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Update on World Cup; White House Summit on Children with 2 Working Parents; Journalists Sentenced in Egypt; Obama Warns Putin on Ukraine Crisis.

Aired June 23, 2014 - 13:30   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back. I'm Wolf Blitzer, reporting from Washington.

Let's go to the World Cup right now. A stunner for Team USA and for millions and millions of fans. Leading 2-1 with just a few seconds left, the U.S. gave up the tying goal to Portugal. So instead of automatically moving on to the next round with the win, they still have work to do. Let's go to Rio right now. Our "New Day" anchor Chris Cuomo has the assignment and he's joining us now live.

All right, so, Chris, walk us through where we go from here. What's next for Team USA?

CHRIS CUOMO, ANCHOR, NEW DAY: Wolf, I think you put it perfectly. They got a point. They got the draw. And they still have some work to do. There are more potential outcomes that are positive for the U.S. than negative. Basic form, they need to do well against Germany, which means they need to draw. They need to tie. As long as they do, they should be fine. There's very little chance it goes badly for then not exiting the group as long as they tie. If they win, obviously, it's over for them.

If they lose, it gets very complicated. It depends how many goals they have. It could come down according to the FIFA rules to a coin toss by a FIFA official to see whether the Ghana or the U.S. gets in. In all likelihood, as long as they play solidly -- and it's an important assumption -- because I believe last night was a hump test for them. I think the team now believes, talking to the player, they know what they have to do to compete against the best, they should be OK.

BLITZER: There's certainly a ton of excitement down where you are in Brazil. A lot of excitement here in the United States obviously as well. So the fans, take us a little bit, Chris, behind the scenes. What's it like to be down there in Brazil for these huge games?

CUOMO: You know, Wolf, I don't have to tell you, you've done so much excellent coverage and so many different situations. But you know better than I what a privilege it is to cover something that's so significant and yet positive. It's so rare. Yes, there have been protests. Yes, Brazil has a lot of problems as an emerging democracy. To have all these different countries come together, the crowd, Wolf, it's like being at a Wolf Blitzer fan convention down here. The people are rabid, they're painting their faces. Instead of wearing the trademark Wolf beard, they're painting their faces with the national flags. They're celebrating each other when they're playing in their matches. They're literally you'll have argentines who are backing the U.S. when they play and Americans who are watching the Belgium team and cheering them on. It's a beautiful thing, especially with so much that we're watching in other places of the world right now. So the crowd has just been crazy.

I think it's important to note, there's been a big uptick in American enthusiasm for the sport. More tickets were sold to the U.S. than anywhere else for the World Cup, except Brazil. Brazil, as you know, they call themselves Opajo Football. This is the country of football. You know about the viewing parties back in the U.S., Wolf, so the team is strong, the support for them just as strong.

BLITZER: It seems pretty well organized. I know there were a lot of concerns only a few weeks ago, was Brazil really ready. Based on your eyewitness account, are they ready for what's going on?

CUOMO: Look, I think it's better than what we saw with the most recent Olympics in terms of the infrastructure. I don't think they were as ready as they could have been. Given the problems they're facing here with infrastructure, I think they're not a drawback to the games, at least in Rio, because remember it's taking place all over the country, in Rio, they're doing a good job here. People seem to be enjoying it thoroughly.

BLITZER: I'm sure they are. We'll see you tomorrow morning, reporting on "New Day." You're not leaving Brazil. You're staying put for the time being, is that right, Chris?

CUOMO: I'm fighting to stay, Wolf. I'm going to say the captain wants me to stay, the captain of the CNN team. Hopefully, that's enough.

BLITZER: I was in South Africa four years ago for the World Cup. I loved every second of that. You'll love every second of this. Enjoy and have -- bring the team a lot of good luck. I love the shirt you're wearing.

Chris Cuomo on the scene for us. Thanks very much.

Journalists -- a very different story we're covering -- they're now jailed, simply for covering the news in Egypt. And their sentence? Today, they got word on how long they will be in prison. Ahead, I'll discuss the developments, what it all means. CNN's Fareed Zakaria standing by.

The White House is hosting a summit today on a topic that hits home with President Obama and millions and millions of Americans. Stand by for that as well.

Now to a story of a Honduran daughter, undocumented and living in the United States. For 20 years, she and her family have been apart. It was her choice. But it is the entire family's grief.

Rosa Flores has more on this "American Journey." (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This neighborhood in Honduras is not only home to both poverty and violence but to families as well, and to this mother, who would give anything to see her daughter again.


