Return to Transcripts main page


Midwest Can Expect More Rain, Storms; Dad Sobs In Jailhouse Call To Son's Funeral; Dad Searched "Child Deaths Inside Vehicles"; Russian Fighter Jets Arrive In Iraq; Countdown To USA Versus Belgium

Aired June 29, 2014 - 06:00   ET


CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: My goodness. I was saying it's early on a Sunday for some reason today it's early. But we're so glad to have your company. I'm Christi Paul.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Victor Blackwell. It's 6:00 here on the east coast. This is NEW DAY SUNDAY. And listen, it could be a very rough day across the plains and the Midwest. Up to 11 million people could be affected by severe weather that's moving through those regions, damaging winds, large hail, and tornadoes possible too.

PAUL: There's damaging winds we're seeing in Adair, Oklahoma yesterday as a possible tornado ripped through that town. Those poor folks cleaning up. Trees were knocked down. Businesses were damaged. I have to tell you, it's actually not 11 million of us, it's more than 20 million people today.

BLACKWELL: Wow. We'll get to Karen in just a moment. Let's go to Eastern Arizona. Temperatures will reach above 100 as 500 firefighters battle the flames in the San Juan fire, 5,000 acres burned. Some residents had to leave their homes.

PAUL: In a weekend of wild weather too. It feels like no region was spared. Take a look at this.


PAUL (voice-over): Watch out for the dangerous weather. In Columbus, Ohio a lightning strike leaves an off-duty fire department official in critical condition this morning. Authorities say the man in his 40s went into cardiac arrest and had to be resuscitated after being hit by lightning at a charity soccer game.

In suburban Milwaukee, Wisconsin, high winds are being blamed for knocking over this huge tree, a jogger was injured when it fell on him. He is in serious condition. And in northeast Oklahoma, no reported injuries thankfully, but, look at the damage high winds caused. With debris shredding rooftops, knocking over trees, bending power lines.

The severe weather is part of a wider system that's also causing flash flooding and rising river levels across parts of Minnesota and it's expected to get worse.

GOVERNOR MARK DAYTON, MINNESOTA: I've never seen damage this severe and widespread. This is all over the state.

PAUL: Minnesota's governor toured flood hit areas Saturday by boat. He's already declared a state of emergency for 35 counties, but the rain keeps falling, the rivers keep rising, and the water keeps coming. In Pryor Lake just southwest of downtown Minneapolis, residents are stacking sandbags five feet high in some spots to keep homes dry.

ZACH HEIMERS, PRYOR LAKE RESIDENT: We're sandbagging to try to keep the streets open for the most part. Also protecting a couple houses about ready to go under and we're trying to sand bag at the end of the cul-de-sac, which is now part of the lake.


BLACKWELL: All right, so now to top it off, there's also some news in the tropics. May be a storm brewing off the Georgia coast. Karen Maginnis, let's go to Karen. We think of you at the same time, Karen, when these things come up.

PAUL: When these things come up, Karen, we need to know.

KAREN MAGINNIS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: All right, well, we've been watching this actually the last couple days. Just kind of had the hint that something tropical would develop here. Now the National Hurricane Center says they are going to send some hurricane hunters in to take a look at it and see if there's going to be any development.

We do have some ideal conditions, there's not a lot of shear taking place, the water temperatures have really warmed up rather dramatically. It's not affecting these coastal areas except there is going to be a rip current over the next couple of days, just because this circulation is going to be developing here.

About a 40 percent likelihood in the next two days, we could see this possibly turn into Tropical Storm Arthur. And then across the Midwest, a big storm. Not just from Minnesota that you heard so much about over the last several days, but also across the Ohio River Valley with strong storms, Oklahoma, wind gusts as high as 70 miles an hour.

But here's the problem today. Watch out. Between Interstate 80, Interstate 70, where you've got this moderate risk from Des Moines to Lincoln to Omaha, just to the north of Kansas City, this is where you could see the potential for tornadic activity. High winds, hail, lightning, and the risk of tornadoes.

And Minnesota, particularly Minneapolis, you have seen almost the all-time record amount of rainfall there, second right now. We've got a couple more days, you have seen in excess of 11 inches. The record was set in 1874 -- Christi and Victor.

PAUL: All righty, Karen Maginnis, thank you so much.

BLACKWELL: A standing ovation. That what is the reaction to a surprising jail house call from Justin Ross Harris. He's the Georgia father charged with murder after leaving his 22-month-old toddler in a blistering hot SUV.

