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Christie's Future in Question; New Terror Concerns for Winter Olympic Games; Stocks Rise ahead of Jobs Report

Aired January 10, 2014 - 04:30   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Heartbroken, humiliated, just plain sad.

Chris Christie apologizing after his top aides are tied to a traffic scandal. This morning we have new reaction coming in as new evidence in the bridge closing case is set to become public.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to EARLY START. It's very early this morning. I'm Christine Romans.

BERMAN: It's a very EARLY START. Thirty-one minutes past the hour right now.

ROMANS: All right. All eyes are on New Jersey today where we're expecting to learn much more about this investigation into what many people are now calling Bridgegate. The political scandal surrounding Governor Chris Christie over the shutdown of lanes to the very busy George Washington Bridge.

As a parent political payback against a mayor who would not endorse Christie. Christie has now fired a top aide, asked his campaign manager to step down from a high profile Republican Party job and apologized, saying, he was deceived. He is now embarrassed and disappointed. Today a state committee plans to release hundreds of page of documents from its investigation.

Now as CNN has learned, the FBI is looking into the shutdown now and possible federal charges. Christie insists he knew nothing about this and apologized again and again.


GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: I am responsible for what happened. I am sad to report to the people of New Jersey that we fell short. We fell short of the expectations that we've created over the last four years for the type of excellence in government that they should expect from this office. But I have repeated said to them that while I promised them the best governor's office I can give them, I can never promise them a perfect governor's office.

And so when I find those imperfections, those mistakes, those lies, my obligation as the chief executive of this state is to act. I had no knowledge or involvement in this issue, in its planning or its execution, and I am stunned by the abject stupidity that was shown here regardless of what the facts ultimately uncover. This was handled in a callous and indifferent way. And it is not way this administration has conducted itself over the last four years and not the way it will conduct itself over the next four. I will do everything within my power to assure the people of New Jersey that and I thank them for their willingness to consider my apology on behalf of this government.

And you're darn right. What they did hurt the people of New Jersey and hurt the people of Fort Lee, and the person who needs to apologize for that is me. And I have.

And I am sorry to all the people in the state that they have to be occupied with this matter. It's embarrassing. As I said before, the whole matter is humiliating to me. But all you can do as a person when you know this is to stand up and be genuine and sincerely apologize and hope the people accept your apology.

I think I have built up enough goodwill over time with the people of New Jersey that I'm very hopeful they will accept my apology.


BERMAN: All right. The question is, how did he do?

For more on this, let's bring in CNN political editor Paul Steinhauser. Paul is with us from Washington this morning.

Paul, who was that Chris Christie we saw yesterday behind the podium? He kept on saying he was sad. He seemed physically different in some ways. A much changed governor, it seems.

PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: No doubt about it. You know, there were a few things that he -- were similar. Chris Christie traditionally takes all questions. His news conferences are very long. This one weighed in at one hour and 48 minutes. So that was the same.

But, yes, you're right. The bravado from the governor -- when you have seen him in past news conferences, was gone. This was a very contrite politician, saying he was embarrassed, humiliated.

He -- what else did he do right? He apologized, of course, which was very important. And as you said, he apologized dozens of times and he fired people. That was probably the most important thing. He said he took action immediately. So he did a lot of things right and a lot of people are giving him very good credit for that in this news conference yesterday.

But remember, a lot of questions remain and by saying he had no knowledge of this, he leaves himself very little wiggle room when more things may come out and as you guys just mentioned, yes, 907 pages of documents coming out today from that state's Senate committee that was investigating. There are other investigation. This story is far from over, guys.

ROMANS: Paul, let's listen to a bit of sound, something that Rudy Giuliani said on Anderson Cooper -- "AC 360" last night. Listen to that, then I want to talk a little bit about sort of the culture inside his administration. Listen.


RUDY GIULIANI, FORMER NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: big mistake in his administration. It happens. It happened to me more than a few times.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR, AC 360: You have no doubt that he had no involvement?

GIULIANI: I'm absolutely positive. I think Chris Christie is one of the most honest, straight guys you're going to meet. I think -- also I think had he known about it he would have never acted this way.


