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Obama and Putin Talk Ukraine; U.S. Destroyer Heading to Black Sea; Conservatives Descend On DC For CPAC

Aired March 7, 2014 - 08:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Any discussion about the future of Ukraine must include the legitimate government of Ukraine.

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CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: a U.S. warship passing near Crimea this morning, just hours after President Obama and Vladimir Putin talk over the phone. Is the U.S. pressure working? We're live across the region.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Happening this hour, bracing for the latest jobs report. Has the cold winter chill slowed the U.S. economy? What it all means for your wallet.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking this morning, Oscar Pistorius' ex- girlfriend taking the stand, claiming the sprinter had a gun on him at all times, even nearby while sleeping. We're live with the latest.

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. It is Friday, March 7th, 8:00 in the East.

Russia is trying a new tactic with an old ship it appears. For the second straight day, Russia sank an old vessel to block in Ukrainian ships in the Black Sea. An American destroyer ship is expected to arrive in the region shortly to perform exercises that we're told were planned before the crisis broke out.

CUOMO: And the situation is still premature but members of Russia's government are starting to roll out the welcome mat for Crimea. They say a planned referendum on whether to split from Ukraine is the right move, adding they don't expect a war. But there's still growing concern about this upcoming vote, including protests in Ukraine and growing isolation from the West.

Now, the diplomatic front the talks go on, but the answers remain elusive. The latest, President Obama and Vladimir Putin spent an hour on the phone discussing the situation. Despite narrow agreement, Putin said Ukrainians do need help from Russia.

Let's begin our coverage this hour at the White House with Michelle Kosinski -- Michelle.

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Chris, right. This is three times now that President Obama and Putin have spoken by phone since the crisis. And, you know, has that changed anything substantially? Really, no. The administration said both sides do understand that there should be a diplomatic way forward. Russia even emphasized the importance of the U.S./Russian relationship.

Well, still, there's big differences, though, in assessments and approach. I mean, the U.S. has imposed sanctions and Russia really has yet to sit down with Ukraine.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KOSINSKI (voice-over): In an hour-long phone call, President Obama again urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to pursue a diplomatic solution, telling him to have dialogue with Ukraine, to let in international monitors that have been blocked from Crimea this week and pull back his troops to their bases.

Putin agreed on the need for diplomacy, but they see the situation differently -- as did Secretary of State John Kerry and the Russian foreign minister after a second day of meetings.

JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: Crimea is part of Ukraine. Crimea is Ukraine.

KOSINSKI: Russia called it impossible to act in the face of unilateral semi-hysterical views, ultimatums and sanctions. The U.S. went ahead with sanctions. The House approved a billion dollars in aid to Ukraine.

The administration saying it has grave concerns the situation could escalate further and wants to be prepared with powerful, flexible tools to keep pressure on.

OBAMA: If this violation of international law continues, the resolve of the United States and our allies and the international community will remain firm.

KOSINSKI: But not for now sanctioning President Putin specifically.

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We hold Russia accountable for the actions that Russia is taking in this regard.

KOSINSKI: Ukraine again asking for resolution.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Putin, Mr. Putin, tear down this wall, the wall of intimidation, the wall of military aggression and let's build up new type of relations between Ukraine and Russia. We are ready for cooperation, but we are not ready to surrender and to be the subordinate of Russia.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KOSINSKI: We've heard President Obama and Congress stress the need for bipartisanship through this. We've seen some of it. Some Republicans have been harshly critical of the situation. Yesterday, a former U.N. ambassador said at least Putin has a strategy while President Obama has none.

But others have been complimentary of the fact that the U.S. has really been leading discussion and sanctions now. Yesterday, House Speaker John Boehner called Putin a thug -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Michele, thank you so much.

Also this morning an American missile destroyer is expected to arrive in the Black Sea. Officials say the USS Truxtun was already heading there for military training before the crisis.

Let's get the very latest from Ivan Watson on the ship in the Bosphorus Strait this morning.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Good morning.

Istanbul's Bosphorus Strait is normally an important passageway for commercial shipping and for tourists, like we're on right now.

