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Cold Continues Through U.S.; Former Secretary of Defense Releases Memoir; Imprisoned American to be Released from Dubai; Firestorm Over Rodman Comments About Kenneth Bae

Aired January 8, 2014 - 07:00   ET


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Is the end anywhere in sight?

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Blistering attack, former defense secretary Robert Gates takes on the Obama administration, biting criticism of the president's management, calling Joe Biden simply wrong on key foreign policy questions, and what he says about Hillary Clinton.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: Caught on camera, imagine coming home to find intruders in your home. It's what happened to this man, who began recording and questioning them until police came. We have that bizarre interrogation.

CUOMO: Your NEW DAY starts right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo, Kate Bolduan, and Michaela Pereira.

CUOMO: Good morning. Welcome back to NEW DAY. It is Wednesday, January 8th, 7:00 in the east. We are still in the grips of the arctic blast and now we're adding extreme snow to the mix. Why extreme? Because a lot of it is falling, two inches an hour in some places. The numbers speak for themselves, subzero in the northeast and Midwest, still terrible in a lot of places. Now we inform and warn because we hope to prevent things like this. Please take a look at the screen. This car is going to fly off on overpass in Minnesota. It lands on a lake, but the lake, because of the temperatures, frozen. Thank god, because of that, the driver walks away.

BOLDUAN: Take a look at the scene near Buffalo. Up to two feet in and around that area. A relative warm up though is on the way in some areas. Meteorologist Indra Petersons will have that in just a moment. But first let's get straight back to Pamela Brown in upstate New York with more on that snow. What's it looking like now, Pamela?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'll tell you, Kate, it's still freezing here. Eight degrees feels more like negative 10. Buffalo residents know how to deal with brutal winter weather, they're no stranger to it, but this is truly been an epic weather event here. In fact it's been the first blizzard warning in Buffalo since 1993. As you can see we're on the tail end of it right now, by conditions, snow still coming down. It's about 15 inches this morning. It's really the wind and the cold making the conditions brutal and really miserable. Wind gusts up to 45 miles per hour at times. And as you see here behind me, Lake Erie looks like just an endless sheet of ice. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: Overnight the bitter cold temps and how longing winds creating whiteout conditions over our nation's snow belts. Major highways shut down in Buffalo as gusts go to 40 miles an hour, snow piling up the rate of two inches an hour, police forced to use snow mobiles to rescue stranded drivers.

MARK C. POLONCARZ, ERIE COUNTY EMERGENCY OPERATIONS: Still a very, very life threatening situation if you should happen to be in a vehicle that gets stuck along the side of the road.

BROWN: A blizzard trifecta of biting winds, whipping winds, and in some areas lake-effect snow, which happens when bitterly cold air passes over a warmer body of water. The cold air sucks up the moisture and heat, dropping in the snow when it moves over land. Adding to the misery, the wind chill plummeting at times to a frigid 20 degrees below zero. A massive snowstorm on the heels of a nationwide deep freeze.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I couldn't last much longer out here.

BROWN: All 50 states recorded temps below freezing on Tuesday.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm really, really freezing and I'm not really prepared for this.

BROWN: And in New Jersey, live power lines collapsed onto a transit train. A thousand passengers were delayed for hours. Wind chills were so cold the zoo animals were brought inside in Washington.

DR. BRANDI SMITH, ZOO CURATOR: Even if they're used to the outdoors, this temperature is just a little too cold for them.

BROWN: The bone chilling cold closing schools and snarling traffic across the country, cancelling thousands of flights and icy roads making driving treacherous and terrifying. Watch as the driver of this pickup truck loses control plunging from a Minnesota overpass, crashing dozens of feet below onto a frozen pond.


BROWN: And officials are attributing 16 deaths across the country to the weather. Buffalo officials are saying there haven't been any deaths and are attributing that to the fact that residents here in Buffalo have been heading the warning, staying indoors. Here in Lake Erie, as we mentioned, it's really covered in ice, and that's had an impact on the lake effect snow that the moisture from the water hasn't been able to get up into the cold air, so we're not seeing the accumulation that we thought we would see. But as you can see here, the snow is still coming down. The conditions expected to persist throughout the day, but that blizzard warning no longer in effect here. Still guys, I can attest to the fact that it is brutally freezing cold here in Buffalo.

BOLDUAN: Off of any of the Great Lakes it is brutally cold I'm sure right now. Thanks so much, Pamela.

You may not and probably should not call it warm, but the temperatures are actually starting to rise. That can help avoid scenes like this one. Look at the car spinning out of control on black ice in Illinois. Indra Petersons is here. So, Indra, how much longer are we looking at this arctic blast?