Had he known that he had some involvement in this he never would have -- he never would have treated it lightly the way he did. He didn't act like a person who had knowledge before the fact.


ROMANS: But there are a lot of questions this morning, big questions about what is the culture of that brash, say it like it is Chris Christie personality. Someone who has called reporters stupid or said don't ask a stupid question. And then how that manifests in his top aides?

STEINHAUSER: Exactly. One of the greatest questions, I thought, from the news conference was the one from John King when he asked just about that. And Chris Christie said, listen, I am not a bully. And I think that sound bite -- you'll hear a lot of that sound bite in weeks and years to come.

But he also was very introspective about, well, why did his aides do what they did? Was it because of him and his culture or his kind of persona of being that tough guy. And he was very introspective about that, though he didn't really answer the question. He raised the question, but didn't answer it.

It's interesting what Giuliani said. And he knows a lot about this. Remember, like Christie, a former federal prosecutor who became a Republican politician, a northeastern Republican who has never beloved by the conservatives. And Giuliani, of course, ran for president and his own campaign suffered because of things that happened, scandals and controversies from his years as New York City mayor.

A lot of comparisons between the two men, you could say.

BERMAN: Let's talk about 2016, I can't resist. Look, even the Democrats, David Axelrod, have come out and said that Christie did a good job yesterday. He lives to fight another day. But that doesn't mean there is no baggage from this. Christie has suffered a political impact here. He's going to have to be careful about how he treats reporters, he's going to have to be careful about how he treats people in general.


BERMAN: He's also lost someone very, very crucial to his political ambitions.

STEINHAUSER: You're absolutely right on all these accounts. You're going to hear sound bites from these -- from yesterday's news conference to come back to haunt him, and it's going to change the way he has to interact with other politicians who he may be meeting in presidential debates and with reporters. And the person you're talking about who was forced to step down yesterday was a guy called Bill Stepien.

This is the guy who was Chris Christie's campaign manager in his 2009 election as governor. And as -- and last November's reelection as governor. This guy is one of the closest political aides to Chris Christie, somebody who Christie was just praising just a month ago and saying that this guy would be doing a lot of things for him down the road.

He was supposed to be taking over as the head of the Republican Party in New Jersey. And he also had a tough role at the Republican Governors Association where Chris Christie is now chairman.

All that gone. This is something that will hurt Chris Christie.

BERMAN: He's one of the three legs of Chris Christie political stool. Part of the triumphant, triumphant that was leading him to power in New Jersey and almost certainly would have been involved, a key player in a presidential election.

ROMANS: Does this -- I wonder if this scandal makes Chris Christie a -- will or would make Chris Christie a different candidate than he would have been without it? You know? A more presidential-sounding person over the next couple of years, Paul.

STEINHAUSER: And that's a good point, Christine. You know, a lot of Republicans yesterday were saying, listen, we like Chris Christie and his bravado and his toughness and Americans do want a tough person as president. Somebody who will fight for the country and be strict. But at the same time, there has always been this criticism of Christie that he is a bully.

Will this change that? It might. It might. Stay tuned.

ROMANS: All right. Paul Steinhauser.

BERMAN: Great to see you this morning, Paul. Thank you so much.

STEINHAUSER: Thanks, guys.

ROMANS: All right. Congress will take another vote today over Obamacare. Two bills actually are before the House that Republicans say would strengthen security requirements for the Web site. Also require weekly reports on how the site is doing. But the bills do not seek to defund or repeal the health care law. Republican leaders say that's not their goal anymore. They are now focused on fixing specific parts of the law now that it's in effect.

BERMAN: Extending jobless benefits remains a battle in the Senate today and as we wake up, the prospects seem to be dimming with both sides unable to reach a deal and acrimony only growing. This could consent -- this bill would send checks into past to more than a million Americans. Democrats want to pass the 10-month extension.

This would cost about $18 billion. It would be offset, Democrats say, by budget cuts or extending the sequester. Republicans are complaining they hadn't been consulted. The real issue they have is that they are not being offered a chance to make amendments to this bill.

