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Obama Orders Sanctions in Ukraine Crisis; Crimean Parliament Calls Referendum; Stunning Testimony In Pistorius Trial

Aired March 6, 2014 - 08:00   ET



ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. And welcome once again to NEW DAY. It is Thursday, March 6th. Eight o'clock in the East.

We have breaking news this morning. President Obama leveling sanctions against parties responsible for the crisis in Ukraine by executive order.

Let's get straight back to Michelle Kosinski live at the White House with the details.

This was all discussed as an option, Michelle. And now, they're laying the groundwork for it.

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I know. And today was supposed to be and is, as we speak, a big day for diplomacy. I mean, meetings are going on in the E.U.

Here in our country, we're seeing the House and Senate talking about resolutions to impose sanctions.

Well, this morning, the U.S. has decided to take the lead, going beyond talk and acting, imposing sanctions. And this executive order that the president signed and we've just received, he declares a national emergency to deal with the threat in Ukraine.

And as for these sanctions, freezing the assets in the first instance of anyone deemed by the U.S. government to be involved in. I'm just going to read from the order here because it explains it concisely.

Actions or policies that's undermined democratic processes in Ukraine, that threaten the peace, security, stability, sovereignty or territorial integrity of Ukraine or the misappropriation of state assets there.

Further it bans entry to the U.S. of anybody deemed to fall under those categories and also bans funding or donations to those same people. So in this order, and in the accompanying message to Congress that explains it, President Obama is not naming any names. These are individuals that are targeted. But we are beyond diplomacy now. And the U.S. is the first nation to act and impose these sanctions -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: All right. Michelle, thanks for that update on breaking news this morning. Thank you.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: And the situation in Ukraine growing more volatile by the moment. Riot police facing off with pro-Russian demonstrators in Odessa this morning. That's a key port city. It's about 50 miles northwest of Crimea. That's where Ukrainians have been trying to resist a Russian incursion.

And the new pro-Russian parliament there has voted to leave Ukraine. Now, they want to put the issue to a referendum, a popular vote. And they want to do it in just 10 days, despite objections from Ukrainian officials.

CNN's Anna Coren is in Simferopol, Ukraine, with more -- Anna.

ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A short time ago, the Crimean parliament voted to hold a referendum in 10 days time, which will allow citizens to decide whether it wants to stay with Ukraine or become part of Russia.

Now, there are very close historical and cultural ties between Crimea and Russia. It used to be part of the former Soviet Union up until 1954. And then when it dissolved, it stayed with Ukraine. But 60 percent of the people here in Crimea are Russian speaking. And from the people that we have spoken to, they are extremely pro-Russian and they have much closer ties with Russia than with the West.

So, we are here at a military base on the outskirts of the region's capital Simferopol. And as you can see, these Russian troops behind me if this referendum goes ahead in favor of Russia, these troops won't be going anywhere.

Back to you, Chris and Kate.

CUOMO: All right, Anna.

And important to point out, those are the same Russian, I kind of use the quote sign there, because Putin hasn't acknowledged they are his men, adding confusion to the situation.

So, let's try to break it down a little bit. Let's bring in Newt Gingrich, the host of CNN's "CROSSFIRE."

It's great to have you with us, sir.

NEWT GINGRICH, CO-HOST, CNN's "CROSSFIRE": It's good to be here.

CUOMO: All right. So, I want to unpack something politically here. As we watch this situation evolve in Ukraine specifically, we're covering that. There's a parallel situation going on at home that's almost equally as ugly. It's being called the Russia reset. What it appears to me to be Republicans saying if you want to know why Putin is doing this in Ukraine, it's just as easy as just looking at the policy of President Obama because he gave birth to this situation.

Do you believe that's fair?

GINGRICH: Well, I think part of Putin's calculations are the isolation of President Obama and Secretary Clinton, Secretary Kerry. And he sees some of that in Europe right now. So, I think there's a relationship there.

Look, Putin is a former KGB colonel. He's described by former Secretary of Defense Bob Gates as a stone-cold killer. I think that you have to start realistically. Putin is going to do what he can get away with and the question is whether or not the Americans can find strategies that make it very expensive for him.

