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World Focuses on Kidnapped Nigerian Women; Interview with Senator Amy Klobuchar; Ukraine Army Attacks Pro-Russia Forces; Pilot Crashes into Former Home; VA Secretary Defying Calls to Step Down

Aired May 7, 2014 - 07:00   ET


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Welcome back to NEW DAY. It's Wednesday, May 7th. Now 7:00 in the East. The United States is sending a team including military to help find more than 200 young girls who have been kidnapped in Nigeria. Now we learn eight more girls have been abducted, dragged from their homes by the same group suspected members of Al Qaeda affiliate Boko Haram. Now for the first time terrified parents of some of the children are speaking out. Our Vladimir Duthiers is live from Nigeria's capital city of Abuja. He's hearing these stories for us.

VLADIMIR DUTHIERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Chris. Yes, we've spoken to two parents who have their two daughters that have been taken by the Islamist terrorist group Boko Haram on April 14 in the dead of night, hauled away to god knows where, people believe probably neighboring Cameroon, Chad, or Niger. This interview that we did with these parents who risked their lives to come forward because they want the world to know what they are suffering under, this mother had this heartfelt plea to Abu Sheikh Shekau the leader of Boko Haram. Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She is pleading. Let them release these girls. They don't know probably one of them is born a president or a doctor or a pastor or a lawyer who will be helpful to the country. Please let him release them.


DUTHIERS: Kate, she went on to say as her husband translated for her that these children have not done anything wrong. They innocent babies, she said. And whatever argument Boko Haram ha with Nigeria's government, Nigerian leadership, that's fine, but they do not have to take innocent lives. It was really a very tough interview to do, Kate.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Tough interview to do and tough situation all around. It's just unmanageable what the parents are going through. But it's important to continue highlighting their stories and talking about it. We're going to continue talking about it here right now.

United States senators are also calling on the Obama administration to do more to help to find the Nigerian girls. One of those senators is joining us now. Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota. Senator, thank you so much for your time.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D), MINNESOTA: Thank you, Kate. Thank you for covering this important story. It really -- you know, this happened three weeks ago. 276 high schoolgirls kidnapped at gun point and I'm glad the world is finally watching this story because we need the world's attention to get the president of Nigeria, President Jonathan, to really focus on this. It's only recently that he even made a comment about it and said that he was working on a strategy.

You can imagine, this is almost as many people as perished in the Malaysia air flight. And that was a tragedy of epic proportions. But we just haven't focused enough on this story so I appreciate you covering it today.

BOLDUAN: Thank you very much. I do want to get your take on all of this. You are -- you signed on to this letter. All the women in the Senate signed on to this letter pushing for more action, to do more. And, specifically in that letter, really kind of focusing on the diplomatic front, pushing for Boko Haram, this group, to be added to the U.N. sanctions list.

I have to ask you, with that letter and that kind of an initiative, how is that going to immediately change the fate of these girls? Why not go further?

KLOBUCHAR: Well, we're actually calling for them to be labeled as a terrorist organization. That has already happened in the United States. We think the U.N. has to step up and do that. And that then helps to freeze their -- any resources they have and to get the international community to assist us in going after them.

We have now sent counterterrorism experts. We have sent hostage negotiators and people to work with the Nigerian government.

And, as you know, this the leader of this group has now said that he is going to sell these girls for sex, 12 bucks to marry them off, a girl. And when you think about this, this is just high schoolgirls, just like in America. They had their school clothes because of Boko Haram, whose name actually means that western education is evil. And they closed their school. They open it up just to take their exams, and that's when they were taken away at gun point.

And so this is actually part of this larger issue of stealing these girls, selling them into sex, things we're seeing all over the world. And it's no surprise that this terrorist group is focused on girls, because if you can get girls in education, if you can get them into our economy, get them into our democracy, you have improvements in countries all over the world.

BOLDUAN: Senator, what can the United States do? Do you agree with your colleague Senator Susan Collins who thinks that United States special forces should be sent in?

KLOBUCHAR: Well, I think we have to take the lead here. I think that the people on the ground have to -- are going to have to determine if special forces are necessary. We don't even know where these girls are right now. But clearly all options have to be left on the table.

