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CNN NEWSROOM

Storm Could Snarl Holiday Travel; Indictments in Steubenville Rape Case; Iran Deal Moving Forward; Critics Skeptical of Iran Nuclear Deal; Lawmakers Skeptical of Iran Deal; Obama Poll Numbers; Flight Cancellations

Aired November 25, 2013 - 13:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: But first, let's go to Texas where hundreds of flights have already been canceled at the Dallas Fort Worth Airport. One of the busiest in the country. That's also where CNN's Nick Valencia is standing by. Nick, what's the traffic situation look like there right now?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, good afternoon, Wolf. It certainly has been a busy day here. I'm here to talk about exactly how what's happening here has impacted the rest of the United States as David Magana, Spokesperson for Dallas Fort Worth International Airport. Where do we stand right now? How are things looking, David?

DAVID MAGANA, SENIOR PUBLIC AFFAIRS MANAGER, DFW AIRPORT: Well, Nick, good afternoon. We had about 180 departures that were canceled this had morning from DFW Airport. And that's going to have a ripple effect across the country. But right now, the situation is that the weather has gotten much better and the afternoon flying actually looks really good. Most of the cancellations were in the morning hours and a lot of them were actually due to the fact that very few planes were here in the morning to take those morning flights. So, it's looking a lot better for today and the rest of the day.

VALENCIA: We have seen things pick up here in the last couple of hours. Are you saying the worst is past or are we in the clear here?

MAGANA: I would say so. The worst from a weather perspective is passed, at least for the Dallas-Fort Worth area. And so, the afternoon flight Schedule looks really great. Only just a few spots of cancellations here and there. But a very busy schedule for the afternoon. We're aware that it's -- that it's Thanksgiving travel week and it's a -- it's a peak period for us anyway and as it is across the country. So, we're trying to get as many flights out as we can.

VALENCIA: So, David, talk to us a little bit about why things that delays and cancellations, why that really impacts the rest of the United States, places like the Northeast, places like the Deep South? Talk to us about that.

MAGANA: Well, as a major global hub for aviation, DFW Airport actually serves as a central point connecting for a lot of traffic moving across the country. And so, when you have a weather impact here, it's going to be felt in places like New York and Cleveland and Chicago. So, being in the middle and being a big connecting hub, that's -- it's going to have impacts across the country.

VALENCIA: Thank you very much for your time, David, and good luck with the rest of your day.

And, Wolf, you know, over the next course of a couple days, more than 40 million Americans will be traveling for this Thanksgiving holiday season. So, if you are traveling, it would probably be very advisable for you to check in with those travel advisories and make sure that your flights haven't been cancelled. (INAUDIBLE.) We'll throw it back to you, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Nick, thanks very much. That's part of the story what's happening in Dallas. The news looks encouraging there.

Let's go to Chad Myers. He's joining us from the Severe Weather Center in Atlanta. So, this storm looks like it's moved past Dallas but it's heading towards the Northeast, right?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: That's correct. Now, I-95 from Boston, New York, Philadelphia, D.C. all the way down, that's all going to be wet. But as you get west of there, that's where the ice and snow is going to be. The issue is already it's Monday. We've lost 500 flights. Let's say there's 100 people per plane. You've got 5,000 people now trying to find other seats on other planes. If you've been on a plane lately, you know there's three empty seats. You've got 5,000 people trying to find planes that have three empty seats. How many more planes does that take to catch those people up already? And we're just starting. The rain now to Memphis back down to Jackson into New Orleans.

Now, planes are flying, don't get me wrong. There are 5,300 planes on this map going somewhere. The problem is many of them are either slow, some of them are canceled but then tonight we finally catch up. And then tomorrow, this thing. This thing moves to the east and to the north. It's rain coming out of the Gulf of Mexico. Problem is it's been cold the past couple of days from Cleveland to Columbus down to Wheeling and that cold air is going to be down below this rain. It's going to be 3,000 feet. It's going to be 34 degrees. Where you live, it's going to 31, especially here in the Middle Atlantic States. That is going to be a problem. It's going to be the icing event that really shuts down parts of Pittsburgh, maybe Columbus into Wheeling, into Lexington, maybe Louisville, Cincinnati down into Tennessee, maybe as far as north as the North Georgia Mountains. It's going to be a mess. And even if it doesn't ice, and I don't think it's going to in New York City, the wind is going to be blowing 40 and the planes are going to be slowed, delayed, canceled because of that major wind event there -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And a bad week for all that to be happening, especially one of the busiest travel weeks of the year, this Thanksgiving holiday week. All right, Chad, thanks very much. For the latest on the weather, take a look at the world's busiest airports at the same time. You can check out CNN.com, slash, interactive. Suggest you do so.