ROMANS: Afghanistan could release dozens of high-profiled detainees as soon as today and some of those men are accused of killing Americans. Afghan President Hamid Karzai says there's not enough evidence to hold those men, but the Obama administration insists the men are dangerous criminals. They pose threats to the Afghan people.

This, of course, comes as the U.S. and Afghanistan still unable to come to terms over a long-term security agreement.

BERMAN: We're finding out details of a new report due out today about sexual assaults at military academies. The report from the Defense Department suggests bad behavior and disrespect by athletes at West Point, the Naval Academy and Air Force Academy might be contributing to the sexual assault problem in the military overall. It calls for more training for the athletes and coaches at these academies.

ROMANS: Breaking overnight, she's on her way home. An Indian diplomat at the center of an international crisis. Devyani Khobragade was arrested, remember, back in December accused of visa fraud. That sparked an international diplomatic crisis between the U.S. and India. Her country refused to waive her diplomatic immunity so she could not be arraigned. So she got on a plane overnight insisting she's innocent.

BERMAN: This morning we're getting a look at former Cuban president Fidel Castro. We're seeing really for the first time in nine months. The 87-year-old Castro hasn't been seen in public since April of last year. Official newspapers and Web sites carried a photo of Fidel Castro attending the opening of an art studio in Havana.

ROMANS: All right. The best jobs report since 2005. That's what we're expecting later this morning.

Mark Zandi, the chief economist at Moody's Analytics said earlier this week the job market ended 2013 on a high note. In less than four hours, we'll know for sure. Economists surveyed by CNN Money expect this number, 193,000 jobs added in December. That would put the tally for the year at 2.3 million new jobs, the strongest in eight years.

Unemployment expected to hold at 7 percent, but one big problem area here, guys, is still the long-term unemployment.

How long is a person out of work on average? 17 weeks, that's just over four months. The problem is the longer you're out of work, the harder it is to find a job. The odds of getting a job were about 31 percent if you've been out of work for less than five weeks. The odd dropped 9 percent after one year of unemployment.

CNN Money has a look at the faces behind the numbers. They span from former managers making six figures to factory workers.

The jobs report also is a big player on Wall Street today. Dow futures are up 30 points. Europe posting modest gains as well. You know, Asia ended mixed because of concerns about China's economy.

Well, this jobs report is the real big piece of news. How did the year end. How did the year look. It looks like it was probably the strongest year since 2005. The jobs growth. But we haven't dug out of the hole yet.

BERMAN: Not yet. But a big number coming out this morning.

All right. Forty-two minutes after the hour and developing news overnight on the deadly terror attacks threatening the Winter Olympic Games. The FBI now sending security as the violence is growing this morning in Russia. We are live in Moscow with the very latest, next.


ROMANS: In Russia, new concerns this morning about security ahead of the Winter Olympics. The games less now than a month away and U.S. security teams are already on the ground there. And this morning police are trying to explain a series of killings just 150 miles from Sochi where the Olympics will be held. Six bodies were found in booby trapped cars. Just weeks after a series of terror attacks left dozens dead.

Nic Robertson is in Moscow with the latest.

Nic, what's going on?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, still security officials are trying to figure out, is there any link to these killings and the Sochi Olympics? What they're saying so far is that two of the people killed were taxi drivers. One was a furniture maker. All the vehicles were fairly cheap, low-cost vehicles, and the attacks seemed to designed to bring to police on to the site of these different murders.

Four different murder sites, four different vehicles involved in these six people. And then an effort in one case actually detonated explosives and another the police able to diffuse the explosives. The same handgun, same type of handgun at least used in all six killings. But as yet, security officials here not yet saying whether this was directly linked with a terror group related to the Olympics or whether it's some local issue. But normally we're told this area doesn't have a high level of terrorism so of course it is causing a bit of concern here right now -- Christine.

ROMANS: Nic, do you know what role U.S. security teams, you know, including FBI agents are playing in sort of the preparations for the Olympics there?

