in the papers this morning. In the "Wall Street Journal," we may be closer to seeing the commercial use of drones over U.S. skies, progress apparently being made on the legal and regulatory fronts. A judge ruled Thursday that the FAA does not have clear cut authority to ban drone use. The decision complicates the FAA's job of creating commercial drone policy, but it can be appealed to the NTSB and also a federal judge.

In the "Washington Post," new legislation in the House to give airlines more flexibility when advertising ticket prices. Regulators changed the rules two years ago to make it more transparent, but members of Congress say that hasn't worked because airlines can't show the difference the poll price and what percentage of that number is actually government taxes.

And the "Kansas City Star" reporting that the two super spellers are back, 11-year-old Sofia Hoffman and 13-year-old Cush Sharma will resume their dramatic spell-off tomorrow morning. These are the whiz kids who went so many rounds in the first time of the bee that organizers ran out of words. The winner will go to the national bee in Washington.

CUOMO: It was great having them on the show. Good kids. We wish them both well.

We have new fallout to tell you about from the CNN film "Blackfish." Remember it revealed questionable treatment of Orca's in captivity. A California lawmaker is set to introduce a bill that would ban shows at Sea World and other parks in the state. The measure if passed would also prohibit breeding in captivity and ban the import and export of killer whales. The bill's sponsor says orcas are too intelligent to be confined in small concrete tanks for their entire lives. Sea World, no comment.

BOLDUAN: The daughter of the reverend Martin Luther King Jr. holding onto her father's Nobel Peace Prize and traveling Bible after a court ordered her to turn them over. Bernice King missed the deadline to give up the items this week, but she says she will hand them over Monday. The Atlanta court ordered she give up the heirlooms to be held in a safety deposit box until a lawsuit with her brothers is settled over the items. She claims they want to sell them. The Bible was used to swear in President Obama for his second term.

CUOMO: Take a look at some amazing new shots. This is the end of an asteroid. The Hubble telescope captured these images over several months. Scientists think the images show the effect of sunlight pulling on the asteroid, and that's what caused it to fall apart. One researcher says they have never seen anything like it. Interestingly, John Berman says he has seen something like this.

BERMAN: I stare at an asteroid and it breaks up because of the force of my stare. CUOMO: The passion.

BERMAN: The powers, the heat vision, like Superman.

BOLDUAN: The heat vision? Wow, that's impressive, John. Don't look at me.

CUOMO: Literally the ability to destroy asteroids with a single look.

BERMAN: Scientists astounded by this. Not Indra.

CUOMO: Indra Petersons is a scientist and a meteorologist, and those are the same thing.

INDRA PATERSONS, METEOROLOGIST: Obviously, right? And I have even good news as we're going towards the weekend. And it's going to be pretty mild out there. We're talking about the Southeast for Saturday, warming up. Even the Northeast starting to see above-normal temperatures.

But yeah, on the bad side of it, of course we have the Midwest, seeing a little bit of that cold air creeping in. And by Sunday, it does make its way farther to the Southeast and the Northeast.

But let's talk about Monday itself, above-normal temperatures. So things are going to be pretty nice out there. But let's talk about what happens before we get there.

Yes, today, we're talking about the Southeast again. We're looking at that low producing some icing conditions and a wintry mix heading kind of towards the D.C. area for commute time, but then it goes offshore. This is the key. It's not going right up the coastline, so we're not talking about that wintry mix for the Northeast anymore. So that's our plus right there. There's that cold burst of air kind of making its way through the Midwest, but pretty dry. So that's not going to be the big story again as we go through the weekend. So overall, getting better by Monday. John?

BERMAN: All right, so we've all had those moments we'd like to forget. Some of us have had them this morning, Chris. But not all of the moments come at the presidential podium. I want you to listen to this.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When Aretha first told us what R - S - P - E -C -T --


meant to her --


(END VIDEO CLIP) BERMAN: I feel for him there. I have to tell you. The president was paying attribute to Aretha Franklin's song "Respect", which I will not try to spell out loud.

BOLDUAN: I can tell that, John!

BERMAN: I'm not going to do it, even though she does it in song. He flubbed the spelling of the word, obviously. The audience had a big laugh at his expense and then carried on. I mean, the audience wins because they get to laugh at the president and then they get to listen to Aretha Franklin. This was Aretha Franklin -- this was at an event honoring the women of soul.

CUOMO: John Berman just called her Areva Franklin.