Other news we're following including new indictments just handed up about two hours or so ago in Steubenville, Ohio. This is all in connection with the rape of a teenage girl who passed out at a party in August of 2012. You may remember the blurred picture that was passed from smartphone to smartphone in the community. It ended with guilty verdicts for two Steubenville football players, Malik Richmond and Trenton Mays. The Ohio attorney general vowed to find out if anyone else was involved criminally. And today, we got his answer. Four more indictments. He talked about it with our own Ashleigh Banfield.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE DEWINE, ATTORNEY GENERAL, OHIO: We have the superintendent of schools who has been indicted on multiple counts. We have a principal of one of the Schools who's been indicted. We have a coach who has been indicted. So, I hope this does send a strong message. You know, people need to cooperate with investigations. They need not to hide evidence. And we hope that this, frankly, brings an end to this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Joined now by our Legal Correspondent Jean Casarez who's in Steubenville watching all of this. Jean, the attorney general, he says he wanted to hold adults accountable as well. What more can you tell us about the charges, first of all against these four adults in this case?

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN LEGAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, let's first look at the superintendent of schools. He has been charged with tampering with evidence, obstruction of justice, two counts of obstructing an official proceeding and falsification. He faces, Wolf, seven years in prison. And then there is the wrestling coach from the high School. He is charged with failure to report, mandatory reporting. If you know or should have known than child abuse was occurring at your School and you knew about it, you can be charged. That is a misdemeanor. But he has been charged with that.

Now, here, this is interesting. An adult, Matthew Belardine, who is a voluntary coach for the football team, was charged with allowing underage drinking, obstructing official business, falsification, and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. And this is what I've learned from the attorney general's office. It was his father's home. He lived there. But that was where one of the parties took place and he saw the drinking, was aware of it and thus, now you have charges. So, adults being charged with witnessing and occupying or owning a premises where that underage drinking goes forward.

And one thing also that is extremely important here. The last person, her name is Lynnett Gorman. She is a principal of the elementary School in town. She has been charged with failure to report, mandatory reporting. When you know that there has been child abuse. But the date of that is April 2013. Now, Wolf, we now know that the rape of this young girl occurred on August 11, 12, 2012. This predates that. The attorney general's office has just told me the Grand Jury was looking at two different rapes. They have only charged one. May only be able to charge one. But failure to report for this elementary school principal goes toward the other alleged rape.

BLITZER: So, Jean, what's the reaction in Steubenville?

CASAREZ: I think the reaction is a little bit of anger, a little bit of shock, maybe some appreciation that more have been charged. But we just spoke with one woman that said, you know, the right people just haven't been charged here. And, of course, there's going to be a lot of opinions in this small community because everyone knows everyone. And remember, the focus of this community is football.

BLITZER: It's a shocking story all around. Jean Casarez reporting for us from Steubenville. Thank you.

Still ahead, the secretary of state, Iran's foreign minister, a deal sealed with a handshake. Could this lead to more breakthroughs involving the United States and Iran? Our next guest thinks that's possible.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: President Obama calls it an important first step, but the interim agreement to dial back Iran's nuclear program has been triggering some major political fallout for the Obama administration. The six-month deal places limits on Iran's nuclear activities in exchange for easing some sanctions. World leaders hope it will pave the way for a long-term deal to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. The Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, calls the agreement a historic mistake. The administration is trying to ease Israel's concerns.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TONY BLINKEN, DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: We understand, Israel has a right to be skeptical. An Iranian bomb would present an existential threat to Israel, and we have exactly the aim goal which is to prevent Iran from getting a bomb. There may be tactical differences in how we get there. I think Israel would have preferred not to do this first step. If we could have negotiated a comprehensive deal right away in a matter of days, we would have done that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Lawmakers from both parties are skeptical of the deal. The South Carolina senator, Lindsey Graham, says it lets Iran off the hook. He's pushing for more sanctions.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Yes, I think you'll have sanctions coming out in the next couple of weeks, actually that will be bipartisan, and tie the sanctions to the end game. My goal is to get new (INAUDIBLE) -- new sanctions in place and the only way they can be relieved is if you dismantle the reactor, not suspend construction. That if you stop enrichment, not just pause it.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: But not only Republicans are taking issue with the deal. There are some prominent Democrats as well, including the Senate foreign relations committee chairman, Bob Menendez, and Senator Chuck Schumer of New York.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: I'm disappointed by the terms of the agreement between Iran and the P Five Plus One nations because it does not seem proportional. Iran simply freezes its nuclear capabilities while we reduce the sanctions. That is not a proportionate agreement.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Let's bring in Jane Harman, the President and CEO of the Woodrow Wilson International Circle for Scholars here in Washington. She's a former California Democratic representatives who served on the House Intelligence Committee for a long time. Jane, thanks very much for coming in. Why doesn't the president have these prominent Democrats on board, including the number three Democrat in the Senate, Chuck Schumer?

