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George Zimmerman Arrested; Toronto Mayor Stripped of Powers; Princeton Univ. Closer to Giving Students Meningitis Vaccine; Toronto Mayor, Brother Vow to Fight On

Aired November 19, 2013 - 09:00   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: And you'll remember this is the man who swore in on the oath of office twice on the Lincoln bible, he announced his candidacy for presidency in Springfield, Illinois, but he is not going to this ceremony on the 150th anniversary of the speech and he's taking some political heat for that.

We'll talk about that in the next hour.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: But first this morning George Zimmerman back in jail and is, expected to go before a Florida judge this afternoon. This time he is accused of pointing a gun at his girlfriend. It's just his latest run-in with the law since his acquittal in Trayvon Martin's murder.

CNN's Alina Machado is in Sanford, Florida, for us this morning.

Good morning.

ALINA MACHADO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Christine. George Zimmerman is facing several charges including felony aggravated assault. Police meanwhile spent several hours last night going through the home he shares with his girlfriend, as they try to figure out exactly what happened.


UNIDENTIFIED 911 OPERATOR: What's going on?

SAMANTHA SCHEIBE, GEORGE ZIMMERMAN'S GIRLFRIEND: He's in my house, breaking all my (EXPLETIVE DELETED) stuff because I asked him to leave. He has his freaking gun, breaking all my stuff right now.

MACHADO (voice-over): That's the 911 call authorities say George Zimmerman's girlfriend made during a domestic dispute that allegedly turned violent inside the home they share.

SCHEIBE: I'm doing this again? You just broke my glass table, you just broke my sunglasses and you put your gun in my freaking face and told me to get the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) out. Because this is not your house. No. Get out of here.

MACHADO: The woman told the 911 operator she was pushed out of her house by Zimmerman and that he had a shotgun, an AR-15 and two handguns inside. She also said the fight started after she had asked the 30-year-old to leave. But Zimmerman tells a different story in his own 911 call.

GEORGE ZIMMERMAN, ACQUITTED OF MURDER: My girlfriend has a -- for lack of a better word -- going crazy on me.

MACHADO: Police were already at the Apopka, Florida, house when Zimmerman made the call. He told the operator he wanted everyone to know the truth about what happened.

ZIMMERMAN: Just started smashing stuff, taking stuff that belonged to me, throwing it outside, throwing it out of the room, throwing it all over the house. She broke a glass table because she threw something on it.

MACHADO: Zimmerman went on to explain how the fight started, saying the woman told him she was pregnant and wanted to raise their child without him.

ZIMMERMAN: She got mad that I guess I told her that I would be willing to leave.


ZIMMERMAN: I guess she thought I was going to argue with her. But she's pregnant. I'm not going to put her through that kind of stress.

MACHADO: Zimmerman denied using a weapon to threaten the woman, responding officers say they used the alleged victim's key to get in and pushed their way through furniture Zimmerman had placed behind the door. They found Zimmerman inside, unarmed, his demeanor described as passive.

DENNIS LEMMA, SEMINOLE COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE: Clearly he's had the opportunity to encounter situations similar to this in the past, offered no resistance and cooperated the entire time.

MACHADO: It's not the first time Zimmerman has had a brush with the law since he was acquitted of murder in the shooting death of 17-year- old Trayvon Martin. In September, his estranged wife accused him of assault. Police investigated and no charges were filed.


MACHADO: He has also been stopped twice for speeding. Once in Texas, where he got a warning. A second time in Florida, where he was ticketed and fined $256.


MACHADO: Now Zimmerman is being kept away from other inmates because of the high-profile nature of this case. And if he is granted bond today, authorities have already requested that he be subject to electronic monitoring -- John, Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Alina Machado, thank you.

BERMAN: Now to Toronto where Mayor Rob Ford is declaring, in his own words, an outright war after a city council vote stripped him of most of his powers. Ford's pledge came after a chaotic meeting where he made gestures -- you're looking at him right there -- toward a council member who had allegedly drunk driving issues. At another moment, he actually knocked down a different council member.