FLORES: Natalya Lopez Manuelez says she has always supported her children, even when one of them wanted to take on the dangerous and uncertain voyage to the United States in search of opportunity.

Nearly 20 years ago, Natalya kissed her daughter, Lesley, good-bye. The 25-year-old left on foot, never to return to Honduras.


FLORES: This mom says she's now trapped in the very situation her daughter left behind. Over the years, she has only spoken to her daughter by phone, never seeing her face-to-face.

(on camera): I met this family while I was filing special reports for CNN in Honduras. When I learned about the agony they were facing due to separation, I thought, there's something we can do here. I started looking for her daughter, Lesley.

(voice-over): And found her living in New York, sharing her mother's grief.


FLORES: Lesley says she used to cry alone, thinking about her family thousands of miles away. She was undocumented and couldn't visit.

We took a DVD of my interview with her parents and showed it to Lesley. She was finally able to see her parents for the first time in almost two decades. She couldn't believe her eyes.


FLORES: Her mom showing the many years on her face.

(on camera): When you left, they were --

LESLEY MANUELEZ: Big difference.

FLORES (voice-over): As the home she grew up in, a shell of what she remembers.


FLORES: And also shocked at the poverty and violence plaguing her old neighborhood. What didn't surprise her --




FLORES: He's never been timid, she says.

And while this unconventional reunion brought her some joy, nothing replaces seeing family in person.


FLORES: Her dream now, aside from becoming a U.S. citizen, is to visit her family in Honduras one day.

Rosa Flores, CNN, New York.



BLITZER: Nearly 60 percent, that's the estimate of American households whose children -- with children whose both parents work. Today, those families are the focus of a summit at the White House. The goal, striking a strong and better balance between work and home.

Kate Bolduan had a one-on-one interview with President Obama. Kate's joining us now.

Kate, it was pretty clear he favors some greater flexibility in the workplace for working parents.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR, NEW DAY: That's definitely the case here. Here's why. You really lay it out. The economy is changing. More and more women are becoming breadwinners of the family. And by and large, workplace policies have not evolved or changed with this change in the household. So the president and I, we were talking about this, and I asked him what he wants to see happen, he wants to see private business step up. They're highlighting corporations that are making changes in the workplace. But he also says he wants to see the federal government step up as well.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm going to be taking some action, a presidential memorandum directing every federal agency to be very clear to their employees that it is my view that offering flexibility where possible is the right thing to do. We don't want people having to choose between family and work when you've got an emergency situation.


BOLDUAN: So that's -- I mean, he says there's several things they want to focus on. They want to focus on paid leave, especially when talking about maternity leave, Wolf, and also child care, equal pay, some of the big issues they're taking on. He said he acknowledges that these are big issues that need a lot of people involved, and obviously Congress to be on board with some of this. But the first step, he indicates, would be getting everyone together and highlighting best practices at least.

BLITZER: He told you, also, Kate, why this is such an important issue personally for him. Tell us what he said.

BOLDUAN: He did. I mean, you remember, he pointed out in his state of the union speech. He said very clearly, when women succeed, America succeeds. He said it is not just about policy for him. He laid out why it is person as well.


OBAMA: I was raised by a single mom who had to work, go to school, raise two kids, didn't come from a wealthy family. We were helped by my grandparents and the primary breadwinner there was my grandma, who never got a college education but worked her way up from a secretary to being a vice president of a bank, but also hit a glass ceiling. I've got a strong successful wife, who I remember being reduced to tears sometimes because she couldn't figure out how to juggle everything that she was doing. And I've got two daughters that I care about more than anything in the world. And so this is personal for me. And I think it's personal for a lot of people. This is not just a women's issue. This is a middle class issue and an American issue.


BOLDUAN: And the proof is in the pudding. They've really pulled out the star power for this event today. The president speaking. The first lady will speak. As well as Vice President Biden and Jill Biden. They're really bringing out the big guns, if you will, to show this is an important issue for them.

And you know this well, the politics of this also doesn't hurt the White House. The Democrats have said their midterm strategy is centered on getting the women vote out, attracting more women voters, and this doesn't help them at all -- doesn't hurt them at all, I should say.

BLITZER: Kate Bolduan reporting for us. Good work with the president, the interview. We'll see you tomorrow morning on "New Day."

We have Chris Cuomo in Rio, we have Kate Bolduan in New York. We've got the whole "New Day" team.

Guys, thanks very much.