JANE HARMAN, PRESIDENT AND CEO, THE WOODROW WILSON CENTER: Well, I think enormous credit is owed to John Kerry and an excellent team who found agreement with six other nations and then Iran on an --

BLITZER: Well, I think we've just lost Jane Harman over at the Woodrow Wilson Center, Unfortunately, we've lost our little communications with her. The interview was only just beginning. We're going to try to reconnect with Jane Harman, get her thoughts. We also have one president's advisors, the national security advisors joining us as well. Ben Rhoades, he'll join us this hour. We'll fix the problem. We'll take a quick break. Much more right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: All right, we have reconnected with Jane Harman, the president and CEO of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars here in Washington. A former Democratic congresswoman from California.

He's got some problems, though, with a bunch of Democrats, including some influential ones when it comes to this deal with Iran. The question, Jane, is, why are these Democrats so concerned about this deal, the six-month deal?

JANE HARMAN, THE WOODROW WILSON CENTER: Well, I think a lot of them haven't read it yet and being careful is a good idea. But I also think that with big parts of the pro-Israel lobby in the United States being against it, the country of Israel being against it, that's a stiff hill to climb.

What I'm hopeful of as that as it is read carefully and if Iran adheres carefully to its terms, it will sink in that this is the final chance for Iran to do the right thing. This is not the final agreement. This is the interim agreement. And in six months, there will or there won't be a final agreement.

And if there will not be a final agreement in six months that does many of the things Lindsey Graham, who was just on your show says it needs to do, then there will be drastically ratcheted up sanctions and there will be the possibility of military action by Israel or a group of nations by that time.

So hopefully this is -- this message is being heard in Tehran. There is some celebration in the streets. I take that positively. We have communicated finally I think our message, which is, this is not about regime change in Iran, this is about policy change in Iran. And Iran has a chance to change the policy. And kudos to the United States Congress on a bipartisan basis that put in place very strong sanctions which then were connected by two administrations to international sanctions, and that is what has generated the atmosphere in which John Kerry and his team were able to negotiate something that I would call a very impressive interim step.

BLITZER: But you heard the criticism not only from John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Chuck Schumer, Bob Menendez, Eliot Engel -

HARMAN: Yes, I did.

BLITZER: These other members of Congress, all your former colleagues -

HARMAN: All buds, yes.

BLITZER: All very knowledgeable when it comes to national security and foreign policy, saying that easing of these sanctions is going to undermine this whole effort to deal with Iran's nuclear programs. It removes the incentive they have to do away with their nuclear ambitions.

HARMAN: Well, I was in Halifax, Canada, which is even colder than Washington, D.C., over the weekend at the Halifax Security Conference with a lot of these folks and with the Israeli defense minister and others talking about this. And I understand why they are cautious. And, yes, you can make that argument. All I am saying in rebuttal is, this will get us, us, the world community, through the IAEA, which is a very capable organization, on the ground in Iran to test whether for the next six months they mean what they say. If they don't, there will be dramatically increased sanctions passed by the United States Congress that will go into effect and there may be additional options, including the military option, exercised to stop Iran.

Stopping Iran's nuclear weapons capability is the goal of the world community. That's what this deal says. That's what it says to me anyway. And I think it says it to even the members of Congress who are critical. That is the goal. And I think that Iran does understand what comes next if there is not a final agreement that stops their nuclear weapons capability in six months.

BLITZER: Jane Harman joining us from the Woodrow Wilson Center. Jane, thanks very much. Have a nice Thanksgiving this week, as well.