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: All I can think about is poor Pamela because she is hooking me up today. We're talking about a huge change for me being indoors. It feels so much better when I know so many people are still dealing with this bitter cold.

Let's talk about what we're seeing right now. When you talk about temperatures 30 below in Minnesota, that's about 20 degrees warmer than where they were just yesterday. Yes, that is all changing. Now let's take you down to the southeast, same thing. Not below normal right now, but definitely freezing temperatures are out there. So we all need this change. Really half of the country needs that change, and they're going to get it.

Finally, here we go, the jet stream is expected to lift up. Current temperature in Atlanta, 17 degrees. By the weekend, once you see the cold air retreat back to the poles where we want it, we're talking about above normal temperatures. So 63 degrees, that's what we're looking for as we go through the weekend. And the same thing even down into the south. We're going to be talking about temperatures, hello, 78 degrees in Florida where they had freezing temperatures just a few days ago. No one's complaining anymore.

BOLDUAN: It's 56, 66, 63, 78.

PETERSONS: It's 78, 78, 78. Let's focus on 78.

CUOMO: The blessing of relativism is that you appreciate it because you are coming out of such profound suck.


BOLDUAN: All right, Indra, thank you.

CUOMO: All right, so we've been hearing about the weather, by we have something new this morning as well, a tell-all book by former defense secretary Robert Gates, and it is drawing a huge response from Washington and far beyond. The Obama administration is now looking for allies outside the White House to defend the president against this book. Why? Well, in it, the book challenges the president's commitment to the wars in the Middle East, calls the vice president wrong on every foreign policy issue.

Let's bring in senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta. Jim, what are you hearing?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Chris, it's definitely added a chill down here in the nation's capital. It's an old Washington cliche, work in government, write a juicy memoir filled with backbiting and infighting, and then cash in. What is surprising though is that this latest juicy memoir comes from the seemingly mild- mannered former secretary of defense Bob Gates.


ACOSTA: At his farewell ceremony in 2011 after serving nearly every president since Richard Nixon, former defense secretary Bob Gates left the Pentagon hinting he had issues with Washington.

ROBERT GATES, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY: I spent a bit of time venting frustrations with the Pentagon bureaucracy.

ACOSTA: As it turns out, that wasn't the half of it. In his new memoir "Duty" hitting bookshelves next week, Gates launches a blistering attack on President Obama. "His White House was by far the most centralized and controlling in national security of any I had seen since Richard Nixon" Gates writes in one excerpt. On Afghanistan, he says "The president doesn't believe in his own strategy, doesn't consider the war to be his. For him, it's all about getting out." And goes onto say, "suspicion and distrust of senior military officers by senior White House official including the president and vice president became a big problem for me."

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) ARIZONA: I think people -- his words will have significant impact. And frankly, I'm a little surprised because a lot of times people are not quite as candid as it appears that his book is.

ACOSTA: How's this for candid? On Biden, Gates writes "I think he's been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the last four decades." On former secretary of state Hillary Clinton Gates said, "Hillary told the president that her opposition to the 2007 surge in Iraq had been political." Considering Gate's place in history sitting in the White House situation room with Mr. Obama, Biden, and Clinton during the killing of Osama bin Laden, the memoir is seen by some critics as an act of betrayal. That's despite Gates' assessment that "the bin Laden mission was one of the most courageous decisions I ever witnessed in the White House."

LARRY KORB, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: You owe your loyalty to that man or woman in the White House. And if you can't handle it, you leave and you're quiet. But Gates wanted to have it both ways.

ACOSTA: Back in 2011, the president praised Gates.

BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The integrity of Bob Gates is also a reminder, especially to folks here in Washington, that civility and respectful discourse and citizenship over partisanship are not quaint relics of a bygone era.


ACOSTA: According to other book excerpts, Gates also offers kind words for President Obama, Vice President Biden and former secretary of state Clinton, but it's clear that the White House feels stung by this memoir. In a statement released last night, an NSC spokeswoman here at the White House said that the president disagrees with Bob Gate's assessment of Vice President Joe Biden, saying that the Vice President is, quote, "One of the leading statesmen of our time," and you may be hearing more from Obama loyalists in the coming days, Kate, as one told me last night. Stay tuned.

BOLDUAN: And that we will. Jim, thank you so much.

New developments also this morning in a story that we've been following very closely on NEW DAY. The State Department says the United Arab Emirates will release an American man who's been jailed there since April. The 29 year old was charged with endangering state security after simply posting a parody video online. His family has waged a fearless, tireless campaign to get him free. His mother here on NEW DAY pleading, please send him home.

