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Market Losses; Russian House Arrests; Hoffman Remembered; Christie Battles Bridgegate Accuser; Update Today On Sandy Relief Funds; Christie Fires Back At Accuser; Snowstorm Strands Super Bowl Attendees; This Year's Market Plunge

Aired February 3, 2014 - 13:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Right now, Chris Christie fights on, denying new charges. He's -- he was in on what they're now calling Bridgegate. And accepting an invitation to an important conservative gathering.

Also right now, the whispers are growing a bit louder. Could Mitt Romney actually run again for president of the United States in 2016?

And right now, heavy snow is hitting the northeast right in the middle of the workday. It's another commuting nightmare, just ahead.

Hello, I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. For New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, it's the scandal that just won't go away. Christie is facing new questions about the so-called Bridgegate controversy. Later today, he'll take questions from constituents in a radio interview.

In the meantime, he's battling back against his latest accuser, the former associate claims there is evidence tying Christie to lane closures and traffic jams used as political retaliation.

Our Erin McPike has the latest.


ERIN MCPIKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): What should have been a shining moment for Chris Christie and his state as hosts of this year's Super Bowl overshadowed by jeers.

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: Good afternoon, everybody. You've already heard enough speeches. Enough speeches of the same thing.

MCPIKE: And new questions.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Governor, is there any truth to the allegations?

MCPIKE: On the eve of the big game, the governor's office circulated a scathing e-mail attempting to discredit the Christie appointee making those allegations. Former port authority official, David Wildstein, who carried out the lane closures on the George Washington Bridge. Allegations Christie knew more than he's indicated. The bottom line, the e-mail reads, David Wildstein will do and say anything to save David Wildstein. Wildstein's lawyer said Friday, evidence exists tying Mr. Christie to having knowledge of the lane closures during the period the lanes were closed. A charge Christie continues to deny. Even John Wisniewski, the Democrat leading the New Jersey legislature's investigation, was skeptical.

JOHN WISNIEWSKI (D), NEW JERSEY STATE ASSEMBLY: The use of the words evidence exists as opposed to saying, I have documents or I have an e- mail, it's a curious choice of words. So, it raises questions about what does he have and why doesn't the committee have it?

MCPIKE: High-profile Republicans defended Christie, saying there's no reason he should stop helping his colleagues as chair of the Republican Governors Association.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think he should step down. I think he should stay there.

MCPIKE: And while others say he should be impeached from his day job, Wisniewski calls that --

WISNIEWSKI: One word, premature. We don't have enough facts to even get to that conversation.

MCPIKE: Erin McPike, CNN, Washington.


BLITZER: The special committee looking into the bridge controversy issued subpoenas for documents. They are due today. Another Christie staff member, in the meantime, has also resigned.

Chris Frates of our investigations unit is joining us now from Trenton, New Jersey at the state capital. Chris, so, what can you tell us about the resignation, the subpoena deadline today?

CHRIS FRATES, CNN INVESTIGATIONS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, what I can tell you about the resignation is it was by a woman named Christina Rena, and she was an aide to Bridget Kelly, who you may remember from the e-mails that said, time for traffic problems. Now, she said she resigned because it was the beginning of a second term, a natural time to resign. But, you know, certainly because she is tied to Ms. Kelly, there are questions about what she knew certainly also because she is under subpoena herself.

Now, the Democrats who are running that committee are telling me that they don't expect any documents to come out today. In fact, most of the people from the Christie administration and elsewhere that have been subpoenaed have been given extensions so they'll have more time to get that paperwork into state legislatures looking into this whole matter.

BLITZER: You know, Chris, normally when -- if you're going to resign at the beginning of a second term, you do it before the inauguration. You don't do it a week or two after the inauguration. It's a little unusual to be resigning just after he is sworn in for a second term. That's just my experience with people who don't want to serve in a second administration.

But let's talk about some related developments. The Superstorm Sandy relief money, if you will. What's happening on that front? Because there are separate investigations under way there.

FRATES: Well, that's right, Wolf. And I just talked with the sandy relief czar, the guy in charge of Sandy recovery for Governor Christie, a guy by the name of Marc Ferzan. And he's going to talk to reporters today and talk about $1.4 billion, a second stream of funding that's coming into the state. And he's going to talk about how they plan to do it. They make the point that the first round of funding, about $1.8 billion, was to help individuals. This new stream of funding is going to continue to help folks who were displaced with an eye toward infrastructure and community improvements.


And why this is important in the context of the investigation is because they are of Hoboken. Dawn Zimmer has said that she felt pressured to approve a development that Christie favored in return for Sandy aid. So, Sandy aid being watched very closely here in Trenton and elsewhere in New Jersey. So, I think a lot of people want to hear what Marc Ferzan has to say today.