HARMAN: You too, Wolf. BLITZER: President Obama's poll numbers take another hit. And this time it's getting a little bit more personal. A new CNN/ORC poll shows a dramatic turn in the way the American public views the president's personal attributes. Only 46 percent say he is honest and a strong leader. That's down from 58 percent in May and only four in 10 think the president can manage government effectively. And that happens to be a 12-point drop. Our chief political analyst Gloria Borger is here.

Gloria, you've been going through these numbers. Is it because of the failures of the Affordable Care Act rollout?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Sure. I mean that's a huge part of it, not only because of the website, but also remember the president said, if you like your health care policy, you can keep your health care policy. That turned out not to be the case. And that can really account for the question of his honesty.

But also, you know, this is a president whose second term has been plagued by lots of things. The NSA surveillance scandal, the IRS controversy and now the Obamacare rollout. So I think if you put it all together, the American public is sort of saying, wait a minute, we have some problems.

BLITZER: Only 46 percent say he's an honest and strong leader. But take a look at this. Seventy-one percent think he is -- they believe that the president is likable.

BORGER: They like him.

BLITZER: They like the president, but at the same time, they don't think he's an honest and strong leader.

BORGER: You know those numbers are in the stratosphere. They're down a little bit, but they're still very, very high. And that's always been the president's really strong suit here, which is, Wolf, people, even during the last presidential campaign, they liked him. They didn't like Mitt Romney very much. They liked this president. That will help him as he tries to get things done in the second term.

But the question is really his competency. If the American public believes that you're not competent to do your job, they're going to having trouble with you with your proposals in the second term and they're going to say, you know what, we don't believe you can actually get things done. You know, people didn't believe that Bill Clinton was very honest after Monica Lewinsky, but they did believe he could get things done, and that's what helped him out.

BLITZER: So how does -- do these numbers, this drop in his favorability and all of these other numbers, they don't think he's a strong or effective leader, impact, for example, deals he's going to have to make, comprehensive immigration reform -

BORGER: Sure.

BLITZER: Or on the Iran deal, stuff like that? How does that - does that undermine his credibility? BORGER: They like him. The question is whether they're going to give him the benefit of the doubt. On the Iran deal, you know, Wolf, as you were just pointing out with Jane Harman, there are good cases to be made on both sides of this issue. If this is a president that everybody thought was a strong leader and was honest and trustworthy, then more people would come down on his side on the question of whether this Iran deal is good for the country. If they don't believe him and they don't think he's competent to manage, then maybe more people will come down on the other side of it. I think it's complicated to begin with. These things are never easy. But it's a question of whether they give him the benefit of the doubt anymore. They like him, but they don't think he's a good manager.

BLITZER: He's got his hands full right now.

BORGER: He does.

BLITZER: And he's not (ph) going out west to do some political fundraising right now looking ahead to 2014. They want to make sure they have that majority in the United States Senate, if possible. And that's going to be a major priority for the president.

BORGER: It is. It is.

BLITZER: Thanks very much.

BORGER: Sure.

BLITZER: He was in the room with President Obama as the Iran nuclear deal was being finalized in Geneva, Switzerland. I'm going to get the behind the scenes view from the president's deputy national security advisor. We're going to talk to him about critics who call this deal a mistake. Ben Rhoades standing by live from the White House.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Right now, police at Yale University in Connecticut are checking a report of a person with a gun on or near the campus. An alert on the university's website urges people to stay where they are. The New Haven police say they are interviewing several witnesses who did report seeing someone with a long gun, but police gave no description of the suspect. School is now in recess. Lots of students have clearly left the campus. We're going to continue to bring you an update on this story as it becomes available.

Also right now, hundreds of flights are being canceled because of bad weather as a strong storm drops snow and freezing rain across parts of the south. Chad Myers, once again, joining us from the CNN Severe Weather Center in Atlanta.

Chad, what are we seeing now as this storm heads east in an easterly direction?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It's just getting its act together for the winter type precip east of the Mississippi. Now earlier in the weekend, if you weren't with us, there was this ice event, right, through the Texas and it rolled right through Dallas. That's why all the word canceled you saw there on the airport ticker.

But now it's raining here. It's warm enough to cause all rain across parts of say Louisiana, Mississippi. Parts of Arkansas, though, north of the interstate here, north of Little Rock, that is all snow and ice. And the cold air is in place from the north.