Well, now he may soon be on his way. CNN's Sara Sidner is in Abu Dhabi with more. Sara, I know for you and for anyone it has been a huge challenge to get any real information out of officials there. What are you hearing this morning?

SARA SIDNER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, they still haven't made any comment in this case as far as official comment from the UAE. And this case has boggled a lot of people's minds. But the 29-year-old business analyst who was just trying to be creative and make a funny video is in the process of being released and we expect that he will be going home in the next 24 hours.


SIDNER: And 29-year-old Shezanne Cassim's fight to be free from a UAE prison is finally becoming a reality. The State Department confirming he has been moved to a deportation facility for processing before returning home. His relieved family released a statement, saying in part "We're excited and we are grateful to everyone who worked to free Shez."

Cassim came to Dubai as a business consultant with dreams of making it big in the high flying, fast growing business hub of the Middle East. But his dreams morphed into a nightmare when he was arrest along with four of his friends for posting a parody video aimed at making people laugh about life in a Dubai suburb. The seemingly innocuous video was discovered by UAE authorities, and instead of finding it funny, they deemed it criminal. Eventually the UAE's highest court sentenced Cassim and two others to one year in prison for damaging the UAE's image abroad.

SHERVON CASSIM, BROTHER OF IMPRISONED AMERICAN: Shez is in jail for making a video?

SIDNER: For months, his family has been beside themselves, ultimately going public with this case when nothing else seems to work.

SHERVON CASSIM: Young man makes a stupid comedy video, gets thrown in jail for eight months. Surely, you know, it shouldn't have gotten to this point.

SIDNER: Since then, big name Hollywood comedians like Will Ferrell and high ranking U.S. politicians including the governor and U.S. senator from his home state of Minnesota have been demanding his release. After hearing of the new movement in Shezanne's case, Senator Amy Klobuchar sent out this statement saying "This decision is not just wonderful news for Shezanne, his family, and his friends. It is simply the right thing to do."

At this point all that matters to Shezanne Cassim's family is that he will finally taste freedom again and be home very soon.


SIDNER: And that is the news that the family has been waiting for. The last time I saw him in court was just a couple weeks ago. He looked down. He looked very different than the photos that you're seeing there, certainly a lot thinner and very upset. I'm sure this day is a day that he has been dreaming of for the past nine months.

PEREIRA: Sara Sidner, thanks for the great news. We appreciate it.

Looking at the rest of your headlines, President Obama tackling the NSA surveillance controversy over the next two days. Today he'll meet with intelligence officials and members of the privacy and civil liberties oversight board. Tomorrow he'll have talks with congressional leaders. The president plans to announce his review of NSA practices before his state of the union address at the end of the month.

New developments this morning out of the United Kingdom. Four members of the U.S. Air Force are dead after their chopper crashed off the coast of England. The chopper went down on the eastern coast while on a nighttime training mission. The chopper was a pave hawk, a modified black hawk.

New information this morning about a deadly avalanche in Colorado's backcountry near Vail. A 24-year-old skier, Anthony Seibert, was killed. Authorities say he was trapped in the snow with three other people. They managed to survive. Seibert is the grandson of the man who cofounded the Vail Ski Resort.

New developments in the case of Florida's stand your ground mom. Prosecutors want to put Marissa Alexander back in jail for violating her bond agreement. They say she's been running errands and driving around family members when she's supposed to be on home confinement. Alexander spent 21 months behind bars for firing a shot in the direction of her estranged husband before her release in November. Her attorney insists every trip she has taken has been approved by the local sheriff's office.

And finally, Colorado state police, they are kind of apologizing for a bit of an embarrassing hotline mix-up. Parents calling a number for information on child safety seats, they reached a phone sex line instead. It turns out, the hotline number was changed three years ago. The problem is the adult talkline number is still posted on the state's information brochures.

BOLDUAN: Unfortunate.

PEREIRA: One of those oopsy --

BOLDUAN: Mm-hmm.

PEREIRA: They'll fix that pretty quick.

CUOMO: And then get sued.

Next up on NEW DAY, an interview about basketball diplomacy became something much more as Dennis Rodman went off from North Korea, a rant echoing all the way from NEW DAY to late night. There's been reaction worldwide, literally. We're gonna unpack with a former NBA star and a U.S. ambassador.

BOLDUAN: Plus more than 100 of New York's finest and bravest arrested in a disability scam, accused of faking injuries related to the 9-11 terrorist attacks pad (ph) their pensions. Details ahead.



CONAN O'BRIEN, TALK SHOW HOST: This is crazy. Did you see? He had a meltdown, yeah, Dennis Rodman. Nuts.