But we're waiting for the arrival of a U.S. guided missile destroyer, the U.S. Navy's Truxtun which is expected to sail through here on its way to the Black Sea within a matter of hours. It is joining a number of other warships that have come through in past days, two Russian navy warships and a Ukrainian frigate. They are headed in the direct of the contested Crimean Peninsula which has been occupied by the Russian military.

The U.S. Navy insists the Truxtun is going for previously scheduled naval maneuvers with Bulgaria and Romania. But clearly, at this crisis period, any movement by the military is a message between governments that do not see eye to eye on the future of the Ukraine -- Kate, Chris.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BOLDUAN: Ivan, thank you so much for that.

Let's talk about all the latest developments. Joining us now is former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, and now a senior fellow of Brookings Institution, Steven Pifer.

Mr. Ambassador, thanks so much for taking the time this morning. STEVEN PIFER, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: Good morning.

BOLDUAN: I want to go back to the latest phone call between President Obama and President Vladimir Putin. They are talking. I guess we can say that is a good thing.

But do you see any evidence that the pressure that the U.S. is trying to apply to Russia is working, though?

PIFER: Well, I think the White House working with Europe is trying to come up with a two track strategy. One is to begin ratcheting up the pressure, political, diplomatic and economic sanctions on the Russians while still trying to see if they can move Moscow towards some kind of negotiated settlement.

So, the White House has said Russia should bring its troops in Crimea back to their barracks, allow international monitors into Crimea, who could verify that. In fact, there's not a threat to ethnic Russians there, but then also to begin a dialogue with Kiev directly. And that seems to be a problem. So far, the Russian government said they don't recognize the new government in Kiev, so it makes it hard to get that dialogue under way.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. And you see, I mean, look at the long game here. Do you see that any resolution to this crisis and conflict can be reached without Russia agreeing to sit down and talk to the authorities in Kiev?

PIFER: Now, ultimately, there has to be that conversation between the Russians and Ukrainians. This can't be solved by the Americans or the Europeans. There may be some help that outsiders can provide but at some point there has to be that direct dialogue.

And, unfortunately, since the new government took office just a little bit more than a week ago, the Russians have maintained that it's an illegitimate government. They still at least formally recognize Viktor Yanukovych, the former president who fled Ukraine on February 21 and has been out of sight somewhere in Russia.

BOLDUAN: Let's drill down, you would know better than most. I want to lean on your expertise here knowing Ukraine. I want to drill down on what is growing on in Crimea. We have this referendum vote upcoming. Some say that it seems to be a foregone conclusion from what they see happening on the ground in Crimea.

What do you think the real impact will be of this referendum? What happens after?

PIFER: Yes. Well, I think the decision to go forward with the referendum is unfortunate and it will make it harder to find a resolution. And this is something that if the Russians did not want to this to happen, there would be no referendum.

But I think from the beginning, there will be some questions about its legitimacy. Already, the Crimean Tatar leadership and the Crimean Tatars are 12 percent to 15 percent of the population of Crimea, they said they will boycott the referendum.

Under Ukrainian law, this referendum is, in fact, illegal. The Crimeans, thus far, have not been willing to let international monitors into Crimea, so there's a question, will there be any kind of monitoring of the acts of referendum to see if it's fair. So, there will be questions about its legitimacy from the beginning. And that couple with comments out of the Russian legislature that they're looking at legislation that would allow other territories to join Russia, I think is going to ratchet up concern in Kiev that this may be more than just a referendum but perhaps a Russian grand land of Crimea.

BOLDUAN: Mr. Ambassador, is Crimea even before this vote happens, is Crimea effectively gone from Ukraine?

PIFER: I think right now the best case that Ukraine can hope for, unfortunately, is that Crimea stays in a limbo status. I think if Russia moves to a next Crimea, it would be very hard for Ukraine to get it back.

If it stays in this limbo status there'd maybe some chance through diplomacy, but it's going to take a long time and it's going to require that the West in order to help bring Crimea back to Ukraine will have to have a policy that's patient and persistent and it's going to have to be sustained over quite some time.

It's not just pressuring the Russians, but it's also doing things like political support and economic and financial assistance to Ukraine, so that Ukraine which is now in somewhat fragile state can get through their election in May and become a more stable government and be prepared and to stand up a little bit more in terms of this dialogue with the Russians.

BOLDUAN: With your knowledge of the region what do you honestly believe is Vladimir Putin's end goal here?

