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Olympic Terror Threat; Snowstorm Targets Northeast; Wendy Davis' Biography Questioned; Chris Christie's Governor Inauguration and Further Political Perspectives

Aired January 21, 2014 - 08:00   ET



CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Double whammy. A massive snowstorm hitting the Northeast. Now up to a foot of snow in parts. It's already enough to shut down D.C. But the snow may not be the worst part. Our Indra Petersons is tracking it all.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: NEW DAY exclusive: the family of Kenneth Bae speaking out after watching his press conference in North Korea where he's in prison. His direct message to his family and their response.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: Caught on camera. This skier caught up on a terrifying avalanche, skiing for his life. How did he manage to survive? He joins us live.

CUOMO: Your NEW DAY continues right now.

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

BOLDUAN: Good morning, and welcome to NEW DAY once again. It's Tuesday, January 21st, 8:00 in the East.

And a monster storm is about to deliver a whole lot of pain from the nation's capital to Northeast Maine. Just take a look at the size of this polar beast. Up to a foot or more expected up the coast, along with ice and brutal winds.

The storm is dishing out plenty of misery in the Midwest and Plain States. They're reeling in places like Bismarck, North Dakota, where icy roads and blinding snow are keeping a lot of folks at home today. If you're flying, you know it before I say it, you may have to find another way, because more than 1900 flights are already canceled in anticipation of the storm.

Let's begin our coverage with George Howell in Chicago where they've been hit by another like effect storm -- George.


So, we did see the lake-effect snow this morning, but just as soon as it comes to Chicago, it goes away. You're seeing that the streets are clearing now. But again, the storm that we saw here in Chicago headed your way, certainly headed toward the East Coast.

The big concern right now: the cold temperatures. Right now here in Chicago, it's five degrees. Keep in mind that many states, more than dozens in fact, issued emergency declarations because of a shortage of propane. We see those states issuing the declarations to expedite shipments into communities where people need that propane.

We're also seeing them ease restrictions on propane drivers so they can get it to those communities.

But, right now, the cold weather, that's the big concern. We do expect to see sun here in Chicago. But, again, with more than 1,900 flight cancellations, it will be a rough day as far as weather and travel is concerned with the storm headed to the east coast -- guys.

CUOMO: All right, George. And, obviously, we've got to worry about people, because there are millions of them in harm's way right now, from Washington, D.C., to north eastern Maine, the trifecta of pain is expected -- snow, ice, sub zero wind-chills, and, of course, the severe winds that make it happened, all coming within the next 24 hours.

So, let's get over to Indra who has the latest on what's happening.

What do we know?

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: That's the biggest concern. We have this storm. It's just a typical Alberta clipper. You can see the low snow totals as the system has not intercepted with the ocean just yet. That's the difference in the past 24 hours and yesterday morning. We really notice that this system is now going to intersect with the Atlantic Ocean. It's going to fuel all that moisture off the coastline and bring these heavy snow totals.

So, take a look now -- Boston seeing from four to eight inches of snow. But there right off the Cape, they could see a foot of snow. Blizzard warnings already in effect again, outwards the Cape, six to 10 for New York City, Philly, even D.C., and this time, the further inland you are, even though the system is moving from west to east, the lower your totals, the farther you are away from the Atlantic or moisture source bringing in the heavy snow.

There's the low still developing, expected to bring that heavy snow starting around D.C., about 10:00 to 11:00 in the morning, making its way in through into New York City, that 11:00 maybe around noon or so. And then as we go towards the afternoon, starting to see a the snow falling around Boston.

It snows all day long. Not until 11:00 tonight we see it exit out of D.C. It still snows in New York and Boston through those overnight hours. Six o'clock in the morning tomorrow, as we're looking for it to exit the New York City area, still tomorrow, making its way through Boston, offshore by New England. The problem, the low it develops and strengthens as it makes its way up the coastline. So, when that happens, wind starts to intensify. Remember that air is so cold. So, the snow is dry snow that easily picks up and blows around. The visibility is going to be near zero with a lot of wind blowing it around. Even 30 to 40 miles per hour winds will be seen.