Here it is, right there. That's an illegal block, folks. He was running to the aid of his brother who was arguing with hecklers. Ford did help her up, he later apologized.

And if that's not weird enough in the first episode of his new TV show, "Ford Nation," the mayor reissued his pledge to stay in office.


MAYOR ROB FORD, TORONTO: Well, I'm not stepping down. I'm not an alcoholic. I'm not a drug addict. I was elected to represent the people of this city with 380,000 some odd votes, the largest in Canada's history. People are telling me to stay the course, keep fighting for the little guy.


BERMAN: There's a whole lot going on up there. And senior international correspondent Nic Robertson is in Toronto with more on how this wild city council session unfolded.

Nic, good morning.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John. It was a five-hour session. They didn't know, for most of the time, really where they were going or what they were doing. They amended the motions that they wanted to pass. They had multiple votes, even, to decide if they were going to vote at all. The chaos, the confusion, the confrontations. But it really all just ended up with the mayor declaring war.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The item is amended.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): Mayor Ford went down in an overwhelming vote. His answer?

FORD: This, folks, reminds me of when, when I was watching with my brother, when Saddam attacked Kuwait. You guys have just attacked Kuwait. And you will never --



FORD: You will never see something, that you have -- mark my words, friends, this is going to be outright war in the next election.

ROBERTSON: The battle began, even before the vote. Another Mayor Ford moment he might like to forget. In council chambers, shouting at members of the public. And then this, accidentally knocking an elderly councilor to the floor. Not his finest hour.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mayor Ford, your time's up. OK? Mayor Ford?

ROBERTSON: In the battle to strip his powers, few in the council, except his brother, Doug, on his side.

DOUG FORD, MAYOR ROB FORD'S BROTHER: What is happening today is an overthrow of a democratically elected mayor, illegally. This is what you see in third world nations.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: "Ford Nation" comes to sun news. The mayor of mayhem, like you've never seen him before. The booze, the dope.

R. FORD: You've heard the criticism and the councilors. Now tonight I want you to listen to me.

ROBERTSON: In a new talk show, creating his own world. "Ford nation."

R. FORD: I want to thank my supporters for sticking with me. I guarantee you're going to see a change in the next few months.

ROBERTSON: His words, his message for hour, under control. Until he stepped out of the studio, falling over a photographer.

R. FORD: I didn't push her.

ROBERTSON: That's all he said.

R. FORD: I didn't touch her.


ROBERTSON: Now we understand the mayor is taking phone calls for his constituents today out there, helping them. He's also manning a legal challenge against his council here, he thinks he's going to win support when they realized that the councilors were breaking the law, this is his belief, then they will swing behind him -- John.

BERMAN: We'll have to see about that. In the meantime he seems to have some personal space issues.

Nic Robertson for us in Toronto. Thanks so much, Nic.

ROMANS: All right. Both Ford and his brother have been fired up over recent events in Toronto, they are taking on their political enemies.

CNN chief innovation correspondent Bill Weir has more.


BILL WEIR, CNN CHIEF INNOVATION CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In downtown Toronto, Mayor Rob Ford is the target of almost daily protests. On the council floor of city hall, he is a political pariah.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you purchased illegal drugs in the last two years?

R. FORD: Yes. I have.

WEIR: And on "Saturday Night Live," he is an opening sketch punch line. But in the Queen's Plate Housing Project in the heart of the suburban "Ford Nation," he is the greatest public servant they have ever known.


R. FORD: I'm not stepping down. Don't worry.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And we are praying for you every day. You got to stay.

R. FORD: What I always say is more poor people than there are rich people, and I stick up for the poor people. And that's the bottom line, so.


WEIR: His brother invited us here to witness this love, a counterweight to the gauntlet of political foes downtown. Doing all they can to strip away his power to lead.

(On camera): WEIR (on camera): I'm interested in what happened this week about the votes. It was 41-2.

R. FORD: Right.

WEIR: To strip you of your emergency powers.


