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Mom of Toddler Who Died in Hot Car Speaks Out; Seven People Shot on Bourbon Street; Benghazi Suspect Pleads Not Guilty; U.S. Faces Belgium on Tuesday

Aired June 29, 2014 - 07:00   ET


VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Much more ahead on NEW DAY right now.


CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: It is 7:00 straight up on this Sunday. And we're so grateful for your company. I'm Christi Paul.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Victor Blackwell. Four o'clock out on West Coast. This is NEW DAY SUNDAY.

And for the first time, the mother of that 22-month-old toddler who died after being left inside in a blistering hot SUV for seven hours is now speaking about it.

PAUL: Leanna Harris told mourners at her son Cooper's funeral yesterday that she is absolutely not angry with her husband. This morning, Justin Ross Harris is behind bars still, charged with murder.

BLACKWELL: Police say Harris told them he recently used the Internet to search for information about child deaths inside vehicles, including what temperature it needs to be for deaths to occur.

PAUL: Even though Harris wasn't allowed to attend his son's funeral it didn't stop him from addressing the crowd.

CNN's Nick Valencia has more on how he did this. Good morning, Nick.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Victor and Christi, in what was a surprise to many, Justin Ross Harris phoned in to the funeral service from his jail in Georgia. While on the phone, his wife stood in front of the crowd at the service and said that she's absolutely not angry with her husband. She said that he's been a wonderful father and that the truth would come out. The crowd gave Ross Harris a standing ovation and overheard on the phone you could hear Ross Harris sobbing and thanking the crowd.

Now, all of this on the same day that these search warrants were released by local police in Georgia. In these search warrants, a startling new detail. I want to read here, quoting the police, it says, during an interview with Justin, he stated he researched through the Internet child deaths inside vehicles and what temperature it needs to be for that to occur. Justin stated he was fearful that this could happen.

Now, what we don't know is the context to which the statement was given or how long ago that search was made. Police, they believe that he intentionally murdered his 22-month-old son. Now, friends and family we have spoken to in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, they paint a different picture. They say he is a God-centered man, someone that wouldn't have it in his character to murder his only son. They hope that this is just a tragic accident but police remain unwavered in their belief that Justin Ross Harris is responsible for the death of his son -- Victor, Christi.

BLACKWELL: All right. Nick Valencia there in Tuscaloosa, thank you so much.

There are so many questions people have asked, how could someone forget their child? And if he is guilty, how could someone kill their child?

And you heard Christi say a moment ago that Leanna Harris says that she's absolutely not angry. We're going to have a conversation about a lot of these psychological elements of this story coming up in the 8:00 hour. So, stay with us.

PAUL: Also breaking overnight, seven people were wounded in New Orleans after a late night shooting on Bourbon Street. Now, our affiliate WWLTV reports an eye witness said a shooter intentionally shot one victim, then just opened fire into the crowd. This morning, we know one of the victims is listed in critical condition. The other six are in stable. That shooting happened near popular tourist attractions including preservation hall and Pat O'Brian's.

BLACKWELL: The alleged mastermind of the deadly 2012 Benghazi attack pleaded not guilty this weekend in a brief appearance in federal court. Standing before the court with long graying hair and a beard, Ahmed Abu Khattala appeared subdued and he only spoke once whispering his name in a barely audible voice. So far, Khattala has been charged with one count of providing material support to terrorists. But additional charges are expected ones that could bring the death penalty. Khattala is back in court this week.

Sad news to pass on to you this morning. Veteran actor Meshach Taylor has died at the age of 67.

PAUL: Taylor, as you know, best remembered for his Emmy nominated role as Anthony Bouvier on "Designing Women" and the larger than life window dresser and Hollywood in the cult hit "Mannequin."


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Windows last night (INAUDIBLE). Yes, my dear, your favorite, she is gone too.



BLACKWELL: Taylor is also remembered for roles on "Dave's World" and in "The Heat of the Night."

PAUL: Thoughts and prayers to his friends and family there, certainly.

Oh, boy, firefighters in Arizona are battling not just the flames but the blazing heat. Temperatures expected to peak above well 100 today's. That's going to make fighting the San Juan fire so difficult. More than 5,000 acres have burned and residents forced to evacuate already.

BLACKWELL: Arizona needs what Minnesotans would love to give them, rain. I mean, near record rain is causing widespread flooding. People are sandbagging to try to save their homes. The state could get up to four inches more today.

