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Guadagno Fires Back at Zimmer; New MLK Recording Released; Iran Suspends Enrichment; Gay People Under Attack, Mystery Death in India

Aired January 20, 2014 - 12:30   ET



SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: New Jersey Governor Chris Christie takes his second oath of office tomorrow, but these scandals surrounding him get a lot of attention, overshadowing that event.

Earlier today, his lieutenant governor fired back at the mayor of Hoboken, who has said that Christie's office threatened to withhold relief funds for Hurricane Sandy, unless the mayor supported one of the governor's development projects.


LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR KIM GUADAGNO (R), NEW JERSEY: Mayor Zimmer's version of our conversation in May of 2013 is not only false, but is illogical and does not withstand scrutiny when all of the facts are examined.

Any suggestion -- any suggestion -- that Sandy funds were tied to the approval of any project in New Jersey is completely false.


MALVEAUX: Well, Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer stands by her statement.

Here's what she told our Candy Crowley over the weekend on "State of the Union."


MAYOR DAWN ZIMMER (D), HOBOKEN, NEW JERSEY: She made a direct threat to me. She came -- and when the lieutenant governor comes, pulls you aside in a parking lot, and says that these two things are connected, I know it shouldn't be, but they are, and if you tell anyone, I'll deny it.

I mean, she felt almost guilty about saying it. She knows it's wrong. But that is exactly what they are trying to do.


MALVEAUX: Want to bring in our Wolf Blitzer from Washington to kind of sort all of this out, Wolf, and there just seems to be more and more developments every single day.

We just got this statement from Mayor Zimmer, reacting to the lieutenant governor. And I'm going to read it, in part. It says that "I'm genuinely disappointed that Lieutenant Governor Guadagno has lived up to her promise that she would deny linking Hoboken's application for Sandy Hazard Mitigation Funding by denying the project. I stand by my word and remain willing to testify under oath."

The mayor has also met with and turned over some documents to the U.S. attorney. The state committee is looking into the bridge controversy.

How does this all relate, and what is the fallout?

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR, "THE SITUATION ROOM": It's a huge, huge not only political problem, but potentially very big legal problem right now for Governor Christie and his top aides right now.

Because if you take a look at what's going on, all these investigations, including a federal investigation, when the mayor of Hoboken spent two hours yesterday, Sunday and a holiday weekend with the U.S. attorney in New Jersey, answered his questions, and then handed over her diary, what she says was written contemporaneously about that meeting she says she had with the lieutenant governor in which this alleged threat was made.

She has now elevated this subject dramatically, because if she is lying to the American public, that's one thing, but if she is lying to a U.S. attorney, to a federal prosecutor, if you will, that's -- you go to jail for something like that. So it's clearly escalated big-time right now, and we'll see what the fallout you have.

One person, the lieutenant governor, denying it, saying it's categorically false, and you have the mayor of Hoboken saying it's categorically true. We'll see where the U.S. attorney and other investigators come down.

MALVEAUX: Not to mention, Wolf, we now have a state investigative committee that's going to hear from 17 people who are subpoenaed in the bridge scandal, the original one. So you had on this morning Congressman Frank Pallone, talking about impeachment.

How do you separate what is really political here and people taking advantage of this moment of weakness, Chris Christie being in a weak position here, and what is really true, what is really happening, whether or not anything has been done wrong?

BLITZER: Well, that's what the investigators -- the local, the state, the federal investigators, the prosecutors, potentially, they're going to be investigating, whether any crimes were committed. And they're looking very closely at all of that.

And let's just be precise. Right now there is no smoking gun, if you will, no direct evidence that the governor himself was involved in anything illegal -- may have hired aides that weren't necessarily doing their job that he wanted them to do. But there's still a lot of questions out there, and it's only escalating. And I suspect, Suzanne, as the days go by, and the weeks go by, there will be more of these allegations of bullying, of threatening, that will come forward, and it's going to continue and continue.

And I am sure Chris Christie fully appreciates what's going on. That's why he was rather blunt in that interview he granted to Yahoo! News Friday, in which he said there is a lot he has to learn from what has happened right now.

MALVEAUX: And, Wolf, let's play this out a little bit further. Let's say he's never tied directly to any of these allegations.

I mean, you do have potential primary challengers who are just chomping at the bit here to see where all of this goes. Could this possibly help someone like Marco Rubio or Rand Paul, Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz?