BOLDUAN: You do wonder, many people will ask why now or why not now? You've got 300 girls who have been taken, some 300 girls. They've been missing now for three weeks. The Nigerian government has been slow to this point to really accept help, really only accepting the assistance of the United States when Secretary Kerry made the call. Do you have any confidence the Nigerian government can handle this itself?

KLOBUCHAR: Well, they are hosting the World Economic Forum as we speak and the world's eyes are going to be upon them. And I don't think this is a time for national pride or worrying about what people think that they're accepting help.

They clearly have waited too long. All these girls had were their own parents going into the forest with bows and arrows. That is all they had. And now they need to have the world, and not just the United States, helping to find these girls. Certainly we have the intelligence capability to find over 200 girls.

BOLDUAN: Senator, where, for you, personally, is the threshold to be met when you believe that it is time to send in U.S. special forces into a situation like this? Where is the threshold for you?

KLOBUCHAR: Well, the threshold is if it works. If there is a plan in place where we think that the girls are all in one place or that the special forces can help and we can work in a strategic way and in a positive way that we think is going to bring back these girls.

And that's a determination I can't make and your viewers can't make right now because we're not on the ground. But what we do know, it has gone on far too long and the hope would have been, if this would have been handled immediately by the Nigerian government and that they brought in help if they couldn't handle it themselves, it's easier to find hostages immediately than waiting three weeks. There's no doubt about that.

BOLDUAN: As you point out, it has been three weeks. The Nigerian government has been dealing with Boko Haram since 2009 and they clearly have not been able to get it under control and to stop their terror attacks. Do you think, now that we're three weeks in and these girls have not been found -- and you say they don't even know where they are -- that the Obama administration has been slow to respond?

KLOBUCHAR: Well, again, I think that it is good we are now sending in the counter-intelligence and the hostage negotiators. I'm sure we were in communication with them. I don't think that this was even something that we were discussing in Congress. So I think there is --

BOLDUAN: Why not?

KLOBUCHAR: -- a lot of blame to go around.

Because we didn't even know what had happened with these girls or where they were or what the situation was, and we're told that the Nigerian government were on this. I mean, those were the first things that we were hearing.

So I think there's a lot of blame to go around everywhere, but I am glad that we are now sending people over from the United States to help with this, and I hope that the rest of the world joins in. Because this truly can be a cause that the world can take on.

I was just down in Mexico with Cindy McCain, Senator McCain's wife, who's a leader on human trafficking. Literally millions of girls are working in brothels, are sold for sex every single year around the world. Eighty-three percent of the victims in the United States of sex trafficking are from the United States, so we have our own share of problems in places like North Dakota and Minnesota that you wouldn't think would have sex trafficking operations going on.

We do. And I just see this as a part of -- a major part of our foreign policy as we go forward, because we can say we have the same problem. That's what we said when we were down in Mexico, when we met with the head of their federal police, the attorney general of Mexico. And that if people can come together, and the U.N. can come together, we should make this literally one of the major parts of our policy. You cannot sell young girls into sex and kidnap them from their schools.

BOLDUAN: You are absolutely right about that. I want to get your final take really quickly. From what you know about the situation and what you know how Congress works and all the conversations that are going not -- in private, not public, what are the chances that U.S. special forces are going to be needed in this situation in the end?

KLOBUCHAR: Again, that is an intelligence decision to make on the ground and I don't think that Congress should be micromanaging the decisions about intelligence until we have that intelligence. We do not have that intelligence yet for members of Congress. And once we have that, that decision can be made.

BOLDUAN: Senator Amy Klobuchar, thank you for taking the lead on this. Thank you for speaking out. Thank you for coming on NEW DAY.

KLOBUCHAR: Thank you. I appreciate it.

BOLDUAN: Of course. Chris?