And then there's the temperatures themselves already below normal today, 10 to 15 below normal. A second clipper reinforces behind it. So, tomorrow, cooler temperatures, 20 degrees below normal.

Now, take that wind, those sub zero temperatures below average and you're talking about sub zero temperatures and wind chills coming into the single digits. I hope I got that all out. A lot of important information, a big storm heading our way in the next few hours.

BOLDUAN: The calm before the storm for some. But here we go.

PETERSONS: Yes, maybe like an hour of calm.

BOLDUAN: Yes, that's Indra.


BOLDUAN: All right. Also developing this morning, U.S. military is preparing to send two warships and an aircraft to Sochi to rescue Americans in the event of a terror, this while Russian forces are scouring the streets of Sochi, looking for the terror suspect known as the "Black Widow". It's feared she's hiding and waiting to strike during the Olympics there.

CNN's Phil Black is live with more on this from Volgograd, Russia.

Good morning, Phil.


Black widow, female suicide bombers usually acting to avenge the loss of a husband or loved one. They have struck and killed many times before in Russia, but they were never supposed to get this close to the Olympic city.


BLACK (voice-over): Russian police are racing against the clock to find this woman who they say may be working with a known terrorist organization planning an attack on the Olympics. And she may already be inside Sochi ready to strike.

JEFF BEATTY, SECURITY CONSULTANT: Obviously the Russian security forces are concerned that perhaps people have already penetrated their outer perimeter and are in Sochi.

BLACK: The 22-year-old Ruzan Ibragimova is described as a black widow, a notorious type of suicide terrorists that's emerged in Russia's clashes with Chechen separatists. Police distributed fliers to hotels in Sochi and they're asking staff to be on the lookout for her.

Experts say there could be other so-called black widows planning a strike.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We shouldn't assume that she is the only they are concerned about. She's likely part of a larger network that they're looking at.

BLACK: Ibragimova is believed to be from Dagestan, a Russian republic in the caucuses region. In the U.S., law enforcement agents have been conducting knock and talk interviews with people from that region for weeks, asking community members if there are any issues where they should be focusing.

This morning, the Russian Anti-Terrorist Committee posted a statement saying they killed seven rebels in Makhachkala, Dagestan early last week. One of those killed is a black widow by the name of Zaira Alieva.

All of this after a new terror threat this past weekend from two young men in this video claiming responsibility for twin suicide bombings in Volgograd last month. They say, as for the Olympics, "We're prepared a present for you."

Terror analysts say Sochi is uniquely at risk because Islamic militant hotbeds are within the country, leaving the Olympics closer than ever to danger.


BLACK: Russian authorities aren't commenting about the Sochi black widow suspect. The only reason we know about her is because they have asked hotel staff across the city to keep an eye out for her. But the authorities are clearly concerned this was not supposed to happen. The Sochi security plan was designed to keep people like this out, the so called ring of steel. But now, it appears someone has snuck through weeks before the games.

Chris, back to you.

CUOMO: All right. Phil, thanks for monitoring the situation.

We also want to talk about Texas Senator Wendy Davis. She is on the defensive this morning, facing questions about her life story. Months after she came to attention for a dramatic marathon filibuster for a proposed abortion law.

Well, "EARLY START" anchor John Berman is here with why Davis' is now raising eyebrows.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN "EARLY START" ANCHOR: Some of the details seem blurry. Blurry is the word used by "The Dallas Morning News". That paper says the general contours of the story -- she's a single mother who worked through school. The general contours are true, but it's the specifics in the time line that are now in question.


CROWD: Wendy, Wendy, Wendy, Wendy!

BERMAN (voice-over): She pitched her story as an American dream come true.

STATE SEN. WENDY DAVIS (D), TEXAS: I was barely making ends meet and sometimes they didn't.

BERMAN: Texas State Senator Wendy Davis propelled into the national spotlight last summer with her physical stamina after this now famous 13-hour marathon filibuster against a restrictive abortion measure.

Davis' meteoric rise shot her to the front of the pack amongst Democrats in her gubernatorial bid. But now, her inspirational biography of a single mother is sparking some debate.