BLITZER: All right, thanks very much. Chris Frates on the scene for us.

In New Jersey, Republicans are rallying around Governor Chris Christie, coming to his defense on a Sunday talk show. They said Christie should not resign his position as head of the Republican Governors Association.


REP. PAUL RYAN (R), WISCONSIN: Right now, all we know is one person's word against another. You can't base any conclusion on such a thing. And so, unless something else is known or made clear, I don't see why you would change what's going on right now. I don't think he should step down because nothing has been proven. And you always give a person the benefit of the doubt in those kinds of situations, in my judgment.


BLITZER: Our Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borger is watching this very, very closely. It's interesting that the conservatives -- the CPAC, the Conservative Political Action conference, doing this year what they didn't do last year, namely inviting Chris Christie to their convention next month.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: You know the old saying, the enemy of my enemy is my friend. And they see Chris Christie being attacked by the left. They also perceive a real liberal media bias here against Chris Christie. They believe that he's fought back. And so, conservatives are sort of saying, OK, we're now welcoming you to our -- to our conference, because you're fighting for your life here, and you're fighting against liberals, and we like that.

BLITZER: Yes, and that's -- all of a sudden, has become more popular on the conservative wing of the Republican Party and that's demonstrated.

BORGER: This has driven Chris Christie into the arms of conservatives.


BORGER: I'm not so sure how long it's going to last, Wolf.


BORGER: Because as you know, Chris Christie is not perceived as a conservative in the Republican Party.

BLITZER: He's a much more moderate New Jersey-type Republican.

All right, let's talk about David Wildstein. His lawyer sent that letter on Friday saying evidence exists.

BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: He didn't say he had the evidence. He didn't say what the evidence was. Evidence exists that Christie may be lying about all of this. Initially, Christie's office put out a sort of legal statement denying that but then they came out with these talking points to their supporters really going after Wildstein.

BORGER: Yes, they blasted him personally, professionally in every which way they could. Look, they're trying to disqualify him. I spoke with a Republican state legislator who is close to Chris Christie, who said, look, this is a guy who is just trying to get his legal fees paid by the port authority. By the way, he also said he didn't believe that was going to occur. And so, if you know Chris Christie as a politician, you know that he doesn't kind of sit there. And what was more in character, I think, is what occurred later when he fought back.

I think the question is, how -- where's the line here, Wolf? Fighting back is one thing. He's got to take on David Wildstein. He's got to question his character. He's got to question his judgment because he's going to say that the guy is lying. Right? But when -- you know, politically, where is that line that you cross where you don't look like you're bullying your opponents? And I think that's very difficult. But it's clear Chris Christie is going to defend himself in a full-throated way and we'll see how people judge that.

BLITZER: Well, let's not forget, it was Governor Chris Christie who put Wildstein on that port authority.

BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: He nominated him. He got him admitted. He was -- he was his big backer.

BORGER: Right. But then, you saw the original two-hour press conference that Christie did. When he was asked about Wildstein, and his allegedly close high school friend, he kind of threw the guy under the bus at that point and said, no, no, we weren't friends. We hung out with different groups. I don't really know him. I don't hang out with him. So, it's clear that the distance is getting wider, and wider, and wider as each of them fights for survival.

BLITZER: He basically said, at high school, I was the class president. I was an athlete. Wildstein, maybe not.

BORGER: He was sort of a nerd, yes.


BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: All right. There's a war going on between these two guys right now. And we'll see what the spill out is -- spillover is from that. Gloria, thanks very much.


BLITZER: We'll come back to this story but there is other news we're watching. Just as out-of-town Super Bowlers are trying to get home, a snowstorm is slamming the northeast, snarling air traffic. It's proving Punxsutawney Phil right so far. The famous groundhog saw his shadow yesterday, predicting another six weeks of winter.

Chad Myers is right in the middle of all of this. Chad, how much snow are we talking about? You're in New York.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: You know, five inches on the ground right now. There will be eight inches on the ground at MetLife Stadium. MetLife Stadium, about the same time that the Super Bowl would have started had it been on Monday and not Sunday. Yesterday, a beautiful day. We were at 55 degrees here. Today, it has been snowing all day, one inch per hour and there is no end in sight. Five hundred and ten flights are cancelled out of New York City alone.


That's about 70,000 seats. So, all those people who are trying to go back to Denver or, you know, Seattle or wherever you came from because people came from all over the country to see it. They are all stranded either at the airports or back to their hotels. It is pretty snow. Trust me, it is nice, light, although fluffy, snow. You will be able to make a great snowman or a great sledding hill out of this.