BLITZER: Potentially could. If he goes down, and no longer becomes a viable presidential candidate, could help others who might have a better shot.

He was clearly a front-runner until all these allegations emerged and may still emerge clean and a serious contender for the Republican presidential nomination. I think it's way too early to draw any hard and fast conclusions.

But look, we still got some time. These other potential Republican candidates that are watching very closely what's going on, and I suspect they're all looking at their own history, their own involvement, their own decision-making process, making sure that there's nothing similar or even worse that they may have done or aides of theirs may have done. They're all taking a very close look.

When you run for president of the United States, Suzanne, you know this, I know this, all of us who have covered presidential politics, you're held to an unbelievable level of scrutiny, and almost every decision you have made your whole life is going to come out one way or another.

So if you want to do that, you want to run for president, you just have to anticipate the exposure for good and for bad that you get.

MALVEAUX: Yes, absolutely. We're going to learn much, much more from all of the potential candidates.

Wolf, thank you very much. Good to see you, as always.

BLITZER: Thank you.

MALVEAUX: Today marks five years in office for President Barack Obama, a statement that he made, by the way, sparking a lot of controversy and some debate, as well.

The president said that smoking marijuana is no more dangerous than drinking alcohol. He said this in this wide-ranging, revealing interview with the "New Yorker" magazine.

He called pot use a vice, but he also added, "I don't think it is more dangerous than alcohol."

He tied illegal use of pot to also income inequality, saying, you know, middle-class kids don't get locked up for smoking pot, and poor kids do. And African-American kids, Latino kids, are more likely to be poor. And less likely to have the resources and the support to avoid unduly harsh penalties.

The president also said, if he had a son that he wouldn't let him play football, because he fears he would get a concussion. That is the wide-ranging interview he did.

President and first lady also planning to spend -- taking the day, in part, for a service project marking the Martin Luther King holiday today.

King was born on January 15th, 1929, although the federal holiday is celebrated today. He would have been 85-years-old.

A previously unheard recording of Dr. King was actually released today. Now, this was discovered in a Tennessee attic a few years ago.

The civil rights leader is heard discussing John F. Kennedy's role in securing his release from a Georgia prison. King had been sentenced to four months of hard labor for a traffic violation.


MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.: Now, it is true that Senator Kennedy did take a specific step.

He was in contact with officials in Georgia during my arrest, and he called -- my wife made a apparently call and expressed his concern and said he was working and trying to do something to make my release possible.

His brother who at that time was his campaign manager also made direct contact with officials and even the judge in Georgia, so that the Kennedy family did have some part, at least they expressed a concern, and they did have some part in the release.


MALVEAUX: That's just beautiful to hear his voice. The tape donated to the National Civil Rights Museum housed in the Lorraine Motel in Memphis where Dr. King was assassinated.

An historic move now, Iran has begun to roll back its uranium enrichment. The U.S., five other world powers, asked the country to do this, to stop any potential nuclear bomb ambitions.

We're going to take a look at what Iran gets in return.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) MALVEAUX: Today Iran started to dial back its nuclear ambition. Senior administration officials say that Iran has suspend now high levels of uranium enrichment as part of this deal struck with six world powers. This deal came after years and years of stalemate.

Our Jim Sciutto is joining us from Washington.

Jim, we know this is something that the U.S. has been involved, its allies, trying to make this happen for many, many years over the course of many presidents, as well.

How significant is this?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: I would say it's a pretty remarkable day. A long way to go, but you haven't seen progress like this in more than 10 years.

And picture this. You have inspectors from the IAEA, who have fanned out across Iran to all of the nuclear facilities, and they're observing and have been observing today as Iran meets the requirements of this deal, doing things like disconnecting cascades of centrifuges that refine this uranium, enrich this uranium, to levels close to investment -- to weapons grade.

And that hasn't happened for years. There have been stalled attempts to try to get to the point -- to a point like this. And now we're there. And the agreement starts today.

So, you know, I think that that is real progress. It's just an interim agreement, so we have to see how these next six months ago.

MALVEAUX: It's a pretty extraordinary development when you think about it, Jim.

Iran, of course, looking at -- has been looking for quite some time, any kind of economic relief from the sanctions that have been really brutal on a lot of folks there, a lot of pressure on his administration to lift those sanctions.