PAUL: And then in Columbus, Ohio, a lightning strike critically injured an off-duty fireman. Police say he went into cardiac arrest and had to be resuscitated after being struck at a charity soccer game.

BLACKWELL: And in suburban Milwaukee, Wisconsin, high winds knocked over this huge tree into an area there, a jogger was hit. He is in serious condition.

PAUL: OK. So, add to that, the fact that we're into hurricane season now. And we're talking about tropical weather brewing off the Georgia coast.

BLACKWELL: Yes, and it's not what we want to hear. Karen Maginnis is now in severe weather center.

Could this be developing into something we need to worry about?

KAREN MAGINNIS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It could develop into something and you know, the hurricane season officially started June 1st, and we've been watching this area of disturbed weather off the coast of the Carolinas for the last couple days, didn't look like a lot and the computer models were differing as to what they thought would happen with this. But now, the National Hurricane Center says we've got about a 40 percent chance or a medium chance in the next two days, that this could become tropical storm Arthur. It would be the first of the season.

Certainly, the environment is conducive for further development. But we have three different items to tell you about for today. And that is what could happen with this area of low pressure off the coastal Carolina region, could see some rip currents there. Another cluster of thunderstorms across the Midwest, and right around Memphis this morning, we are seeing torrential downpours.

Let's take you first of all along interstate 70 in through Kansas, and Nebraska. This particular cell right here, that has moved across Russell springs, and in that area they are seeing baseball- sized hail and potential for tornadoes, certainly in the past hour or so. Now, we've got severe thunderstorm warnings issued for that region. But I mentioned this because all day today, we are looking at

about 20 million people that have the risk for severe weather for this afternoon. And in Memphis, right now, you are seeing thunderstorms. They are saying parts of Memphis between 12 and 18 inches of rainfall. Cars have stalled out. We had an unconfirmed report that an apartment building had several feet of water in it. The rain is coming down so quickly it's being measured in inches per hour.

Right now, there's a flash flood warning out for the Memphis area. But this area is also a region where the ground is absolutely saturated. They can't take anymore wet weather. The Midwest, we have seen for weeks now the ground saturated there as well, most notably in Minneapolis where a number of areas, they have sandbagging, neighbor helping neighbor. But for today, the risk of that severe weather is going to be from Des Moines to Omaha to Lincoln to just north of Kansas City. Watch out, there are about 3 million people in this moderate risk, when we say moderate risk, hail, high winds, heavy downpours, the potential for tornadic activity.

Those are the items we're looking for today across the Midwest, among those other things Victor and Christi, we've been talking about this morning, we'll stay on top of it for you.

PAUL: Boy, all righty. Karen Maginnis, thank you so much.

Speaking of other things, did you hear about this 5.2 earthquake that rocked southeastern Arizona last night. It hit around 1:00 a.m. Eastern near the New Mexico border. The epicenter about 30 miles northwest of Lordsburg. Tremors were felt from Phoenix all the way to El Paso, Texas. Thankfully, no reports of injuries or any serious damage, though.

BLACKWELL: Crisis in Iraq, I mean, it's worsening. The carnage is not letting up. The Iraqi military has powerful new weapons to use, of course, in the battle against ISIS militants.

And more airstrikes, these are aimed at Gaza. Why Israel says it targeted two men who died in this latest attack. We've got that, too.


PAUL: So, Iraqi defense forces now have some powerful new weapons in their battle against is.

BLACKWELL: Five Russian fighter jets are now in Iraq, the first of 25 warplanes due to be delivered.

PAUL: In the meantime, officials in the semi autonomous Kurdish region have put tight restrictions on border crossings we've learned. Now, this move comes as desperate families are trying to flee the airstrikes in Mosul and it raises fears of a worsening humanitarian crisis.

BLACKWELL: Joining us now is Jenna Jordan. She is an assistant professor of international affairs at Georgia Tech.

Professor Jordan, good to have you back here.

PAUL: Thank you being with us.

BLACKWELL: We've been talking so much about the Sunnis and the Shia. What are we learning about the strength of the Kurds and this latest move?

JENNA JORDAN, GEORGIA TECH: Yes, I think this really shows that they are really trying to establish an independent Kurdistan. You know, last week, President Barzani indicated that this is what they were trying to do. They really wanted to have an independent state. I think securing the border shows that it's a clear signal of that.

I think it also shows that they want to establish a clear buffer in order to be able to secure themselves from further ISIS attacks. I think Turkey probably sees this as a successful way to establish a buffer between Turkey and ISIS as well.