But it is going to come down for the rest of the night. We could easily see, in some suburbs, 10 inches. And I wouldn't even be afraid to say 12 inches west of Philadelphia where we have had heavy snow even longer than we've had it here. Just west of the city, six to 10. This is still in addition to what we have on the ground right now. So, we could see some western suburbs, three to five, at least another probably 10 inches to go. And another storm system -- you didn't quite see that graphic, but another storm system will come tomorrow that will approach the Midwest, Kansas City, Indianapolis, just south of Chicago, with another six to 10 inches of snow. And it may brush us here in New York City on Wednesday. We'll keep you advised -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Here's what worries me, Chad, and you can help me and our viewers with this. We saw what happened in Atlanta last week when there was, what, two and a half inches of snow --

MYERS: Right.

BLITZER: -- and ice. The kids had gone to school in the morning and people went to work in the morning. But then everybody shut things down and then there was a huge traffic jam, huge problems getting home, 3:00, 4:00, 5:00 in the afternoon. Kids in New York, they're in school today, right?

MYERS: A lot of them are. Many were sent home early, like at 8:00 in the morning. As soon as they got to school, they said, all right, this is enough is enough, we're just sending you home now. We got you to school. We get the day credit. Now, you getting to home. I still think that's a little bit on the dangerous side to send kids out there anyway, in an icy event.

But, anyway, what we don't have today, Wolf, is that we do not have temperatures here that will get down to 12 degrees like we had in Atlanta just last week. The snow came and it got down to 12. Today, it gets down to 28. Yes, there will be ruts, and, yes, some of this slush will freeze. But it isn't going to be the event. It isn't going to be that significant ice event. This completely iced over event that Atlanta had just, what now, seven days officially ago -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, all of us remember that one. All right, thanks so much. Chad Myers in New York for us.

MYERS: You're welcome.

BLITZER: Clamping down tight outside the so-called Sochi ring of steel, Russian forces keep a close eye on an entire group of people as the clock ticks closer to the Olympic opening ceremonies on Friday.

Also ahead, the Dow taking another big dive. So, what's behind this year's market plunge?



BLITZER: Want to show you what's going on with the markets right now. The Dow is racking up heavy losses once again today. Alison Kosik's over at the New York Stock Exchange.

Alison, we're coming off the Dow's worst January since back in 2009. So why are investors bailing on stocks? What's going on? I see the Dow Jones is down 236 points right now.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Exactly. In fact, Wolf, we are watching those losses really pick up steam as the session wears on today. You know what's causing the latest selloff, new worries about the economy. We got a new manufacturing report this morning showing that the sector is growing at the slowest pace since May. We also got auto sales numbers from GM and Ford. They came in as a big disappointment. We're seeing shares of GM down more than 2 percent. Ford shares down, oh, a little more than 1 percent.

Now, alone, these reports might not be enough to cause a more than 200-point drop. But, guess what, there's a whole other buffet of concerns that are hanging over Wall Street. For one, corporate earnings. Forty-four companies had issued weak outlooks. Here's a comparison for you. Ten -- only 10 have issued strong outlooks. And what that means is that most companies at this point, they're not very optimistic about the road ahead.

Also, there are these concerns about turmoil in emerging markets. China's economy is slowing. So you roll that all together, what do you get? A selloff today, adding to the losses that were racked up last month. You look at the Dow, plunging more than 5 percent in January. As you said, the worst since 2009.


BLITZER: Yes, the Dow Jones down more than 1,000 points over these past few weeks. All right, Alison, thanks very much.

We're only four days away from the Olympic opening ceremonies in Sochi, Russia. And we have talked a lot about the threats from the Dagestan area, that's east of Sochi. Now, hundreds of people there have been put under house arrest. Our Nick Paton Walsh is in Sochi right now. He's joining us live.

Nick, who's being confined to their homes? What's going on?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we spoke to a number of people in two key towns with well-known militant links. One, in fact, from where the suicide bombers allegedly that attacked the Volgograd station late last year stemmed from. Now there I spoke to a number of women, all of whom confessedly had links to militants. Perhaps their husband or son-in-law killed recently by Russian special forces often in shootouts, known insurgents. They said, all of them, that they've been told by Russian police they shouldn't be leaving, not necessarily their homes, but the towns that they lived in throughout the period of the Olympic games. The police would check up on them regularly. That if they went missing, so to speak, they'd be put on the wanted list. So a clear, I think, warning from police to make their whereabouts well-known.

Another town I went to, there were a number of Salafi (ph) Muslims, a sort of stricter sect. Many men considered to be radials by the police at time, saying that they'd also been told to sign a declaration that they weren't going to leave the area where they lived until the games were over as well. So while police won't confirm this to us, won't comment at all in fact, a number of people in these key known militant towns saying - (INAUDIBLE) that because the police believe they might have links to militants, they're not allowed to have freedom of movement they would normally expect.