But I don't blame President Obama. That's unfair. But I do think American confusion and American weakness tempts Putin into being more aggressive. I think that gets more dangerous the longer it goes on.

CUOMO: And I think that it is equally dangerous for Republicans to make the case right now that this is because of President Obama when they know very well in 2008, you had the same situation except worse where Putin went into Georgia, President Bush was criticized for not doing enough, certainly not moving as quickly as the U.S. is right now, and the Republicans said nothing, Lindsey Graham.

GINGRICH: No, Chris --

CUOMO: Only John McCain -- John McCain must always be accepted from this. He's always been strong against Putin. He was then. He is now.

But the Republicans are playing politics with this issue, trying to say the president started it. Is that irresponsible?

GINGRICH: Look, I think it's an exaggeration to say that Obama in any way started this. I think he desperately wishes it wasn't happening. I think Secretary Kerry wishes it wasn't happening.

A more productive question is, and what I've been trying to get Republicans to do is focus on, what can we do? There are a number of strategic steps we can take that can cost Putin an enormous amount. And that are much more real and much more practical than symbolic acts.

CUOMO: Amen, amen, I say. And I also ask, why aren't they offering those solutions? I get playing that game here at home, Newt. You know, domestically, within the family, so to speak. Have your fights.

But now, you're putting out in the international theater. You want to talk about what Putin is going to use as energy. How about you attacking your own president as Republicans? That certainly would embolden him. Where are the solutions from Republicans about how to get out of this situation? I don't hear them.

First of all, Speaker Boehner almost immediately said this is the moment for the president by executive order to lift the ban on selling American national gas to Europe. That's a very practical, very real step. It's one that John Boehner has proposed that I think is exactly correct. I'd be much more impressed if the president's executive order this morning began to move to expand American energy supplies.

The greatest thing you can do to hurt Putin is reduce the price of natural gas and oil, and reduce his enormous impact in Western Europe where Germany gets 30 percent of its gas from Russia. The Germans are going to be very careful. They do not want to make Putin mad enough he cuts off their national gas supply.

So, I think, you know, there are things we can do that are real. I do think Republicans ought to focus on those things but I also think the president has been derelict in not focusing on real things as opposed to sort of symbolic liberalism that sounds good but doesn't accomplish much.

CUOMO: Look, I think the national gas is a good idea. You have to think about how you do it, how quickly you can do it, and what it would mean, and if the impact would really get the intend outcome with Putin, in terms of slowing him down.

But I also think it's not necessarily just incumbent upon you, Newt, although you are one of the elders of the intellectual standpoint of the Republican Party. But again, you look back in 2008. Nancy Pelosi and George Bush weren't getting along very well, but the Democrats work with the White House. They were not open and hostile in a situation where the Russian military was killing people in Georgia. It was worse than this situation.

And here, you have the opposite. You have Republicans obstructing, only talking about the negative, not offering up solutions like you are right now.

And I think what Bob Gates is doing, who was defense secretary under Bush and also under Obama, is right. He's saying, slow down attacking Obama. It's not as easy as you think. Try to think some solutions up.

Does that message have to be louder than having Lindsey Graham say, "Well, if you look at Benghazi, that's why Putin is doing what he's doing," too far?

GINGRICH: Well, maybe too far but I think there are steps, frankly, Republicans have been trying to take. I mean, if you approve the Keystone Pipeline, you help marginally lower the price of gas.

You look at what Secretary Clinton said comparing Putin to Hitler. The question is, so, do we need a bigger military than a smaller military? I mean, there's a lot of practical debate here that's legitimate and real between automatically saying, gee, we're not allowed to criticize and on the other hand having nothing to offer but criticism. And I think there are practical, real things we can do that would in the long run have an enormous impact on Putin and would teach him this is a very expensive proposition.

CUOMO: I agree and understand what you are saying. I guess the final question for you is, do you believe that Republicans are driving the debate right now the way they should? Looking at these productive ways to do better in these relationships, finding ways out of this, or do you believe they're not having the right kind of debate?

GINGRICH: Look, I think -- I think having a debate on how we dramatically reduce Putin's capacity is important. I think having the House Republicans bring forward a bill that has a whole series of practical, real steps, designed to drive down the price of oil and gasoline and to wean Europe away from dependency on Putin and, frankly, to help the Ukrainians develop their own natural gas assets so they don't need Russian natural gas.