Kate, thank you.

Egypt sending journalists to prison for simply covering the news. In a few moments, I'll ask CNN's Fareed Zakaria what this tells us about what's going on inside Egypt right now. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: A Sudanese woman sentenced to death for refusing to renounce her Christian faith is free today. She was released after an appeals court found an initial judgment against her faulty. When she was sentenced, the 27-year-old woman was eight months pregnant. She gave birth to a baby girl in prison. Her death sentence was condemned internationally by human rights groups.

After detaining three journalist, from al Jazeera English, for 177 days, today, a Egyptian judge sentenced them to up 10 years in prison after convicting them of aiding the Muslim Brotherhood. These are charges the three men strongly deny.

The Secretary of State John Kerry, at a news conference in Baghdad today, responded angrily to the news out of Egypt.


JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: Today's conviction is obviously a chilling and draconian sentence and, you know, it's deeply disturbing to see in the midst of Egypt's transition. It simply cannot stand if Egypt is going to be able to move forward in the way that Egypt needs to move forward in order to respond to the extraordinary aspirations of those young people who twice came in to Tahrir Square in order to demand a responsive government.


BLITZER: The White House similarly condemned the decision today by the Egyptian courts.

Let's bring in Fareed Zakaria to discuss.

Fareed, what does this ruling in Egypt, going against these al Jazeera journalists, say about what's going on in Egypt right now? A new president has just been elected.

FAREED ZAKARIA, HOST, FAREED ZAKARIA, GPS: It tells us, Wolf, the old Egypt is back, that is, the deep state, the state of Mubarak and Nasr, the state that ruled in an uninterrupted military dictatorship, is back because, despite the claims they're moving toward democracy and trying to create genuine transition to pluralism, freedom of the press is entirely under siege and under attack from the state. Look at the charges. These journalists who are very fine professional journalists are being essentially charged for criminal activity for aiding terrorists, which is entirely untrue. Two of them sentenced to seven years. One was sentenced to an additional 10 years, Wolf. Do you know why? He was charged with possession of ammunition. Why? While covering these protests he found -- this man found a spent casing, in other words a used shell. He happened to put it in his pocket as a souvenir. For that act, he has been sentenced to an additional three years in jail. This is how absurd these charges are.

BLITZER: Totally absurd. Mohammed Fami used to work with us at CNN, someone we know well. When I was in Cairo a year and a half ago for an interview with Mohamed Morsey, then the president of Egypt, he helped set it all up. He's an excellent producer and journalist. The thought he'll spend seven years in prison for simply doing what journalists are supposed to do is truly, truly -- not only chilling, it's outrageous.

The question is this, is there a possibility this can be overturned and these three journalists can be freed?

ZAKARIA: Yes. Mohammed has also worked with me. Terrific, highly professional journalist. They're all really fine professional journalists whose only sin was to commit journalism. That's all they were doing, covering the story. The phase Egypt is going through right now, judges have been doing mass sentencing where they sentence hundreds of people to death at a time, just to shows how ludicrous the whole process is. Some of those sentence haves been overturned on appeal. That is possible in this case. It's also possible that the president, frankly, could summarily dismiss the whole thing. Egypt has turned into a dictatorship, which means if President Sissi decides he wants to dispense with these sentences, he will do it. So I think if there was enough international pressure brought to bear -- and I think Secretary Kerry has been very good, but privately should be pushing them harder. I think it wouldn't hurt if President Obama were to speak out on this.

The issue of freedom of press is at the heart of building a new democracy. If that's what Egypt wants to do and they will not allow journalists to operate freely, they will not allow the free flow of information, then the whole thing is a sham.

BLITZER: The White House today, the new secretary, Josh Ernest, began with a statement saying, quote, "The White House strongly condemns the conviction and sentencing of these al Jazeera journalists in Cairo," saying the verdict -- and I'm quoting Josh Ernest now -- "flouts the most basic standards of media freedom."

Here's the sensitive issue. The United States, as you know, for other reasons, strategic reasons, Egypt has a peace treaty with Israel. We know Egypt is an important strategic partner in that part of the world. The United States, U.S. taxpayers provide Egypt with a lot of military and economic foreign aid.

Here is the question. If Egypt continues to arrest journalists for simply doing journalism, sentencing them to seven or 10 years in prison, there will be outrage in the United States, and a lot of that pressure for foreign aid for Egypt will go away.