ROBERTSON: What we know from the director of the FBI, James Comey, has said that there are at least a dozen law enforcement and other federal -- security officials here in Russia already. At least a dozen of them in Moscow. And he says he himself has had personal contact and the FBI has had regular contact with their counterparts here in Russia.

Of the Russians say that they are ready for the Olympics. Their security is good, they have rehearsed it. But they have the sort of lead role in providing security. But from what we understand from the director of the FBI, you know, he has -- look, particular concerns over Sochi. He says this is going to be a particularly difficult Olympics from a security perspective because there are no terror threats in the region surrounding the Sochi area, so this is of concern.

The precise role certainly, he indicates that U.S. law enforcement officials have different specialties would be able to advise the Olympic team any questions they may have. But really as far as we know at the moment, the Russians have the lead on all the security, 37,000 security officials in and around the Sochi area for the Olympics -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Nic Robertson. Thanks, Nic.

BERMAN: It's 49 minutes after the hour right now. And this morning he is home in Minnesota for the first time in nine months. Shezanne Cassim, an American who'd been locked up in the United Arab Emirates over a satirical video posted to YouTube. It took months for formal criminal charges to be filed and for a conviction. But now he is speaking out about what happened to him.


SHEZANNE CASSIM, RELEASED FROM UAE JAIL: I think there's a misconception that I broke a law. But I want to say that I did nothing wrong. There was nothing illegal about the video. Even under UAE Law. I was tried in a textbook kangaroo court and I was convicted without any evidence.


BERMAN: Cassim understandably says he has no plans to return to the United Arab Emirates. One thing is clear, the UAE has no friend in that young man at this point.

ROMANS: All right. Breaking overnight, hundreds of thousands of people in West Virginia are being told not to drink the water there. That's because of a chemical spill into a river that feeds into the water system. It's not clear how dangerous the chemical may be, but authorities say residents are flooding emergency rooms to get checked out. They are rushing to stores buying up bottled water. A -- local officials say the company did not properly notify them about the spill.

BERMAN: Being taken very, very seriously. Court documents just made public revealed why Boston Police investigated former NFL star Aaron Hernandez in connection with a drive-by double homicide in 2012. A police search warrant reveals that Hernandez was in an SUV when someone inside the vehicle fired shots that killed two people.

Prosecutors have filed no charges in that case. Hernandez is charged in a separate case with first-degree murder in the shooting death of Odom Lloyd. He pleaded not guilty in that case.

ROMANS: A guilty plea now in a sexual assault case that drew national attention. Missouri prosecutors reaching a deal with Matthew Barnett over claims he assaulted Daisy Coleman. She claims she was raped and left in the cold. Earlier charges have been dropped. Her family claims because Barnett is politically connected.

Now after a second review by a special prosecutor, Barnett has been put on probation and ordered to apologize.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To analyze evidence in this case it was -- there was insufficient evidence to go forward on a sexual assault.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The misdemeanor charge which -- Mr. Barnett pled guilty accurately reflects the conduct for which he should be held accountable.


ROMANS: Coleman was not in court, but in a statement said she was grateful Barnett took responsibility by pleading guilty and she's looking to move forward.

BERMAN: Gay rights advocates are demanding the federal government recognize same-sex marriages in Utah. Despite the governor there saying the weddings will not be recognized by the state as an appeal moves forward. The advocacy group the Human Rights Campaign has asked Attorney General Eric Holder to treat the marriages as legal for federal purposes.

More than 1,000 same-sex couples tied the knot in Utah since December when a judge ruled that the ban there was unconstitutional. Now the ban has been reinstated.

ROMANS: And more rain could be coming today to Florida's treasure coast already drenched and damage by some pretty bad weather. Upwards of six inches of rain fell in the West Palm Beach area, causing severe flooding, even leading to collapsed roadways. Residents say they have never seen rain this bad. I mean, we were talking about West Palm Beach. They have hurricanes there. Even in hurricanes, they haven't seen this rain like this. Officials are now looking into the damage that a motor home park south of Port Lucia asking could it have been the result of a tornado?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All of a sudden, a big bang and the house shook. And I think that's when the lights went out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The side of my trailer went up in the air. And I got kind of scared. I ran into the bathroom. Then the power went out.