But my prediction is you're going to see a lot of symbolic dancing, a lot of tiny steps and in about two weeks, there'd be a referendum and Crimea will vote to become part of Russia.

CUOMO: And the question is, whether or not that's respected by Ukraine, because right now, they're saying it would be illegitimate. That's a whole other slew of problems we'll have to deal with.

But hopefully the debate does change because one thing is clear in terms of the message to Putin and everybody else, we are not united here in the United States right now.

Newt Gingrich, thank you very much for the perspective.

GINGRICH: Good to be with you.

CUOMO: Appreciate it.

John, let's get over to you.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Thank you so much, Chris. And we do have some breaking news dealing with the crisis in Ukraine. We have just learned that Secretary of State John Kerry is meeting with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Rome right now. They are once again discussing Russia's intervention in Ukraine.

This meeting comes immediately after the White House announced those sanctions against parties responsible for the crisis. The secretary of state is currently in Rome for a conference on Libya. He and Lavrov are meeting on the sidelines. You remember, they met just yesterday in Paris. And now, two meetings in two days.

Other news now: quite a scare for the 48 passengers on crew on board an American Eagle jet forced to make an emergency landing just minutes after takeoff Wednesday night from Dallas-Ft. Worth airport. Smoke filled the cockpit. The plane did land safely in Greenville, Texas. No word yet on what caused the smoke condition.

In a tweet, one of the passengers praised the crew for keeping everyone calm and safe during the landing and the evacuation.

One of the highest ranking officers ever to face a court-martial pleading guilty to lesser charges at the start of his sexual assault trial. Attorneys for Brigadier General Jeffrey Sinclair say he will admit to having several sexual relationships with female subordinates but they say he will not plead guilty to threatening to kill his main accuser or pulling rank to push her to continue to their sexual relationship.

Close calls don't get much closer than this. Look at these pictures. Giant still beams slicing through the cab of a big rig that was carrying them. The driver lucky to be alive. The beams came within inches of his head. This happened outside Portland, Oregon.

The driver said someone cut him off in traffic. He slammed on the brakes. That's when the beams lurched forward. Again, lucky to be alive. Amazing pictures.

And, Chris, pay attention to this. Playing with Barbies could limit a girl's future, so says a just released study of fashion dolls. Oregon State University researchers randomly assigned dolls to 4 to 7-year- old girls, either a fashion Barbie, a career Barbie or a Mrs. Potato Head. They say those who played with Mrs. Potato Head thought their career options were essentially the same as those for boys. Those who played with Barbies, the study found, limited themselves.


CUOMO: What does it mean?

BERMAN: Mrs. Potato Head --

BOLDUAN: I thought you were going to say, as ridiculous as the study is, I thought you were going to say promoted the desire have plastic surgery or something like that.

CUOMO: Oh, that's good.

BERMAN: Promotes spud awareness and apparently a career woman who excels at every level.

BOLDUAN: I think we can do it all. We can play with fashion Barbie, we can play with career Barbie and we can play with Mrs. Potato head. Am I right? Am I right?

CUOMO: Of course you are.

BOLDUAN: Thank you.

Just leave it. Linger. Linger.

BERMAN: That's right.

BOLDUAN: All right. Let's look out for the weekend.

What's it looking like, Indra? INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: I never played with a Barbie and played with Mrs. Potato Head all the time. Kind of weird, I don't know, very interesting kind of study.

Let's talk about the weekend, beautiful. We're talking about warming up, guys, 40s, and even some 50s.

D.C., hello. Seeing 50s this weekend. It's going to be amazing outside. Now, keep in the mind, in the southeast, we are seeing temperatures climb to the 70s.

Yes, you have some rain, but we are going to have to watch the low that's out there bringing you the rain climb up the coastline, intersect with that cold air. What do you have a threat for icing for Friday morning's commute, that's from D.C., kind of run down through about Raleigh. Looking for that, once it clears out, things are so much better.

And of course, Midwest, we're not leaving you out. It's going to get cold again, but not too -- a little bit of snow Friday through Saturday and then things kind of look a little bit better for you as well.