DAVIS: By the time I was 19, I was a single parent, and I was living in a mobile home.

BERMAN: Over the weekend, "The Dallas Morning News" revealed inconsistencies in her statements and began raising questions about her boot-strapping life story. The news reports she divorced at 21 and not 19. Davis admitted that her language should be tighter and clarified a few points. For example, that her divorce only became final when she was 21.

Writing in a statement, "The truth is, at age 19, I was a teenage mother living alone with my daughter in a trailer, and struggling to keep us afloat on my way to a divorce."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They say everything is bigger Texas. Well, that certainly wasn't the case for the trailer we live in.

BERMAN: A mobile home the newspaper says she lived in for a few months.

Conservatives seized on the discrepancies, creating a hashtag on Twitter, #morefakethanWendyDavis. Before this report, her campaign pulled in a sizable $12 million, but she is trailing her likely opponent, the state's Republican attorney general.


BERMAN: One of the most discussed points in the piece is Wendy Davis' law school tuition at Harvard was paid for by her former husband.

Some bloggers are seizing on this. One tweeted overnight. Look at this, "Wendy Davis won't rest until every Texas woman has a sugar daddy she can use and then dump." It's scathing stuff. Some people feel think it could backfire. Davis acknowledges her husband helped her fulfill her dream of attending Harvard by cashing on this 401k and they later took out a loan together.

She also says, "I am proud of where I came from and what I've been able to achieve through hard work and perseverance." PEREIRA: All right.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, John.

PEREIRA: Let's look at our other headlines making news this hour. The investigation is underway in Nebraska in what caused a deadly collapse at an Omaha feed plant. Two people killed, more than a dozen hurt.

Dan Simon is in Omaha and joins us with the latest details -- Dan.

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Michaela. You can see part of that collapse behind me. The name of the business is international nutrition. This is a company that produces feed and other products for live stock. You had this collapse in fire yesterday. Crews pulled out the body of a 53-year-old man. They suspended the recovery for the second person because it's just too cold and windy out here.

As said there was a collapse, three stories tall a, the top two collapsed onto the first story. What we know is that 10:00 yesterday afternoon, this building was full of 38 people. All but 36 got out a live. We know that in addition to the two that died, ten taken to the hospital, four in critical condition.

This is a company that had problems in the past. A couple of years ago they were fined $10,000 for six safety violations.

No word yet, Michaela, what may have happened here. Back to you.

PEREIRA: Investigators have a lot to sift through.

All right. Dan, thank you so much for that.

Concerns this that Syrian peace talks could collapse before they begin. Talks start in Geneva without Iran, President Bashar al- Assad's the main backer. A last minute invitation to Iran by the U.S. was withdrawn. That invitation had faced strong objection from the U.S. and Syrian opposition. The move to disinvite to Iran is being criticized now by Russian's foreign minister who called it a mistake.

It appears the American people don't have faith in President Barack Obama 's proposal to rein in the NSA. This according to a new study by the Pew Research Center and "USA Today". An overwhelming 73 percent do not believe the president's reforms will do anything to restore privacy, 53 percent now say they disapprove of the bulk collection of metadata by the NSA, with just 40 percent backing the practice.

Humans weren't the only mammals showing off their moves over the weekend in Santa Barbara. Check it out. At least a dozen dolphins joined in on the fun at the women's final. Surfer Abby Brown hanging 10 along side one of the dolphins. The crowd goes crazy when they see Abby and maybe Flipper's cousin do the tandem ride. How fun would that be --


PEREIRA: Interruption in the field, right.

CUOMO: I wonder if she bailed because she didn't know what that was? Could look like a shark.

PEREIRA: Well, that's a good points. When you're moving that fast and focused on your own run, you see a shadow in the water. I'm not going to go -- yes, I would, too.

BOLDUAN: You cut right now.

PEREIRA: Once you know it's a dolphin, it would be fun to do if you could surf.

BOLDUAN: If you could surf. That's important.

PEREIRA: Coming up next on NEW DAY, it's inauguration day for Chris Christie. But will the festivities overshadowed by the controversies surrounding the governor? Our panel will discuss.