During a satellite interview from North Korea, Dennis Rodman started screaming at a CNN reporter. Yeah, and there was an awkward moment when Kim Jong-un said, "My God, this guy is a lunatic."



CUOMO: Late night hosts are having a ball with the Dennis Rodman rant. You saw our interview with him -- it was right here -- on NEW DAY.

And breaking just moments ago, according to Sky News, Rodman and other former NBA greats played their exhibition game against the North Korean team to mark Kim Jong-un, the ruler there, his 31st birthday. And get this: they lost.

But for the American family, the family of Kenneth Bae -- he is held hostage. You're looking at him right now. He's in North Korea. None of this is a game. None of this is funny. It is life or death.

Let's bring in CNN's Chris Lawrence, who is following developments for us from D.C. Chris.

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Chris, I mean, the things that Dennis Rodman had said to you yesterday are still rippling through Washington even this morning. You know, there's been a tremendous buzz about Rodman's basketball diplomacy, but Kenneth Bae's sister really put it all in perspective when she told CNN this isn't a game.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) LAWRENCE (voice-over): Even for a man built to shock and surprise, Dennis Rodman has one-upped himself.

DENNIS RODMAN, FORMER NBA PLAYER: We have to go back to America and take the abuse. Do you have to take the abuse? Well, we gonna take -- do you, sir? Let me know!

LAWRENCE: His eruptions on CNN's NEW DAY is sparking widespread reaction.

RODMAN: I was just saying, no I don't give a (expletive deleted) what the -- I don't give a rat's ass what the hell you think! I'm saying to you, look at these guys here. Look at them!

LAWRENCE: Rodman drew disdain from the White House.

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I'm not going to dignify that outburst with a response.

LAWRENCE: It was disavowed by U.S. diplomats.

JEN PSAKI, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON: Mr. Rodman is not there representing the United States. People should remember that when they look at his comments and hear his comments.

LAWRENCE: Rodman has been under fire since he announced plans to celebrate Kim Jong-un's birthday with a celebratory basketball game in North Korea.

REP. ELIOT ENGEL, (D)-NY: It would be analogous to having tea or lunch with Adolf Hitler.

LAWRENCE: But some say he crossed the line with an accusation against Kenneth Bae, an American sentenced to 15 years in a North Korean labor camp.

Rodman implied to Chris Cuomo that Bae deserved his fate.

RODMAN: If you understand what Kenneth Bae did.

CUOMO: Yeah?

RODMAN: Do you understand what he did --

CUOMO: What did he do? You tell me.

RODMAN: -- in this country?

CUOMO: You tell me. What did he do?

RODMAN: In -- no, no, no, you tell me! You tell me! Why is he held captive?

CUOMO: They haven't released any charges?

RODMAN: Why? CUOMO: They haven't released any reasons.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But listen. Listen.

RODMAN: Let me do this.

ENGEL: It's outrageous. It's ridiculous. It's shameful. Those are three good words, and they will describe accusing Mr. Bae of a crime.


LAWRENCE: Bae's sister told CNN's Anderson Cooper Rodman's words are hurting his cause.

CHUNG: It's really heartbreaking that somebody was -- who was in a position to help a fellow American refused to do so and then continue to do some more harm than good.

LAWRENCE: As for the other former players traveling with Rodman?

DAVID STERN, NBA COMMISSIONER: They were blinded by the pay day.

LAWRENCE: NBA commissioner David Stern questioned the motives of everyone involved.

STERN: For what I would guess is a relatively large sum of money, they have agreed to go and give a birthday present to the leader.


LAWRENCE (on-camera): Well, the trip's being bankrolled by Paddy Power. The betting firm cut ties with Rodman last month, but it's still fulfilling its contractual obligations for this particular trip.

Now, we are told that foreigners who are getting a three to four day tour of North Korea and get to attend the game are paying about $9,000. That's nearly four times the going rate. Chris?

CUOMO: All right, Chris. So now how does that factor into what basketball diplomacy's supposed to be about? What will this situation mean for Kenneth Bae? Let's get some perspective. We're gonna bring in CNN's sports analyst and former NBA great Greg Anthony and former governor of New Mexico, former U.S. ambassador, Mr. Bill Richardson.

Gentleman, thank you for being with us, appreciate it.



CUOMO: Mr. Ambassador, let me start with you. Just set the table for us in terms of what your best guess is for why the ruler of this country has cottoned to Dennis Rodman and what you think Rodman has been told that may account for his disposition about Kenneth Bae.