But the big story again, still out west, look at all this moisture. There's a way. Look at all this moisture going all the way into the Pacific Northwest. Now, let's talk about what that means. Look at this video. We are talking about a lot of landslides and mud slides already and still more rain headed their way. Another four to five inches of rain, in fact, could still be headed in that direction.

So, what does that mean? The threat for avalanches are high. You talk about a lot of snow. Above normal temperatures. And now, a lot of rain headed their way. Of course, not just mud slides, but of course, the concern for avalanches in the region. So, a lot going on weather wise.

BOLDUAN: It's already been an active avalanches.

PETERSONS: It really has -- warm, cold, warm, cold, repeat, repeat.

BOLDUAN: Rinse and repeat. Thanks, Indra.


CUOMO: Coming up on NEW DAY, more dramatic testimony at the Oscar Pistorius murder trial. It's really starting to move along now. And how about this? The "Blade Runner" convulsing (ph) in the courtroom as a doctor described his girlfriend's fatal wounds. What did Pistorius say to the first person on the scene? Very important to the case. We'll tell you.

BOLDUAN: Plus, disturbing new details emerging about the Florida mother who drove her mini-van into the ocean with her and her three children inside. Did she do it on purpose? We have a live report with new updates ahead.


CUOMO: Blockbuster testimony in the Oscar Pistorius trial this morning. Pistorius was appearing to convulse and cover his ears as the doctor who first responded to the scene went into vivid detail about girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, and the screaming that he heard. Now, when those streams happened and even whose screams they were is now becoming a key point in the trial.

Joining us now, CNN legal analyst, Paul Callan and Danny Cevallos. Paul is a former homicide prosecutor. Danny is a criminal defense attorney. So, assume those roles for the purpose of this. You're both united on this first issue, which was a big part of the trial has become this other incident before the shooting and accidental bullet that went off from Oscar Pistorius at a restaurant or something.

Probably wouldn't even make it into an American trial, but from the prosecution perspective, what does it mean?

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, you're right. It wouldn't make it into an American criminal trial because prior bad behaviors, generally, not admissible unless the defendant takes the stand and gets cross-examined. Prosecutors here, though, are trying to show that he's a trigger happy hothead, and that it's quite within his character set to lose his temper and to treat a gun sort of recklessly as he did in the restaurant.

Now, he passed -- he was passing a gun from one person to another under a table and it went off. So he, obviously, treats weapons sort of cavalierly.

CUOMO: So, Danny, how does that equate with being a killer?

DANNY CEVALLOS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I would argue it doesn't because an accidental discharge in a restaurant really doesn't go to the issue of, what was going on in his mind when there's no question that he intentionally fired the weapon. So, this prior charge, this restaurant incident, it really isn't -- it sort of -- it doesn't feel fair that he's being charged and essentially held to answer for two separate incidents when, in reality, one accidental discharge just goes to someone's negligence handling a weapon.

This discharge, there's no question it was intentional. The real question is, what was in his heart and his mind when he pulled that trigger outside the door.

CUOMO: Now, we keep making a lot about how he behaves during the trial. That he seems so upset by what he hears and it seems to be genuine to those who are observing it. How is the prosecution going to deal with that? Are they going to ignore it or can they use it somehow?

CALLAN: Oh, I think they're going to totally ignore it. And by the way, I've been involved in many murder cases, as I'm sure Danny has, where there's a lot of emotion in a courtroom. And, sometimes, the jury or in this case, the judge, reacts badly to it. If the judge thinks this is a put-on and that if he's a little over the top with going into these tears and convulsions every time there's talk about what happened, I think it's going to backfire.

And frankly, Pistorius has talked about nothing but this case for months. His life has been turned upside down by it. He's had time to get accommodated to it. I'm very surprised by these reactions in court. They sound staged to me.

CUOMO: All right. So, now, we get other testimony from someone else who says they heard voices, Charl Johnson. And the issue becomes, Danny -- first of all, you got now three people lining up who say they heard screams before there was gunfire which is not good for you in terms of setting this up as something random where Pistorius didn't know who he was shooting at.

But, the issue becomes with Johnson, he took notes about what he heard and they weren't admitted into evidence by the prosecution. How does the defense use that?