PIFER: Yes. I think there are a couple of goals here that are very clear in the last week. First of all, with the new government took office in Kiev, they very much made clear that they wanted to resume the push towards the European Union, sign the association agreement. Mr. Putin does not like that because a Ukraine that's moving towards the European Union is going out of Russia's geopolitical orbit.

There's also I think from Mr. Putin a domestic political factor. He does not want to be seen in Russia as the one who lost Ukraine or lost Crimea.

BOLDUAN: But doesn't this hurt him, his standing in the political, in the international political sense in the long term, much more than it's going to help him in the short term domestically?

PIFER: I think this is very true. This is going to have I think very negative consequences. You see already the other members of the G-8 have now suspended their preparations for the G-8 Summit that Mr. Putin was going to host in Sochi in June. I think within Ukraine, one unintended consequence and it will be interesting to see the polling when it's done, that the Ukraine population now is more intent on drawing closer to Europe.

And you see, I think, elsewhere within Europe, people reassessing what does this mean in terms of Russian intentions elsewhere. So, I think this has some very negative consequences for Russia.

BOLDUAN: Steven Pifer, Mr. Ambassador, thank you very much for your time this morning.

PIFER: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Of course.

John?

BERMAN: All right. Let's take a look at some of the headlines right now.

Overnight, officials investigate ad potential security threat on an American Eagle flight. Passengers were evacuated off the plane in Kansas City after crew members said a suitcase did not match up with a passenger. The plane was taken to a remote location and met by emergency officials. All 67 passengers and crew had to leave without their personal belongings and were placed in a holding area. Officials eventually gave the all clear but no other details have been made available at this point.

The Senate has blocked a bill of stripping military commanders of their authority of over sexual assault case. The measure which fell five votes shy would give that power to independent investigators. Top military brass opposed these changes.

The bill's co-sponsor, New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, has said reforms already passed by Congress simply do not go far enough.

Meanwhile, the Army is investigating some pretty stunning accusation against a top officer whose job included training sex crimes prosecutors. Officials say Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Morris has been suspended from his duties following allegations that he groped a female attorney in 2011 while the two were attending a conference on sexual assault.

A frantic search is on for an 11-year-old Caitlyn Virts of Maryland. An Amber alert was 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 are concerned for her safety because Caitlyn is not supposed to be with her father. Caitlyn's two siblings are now safe with family members.

We got to say not sure what this fan was thinking when he rushed out on the court last night during the game between Hawaii and UC-Santa Barbara. The fan tried to confront Hawaii coach Gib Arnold, and a couple of Hawaii players pushed the fan away and looked like he was challenging them to fight. What's going on in that guy's head?

The fan is believed to be a Santa Barbara student.

CUOMO: Nothing. Nothing was going on.

BERMAN: He was ushered off the court. ESPN reports he was later arrested, probably for good reason.

BOLDUAN: This is the very bad version of adorable little boy who ran on the soccer field this week.

BERMAN: Yes, there's nothing adorable about that. That's potentially dangerous.

CUOMO: That was an innocent little kid, this is a dope. That's why he got arrested. There you have it.

Is it settled for you, John?

BERMAN: Settled.

CUOMO: Feel better about it, man.

BERMAN: Much better.

CUOMO: Good. Now, I will tell you what the weather is.

BOLDUAN: it's something you two should agree on. Who knew?

CUOMO: I also know what the weather is. No, I don't. But that's why we have meteorologist, Indra Petersons. What would you have done to that guy running on a court? What was the right justice in that situation?

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: I'm not going to lie. I did not see that. I was just walking out here, Chris. That's what's --

(CROSSTALK)

PETERSONS: But I know one thing, right? Can I just go with weather?

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

PETERSONS: Busted. How about that? Busted right now.

(LAUGHTER)

PETERSONS: All right. Let's talk about temperatures, guys. We're talking about temperatures below normal right now, but by tomorrow, Monday, I should say, temperatures are going to be above-normal. So, that's we're hoping to get to. Now, over the weekend, we have a couple of things kind of moving, little couple of piece there's. The first one is a low that was in the southeast.