WEIR: And from the outside, that seems like you guys are political outcasts?

R. FORD: OK. Sure. Because -- you know how you want to make friends at city hall? Just keeps spending their money, spend taxpayer's money. Let them go on their free trips. Let them out their free food. Let them do whatever they want. Do as you want with your money, not with taxpayers' money, then turn around and cry poor. And say, well, we don't have any money. Yes, we don't have -- we have more than enough money.

WEIR: Do you have any political allies left? Did you ever have any in the beginning?

D. FORD: No. We never had any in the beginning. We have the power of the people. Well, I'll tell you one thing. I'll work day in and day out to knock these gangster off. I'm going to target their areas. I'll work day in and day out to knock them off.

WEIR: Really?

D. FORD: Yes. And I'm going to bring Ford nationwide. Just pull, right across the city.


WEIR: So you have other candidates that you are going to foster in these words to try to --

D. FORD: Absolutely.

WEIR: -- repeat what you guys have done?

D. FORD: One hundred percent.

WEIR: Really?

D. FORD: Yes. We're going to hit them hard. Everything we got. We make Chicago politics look like a Tea Party.


It's vicious.

R. FORD: Bill, you show me one other major city that have to save $1 billion, that has turned it around like I have? Our roads are getting done now. It's clean, it's safe. The crime is down. Things are happening. We have more cranes in the sky. We have more jobs. We created over 50,000 jobs in one year last year.

WEIR: But take all of that, given you all of that, couldn't you be even more effective if you were a little healthier in your lifestyle?

R. FORD: Well, look, I'm trying to lose some weight, I'm working out. And I'm not perfect.

WEIR: But why not see -- but why not see some addiction specialist? Just to make sure.

R. FORD: I'm not -- I'm not an addict. Why go see an addict if I'm not a drug addict. I'm not an alcoholic. I'm not -- I'm not a drug addict.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How much do you want him to do?

R. FORD: No, no. Like --


R. FORD: Why go see an addiction specialist when I'm not an addict? You guys can spin it. You can tell me whatever you want. These people know that I'm not. I show up every day to work. I mean -- yes, you know what, sure, I have gone -- you know, gone to a party and I get -- got a couple of drinks in me, I had some good times.


R. FORD: I'm only human. Have you ever got drunk before, Bill?

WEIR: Of course.

R. FORD: OK. Sure.

WEIR: But I'm not -- I'm not running the biggest city in Canada.

R. FORD: It doesn't matter -- this is this thing. I don't look at myself as the mayor. I look at myself as just a normal, regular person.


ROMANS: Of course, a normal, regular person.


Coming up in just a few minutes we're going to talk with a man who has known Mayor Ford for over a decade, serves as a moderator for this new show, it's the "Toronto Sun" columnist Joe Wormington. Just ahead we're going to ask him if Rob Ford Is just a regular, normal person and what's next for him.

BERMAN: Also what it's like to be in the middle of that circus.


BERMAN: Still to come for us, Princeton University is ready to vaccinate students against a rare outbreak of meningitis. But there's still important hurdle to be cleared. We'll tell you all about it coming up next.


ROMANS: Checking top stories now.

Al Qaeda-linked group taking responsibility for this morning's suicide attacks near the Iranian embassy in Beirut.

BERMAN: At least 23 people were killed, 146 others injured. The group behind it warns that these attacks will continue until Hezbollah pulls out of Syria. Hezbollah fighters had been supporting the Assad regime in Syria's ongoing civil war.

Unofficial Xs marking the spot where President John F. Kennedy was shot 50 years ago have been removed. The city of Dallas says said they wanted to lay down new asphalt to level off the streets and remove any hazards ahead of Friday's commemoration ceremony. Thousands of tourists are expected to pack Dealey Plaza throughout this week.

ROMANS: A $13 billion settlement between the Justice Department and JPMorgan Chase could be announced as soon as today. This deal, of course, is related to bank's past mortgage practices blamed the cause of the financial crisis. The deal first tentatively agree to last month.