CUOMO: And you're going to see it here on NEW DAY. Kenneth Bae's sister, what she thinks about her brother's press conference in quotes. And what she wants the U.S. and you to do to help.


BOLDUAN: Welcome back to "NEW DAY." Coming up later today, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie will be sworn in for a second term. But the celebrations, you know we're going to talk about it. They're likely going to be eclipsed by scandal. On Monday, Chris Christie's lieutenant governor denied allegations that she threatened Hoboken's Mayor Dawn Zimmer over Sandy relief money.

But the mayor is sticking to her story. Let's talk about all of this, let's bring in our political panel. CNN's chief congressional correspondent Dana Bash happily here today thankfully. And in D.C., CNN political commentator and Republican strategist Kevin Madden and CNN political commentator and Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen. Good morning, guys.


BOLDUAN: So, Dana, first to you. What do you - what should we all, what do you expect to see today, to happen today when Christie makes this big inaugural address?

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, he's certainly, at least according to what we've been told by his aides he's not going to directly address the scandal as he did when he gave the state of the state.

BOLDUAN: Smart, or?

BASH: Yeah, I mean I think so. Because what he is going to say that he hasn't said before? What he is going to do is focus on the kinds of themes that have made him a national figure. He's going to talk about no red, no blue. We need to get beyond those labels. He's going to smack Washington, which he's done many times before, which again, makes him very popular.

Having said all that, here we are the morning of his second inaugural after he won by a landslide of epic political proportions in a blue state. And, you know, the focus is not on what he wanted to focus on, which is what makes him a different kind of Republican.

BOLDUAN: Now, Kevin, yes, Republicans in the state will say this is partly the media's fault for talking about these scandals over and over again while the investigation continues. But when you look at today, what can Chris Christie do to try to turn the page, to try to move forward and get back on his message?

MADDEN: Yeah, Dana alluded to it earlier. I think the reason that Chris Christie became a national political figure was because he tackled a lot of big issues. He was a very unconventional politician who sought to blur the lines of partisanship, and instead reach across the aisle and rack up big accomplishments.

So, I think the focus has to be on a very bold, a very active agenda. That is what people will again be reminded why they like Chris Christie. Is that he's focused on things like education reform, he's focused on things like the economy. And he's putting partisanship aside. If he focuses on very big things, a lot of the attacks from his critics and a lot of attacks from Democrats will seem small in comparison. That's probably the best path back for Chris Christie.

BOLDUAN: And Hilary, of course, Democrats would love if he didn't get back on this. This is a good moment for Democrats. But do you think that Democrats threaten to look too gleeful while this is continuing to unfold and continuing to be investigated?

HILARY ROSEN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, I certainly agree with Kevin that the governor ought to be focused on his activities. Although, you know, even his style of governing has to be looked at. And so, he's going to have to dial it back some. For instance, on his big education reform, you know just this past couple of weeks where they, you know, threw a few school principals out of the Newark school system run by the state because they disagreed with the governor's education plan.

Again, that kind of bullying way of governing. He's going to have to dial that back. But I do think that once we get to the hearings, things go differently. First of all we'll have a lot of facts to talk about instead of just personality and allegations. And I think that that's a really important place to get to.

But it's really important to remember that these hearings are bipartisan. I mean the Republicans voted with the Democrats, you now, unanimously to go forward with these hearings, to issue these subpoenas. And so I think, you know, getting into that place where it's really an investigation of facts is going to be important not just for Democrats, but for everyone. And the best the governor can hope is that those facts don't reveal more information that he's revealed himself.

BASH: The problem that Chris Christie has is that, you know, one of the things that has made him successful and popular, is not just the kinds of things that he says, it's the kinds of things that he does. And he's going to put forward this, you know, big plan for education reform.

But just a month ago he had all of these Democrats chomping at the bit to work with him, to find a solution. Now it's a different situation. Now they, Democrats might feel emboldened to sort of push back against him. So, the accomplishment part of his popularity could be in jeopardy. Never mind the investigation that Hilary was talking about.