What kind of carrots are they getting?

SCIUTTO: Well, they're getting some small carrots, compared to the economic effect of the sanctions as a whole.

It's been estimated in value about 6 to $7 billion over the life of this six-month agreement. $4.2 billion of that is frozen assets, Iranian assets frozen overseas. Those are going to be released at about a half billion dollars a time every three or four weeks. That doesn't start for another three or four weeks or so.

But from today, some of the other sanctions relief begins right away. For instance, there have been restrictions on buying auto parts, an airline parts.

This is a big deal in Iran, because some of their planes are old, there are a lot of accidents in Iran and part of that, many Iranians will tell you, is because they can't get the spare parts they need. They're going to start to get those spare parts today.

They're also going to be able to sell some petrochemicals, earns them money probably in the tens, hundreds of millions of dollars.

Now, compared to the total loss from sanctions, a drop in the bucket. It's estimated they lose $30 billion because of sanctions on their oil sales. So when you look at $6 billion, $7 billion in this initial agreement, it's a step. It's a significant step.

But it doesn't, you know, bring them to where they were before the sanctions.

MALVEAUX: And Jim, there's certainly this larger problem here. I mean, it seems like this is a very significant development, but there still seems to be a lack of trust when it comes to Iran.

Has that changed at all when we take a look at where we are in this process? Does it look like there is a little bit golden valley goodwill on both sides and trust?

SCIUTTO: I think so because you wouldn't have been able to come to an agreement like this if there wasn't a modicum of trust. But it doesn't bridge the trust deficit that has been built up over decades, right, of disagreement between the U.S. and Iran.

So, you know, the real test is going to be, does this six-month period lead to a longer-term agreement where you really can get to the point where you can say these are two trusting partners as opposed to wary, you know, still adversaries, really, but at least adversaries that are talking to each other now.

MALVEAUX: Yes, that certainly is progress. All right, Jim, thank you. Appreciate it very much.

SCIUTTO: Thank you.

MALVEAUX: Gay rights are expanding in the U.S. and Europe, but the exact opposite is happening in other parts of the world. From Russia to Nigeria and India, we're going to look at just how being gay is becoming a crime.


MALVEAUX: Gay rights are coming under attack around the world, most recently in India, Russia and parts of Africa. It was just last week that Nigerian authorities arrested 10 people believed to be gay men based on a new law banning homosexuality. Erin McLaughlin takes a look at gay rights around the world right now.


ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In New York, they took their protests --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're going to enforce these laws even to our Olympians? MCLAUGHLIN: Directly to Russia's U.N. ambassador. In Israel, they demonstrated freely. In Moscow, they were arrested. Last June, the Russian government's ban on the promotion of gay rights and relationships in front of minors prompted global protest. And weeks before the Sochi Winter Olympics, the issue is taking center stage. Violence, like this, prompted one American athlete to speak out.

NICK SYMMONDS, ATHLETE: They wanted to express their love for each other. I was just appalled. And I couldn't stay silent anymore.

MCLAUGHLIN: In many parts of the world, LGBT rights are under attack. There's new legislation in Nigeria, where same-sex marriage can now land you in jail. And in Uganda, a controversial bill could mean tougher sentences for gay people.

DAVID BAHATI, UGANDA MP: I don't think that homosexuality is a human right.

MCLAUGHLIN: And there was outrage in India after the supreme court decided to reinstate a 153-year-old law that criminalizes homosexuality.

MCLAUGHLIN (on camera): Take a look at this map. According to the ILGA, an international gay rights group, there are 77 countries that consider homosexual acts illegal. That is 40 percent of U.N.-member nations. And in Mauritania, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Sudan, homosexual acts are punishable by death.

Now, while some countries are moving backwards, others are making progress. There are 14 countries that recognize same-sex marriage. And 59 where laws prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation. Even the Vatican has softened its stance.

MCLAUGHLIN (voice-over): On a plane ride from Brazil to Italy, Pope Francis uttered the five words that have given hope to gay Catholics around the world, "who am I to judge." And last year, despite the huge crowds that stormed the streets of Paris to protest, Bruno and Vincent said their vows, marking the first gay marriage in France.