BERMAN: That's what I said! As I said, it's going to happen again and again.

CUOMO: It's insulting to her, and she's an American icon.

BOLDUAN: He even -- you know, you feel for him as you do when we live in the bubble of live TV. You feel for him. you know you're getting it wrong, and you just can't -- your brain and your mouth are not connecting to get it right. You know it's happening.

CUOMO: Although some would argue that calling her Aretha "Areva" is actually intentional and mean.


BOLDUAN: The feud going on. Thank goodness it's Friday. You two need a break.

CUOMO: He made fun of my pants and he embarrassed me, and I started it.

BOLDUAN; And you -- you started it, I think.

CUOMO: I did. And then I get yelled at by management. So we should move on.

BOLDUAN: That's just a normal day.


Coming up next -- coming up next on NEW DAY, a story that is as shocking as it is, I guess we can call it ironic. The Army's top sex crime prosecutor now under investigation himself. The accusation? Sexually assaulting, groping a woman.

CUOMO: And later, here's a proposition for you. I got so drunk last night I wound up losing all this money, so I think I -- I'm going to sue the casino. That's what this gambler is doing. He lost $500,000. He is a whale. He's a big-time gambler. But he says it is the casino's fault because they continued to serve him even when he was already fall-down stinking drunk. Sore loser? Does he have a point? He is joining us on the show with a very splendid hat. And he will make the case, and I will test it.


CUOMO: Welcome back. Stunning accusations against a top military prosecutor involved in sexual assault cases. The lieutenant colonel is now under criminal investigation himself for alleged groping, this as the Senate rejects a bipartisan bill to change the way the military deals with the growing problem of sexual assault.

Justice correspondent Pamela Brown is in Washington with the very latest. Pamela, it's great to have you down there, great to have you back on NEW DAY. This is a troubling situation. Tell us about it.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: It certainly is, Chris, especially when you look at the statistics. According to a recent Pentagon report, there were an estimated 26,000 sex assaults and unwanted sexual contact incidents in the military in 2012 alone.

This week, at least three high-profile military leaders under investigation for sexual misconduct, including Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Morse, the lead prosecutor in the highly publicized case against Staff Sergeant Robert Bales, who pleaded guilty to killing 16 Afghan civilians.


BROWN (voice-over): He was a top Army prosecutor tasked with protecting victims of sex crimes, training and managing a team of 23 special victims prosecutors in Fort Belvoir, Virginia. Now, Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Morse is embroiled in a sex scandal of his own.

According to an administration official, Morse has been placed under criminal investigation for misconducts. A female lawyer says he groped her in 2011 in a hotel room at, of all things, a sex assault conference.

Morse joins the ranks of other high-profile military leaders in trouble for inappropriate sexual conduct, including Brigadier General Martin Schweitzer, under investigation by the Army for sending a crude e-mail.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There was an e-mail in March of 2011 by a brigadier general after meeting with a congresswoman in which he apologized for e-mailing it late because he had masturbated three times over the past two hours after meeting with the congresswoman.

BROWN: Another brigadier general, Jeffrey Sinclair, one of the Army's top commanders in Afghanistan, pleaded guilty Thursday to three charges in a sex assault case, but not to other more serious charges.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I plan on trying to reform the whole system.

BROWN: On the same day, sexual misconduct cases in the military took center stage on the Hill after Senator Kirsten Gillibrand lost her hard-fought battle to reform how those cases are handled. Her bill fell five votes short. But Gillibrand vows to continue her fight.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is one fundamental problem that the victims have said they're not reporting these cases because they don't trust the chain of command. That's one issue that must be addressed.


BROWN (on-camera): And the bill's failure to pass pleas (ph) the Pentagon brass who argued an overhaul would undermine commanders' ability to lead.

Meantime, our attempts to reach Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Morse were unsuccessful. An administration official tells CNN's Barbara Starr the Army removed Morse from his job as a sex crimes prosecutor once it learned of the allegations. Kate and Chris?

BOLDUAN: Pamela, thank you very much for that update.

Coming up next on NEW DAY, first sanctions, then a presidential talking to. We're going to talk to Fareed Zakaria about the tenuous state of U.S.-Russian relations in light of the crisis in Ukraine.

CUOMO: And this is one you have to weigh in on. A Vegas gambler loses half a million dollars, decides to sue the casino. Does he have a case or is he a sore loser? He's going to make the case to you this morning. I'll test it. You judge it.