BOLDUAN: And you actually get to a really interesting point, Kevin that I wanted to ask you about. John King earlier on the show, he was saying that Republicans are telling him that now, kind of what Hilary was pointing to. That they want him to change his tone once again. First he was maybe too blunt for some, and now he seems too apologetic for Republicans. They want him to stop apologizing and start doing stuff. How does he accomplish that, though, if you know he's going to be asked about this scandal? This scandal at every stop?

MADDEN: Well, you know, Chris Christie can't not be Chris Christie. That's the big challenge here. One of the things that he said during his press conference that really struck me, which I think is the essence of why so many people like him, was that he's not a typical conventional blow dry politician. In many ways I think right now what he's done, which is accepting this high level of accountability.

I think he has to meet that now. I think that's one way where he's going to change a lot of people's minds. But also, he has to, again, focus on the big issues. So much of this can look like side noise six months from now, if he's still like Dana said, focuses on accomplishments, continues to reach out across the aisle, and do big things for New Jersey. His only chance back, again, to a national political profile, one where he's seen as a 2016 contender, is that he keeps doing big things in New Jersey, that people say that's what Washington needs. BOLDUAN: And Hilary, what do you make of the latest Pew Research center poll out that's saying that his unfavorable rating from January, 2013 has now doubled. That probably comes as no surprise considering all of - what all the attention is on right now.

ROSEN: I think that, you know, being blasted in the media for days will do that to someone. My guess is it's also Democrats sort of finally pulling away and saying let's take another look at this guy. But I think that Kevin says something interesting, which is where does Chris Christie go from here?

His brand a little bit over the last couple of years was in pushing back against Republicans, not against Democrats. You know, trying to tell Republicans what they were doing wrong constantly. It's why, you know, Kevin's old boss Mitt Romney didn't end up really liking him when he interviewed him as the vice presidential candidate.

BOLDUAN: One of the reasons.

ROSEN: And so that, you know, Republicans stopped wanting to hear this from Chris Christie. So, I think in part his need is to really rehabilitate himself among Republicans. And on that score, maybe Democrats are helping him these days.

BASH: That's one of the things that I'm going to be looking for covering this in the next few weeks, which is his ability to do his job not necessarily in New Jersey, but as chairman of the Republican Governors Association.

ROSEN: Which is key.

BASH: Which is key, because that job is all about raising money for the other governors in the country who are up for reelection. If he can keep drawing people in, if he can keep the big money rollers coming in to him, then, you know, maybe that's a sign at least in the short term that he's OK. If he can't and he can't do that job to raise money for the people who need him, that's going to be ...?

BOLDUAN: That's a telling sign.

BASH: A telling sign.


BOLDUAN: Dana, Kevin, Hilary, great to see y'all. Thank you.

BASH: Thanks. Take care.

MADDEN: Great to be here.


CUOMO: All right, coming up on "NEW DAY," something you'll only see here. Kenneth Bae's sister speaking out about her brother's press conference from North Korea. We'll tell you what she wants the U.S. to do to free her brother and if she thinks she'll ever see him again. Also, President Obama's controversial comments about pot sparked a debate that is still burning this morning. But was he right when he said that pot was not worse than alcohol? But is it? I don't know, we'll see. We have a lively debate coming ahead.


CUOMO: You are looking at Columbus Circle, what is also known as a prelude to a beat down. This is just the beginning of what promises to be bad cold, bad snow, and worse wind. And that's what we're looking at here. We need to figure out the latest. We have Indra Petersons tracking it all for us. What does it mean?

PETERSONS: Yes. Well, the snow just now making its way to the East Coast. We keep talking about the change. When yesterday we were talking about just being a clipper. But now we know that the flow is going to develop.

So, instead of seeing low snow totals like what you see in the Midwest, we're going to start to see some heavy snow starting to build. What are we talking about? A foot of snow, right off of the cape. Once again, they have blizzard warnings already in effect. And that's not - To ten inches in places like Philly, D.C. and New York City. Just in the next few hours we're going to start seeing some of this heavy snow. The farther inland you are, even though the storm is going west to east, you're actually going to have lower totals.