CEVALLOS: Yes. To an American lawyer, I mean, this seems to violate the rules of discovery because you can hear the defense attorney asking him, where are these notes? Why haven't we seen them yet? So, to an American attorney, that would sound like a discovery violation right away.

But, in this case, you can see how with witnesses, every prior statement you make, whether to police or notes that you take down is a statement that later on if you don't testify consistently with, a defense attorney can exploit those inconsistencies. And the ultimate question is, at what point do we accept some minor inconsistencies between stories or does it cross over to the other side where those major inconsistencies then become fatal to the testimony.

And remember, there's not a jury, there's a judge who's probably seen inconsistencies before and she may give them the weight that they deserve.

CUOMO: Now, the big issue is, at this point in the trial, even though it's early and we heard from our legal expert down there, it could take many months given how many witnesses are on the agenda, but the question becomes that you've seen a lot of testimony that goes to the main thrust of the prosecution's case which is that this wasn't random and accidental. How well do you think they've done so far?

CALLAN: Well, I think the prosecution is doing a good job and laying out the basis for this case. I mean, they're establishing that his story looks to be extremely implausible. And the most important thing that we've seen, so far, is that the neighbors hear a woman screaming and this neighbor who testified, Dr. Stipp, earlier today really did well, I think, for the prosecution because he said I heard a woman and a man.

Because, remember, Barry Roux has tried to say that was Pistorius screaming. When he screams, he screams like a woman. And the doctor says, no, I heard a woman and a man. You don't switch from a woman scream to a man's voice. And by the way, if she's screaming after the shots are fired, then Pistorius, obviously, knows who's behind that door and he continues firing the fatal shot. So, I think the prosecution is doing OK at this stage in the trial.

CUOMO: Last word, Danny. The prosecution softened up on the prosthetics. They said maybe he didn't have them on which seems that could help a little bit when we get to ballistics. But, all this screaming really does seem to fly in the face of the idea that you had no idea where your girlfriend was and no idea who's behind the door. What do you do with that?

CEVALLOS: Well, you know, you do. You apply the science. And all the major studies show that with ear witnesses, we don't have eyewitnesses, we have ear witnesses. All the factors that can challenge the credibility of an ear witness are present here. You have a tremendous distance. You may have at least one of the screamers behind a closed door with a closed window.

You have people who are not necessarily familiar with the voices of the alleged two screamers. So, you have a lot of factors that have been shown scientifically to affect the credibility of ear witness testimony. The defense needs to exploit those and exploit those hard, because otherwise, a lot of these witnesses are really sticking to their story.

CALLAN: I'd like to know one thing. Does Cevallos scream like a girl?

CUOMO: Well, I'll tell you what, Danny Cevallos --

CEVALLOS: Depends on the situation.



CUOMO: Stop it. He never screams. He's afraid of nothing. Fear is a choice. But I'll tell you what, I've never heard it introduced into a trial before from defense or prosecution about how someone screams and whether it sounds male or female.

CALLAN: It's pretty strange. And let's face it. You and I could sit here and do a high-pitched scream. You can fake that if you want to be tested to see if it can be done.

CUOMO: It's true. And I don't want you to do --

CALLAN: Which I don't think Danny screams like a girl, but you never know.


CUOMO: I think it's sexist even to suggest it.

CALLAN: All right. Sorry.

CUOMO: I say thank you to Paul Callan. I say thank you to Danny Cevallos, and I apologize to you, Kate.


BOLDUAN: Oh, yes?

CUOMO: I apologize for the reference that screaming like a woman is somehow less than screaming like a man is offensive.

CALLAN: I meant to say not that there's anything wrong with that.

CUOMO: No, I want to throw you under the bus.


BOLDUAN: It's all right. We'll have a talk in the break, Paul. We'll see who screams like a girl.


Coming up next on NEW DAY, she was hearing demons. That's what she says. That's what family members say about the woman who drove with her three children into -- in the car into the ocean. She drove her mini-van straight into the ocean. We're going to have more on that investigation coming up.

And also this, how can this be legal, I ask you. One state Supreme Court says it is OK under the law to take a picture up a woman's skirt. We're going to tell you where and why.