ZAKARIA: That's true. It's a very complicated subject. Egypt gets a lot of that foreign aid because it signed the Camp David Accords, returning land to Israel. It's tied in with a broader strategic puzzle. It will be difficult to withhold the aid without unraveling that, including the peace treaty with Israel.

However, I think it's very important for the United States to send a signal that we do not believe that the United States, that is, does not believe Egypt is on the right track, that these are terrible, terrible mistakes. As Secretary Kerry said, they're losing faith with the people of Egypt. I think it would be perfectly reasonable to suspend a variety of programs. The U.S. has some military aid, non- military aid, other kinds of contact. Because it's not just bad for journalists. It's terrible for Egypt. When you think about it, in terms of attracting tourists, part of the lifeblood of Egypt's economy, all this is sending exactly the wrong signals.

BLITZER: Certainly is. Fareed, let's hope the Egyptians reconsider and let these three journalists go and do their work. They should not be in jail right now simply for being journalists.

Fareed, thanks very much.

The president of the United States now speaking at the White House on an issue so important to millions and millions of working families. Let's listen in.

OBAMA: The family is also the bedrock of our lives. We don't want a society in which folks are having to make a choice between those two things. And there are better decisions we can make and there are not so good decisions that we can make as a society to support this balance between work and familiarly.

Most of us. Most of our days consist of work, family and not much else. Those two spheres are constantly interacting with each other. When we're with our family, sometimes we're thinking about work. When we're at work, we're thinking about family. That's a pretty universal experience, true, even when you are president of the United States.


Now, I am lucky that my daughters were a bit older by the time I became president so I never had to meet a world leader with Cheerios stuck to my pants.


That has not happened.


And I'm also lucky because we live above the store, so to speak.


I have a very short commute.


And as a consequence, we've been able to organize ourselves to have dinner with Michelle and the girls almost every night. That's pretty much the first time we've been able to do that in our lives.


OBAMA: But before I moved into the White House, I was away a lot, sometimes with work, sometimes with campaigning. Michelle was working full time and was at home with the responsibility all too often of dealing with everything that the girls needed. And so we understand how lucky we are now because there was a big chunk of time when we were doing what so many of you have to deal with every day, and that is figuring out, how do we make this whole thing work.

A lot of Americans are not as lucky as we have been. It is hard sometimes just to get by. Our businesses have created jobs for 151 consecutive months, 9.4 million new jobs in all.


OBAMA: But we all know somebody out there still looking for work. There are a whole lot of people working harder than ever but can't seem to get ahead and pay all the bills at the end of the month. Despite the fact that our economy has grown and those of us at the very top have done very well, the average wage -- average income hasn't gone up for 15 years in any meaningful way. And that means that relative to 15 years ago, a lot of families just aren't that much better off. The sacrifices they make for their families --

BLITZER: All right, we'll quickly break away from the president because we're getting important news here. He had an important conversation with Russian President Putin today.

Jim Acosta is our senior White House correspondent.

Jim, tell us what we learned. The president and Putin on the phone, that doesn't happen every day.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It doesn't happen every day. We just found out about this at the very end of White House Press Secretary Josh Ernest's very first briefing here at the White House. The press secretary saying that, earlier this morning, President Obama and Vladimir Putin spoke via telephone and talked about the crisis in Ukraine, of course, talked about the separatists there. The president, in that phone call, according to Josh Ernest, warned the Russian president that there will be costs if Moscow does not deescalate that crisis there. The president leaning very heavily on Putin saying it's up to the Russians to control those separatists, to send the message that they need to stop disrupting the scene in eastern Ukraine. The president making it clear in this phone call, according to Josh Ernest, that the U.S., along with its G7 partners, may move forward with some sort of sectoral sanction. We heard last Friday, Wolf, that they may be more of a scalpel-like sanctions, I guess, that might be imposed as opposed to broad sectoral sanctions. The president did warn about that in that phone call with Vladimir Putin -- Wolf?

BLITZER: The president continuing to speak now on the issue of working families and kids. We're going to continue to monitor that. That's an important issue for this president on this day. He's got so much on his plate right now, not only Putin and Russia and Ukraine and what's going on in Iraq and Syria, Egypt, Libya. He's got a huge, huge agenda right now.

I know you're going to be reporting on this throughout the day. Jim Acosta, our man at the White House, thanks very much.

That's it for me. We'll have a lot more coming up later today in "The Situation Room." Remember, that airs 5:00 p.m. eastern.

Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.

NEWSROOM with Brooke Baldwin starts right now.