This, guys, the hint of a wintry mix especially go towards morning commute time around D.C. But here is the key. This guy is going offshore not going up the coastline, not going to bring that wintry mix to northeast any more. So, that is an upside, a low as we go towards the weekend. But unfortunately, Midwest not as lucky. Another system making its way through cold air behind it. Going to cool you off a little bit, but not a lot of snow.

Very moisture starved, so, that's a good piece for you. And notice, even by this time you go to Saturday and through Sunday, we'll start to see a little bit of that shower chance, a snow shower chance in towards the northeast. Big story came out yesterday in case you didn't hear it. There's now about a 50 percent chance we could see El Nino by the summer. That warm air is spreading farther to the east.

What does that mean for us? Well, it is good news for hurricane season. That means we have less potential for hurricanes in the Atlantic and also maybe some milder conditions around the Rockies and amidst very good potential for the west as we start to see potentially more rain out towards California by the next winter and you may want to pay attention to this guy, warmer temperatures for the upper Midwest by next winter.

So, it could be a good thing, but -- United States, of course, has huge impacts across the world. They usually are not going to (INAUDIBLE) agriculturally, also bad news as well.

BOLDUAN: But in the short term, for all my family members living in Michigan and Indiana, they will take --

PETERSONS: They will definitely be happy about it there. Yes.

(LAUGHTER)

BOLDUAN: Thanks so much, Indra.

CUOMO: Coming up on NEW DAY, last year, he wasn't even invited. This year, welcomed with open arms. Arousing reception for Chris Christie at the big conservative conference. So, what did he say? How is it going over? What's the latest? We'll discuss.

BOLDUAN: And jobs numbers are due out in just minutes. What impact did the awful winter weather have on hiring? Stay with us. We're going to bring you those numbers.

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CUOMO: Welcome back to NEW DAY.

The Conservative Political Action Conference gets back under way this morning in the nation's capital. It's known as CPAC, right? On Thursday, New Jersey governor, Chris Christie, stole the show there. He came out swinging, criticized the president, took shots at us in the media as well. Christie's speech had the crowd on their feet, which is a far cry from last year. He wasn't even invited.

He wasn't seen as conservative enough. This year, he is the man. For more, let's bring in CNN political commentator, Ana Navarro, and CNN national political reporter, Mr. Peter Hamby. Great to have you both.

Peter, let me start with you. A lot of infighting lately in the Republican Party. Do we see a message coming out from CPAC early on about who they are? Is it just about how bad Democrats are? What are we hearing?

(LAUGHTER)

PETER HAMBY, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: Look, there is continued infighting, if you will. A lot of different messages depending on who's talking. The morning speaker yesterday was Texas senator, Ted Cruz, who said the party needs to embrace its conservative principles, look what happened when we nominated John McCain, Mitt Romney who he thinks are sort of moderate squishes, they lost the presidential election.

But then, you moved on later in the day to Chris Christie who sort of presented, tried to argue for a message of unity saying, you know, if we find a common ground, put aside those small things that we don't agree on, we need to beat Democrats. They are worse than anyone within our own Republican Party. And this, Christie really did, Chris, steal the show. I think you're exactly right.

He had the most energy in the room out of anyone who spoke yesterday. He really checked a lot of boxes with the conservative base. There are no walk outs or boos. He talked about how he was pro-life, really pivoting away from that blue state message that we heard from him last year in New Jersey when he was running for re-election. But yes, a lot of competing interests.

And we'll see again today Rand Paul is speaking and he's someone else in the Republican tent who has a lot of different views about foreign policy. So, that will be interesting to watch as well.

CUOMO: Ana, tackle a couple of things for me. One, do we need CPAC any more with the rise of the Tea Party? Are they kind of caught in the middle where they used to be the right? And, do you think the scandal actually could have helped Christie with this particular fashion by making it about the media? What's your take?

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, two things. You know, CPAC -- I'm not sure it needs to be three days long, but I think CPAC continues to be an important gathering, particularly, because it brings a lot of young Republicans. Most of the attendees are very young Republicans, you know, millenials, people that you don't usually see at Republican gatherings. It's also a yearly cattle call.

It will get much more buzz as we get closer to presidential election, but it's something that's done year after year and it's, you know, a tradition to go speak to the conservative base. The Tea Party is there. There are representatives of the Tea Party there as, you know, Peter just said, the first speaker was Ted Cruz. Another speaker yesterday was Mike Lee, the Tea Party candidate, the Tea Party senator that's, you know, that's one of the most popular guys in the Tea Party.