Those rights now available in parts of the United States. Even in the Bible belt courts are declaring bans on same-sex marriage unconstitutional. It's an issue that has been pushed by the U.S. president, who is sending a delegation of gay athletes to Sochi. He had this to say on "The Tonight Show."

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If Russia wants to uphold the Olympic spirit, then every judgment should be made on the track or in the swimming pool or on the balance beam, and people's sexual orientation shouldn't have anything to do with it.

MCLAUGHLIN: Putin has responded to criticism by defending Russia's conservative values, adding that people of all orientations will be welcome in Sochi. As the world looks forward to the Olympic games, sport and politics collide.

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA, TENNIS LEGEND: The more you try to suppress a group of people, and it's unfair, of course, the more attention you will call to it. And eventually you will lose because you're on the wrong side of history.

MCLAUGHLIN: Erin McLaughlin, CNN, London.


MALVEAUX: And here are more stories making news around the world on this Monday.

Molotov cocktails flying in Ukraine's capital. People hurled them as they rallied in this freezing cold. It's against the government and police here. More than 100 protesters and police officers reportedly were hurt. The tensions now have grown since Ukraine passed new laws last week that limit the right to protests. Now, the White House is calling on both sides to tone it down, urging the government to repeal the protest laws and negotiate with the opposition.

And the president of France says that the first lady is better now and resting in an official residence outside Paris. Francois Hollande made those comments after meeting with the Dutch prime minister in The Hague, but he said nothing more about it. Valerie Trierweiler spent several days in the hospital being treated for stress and fatigue after reports that Hollande was having an affair. He has not confirmed or denied those reports.

And the mysterious death of a beautiful socialite has now rocked India. She was found hours after a Twitter war in which she accused her husband of having an affair. The details straight ahead.


MALVEAUX: A socialite is found dead in a luxury hotel in India. This is just one day after accusing her husband of being unfaithful. She did it very publicly. She did it on Twitter. And now the public is anxious to know what happened to her. Sumnima Udas has the details on this mystery that is rocking India.


SUMNIMA UDAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Chaos outside a New Delhi crematorium, as 52-year-old Sunanda Pushkar's body arrives. Never has the death of a socialite garnered so much intrigue in India. Pushkar's young son and husband, the high-profile politician Shashi Tharoor, requests the media to respect their privacy. But this story of alleged adultery, played out on social media, has gripped India.

NALINI SINGH, FRIEND OF SUNANDA PUSHKAR THAROOR: I think the death of a young, vibrant woman who loved life and then the doctors are saying that it's a sudden, unnatural death, that has a huge amount of curiosity value.

UDAS: Not many knew the Dubai based business woman until she married the suave former U.N. diplomat in 2010. But she very quickly became the life of the party in New Delhi's high society. SINGH: An extremely glamorous woman with startlingly good looks. She had the quality of being a most endearing person. So she would be -- she would pull you into her circle with incredible charm. And so she had innumerable friends.

UDAS: In an often conservative society, though, Pushkar was perhaps ahead of her times.

SINGH: Delhi is quite closed and it's also pretty hypocritical and will say one thing and mean another and not disclose much about themselves. But Sunanda was so open, she would be spontaneous and give you the last details of her life. And people were, you know, a bit drop-jawed at that.

UDAS: She even took her relationship troubles to Twitter, posting personal messages which she claimed were between her husband and Pakistani journalist Mehr Tarar, accusing them of an affair. Tarar called the tweets wild allegations. Tharoor, who's got more than two million Twitter followers, said his account had been hacked. He hasn't addressed the allegations. On Friday, Pushkar was found dead in a luxury hotel room. She called several friends on her last night, including Nalini Singh.

SINGH: She was very distraught. She was very upset. She was crying as if the grip of life had slipped.

UDAS: Doctors have ruled out poisoning. Authorities won't comment until the autopsy results are released, expected early this week. The mystery surrounding the cause of her death still looming.

UDAS (on camera): Sunanda Pushkar's family and friends have just paid their last respects, according to Hindu tradition. Many here still shocked and mystified by what has happened. A solemn end to a life that was anything but.

Sumnima Udas, CNN, New Delhi.



Thanks for watching AROUND THE WORLD. CNN NEWSROOM starts right now. Have a good afternoon.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Right now, using the words false and illogical, Chris Christie's lieutenant governor fiercely denying new charges of favoritism among other things.