CUOMO: All right, Kate, another situation this morning, breaking overnight, more bloody battles between Ukrainian troops and pro- Russian rebels. Five rebels were killed overnight. Now NATO is getting involved even though Ukraine is not a member. This after Russia's foreign minister indicated Moscow may challenge Ukraine's upcoming elections. Nick Paton Walsh joins us live from Ukraine with the latest. What do you make of this, Nick?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Chris, I'm talking to you from inside Slavyansk, which has been the real hotbed of the unrest here where pro-Russian militants have been defending the barricades about the Ukrainian military who have been repeatedly trying to move in. We've hearing from their spokesperson shooting on the outskirts of town about an hour ago now, but really in the center of this city which has been galvanized by the moves of the Ukrainian forces against the civilians caught in that crossfire. Today, somber scenes of funerals here. Ten militants killed in fighting in past 48 hours. We're told a number of civilians as well, the exact total is unclear.

People here are very angry. A lot of anti-American sentiment, too, we hear amongst that crowd. There's no real motive involved at all by the U.S. here, but people believe that may be the case and they blame Barack Obama for it.

But another thing we're seeing, too, though is the Ukrainian army move forward with substantial violence, many lives lost. They tried to retake part of a highway we saw two days ago and then pulled back. The question you have to ask yourself, do they have a plan to hold on to this ground further down the line?

Last night they claim to have retaken the city hall of another town. But our team on the ground there saying, no, pro-Russian protestors are back in those buildings. Real concerns about when the military may choose to move into the center of the city. Locals are hostile. The barricades are in. Defenses have been proving every hour or so. The theory is there could be a lot of lives lost if that does happen. Back to you, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Nick Paton Walsh on the ground for news eastern Ukraine. Nick, thank you very much.

Here at home, the debate over climate change is heating up once again on the heels of a White House report that says global warming threatens every part of the U.S. But Republicans, they're not buying -- some Republicans are not buying this dire forecast. They say this is all part of politics. CNN's Jim Acosta is live at the White House with much more. What's the back and forth, Jim?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Kate. That's right, President Obama says climate change is a threat to the U.S. that is happening now. He made these comments in a series of interviews with meteorologists who came to the White House from around the country. The comments followed the release of a climate assessment that the White House put out to warn of the dangerous weather to come if climate change continues to happen, if global warming continues to happen unchecked. The president sat down with these meteorologists because the White House wanted the public to see this problem as something that is not scientific or theoretical but something that happens and affects their weather every day. Here's a bit of what the president had to say.


BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This isn't something in the distant future. Climate change is already affecting us now. If you live along the coast, you're more likely to experience it floods because of climate change. If you live in the west you're more likely to experience drought because of climate change. (END VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA: Now, it's safe to say you're going to hear the president talk more about climate change t later on this week. He's going to do fundraising out in California. At the end of the week he will have an energy efficiency event in the San Francisco Bay Area. So expect to hear the president talking about climate change there. But Republicans, as you said, Kate, they're firing back at the president, saying that he should be concentrating more on jobs and approve that Keystone pipeline, and one Republican aide on Capitol Hill is questioning whether even Senate Democrats want to hear the president talk about climate change. He e-mailed out a YouTube video to reporters around Washington. That YouTube video shows crickets chirping. Michaela?

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: Got a chuckle out of me. Jim Acosta, appreciate that, the latest from Washington. Thank you.

Let's take a look at more of your headlines at this hour. Today the driver of that car that followed a motorcade carrying the president's daughters inside the White House gates is expected in court. The White House was lock down for an hour on Tuesday as Secret Service agents swept the vehicle for explosives. And 55-year-old Matthew Goldstein reportedly holds a pass to the U.S. treasury now faces unlawful entry charges.

Just released surveillance video shows a teenage stowaway, you can see it in the circle there, emerging from the wheel well of a Boeing 767 in Hawaii. The teen is seen climbing out, then walking quite unsteadily on the tarmac to the front of the plane. The 15-year-old remarkably survived a nearly five-hour flight from California to Hawaii. He told investigators he was trying to get to Somalia to see his mother. He's back in San Jose, California, and could be charged with criminal trespassing.

A pilot who survived crashing into a suburban Denver home is speaking out about this terrifying incidence with told you about. And in kind of a wild twist we're learning more that the home that he crashed into, it used to be his own.


BRIAN VEATCH, PILOT CRASHED INTO FORMER HOME: There's got to be some reason I'm still around.