BLACKWELL: Insulation there.

JORDAN: Yes. That's absolutely right. And -- yes, I'm sorry.

PAUL: No, that's OK. I know you spent considerable amount of time studying ISIS. A lot of people are wondering, how did they build this capability?

JORDAN: Yes, it's really remarkable, the amount of strength that they have. In Syria, they were able to amass a huge amount of resources. They captured Syrian gas and oil fields which they were reselling back to the Assad regime. This is bringing in millions of dollars a day. They were involved in looting and criminal activities.

For terrorist organization and insurgent groups, material resources is really what they need to launch an effective campaign. This is what allows them to have effective insurgency. And in coming into Iraq, they just captured more. In Mosul alone, I think they got $450,000 from the central bank. And they have money coming in every day.

So, this is what's really allowed them -- and I think another in addition to the material resources, are just having support from Sunnis on the ground who feel alienated by the Maliki regime.

PAUL: Yes, you talked about resources. I want to talk about the resources they are cutting off because we were talking for the first weeks of this, this constant steady march toward Baghdad, heading south. But from the south now, it appears they are not making it there. They're doing this like belt of Baghdad, where they're cutting off the river, cutting off the road. Is that an effective way to essentially de facto take Baghdad?

JORDAN: Yes, they're really trying to secure areas to the south of Baghdad, different smaller cities. I think they are unlikely to be able to get Baghdad. I think there's going to a hard long bloody fight if, you know, if the fight goes into Baghdad. So, I think it's unlikely. It's very unlikely they are going to

be able to. I feel, to really take Baghdad in a very significant way. And also with Tikrit, you know, if they do lose control of Tikrit, they're going to lose a very important means to go between the cities in the north and Mosul down to Baghdad.

PAUL: One of our guests yesterday said something really instead. He said, ISIS is doing what they do best killing people, but they're not good at governing. So, is that their weakness, where they might start to fall apart?

JORDAN: I think that's where they will lose support. Their tactics which are so brutal killing civilians, beheadings, mass killings, this is going to alienate a lot of the people. But in addition to that, just the way they want to set up a society, with such a harsh interpretation of Islamic law is going to alienate many Sunnis who don't share their same ideology and their same doctrine and view of how the state should operate, and I think they're going to lose a lot of support that way.

BLACKWELL: Yes, this is continuing to develop. Usually, it's day by day, but hour by hour in this situation.

JORDAN: That's right. It really is.

BLACKWELL: Georgia Tech assistant professor Jenna Jordan, thank you so much for joining us this morning.

JORDAN: Thank you for having me.

PAUL: So good to have you here. Thank you, Jenna.

BLACKWELL: Well, Israeli airstrike has killed two men in Gaza City. Israel's military says the strike Friday afternoon targeted people in recent rocket attacks against Israel. Officials say the men were involved in several terror attacks against Israel over the past few years and were planning more.

Now, Palestinian security sources said the men were affiliated with a radical Islamist group.

PAUL: North Korea, we've learned, has fired what appear to be two short range missiles. The official government news agency released this picture, no date, secret location, shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-un inspecting the process. Now, the South Korean defense ministry confirms two projectiles were launched. Neither AFP nor CNN can verify the authenticity though of that picture.

BLACKWELL: The Oscar Pistorius murder trial is scheduled to resume tomorrow. Court proceedings were adjourned last month to allow the paralympian to undergo a psychiatric evaluation. The results will be presented in court. Now, for his part, Pistorius says he mistook his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp for an intruder when he shot and killed her in his apartment on Valentine's Day last year.

PAUL: And Muslims around the world are observing the holy month of Ramadan now. The 30-day period which begins today, celebrated with prayer and fasting from food and drink during daylight hours.

BLACKWELL: Ramadan is marked by spiritual discipline and gratitude to God. Now, Muslims believe it was this month the verses of the Koran were revealed to the Prophet Muhammad.

PAUL: All righty. A hot topic being for months, and it's about to come to a head.

BLACKWELL: The Supreme Court --


BLACKWELL: Supreme Court is expected to release a decision on a controversial birth control measure. The ruling could affect millions.


BLACKWELL: President Obama is vowing action on the economy, and accusing Republicans of blocking his efforts. The president took time during his weekly address to admonish conservatives and say he is ready to move forward without them.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The point is we could do so much more as a country, as a strong tight-knit family, if Republicans in Congress were less interested in stacking the deck for those at the top or obstructing me and more interested in growing the economy for everybody. I'm going to spend sometime talking about these very choices in the weeks ahead.