PAUL: Harris was not allowed to attend his son's funeral, but he did address the crowd by speaker phone from jail. Police say Harris recently used the Internet to search for information about child deaths inside vehicles including what temperature it needs to be for that death to occur.

BLACKWELL: CNN's Nick Valencia has more. Nick, good morning.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Victor and Christi, the tiny red casket for 22-month-old Cooper Harris was placed in front of a crowd of hundreds who came to pay their respects for the toddler who died last week.


VALENCIA (voice-over): Under a light summer rain in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, 22-month-old Cooper Harris was laid to rest at a funeral service attended by hundreds. Not present, his father, Justin Ross Harris, who is accused of killing the toddler. But he did call in from jail to thank guests for supporting his son and apologized for not being there.

(on camera): While he was on the phone his wife said that she's absolutely not angry at her husband. She called him a wonderful father and said the truth would come out. Harris could be heard sobbing over the phone as the crowd inside gave him a standing ovation.

(voice-over): Earlier Saturday, new startling details emerged about the 33-year-old. According to search warrants obtained by CNN, Harris told police, quote, "That he recently researched through the Internet child deaths inside vehicles and what temperature it needs to be for that to occur."

The police officer went on to say, quote, "Justin stated that he was fearful that this could happen." What remains unclear is exactly when that search was done. Friends and family say the man police paint as a murderer is not the man they know.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want that he would be able to forgive himself.

VALENCIA: Family friend, Carol Brown.

CAROL BROWN, FAMILY FRIEND: It seems out of character for Ross. I know people change. It's been 15 years or so since we've had contact in the church. So, you know, people change. I -- but -- it's just hard for me to imagine that that is the Ross, the sweet Ross Harris, the sweet little funny boy that we knew.

VALENCIA: A lawyer has instructed Harris' family not to speak to the media. Those who have spoken off camera say a man with the moral fiber of Harris would never be capable of killing his own son. Left for seven hours in his father's car under the blistering Atlanta sun, Cooper Harris died. What is still unknown is what could have motivated Harris as

police say to kill his only child. Outside the university Church of Christ, friends and family grieve, as they wait to find out if Baby Cooper's death was a terrible accident or something more sinister.


VALENCIA: Justin Ross Harris is next due in court on July 3rd -- Victor, Christi.

BLACKWELL: Nick Valencia there in Tuscaloosa, thank you.

PAUL: All right, let's talk about this with criminal defense attorney, Page Pate. I think what people are a little jolted by at this point is the fact that yes, Harris told police that he had searched the Internet for information about child deaths inside vehicles. Yes, he says he searched for how hot it would have to be for that to happen. But he also says he did this because he was fearful that it could happen.


PAUL: Is that a solid explanation?

PATE: I think it all depends on the context of what he said and when he said it. Let's remember we just heard one small snippet of what was a long conversation between Mr. Harris and law enforcement. So, perhaps during this interrogation they got him to admit that yes, I know what happens when you leave a child in a hot car. In fact, I researched it because I was concerned about it. You take something like that out of a long interrogation and put it in a warrant it looks a lot more sinister than it may be.

BLACKWELL: What's the significance of how far in advance of Cooper's death this search occurred?

PATE: Obviously the closer in time, the less likely it is some sort of coincidence.

BLACKWELL: Let's say it was two years ago. Is it still relevant?

PATE: I don't think so. At that point perhaps as a normal parent, a case was on the news, maybe he was Googling it just to see, my gosh, I've done something like this before and fortunately nothing bad happened. I think timing is critical. If it happened a day before, very damaging. If it happened a year before, completely irrelevant.

PAUL: OK. What we know more search warrant records are going to come out here. Today we expect some, maybe throughout the week. But what evidence would police need to support this child cruelty and felony murder charges?

PATE: Obviously they are focusing on that search. What they can tell from looking at the computer is number one, when did he conduct that search, when was it done. As we were discussing, yesterday or last year. They can also look at other search terms that he may have been using at or about the same time. Was he also looking at things relating to law enforcement investigations, computer search warrants? And they can use all of those search terms, that history, to paint a picture as to what he's looking at.

BLACKWELL: Earlier in the week, the cruelty to a child charge was bumped from first degree to a second degree charge. Help us explain the importance of that and when we could see maybe charges change again.