ACOSTA: An unbelievable set of circumstances, this pilot surviving a plane crash completely unscathed only to realize he crashed into a house he used to live in. Brian Veatch was towing a banner to a Colorado Rockies game when suddenly he lost power, the plane slamming through the back of the house landing upside-down with the tail section still visible.

VEATCH: I did immediate assessment on myself and realized that I wasn't injured. I ran up to the back screen door and tried to see if it was unlocked. ACOSTA: Veatch jumped into action, grabbing a garden hose trying to put out the fire himself. The plane's owner says luckily no one was home at the time of the crash. It was only after the initial chaos that Veatch realized the house was familiar.

VEATCH: I ran around the side of the house, recognized that this was a street that I had lived on a decade before.


PEREIRA: And was this the street that he lived on, he once lived in that very house he crashed into. Apparently he realized that after he saw the TV coverage. But again, this guy's a firefighter. And it's interesting to see that once he realized he was OK, his firefighter instincts took over. He went and assessed to see if there was anybody else in the house, grabbed a fire hose, tried to put the fire out. I mean, it's just -- and then the fact that --


BOLDUAN: And then realized that he lived there.

PEREIRA: I used to live there. And of course, if you're seeing it from the air you wouldn't think -- you wouldn't have that same perspective as driving down the street. He used to live in that house. What are the chances?

CUOMO: He's got a lot of questions this morning. You know, he's going to try to figure out --

PEREIRA: He survived a plane crash, A.


CUOMO: -- why he crashed and why he survived. Glad he sold the house, all those things.

Coming up on NEW DAY, troubling allegations, are veterans dying while waiting for treatment at VA hospitals? Now the head of the VA is defying calls that he step down. We have an investigation you're going to want to see on this straight ahead.

BOLDUAN: And it was a big night for the Republican establishment, a bad night for the tea party. What's the message voters sent Republicans in the North Carolina Senate primary? That's coming up on Inside Politics.


CUOMO: Welcome back to NEW DAY.

Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki says he isn't going anywhere. He's defying calls to step down after CNN uncovered deadly delays at several VA hospitals.

Now, in a CNN exclusive, we discovered VA hospitals kept secret waiting lists that left vets wait for months for care, often with deadly consequences. Senior investigative correspondent Drew Griffin first uncovered this. He joins us live from Washington to follow up on this.

So the first question for you, Drew, is, thank you for doing the investigation. That's a comment, not a question. This needed to come out. Now, what is the response from the White House about this and Shinseki in particular?

DREW GRIFFIN, SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Well, the White House, the president, is sticking by his man at the VA and press secretary Jay Carney addressed this yesterday telling reporters that the president has confidence, full confidence, in Eric Shinseki to run the VA. But this was his response to our own White House correspondent Michelle Kosinski who asked where is Shinseki? And why isn't he coming out and talking to us and answering our questions?


MICHELLE KOSINSKI, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Some have been trying to sit down and talk with Shinseki, and including CNN, they've been asking him for an interview since November. Why won't he just come out and speak about this or talk --


JAY CARENY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: You're asking me for an interview with --

KOSINSKI: And, yes, can the White House direct him to --

CARNEY: I'll refer you to the department for the director's schedule.


CUOMO: Well, it's not just really a scheduling issue, is it? I mean, this is about accountability, and it's not just coming from the media, it's coming from lawmakers also, right? U.S. senators are getting involved.

GRIFFIN: That's right. And to Carney's point, we've been asking for an interview for six months. And in that "Wall Street Journal" article that came out late last night, Shinseki apparently says he needs to respond better and communicate better. Well, you know, part of that is actually talking to people.

There's a growing course of lawmakers in Washington, mostly Republican and Republican senators yesterday jumped on board asking for Shinseki's resignation. Take a listen to even the Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was weighing in.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I wish the White House, instead of traveling around the country talking about the urgency of climate change, would talk with equal urgency about this failure of leadership and incompetence at the VA.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: Obviously a change in leadership might be a good step in the right direction.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Today I'm demanding accountability and true transformation within the VA system and its culture from top to bottom, and all across the country. Secretary Shinseki seemingly is unwilling or unable to do so, and change must be made at the top.