BERMAN: All right. That's part of the weather situation.


BERMAN: Let's get a full check of the Friday forecast with Chad Myers right now.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: And good morning, guys. You know some light snow around New York City especially western part of the suburbs. Also some freezing rain this morning. Now it's not going to last long, but this pink area here, D.C., Philadelphia, (INAUDIBLE), that's the area that could see freezing rain this morning. About 9:00, 10:00 it's just all liquid rain.

And by 2:00 in the afternoon, we're well above 40. But it's just for right now that we're concerned. If you go out there, it's still dark, you might not see some of these black ice that's on the roadways.

By later on tonight, it is all rain. Some spots could pick up an inch of rain, especially right through the city. 42 for the high today. The warmest we've seen for a while, even Minneapolis warms up to 34, 40 in Kansas City, and 58 in Minneapolis.

Now not so much for the East Coast. But maybe through the Midwest, maybe for you, Hawaii, something else is going on right now. The northern lights are going on. The Aurora Borealis, about 3:00 yesterday afternoon, a coronal mass ejection, not polar vortex, something completely different, came out of the sun and hit the earth.

And now we have the auroras on the north and the south poles. And if you get out there and look, if you're far enough north or south, you might be able to see some cool green, maybe even some yellow lights out there this morning.

Back to you guys in New York.

BERMAN: It is worth the trip to the North Pole.


ROMANS: No. At least it's not so cold in northern Minnesota -- I mean, it's cold in northern Minnesota, but you know, we could go. They couldn't look out there --


BERMAN: No. Exactly. Bright side.

All right. Coming up for us, is the economy on the mend? We get new evidence that will answer this question today in the December jobs report. It could be some very, very good news. We'll have that story, "Money Time" coming up next.


ROMANS: Good morning. Welcome back to EARLY START. It's Friday. It's jobs Friday. And it's "Money Time."

This is the day Wall Street has been waiting for all week. A jobs report, major jobs report will be released at 8:30 Eastern. The headline we're looking for here, the strongest jobs growth for the year since 2005.

If analyst forecasts are correct, we'll learn that nearly 2.3 million positions were added in 2013. All week some of the biggest names on Wall Street have been raising their expectations. Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, Deutsch Bank, all of these economists have been sharpening their pencils and saying, you know what, we're more optimistic about the economy than we were just a few weeks ago. Because of all of this evidence about the jobs market coming in strong.

Stock futures creeping higher this morning ahead of that 8:30 a.m. release. We will bring it to you live.

The downside, of course, is that we still haven't dug out from all the jobs lost in the recession. If you have 200,000 jobs created every month, it will still take five years to get back to full employment. That's the negative side but the positive side is best year since 2005.

OK. A milestone on Capitol Hill. For the first time ever, the majority of Congress members are millionaires.

BERMAN: Isn't that nice?

ROMANS: It warms my heart. Not. New data from the Center for Responsible Politics shows 268 Congress members have an average net worth of at least $1 million. That's up from 257 last -- it was a good year to be in Congress. The richest Republican, Darrell Issa, of California, he's of course worth more than $400 million. Largely self-made. That's because of his car alarm business.

The report comes as Congress debates unemployment benefits and food stamps and some say of course it's rich that a bunch of millionaires are deciding whether you should get a $300 check because you haven't been able to find a job.

BERMAN: I almost went into car alarms.

ROMANS: Did you?

BERMAN: I should have.

ROMANS: I'm sorry. You know --

BERMAN: Big mistake.

ROMANS: Cell phones, that would have been good, too. Yes. Sorry, journalism.

And finally, it's good to be the boss. Bosses tend to like their jobs more than the average worker. I say you need a study for that? That's according to a new study from Pew. Sixty-nine percent of bosses are satisfied with their job compared to 48 percent of workers. Bosses are also more satisfied with their financial situation and their family life.

So no surprise more of them plan to stay put and are not looking to move on to something new. Most also think they're paid fairly.

And I would just like to say we're satisfied with our bosses.

BERMAN: Absolutely.


Our bosses rule. And they tell us that EARLY START continues right now.