RICHARDSON: Well, obviously, both Kenneth -- both Rodman and Kim Jong-un are benefiting from this trip, Rodman, with the enormous publicity of his basketball diplomacy, which has now, I think, become a disaster. But Kim Jong-un celebrating his birthday having NBA stars there, showing his population that he's in control, that he's confident.

But what has happened now is basketball diplomacy, out of the box diplomacy in many cases, can help the foreign policy of the United States and other countries. But now because Rodman has not just praised the leader, he's gone and played basketball on his birthday to celebrate.

And I think what's most reprehensible is his implication that Kenneth Bae, an American detainee on very spurious charges who deserves to come home, might be guilty. Obviously, he, Rodman, was briefed by the North Koreans. They see him as his -- as their link to the United States because they don't want to talk to us. They're hostile.

And so, this is where we are right now. Basketball diplomacy, out of the box diplomacy, special envoys, non-traditional diplomats can do a lot of good. But now because of Rodman's comments, even some NBA players that probably were there seriously for just basketball diplomacy have been compromised. That's where we are right now. It's unfortunate.

By the way, you did a very good interview.

CUOMO: Aww, thank you very much. I appreciate it, Ambassador.

Greg, let me ask you something. I was trying in the interview to separate Charles Smith and the others from Rodman. And I know that you believe that that is the right thing to do. Tell me why.

ANTHONY: Well, I think that the governor just discussed it very eloquently in terms of, one, the importance that sports, not just basket, but basketball specifically in this case, can play when you are trying to bridge gaps, when you're trying to create a conduit to maybe start up conversations.

I referenced this yesterday when I was talking. I'm sure the governor's aware of this. If you go back to the early 70s, we had similar -- a similar relationship with the Chinese. And they sent over their table tennis teams to tour the country and play friendlies, if you will. That was the beginning of trying to bridge a gap there in terms of the relationships between the two countries.

And I think this opportunity, to a certain degree, was lost because of the antics of Dennis yesterday. And it's unfortunate because it does take away all the good will that could have been brought about by these athletes, former athletes going over there.

You know, they're -- although the leadership in North Korea, it's well documented, the atrocities that have been committed there, the unfortunate aspect that we sometimes forget is that there are lots of people in North Korea who don't have a say, who don't have an opportunity to really know what's going on. It's a third-world country. They don't have access, generally speaking, to the internet to what's going on in Western civilization.

CUOMO: But when you --

ANTHONY: This, in a lot of ways, would have been their first opportunity to have that experience. And those opportunities, potentially, will be lost in the future because of the antics of Dennis yesterday in your interview.

CUOMO: Does it change the analysis, though, that they agreed to play this goodwill game on the ruler's birthday, and what they had to know Rodman was terming a gift, and of course the money involved. Does that change your analysis?

ANTHONY: Well, first of all, that's a huge leap to make that assumption. And again, let's face it. I consider myself reasonably educated. I didn't know it was Kim Jong-un's birthday. I had no idea.

CUOMO: So they may not have known?

ANTHONY: So you heard the commissioner say last night on CNN that, you know, those guys could have been blindsided.

CUOMO: Sure.

ANTHONY: You saw how uncomfortable they were sitting there --

CUOMO: Yeah.

ANTHONY: -- when Dennis went on his rave and his rant. And I don't think there's any question that those guys probably were being compensated and probably sold (ph) that they were going over to do some good will.

CUOMO: Right.

ANTHONY: So it was, for them, you know, it was -- you're kind of literally killing two birds with one stone. You're gonna have an opportunity to continue to earn a living doing something you love, and you're gonna also be able to go over and have some good will.

So I think a lot of those guys were completely blindsided by this. And it's unfortunate because they're gonna probably catch a bit of a firestorm when they get back. I hope that's not the case, but it could.

CUOMO: Well, hopefully, by carving them out -- yeah, but by having this discussion, I take your point. Hopefully, they get carved out from this, get more fair treatment than Rodman probably will.

Two more quick points I want to jump on. Ambassador, why hasn't the U.S. State Department been able to help Kenneth Bae? We just saw Cassim get released from UAE. Yes, we have a much better set of diplomatic ties to that country. Is the State Department doing enough here? Because it is humiliating to have to depend on Dennis Rodman for insight into the Kenneth Bae situation to be fair. What's your take?

RICHARDSON: Well, the problem is that this new North Korean leader, we don't know where he's coming from. He's very hostile to the United States. He has refused entreaties from the United States State Department. An American envoy was gonna go to North Korea to negotiate his release, and the North Koreans said, "Don't come."

So the State Department has tried. The problem is we know very little about this new leader. We know that he is having internal problems, obviously, this brutal execution, these shows of force, replacing military leaders that he's had that were loyal to his father. He seems a bit insecure.