CUOMO: Well, the moran (ph) is the only one who was speaking directly to the issue. The fear, Drew, always with these situations is that the people who are victims get lost in the politics that start to become at play. So we know what the lawmakers are doing. We have to get answers. The most important people here are, of course, the victims and their families. The families are also asking for answers. Is it true they're not getting them, either?

GRIFFIN: You know, we found that out just a couple of nights ago, which is really infuriating, more so than the VA ignoring CNN. We heard from the family of a veteran that we first told you about back in 2012, Chris. His name is Bill Nicholas (ph). There he is. A World War II Navy airman. His job as a young sailor, a teenager, really, he rescued downed pilots in the Pacific Ocean.

Now, in 2012 he went to the Pittsburgh VA hospital. Unbeknownst to him, but known to management, legionella bacteria was running through the pipes of that hospital. He and several other veterans died because of the poisoning that took place at the VA hospital. Nobody has ever been held accountable.

That family sent us an e-mail two nights ago saying this about their attempts to reach Eric Shinseki. They write, "How could Shinseki and Obama allow this to keep happening without any accountability? I will never understand how they can just turn a deaf ear. And the worst part, when we request a meeting where we can look Shinseki in the eye, he simply does not many respond to our requests. Do these people have no conscience?" That's from the family of a veteran who died unnecessarily at a VA hospital two years ago. They still haven't gotten any answers. And at that hospital there really hasn't been any accountability to date.

CUOMO: Leads you to believe the secretary has nothing of value to say, so he's ducking the requests. And obviously, the situation existed long before Shinseki, but he's accountable for it now. And the biggest point, Drew, that I know drove your investigation in the first place was that these are the men and women who we say deserve the best, they've sacrificed the most.

And the idea that their health system, you know, just the use the most accurate word, sucks, and that they're getting this problem and nobody is stepping up is just wrong.

Thank you for bringing it to light. We know you're going to keep pressing for answers from the secretary, and it goes far beyond him as well. Drew Griffin, thank you for very much, appreciate having you on this morning.

All right, so, it's an obvious question, right? But do you think the Veterans Affair secretary should be out here in front of us talking about it, at least? What about resigning? Should that be on the table? Let us know what you think. You use the #newday. We always say we care about our veterans. This is a chance to show it.


BOLDUAN: Coming up next on NEW DAY, he spent five hours in a plane's wheelwell in terrifying conditions, but managed to survive. We've got the first security footage of the teen who flew from California to Hawaii. And we're breaking it down for you.

Also, coming up on "Inside Politics", it's North Carolina idol, folks. We're gonna check in how Clay Aiken faired on the ballot last night. Can the crooner take on Congress?


PEREIRA: Welcome back to NEW DAY. Let's lock at your headlines.

Right now, eight more young girls have been kidnapped in Nigeria. Suspected gunman from the al Qaeda affiliated Boko Haram raided their village, dragged them from their homes. President Obama is now sending in a team of law enforcement and military experts to assist in finding the girls who have been abducted since last month.

More blood spilled in Ukraine. Five pro-Russian rebels were killed overnight as Ukrainian troops stormed separatists barricades, this after Russia's foreign minister said the timing of Ukraine's upcoming election is unusual, stoking fears that Moscow could challenge the results. NATO's chief calls the situation the gravest crisis to Europe since the cold war.

An FBI agent has been arrested in Pakistan. He was allegedly carrying ammunition and knives as he tried to board a domestic flight there. The agent appeared in a Pakistani court Tuesday. He has another appearance on Saturday. A U.S. official says the agent is in the country to help train local police and probably didn't mean to take bullets and ammunition on to the plane.

Officials from China, Malaysia, and Australia meeting today to re- examine data and reshape the search for Flight 370. Here at home interesting new results of a CNN/ORC poll shows majority of American, 69 percent, say the hunt for the missing plane should continue; 51 percent believe the jetliner is in the Indian Ocean, while 46 percent believe it is somewhere else. And when asked if we'll ever know what happened to Flight 370, 52 percent said yes while 46 percent believe it will always remain a mystery.