That's because we know from our history that our economy does not grow from the top-down, it grows from the middle-out. We do better when the middle class does better. That's the American way. That's what I believe in. And that's what I'll keep fighting for.


PAUL: Now, the president will continue his economy message this week delivering remarks at a Washington Park Tuesday and meeting with top economists as well.

House minority leader meanwhile, Nancy Pelosi, toured a U.S. border patrol station in Brownsville, Texas, getting a first look at the flood of illegal immigrants from Mexico and Central America.

BLACKWELL: Many of them are children traveling alone, 52,000 of them have been rounded up since October. The president is asking Congress for $2 billion to deal with this problem.

All eyes will be on the Supreme Court tomorrow. It will announce its ruling in a case playing a key role in Obamacare. The Hobby Lobby craft store chain objected to requirement that insurance plans must cover contraception. Well, the owners argued that it would force them to violate their religious beliefs. In a sense, the court must decide if a corporation can be treated as a person. And can a company have a religious belief protected by the Constitution essentially?

Well, justices will take the bench tomorrow morning, their last public session before recessing for the summer.

BLACKWELL: Republican Party spending and Bill and Hillary. Bill coming to her defense.

PAUL: Yes, pretty much.

John King has a look at what's ahead this morning on "INSIDE POLITICS".

Good morning, John.

JOHN KING, INSIDE POLITICS: Good morning, Victor and Christi. Coming up on the show today, the Republican establishment spends big. But is it getting anything back for spending all that money? Plus, a little history. Bill Clinton stands by his wife amid criticism he's out of touch. We'll tackle those stories and much more coming up on "INSIDE POLITICS", 8:30 a.m. right there -- Victor and Christie.

BLACKWELL: All right. John, thank you very much. A packed show on "INSIDE POLITICS" in just about an hour.

Did you catch any of the Brazil/Chile World Cup game yesterday? All right. Spoiler alert. Go ahead and do it.


PAUL: I do love video like that. Those are Brazil fans. You think? The end of the game was such a nail-biter. We're going to look at that and look ahead to today's game.



BLACKWELL: Something's going on in Brazil, something. Soccer fans there in Rio celebrating their very close win over rival Chile yesterday, earned them a ticket to the World Cup quarterfinals.

PAUL: We want that.


PAUL: Team USA fans, we want that, come Tuesday. Right? When we take on Belgium.

BLACKWELL: You know, it's a do or die match actually. A loss will knock them out of the running for the World Cup.

CNN's sports Joe Carter joins us now with more. I imagine you got to practice, practice, practice.

JOE CARTER, CNN SPORTS: Yes, we want to celebrate like that we need to score goals, when you score a lot of goals against Belgium. Belgium is down four defenders, well, potentially four defenders, two defenders out already with injury, potentially two more could be. They're game time decision. So we got to take advantage of that.

But right now, it's a travel day for Team USA. It's a short flight, two hour flight, going out to Salvador. It's a coastal city. We're going to expect great weather come Tuesday, 70 degrees, partly cloudy, love it. Love how the weather's not going to be a factor.

But on paper, you look at Belgium, they are certainly favored, red, white and blue. Belgium's roster based on their salaries, one of the highest paid in the World Cup. But America's coach, Jurgen Klinsmann, says after making it to the group of death, we can take on anyone and beat them.


JURGEN KLINSMANN, USA HEAD COACH: We are very familiar with this very strong team. It's one of kind of 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 a position now to challenge it.


CARTER: Two great games yesterday. Two amazing games, the host nation Brazil lucky to be advancing, absolutely lucky. Neymar is the hero, obviously their biggest star. The stop and star trickery scores them the goal in extra -- I should say, shoot-out. This game was tied into a shoot-out. Chile had the opportunity to equalize it here but they can -- Brazil, at least can thank the post for helping them win this game.

Total celebration for Brazil, heartbreaking for Chile. They survived. They are going to play Colombia next.

Colombia, what a performance by 22-year-old Rodriguez. This guy scored both goals in the game yesterday. His first goal being called the best of the tournament so far. So, Colombia and Brazil on Thursday, there is the goal.

PAUL: Love it.

All righty. Thanks, Joe. We'll see you back here at the top of the hour.

BLACKWELL: Absolutely. Chris Cuomo is heading to Brazil. We'll see that Monday. We'll be back.