BERMAN: I'm curious, how much of this $13 billion will actually get to people who need it?

ROMANS: About $4 billion marked to consumer relief, and it come down to even some having the value of loans written down. There could be new money for loans for low-income Americans and there's going to be an outside overseer to make sure that JPMorgan follows through. So, $4 billion of that $9 billion supposed to be going directly to consumers.

BERMAN: It would be nice if consumers can feel this.

ROMANS: Thirteen billion, biggest one bigger. You've never seen the government settle with the economy that big. Bigger than any drug industry deal. Also bigger than the BP Horizon Deepwater --

BERMAN: And JPMorgan were heroes back in 2007 and 2008. Now, they're paying up big.

All right. Seventeen minutes after the hour.

Princeton University officials are taking action against a rare meningitis outbreak.

ROMANS: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention want the vaccine to be given to students even though it is not approved in the U.S.

CNN's Alexandra Field joins us live from Princeton, New Jersey, this morning.

Good morning.

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Christine and John.

The CDC review board will have to sign off before the CDC can officially recommend it. But for now, university leaders and health officials are in agreement, they want to import a vaccine that's not been for use here in the United States. The goal is to bring it to Princeton University to try to stop an outbreak of meningitis B the. On top of that, they say they plan to recommend the vaccine for most students.

The FDA has given the CDC approval to import the drug through an investigational drug program. The vaccine is called Bexsero. It is not approved for use in this country, but it is the only vaccine that's used to protect against meningitis B.

It's a two-dose vaccine, made by the company Novartis, manufactured in Italy. Earlier this year, it was approved for use earlier this year in Europe and Australia. CDC says this is a safe vaccine.

We also asked a doctor and here is what he had to say about Bexsero.


DR. WILLIAM SCHAFFNER, VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY: There are no major safety concerns with this vaccine. It's been used in Europe. It's very safe. There will be a few sore arms, a few students who get a degree of fever for a day, but this is an effective and safe vaccine. It's a good thing. If I had a child at Princeton, I would tell them to get this vaccine.


FIELD: And if this vaccine does come to Princeton as planned at this point, it would only be available within the Princeton community. The recommendation would be for all 5,000 undergraduate students to get the vaccine. On top of that, graduate students who live in dormitories would also be recommended to get the vaccine and there would be certain people with prior and pre-existing medical conditions who would qualify for it.

But beyond that, the vaccine would not be any more widely available -- Christine, John.

BERMAN: All right. Alexandra Field, thank you so much, at Princeton University today.

ROMANS: All right. Still to come this morning, for supporters of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, who can't get enough of the controversial lawmaker? For those of you who just can't see enough of him, good news for you. Now, there's a TV show that follows his every move.

A chat with a member of "Ford Nation" is next.


BERMAN: All right. He has his own TV show, my friends. It's just the latest turn before cameras for Toronto Mayor Rob Ford and his brother, Doug.

ROMANS: They call it "Ford Nation." Here is a clip.


ANNOUNCER: Rob and Doug totally unplugged.

ROB FORD, TORONTO MAYOR: I'm not proud of what I've done. It's very humiliating.

ANNOUNCER: The mayor of mayhem like you've never seen him before.

FORD: Just picture they're saying I was in front of a crack house. There's a 78-year-old mother that lives in there.

ANNOUNCER: The booze, the dope.

FORD: I'm not an alcoholic. I'm not a drug addict.

ANNOUNCER: The honest truth.


ROMANS: All right. Joining us now from Toronto is one of the show's moderators and columnist for "The Toronto Sun," Joe Warmington. Good morning, Joe.

You've known this mayor for over a decade. I've got to ask you, I don't know the man personally. But is he playing us here? Is he playing everybody, using this to become even, I guess, more famous with his "Ford Nation," I mean, dropping these populist one-liners? Is this all an act for him?

JOE WARMINGTON, COLUMNIST, THE TORONTO SUN: Absolutely. He is playing to the American audience as well with the Kuwait audience. It went over everybody's head here. It went over no one's head south of the border.