PATE: OK. I'm not sure it's really that important. Both first- degree and second degree child cruelty charges in Georgia are both felonies. Either one will support a felony murder charge. Police they talked to the district attorney's office and said look, we don't have to get first-degree. All we have to prove is that criminal negligence, that you know, he was not being as careful as he should have.

Now, ultimately it's not the police who will determine what she charged with, it's the district attorney. If he is held in custody, not given a bond next week, the DA has 90 days to indict him, to take the case to the grand jury and present whatever charges he feels is appropriate.

PAUL: How likely do you think he will be released on bond?

PATE: I think it's very likely.

PAUL: Page Pate, thank you so much.

BLACKWELL: We just have this in to CNN. Seven people were wounded in New Orleans after a late night shooting on Bourbon Street. The victims were taken to a nearby hospital. We don't know much about their conditions right now, but we're learning from officials this happened near popular tourist attractions including preservation hall, Pat O'Brian's. Unfortunately not the first time we've reported these mass shootings here on Bourbon Street. Again, we are just getting this in to our newsroom. Seven people shot in Bourbon Street in New Orleans.

Also more sad news to tell you about this morning. Veteran actor, Meshach Taylor has died at the age of 67.

PAUL: He is best remembered for his Emmy-nominated role as Anthony Bouvier on "Designing Women." The window dresser in the hit "Mannequin."

BLACKWELL: Taylor is also remembered for roles on "Dave's World" and "In The Heat Of The Night."

PAUL: Prayers to family and friends there.

BLACKWELL: These fierce clashes in Iraq are happening as the country's defense forces, they are getting some new fire power.

The suspected ring leader behind the attack that killed four Americans in Benghazi appears in U.S. federal court and he enters his plea.


BLACKWELL: It's 13 after the hour now. Iraqi defense forces now have some powerful new weapons in the arsenal as they battle against ISIS militants.

PAUL: Five Russian fighter jets are in Iraq now, the first of 25 war planes expected to be delivered under a new contract with Moscow.

BLACKWELL: Meantime, officials in the Kurdish region have put tight restrictions on the border crossings. The move comes as desperate families, they are fleeing these airstrikes in Mosul. It raises fears of a worsening humanitarian crisis.

PAUL: In Saddam Hussein's home town of Tikrit conflicting reports about which side is in control here. A key tribal leader told CNN that Iraqi security forces had cleared ISIS out of the city with help from local tribes.

BLACKWELL: But now a combatant tells U.S. informants and officials that Islamist fighters still have the upper hand in that critical city of -- north of Baghdad actually.

PAUL: There has been a lot of military action on the military front here in the past 24 hours.

BLACKWELL: We're going to Arwa Damon in just a moment. She is in Baghdad. Let's talk about what happened here in this move of Khattala from this USS New York to the city of Washington, D.C., the alleged mastermind of the deadly 2012 Benghazi attacks. He pleaded not guilty this weekend in that brief appearance in federal court.

He was standing before the court with long graying hair and a beard. His name again Ahmed Abu Khattala. He appeared subdued. He only spoke once, whispering his name in barely an audible voice. So far Khattala has been charged with one count of providing material support to terrorists.

But the Justice Department is expected to bring additional charges, ones that could bring the death penalty. Khattala is expected back in court on Tuesday.

PAUL: As I was saying we have senior international correspondent, Arwa Damon, in the capital of Baghdad to get us updated on what is happening in Iraq. Arwa, can you help us understand what's going on in Benghazi and around it this morning?

ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Baghdad I would assume is what you meant. It's been moving fairly quickly here, a lot of developments have been taking place. As you were mentioning earlier, the city of Tikrit, Saddam Hussein's hometown is where a lot of clashes are taking place.

The Iraqi government had originally come out and gave a rather elaborate description of a four tiered operation that they were launching approaching the city from multiple directions. We did speak with one fairly prominent tribal leader who said that the tribe had decided to assist the Iraqi security forces after ISIS basically robbed the banks and brought the local economy to a standstill.

However, video posted to YouTube said to be from inside Tikrit does not show any security forces inside the city. The person narrating the video talks about how it is still under the control of ISIS and other fighters. And a source that we spoke to in the city as well did say that the army at this stage does seem to be still on the outskirts.

Meanwhile in the northern city of Mosul, Iraq's second largest city, the first city to fall to ISIS, air strikes did seem to take their toll on the civilian population. The problem now is that for those who are trying to flee from that city, they really have nowhere to go. The government of the autonomous Kurdish region of Iraqi Kurdistan has made it much more difficult for people trying to flee to reach relative safety within their region.