I will tell you, both of them got much less of a reception and much less of a crowd, much less energy than Chris Christie or Marco Rubio did. And on the question of the scandal, you know, Chris, Chris Christie has been consistent in delivering very good speeches throughout this scandal. Every time he's been on stage whether it's been his inaugural, whether it's been the press conference, whether it's been the town hall or whether it was yesterday, he has delivered strong speeches.

He uses his no nonsense bluntness to his advantage. Yes, he went and he talked about being pro-life. In fairness to Chris Christie, he's been pro-life consistently his entire career and if you're going to tout that, CPAC is the place to do it. So, he gave a good speech. He was also very gracious and highlighted, the other Republican governors and what they've done and he delivered the message of, you know what, Washington is dysfunctional and I'm not Washington and that's a message that also resonates in that room.

CUOMO: So, he also went after the media. And let's talk about how intelligent that is. Peter, I'm going to make you the metaphor for all media and I'm going to charge you. He's right about you bums and I'll tell you why, because not only you keep chasing him about this scandal and everything that happens in his life, but, look what you did about the gun with McConnell.

McConnell showed up with a gun to the CPAC. That's what all you guys were using as your headline. It was award for someone, lifetime NRA achievement award. Is he right about you media guys chasing after the right wrongly?

HAMBY: I mean, God forbid, we ask tough questions about, you know, what he knew and when he knew it up in New Jersey. Look, this is a tried and true tactic when speaking to conservative audiences. There are a couple of polls that came out at the height of the GW bridge scandal that actually showed Christie's ratings among conservatives tick up a little bit. You saw conservatives rally to his side saying that he is unfairly under attack.

No one is asking President Obama these questions that they're asking Chris Christie. That's just not true. You saw this from speaker after speaker yesterday, Wayne LaPierre, the NRA was one who got up and attacked the media saying, you know, they don't know what they're doing. They aren't journalists any more. There (ph) are no journalist anymore. This was Christie really -- we didn't learn anything new about Chris Christie yesterday to Ana's point about him being, you know, anti-abortion.

He just used existing things about himself and framed himself for this audience in a really, really good way, actually. Don't forget Chris Christie, whatever questions there are about his governance is a really talented political performer. He knew his audience. He talked about the Koch Brothers and attacked Harry Reid. He talked about abortion.

He talked about the media and then he talked about Republicans coming together and winning. He found things that conservatives could agree on that he was good at and I think it really worked for him yesterday.

CUOMO: And the gun was a little bit of cheap shot, but also the polls do show that through this period, his numbers have dropped in terms of overall Republicans who want to see him run for president. So, Ana, let's finish on this, do you believe the guy who's going to be -- I'm only saying guy because we've only seen guys there, do you think the candidate for president is in that room right now that we're going to hear on CPAC or you think it's still undecided for Republicans who their best person is?

NAVARRO: I think it's completely undecided. I think on the Republican side, it is up in the air, unless, you know, this is a very different position for republicans. Usually, we're the ones that have a successor on the wings. This time, it is the Democrats who have an heir apparent. We are completely up in the air and I think it's something that's going to be decided and clarify itself after the mid- terms.

And no, I don't think necessarily that person was in the room. I'll remind you, folks, like John Kasich, like Jeb Bush were not in that room, like Scott Walker were not in that room, though, they're all going to be in the straw poll. That straw poll has everybody, but you know, the kitchen sink in it.

(LAUGHTER)

CUOMO: Ana Navarro, thank you very much. Peter Hamby, we got to go. But I will end with a compliment for you. I love that red stitching around the eyelet in your jacket. Strong, strong, strong.

HAMBY: Thanks, buddy. I appreciate that.

CUOMO: Kate, over to you.

BOLDUAN: Coming up next on NEW DAY, the latest jobs numbers are due out in just minutes. We're going to have the February numbers and tell you what they mean for the economy and, of course, your wallet.

Plus, more emotional testimony in Oscar Pistorius trial. His ex- girlfriend testifies about the Olympians habit with guns. But did it really hurt the "Blade Runner" in court? NEW DAY returns in a moment.

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