He understands he is a world-famous star right now. Whether he is in the tenth minute or 14 1/2 here in Toronto he has used up 8- 3/4 of his political cat lives. He sees it as something bigger and he's playing for all its worth.

ROMANS: You know, he keeps saying he's humiliated. He doesn't act like a guy who is humiliated.

WARMINGTON: You know what? I don't know. You guys are the experts at dealing with political stuff down in the U.S., but I don't think I've ever heard anybody ever say that they've smoked crack cocaine and had it work for them.

And yet this guy here -- I went down to the game right after -- the Toronto Argos being in the CFL here in Canada. I went with the mayor in his car, walked into the stadium in the Rogers Center.

It was like going in there with Beyonce. It was incredible, the reaction he received. I have never seen anything like that. I cover all the major stars that come to Toronto. And many do over the last 22 years.

And that's the big story, to your question, is that what's the ground game like for him? And how are people reacting to him out there? Not what's going on with council and people in the fancy suits but the regular voters?

BERMAN: Well, sir, you've known rob ford for a long time and have been at the other end of some of his rants before. Yet you seem supportive of him in some ways in this case. You think the city council has overstepped its boundaries by voting to remove some of his powers. Why is that?

WARMINGTON: Well, I do. I've never seen anything like it, for one thing. Anyone that treat it is like it's normal or wrong, I know there are dead Canadians and Americans buried all over the world. I know it's a cliche and punch line for some people but the freedoms we have were fought and won and that people died for.

Yet these guys out of nowhere just come in with 24 minutes notice and say let's change it, because it's Rob Ford. He hasn't been charged with a crime. I don't like what he has done and I'm not defending any of it. I'm not supporting him specifically. But the whole notion, John, that you can take a democratically elected person and just throw them out, say let's take all the procedure and power and isolate them over here is shocking to me. It's way more serious than anything he has been alleged to have done and admitted to. That's my feeling on it. I don't know if that will gain any traction with my colleagues in the media, because, again, it seems to be that the popular thing is to pile on him here.

But, you know, there's more important things than somebody with personal failings. That is democracy. People voted this guy in. Until he is locked up or in jail or dead, which I know a lot of people would like to see, he's the mayor. And I think he should be able to be the mayor until otherwise.

BERMAN: Are you concerned for him, sir?

WARMINGTON: I am. I mean, that's the other thing. A lot of people don't know him.

About ten years ago, I was talking to him in his office. We used to do stories about the waste at city hall. I was one of the guys that loved to do those stories with Mayor Ford.

And I said, you know, you should run for mayor. And he said, ah, you know, I would have to lose 100 pounds. And I go, you know what? Just be you.

And a year or two after that, maybe three years after that, I'm not sure, he was running for mayor. I broke that story. And so, I don't want to jump off this thing.

I mean, you know, again, I'm not a personal friend. I have been on the receiving end of some of his temper tantrums and that kind of thing.

But, again, how I would vote I'll keep to myself. But overall, he is elected and he is a human being.

BERMAN: Being you in some cases has brought him awfully close to some danger and some trouble, it seems. Also the voters have no recourse, they have no way to remove him from office even if they wanted to at this point, like we do in many places in the United States.

Still, Joe Warmington, we love your viewpoint here. Thank so much for joining us. Columnist with "Toronto Star" and moderator of Rob Ford's new TV show "Ford Nation." Thanks so much, Joe.

WARMINGTON: "Toronto Sun."

ROMANS: "Toronto Sun."

BERMAN: "Toronto Sun." What did I say?

ROMANS: "Toronto Star."

BERMAN: "Toronto Star", sorry. Thank you for the correction. ROMANS: All right. Still to come, we are following, you know, just the horrific day two of the tornadoes in the Midwest. A tornado survivor says she won't rebuild.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm too scared. I'm just terrified. I can't do it.


BERMAN: An Illinois town absolutely crushed by these twisters. We'll have a live report from the ground.