And additionally even more fighting this time to the south of Baghdad as clashes are taking place around a military base about an hour's drive to the south of the capital as well. So a lot of movement, a lot of developments and most certainly here in Baghdad, a lot of concern about what the future is going to hold at this stage.

And with the arrival of those fighter jets, these Russian fighter jets, there are great worries especially amongst the Sunni population that the government is going to use them to target ISIS, yes, but ISIS is embedded at this stage amongst the people. We are hearing that the Russians have also sent according to state television experts to help train up the Iraqi pilots.

PAUL: All righty, Arwa Damon in Baghdad there for us. Thank you, Arwa, so much.

BLACKWELL: Well, the big countdown now for Team USA, just a few days from taking on Belgium for a shot at advancing in the World Cup. We'll talk about what it will take to pull off an upset.


BLACKWELL: Clearly, the Brazilians end going wild during yesterday's soccer match between Brazil and Chile. The host nation edging out Chile.

PAUL: USA fans were just waiting for that. We are waiting for countdown clock is on for us. Two days from now, Americans team is going to face off with Belgium.

BLACKWELL: Yes, it's a do or die match meaning if the U.S. loses, it's, you know, out of the running for the World Cup. CNN sports, Joe Carter, joins us now with more. How do you prep for a game this big?

JOE CARTER, CNN SPORTS: You practice. Practice scoring goals because we need a lot of goals. Belgium is a really good team, but you know, today is a light day for Team USA. It's a travel day to Salvador. It's a very short flight, two hours. This is a coastal city so we are not playing in the middle of the amazon jungle. You know what's like in the coast. It should be a beautiful day come Tuesday.

They are saying mid 70s, 30 percent chance of rain, so we won't have to worry about playing sort in torrential downpour before the last time, but on paper, Belgium is certainly a very good team. They are favorite of the red, white and blue. Belgium's roster based on their club salaries is one of the highest paid in the World Cup.

But you know what? We are American. We are not scared. In fact, Head Coach Jurgen Klinsman said that after making out of the so- called group of death, his squad can take on anyone and beat them.


JURGEN KLINSMAN, USA HEAD COACH: We are very familiar with this very strong team. You know, it's one of the kind the secret favorites in this World Cup because of the players -- individual players that they have. But we have absolutely no fear at all. We feel like, you know, we are in position now to challenge it.


CARTER: He spoke of being familiar with this team. We played Belgium twice in the last four years. They beat us handily twice in the last four years, but obviously Team USA is in a good position to take on them. They are actually two defenders coming into the game and possibly down two more.

PAUL: I have to get back to what was happened yesterday in that video that we saw. We know Brazil was really pushed to the limit.

CARTER: I'll tell you what. I mean, they are lucky. They are absolutely lucky to survive and I think that seeing that jubilation is more relief from their fans because obviously soccer means the world to them and their biggest star Naymar, just a one word Naymar, a stop and start goal gave them the advantage.

Now Chile had one last chance, but their penalty kick as you'll see gets saved by post if you will, saved by the post. So heart break for Chile. Wild celebration from Brazil. The host nation narrowly survives and they are on to the round of eight. They'll play Colombia next.

And what can you say what a great performance by 22-year-old Hamas Rodriguez, the newest star of the World Cup. He scored both goals in a two-nil victory over Uruguay yesterday. His first goal is being called one of the best determined. He leads all scorers as a matter of fact with five goals in the World Cup, which is incredible and now Colombia as I said will play Brazil. That's going to be on Friday.

And today, two more games, Mexico plays the Netherlands, the Dutch coming to this game, the highest scoring team in the World Cup. The Dutch's scored 10 goals in three games. But then you have Mexico and their goalie who's become a revived hero. He's only given up one goal so far in three games. So that's going to be a great match.

And then Costa Rica-Greece is the later game. This is unchartered territory for both of these teams because this is the first time both had advance to the round of 16, but it's going to be a good game.

PAUL: All righty, excellent. Joe Carter, thanks so much.

CARTER: Thank you.

PAUL: We need to give you a programming note here too because Chris Cuomo live from Brazil tomorrow morning on NEW DAY beginning at 6 a.m. Eastern.

BLACKWELL: A great trip. Nancy Pelosi visits the Texas border to investigate the plight of undocumented children spilling into the U.S. by themselves.

PAUL: Also don't panic if you spot a flying saucer. This is just NASA's latest project.