BLITZER: I assume, with only a few days left before the start of the games, security has really tightened around the Olympic village. You're in Sochi right now. Give us - set the scene for us.

WALSH: Yes, I mean, you know, we've seen, I think in the last week or so, a change. It's harder to get around the roads around town now unless you have the perfect accreditation and passes. There are a couple of hot air balloons behind me now, blimps as we call them in Afghanistan, with good security cameras on them that can give them a bird's eye view of the whole area. The sea walk - I went along yesterday afternoon. That's got cameras all along it. Thirty-seven thousand Russian officers piling in there simply (ph) (INAUDIBLE) the strength of manpower Russia hopes will keep any threat out.

And there's a broader question. You may have the Sochi games here, as Barack Obama said to our Jake Tapper on Friday, considered safe. Perhaps for the athletes and the tourists, and fingers crossed that all goes smoothly, the broader questions across all the north sort of - the north caucuses or southern Russia, a volatile region for a decade now, can you give them, the focus on security here, guarantee a similar level of safety across that whole area. And many doubt that's the case and brace themselves for the weeks ahead.



BLITZER: We'll check back with you, obviously, each day this week. Nick Paton Walsh in Sochi for us. Thanks very much.

The investigation, meanwhile, continuing into the death of the actor, Philip Seymour Hoffman. We'll take a closer look back and why he's being called one of the greatest actors of our generation.


BLITZER: An autopsy is scheduled today for Philip Seymour Hoffman. The 46-year-old Oscar winning actor was found dead in his Greenwich Village apartment on Sunday of a suspected drug overdose. Investigators tell CNN he was found with a needle in his arm. Stephanie Elam looks back at his remarkable career.


STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Philip Seymour Hoffman was an actor's actor. A chameleon who transformed into every character he played.

PHILIP SEYMOUR HOFFMAN, ACTOR: Since I was a child, folks (INAUDIBLE) had me picked because of the way I talk.

ELAM: It was Hoffman's lead role in this 2005 film, "Capote" that won the actor an Oscar. A sizeable man, Hoffman convincingly transformed on screen into the slim, high-voice author, Truman Capote. In 1992, a small role in "Scent of a Woman" gave Hoffman his big break. A seminal experience for the actor.

HOFFMAN: When I got "Scent of a Woman" when I was 24-years-old and the casting director ran out of the office and grabbed me in the hallway and said, "you've got the part," I don't think I've been more joyful since that moment.


ELAM: Hoffman continued to make a name for himself in the highly regarded "Boogie Nights," a period piece that intertwines the beginnings of the adult film industry. A student of the theater, Hoffman landed his first professional stage role before he graduated from high school. He then went on to study acting at New York University and enjoyed a career on stage and on screen.

HOFFMAN: I like mixing them up. That's what I'm doing. That's what I've been doing, you know, and I'll keep doing it as much as it makes people crazy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who does it make crazy?

HOFFMAN: Who are those people? It depends on the day. It depends on the day. Yes, it does, you know. It's like - but, yes, I'll keep doing that. It's just - I don't know how to do it any other way than that.

ELAM: The versatile intense Hoffman garnered three Tony nominations, as well as three other Oscar nominations for best supporting actor for "Charlie Wilson's War" as a nonconforming CIA agent.

HOFFMAN: Since there's no other reason I should be here, let's assume it's because I'm very good at this.

ELAM: For "Doubt" as a priest suspended of inappropriate behavior with an altar boy.

HOFFMAN: What did you hear? What did you see that convinced you so thoroughly?

ELAM: And for "The Master" as a charismatic sect leader.

HOFFMAN: I am a writer, a doctor, a nuclear physicist, a theoretical philosopher. But above all, I am a man.

ELAM: In real life, Hoffman was a man who struggled with addiction. In 2006, the actor told CBS "60 Minutes" he nearly died of substance abuse after he graduated from NYU.

HOFFMAN: Yes. Anything I could get my hands on. Yes. Yes. I liked it all. ELAM: And just last year, Hoffman revealed to several news outlets that he checked into a rehab facility last May for prescription drug and heroin use. A private, unassuming man, Hoffman will be remembered for his roles in more than 50 movies, including "The Talented Mr. Ripley" and "The Hunger Games." Roles that cemented Hoffman as one of the best actors of his generation.

HOFFMAN: It doesn't get any better than when you do -- you go to work, you get a job as an actor, first off. And when that happens, you think that that's like it. When you're an actor and all of a sudden somebody gives you a good job, you literally think, you're -- you're more high than you'll ever be for the rest of your life.

ELAM: Hoffman is survived by his long-time girlfriend Mimi O'Donnell and their three young children. Philip Seymour Hoffman was 46 years old.