Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

Chris Christie Sworn In; Purdue Says One Person in Custody After Shooting; Russia's Olympic Black Widow Alert; New York Braces for Bitter Cold and Snow; Massive Target East Coast

Aired January 21, 2014 - 13:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Right now, so-called Black Widows are threatening an Olympic tradition as Russia goes on high alert for a possible terror attack.

Also right now, a major snowstorm hitting the eastern half of the United States and keeping air travelers on the ground. More than 2,000 flights already have been cancelled.

And right now, Chris Christie takes the oath of office for four more years. At the same time, he faces an avalanche of allegations since his election victory.

Hello, I'm Wolf Blitzer, reporting from Washington. All that coming up. But right now, we start with some breaking news. Purdue University's official Twitter account reports a shooting on the campus. One person is in police custody. It does not say if anyone has been wounded. Purdue University reports it happened in the electrical engineering building, that police have cleared the building, but they continue to search the area.

The university is asking students to, quote, "shelter in place." We're working our sources trying to figure out what's going on. We'll certainly report any new information as soon as we get it. This reported shooting on the campus of Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. Once again, no reports yet of injuries. One person is in custody.

CNN's Law Enforcement Analyst Mike Brooks is joining us on the phone right now. Let's hope this incident is over with, Mike, and we're waiting for more information from authorities there. But it's obviously very disturbing.

MIKE BROOKS, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST (via telephone): It is, Wolf. And I was looking on Purdue University's Web site, and they give the same information as you did, that there was a shooting in the electrical engineering building, that they have cleared the building and they're continuing to search the area.

But, again, they're telling people to remain sheltered in place. And I think this is -- this is a smart thing, Wolf, until they find out whether this gunman was acting alone or there was someone else. I think it's out of an abundance of caution. But from what I'm looking at and what I'm reading, it sounds like they do have this person in custody. But, again, we don't know if there have been any injuries at all.

BLITZER: And we're showing our viewers some live pictures, courtesy of our affiliate, WTHR, there in West Lafayette, Indiana. Normally, before they would give the all clear, they would want to make sure that they're -- that if they have somebody in custody, that there are no other suspects involved.

Absolutely, Wolf. And one of the things that they'll most likely do is take a look at any video surveillance around that area to see movements of the shooter before, during and after the shooting took place. You know, whether he or she -- we don't know the gender of the shooter -- you know, before all this took place in the electrical engineering building. You know, it's a -- and that's one of the things.

Again, out of an abundance of caution, they're going to make sure that they have cleared that building, that there is no one else involved before they give the all clear. And they'll let people know via the Web site, via Twitter, e-mail, and possibly phone, because most -- as you know, Wolf, most universities and campuses now have some kind of emergency notification system in case there is an active shooter situation such as this.

BLITZER: Mike Brooks, our Law Enforcement Analyst, we'll get back to you as soon as we know more. Once again, the shooting incident on the campus of Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana.

There are also major security problems facing Russia right now as we get closer and closer to the winter Olympic Games in Sochi. Hotels in the area, right now, are being told to keep an eye out for this woman. She is what they call a Black Widow, the width of someone killed while fighting against the Russian government.

Also, apparently, she is not alone. Russian security service forces are also hunting for what they describe as two other so-called Black Widows who could attack the Olympic torch relay. This is the concern they have right now in Russia.

Our own Phil Black is joining us right now from Volgograd which was the site of a couple of recent terror attacks. The torch was there yesterday. Phil, what are they saying? How imminent is this current threat against this historic torch relay, making its way slowly but surely toward Sochi?

PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: One of them potentially very imminent, Wolf. So, this involves initially a group of women, they believe, so- called Black Widows or female suicide bombers that they believe would be targeting the torch relay in the city of Rostov-on-Don, a southern city of Russia not far -- not too far from Volgograd. The flame, the torch relay, was in Rostov today. It'll be there again tomorrow so that threat would seem to be current and possibly very imminent.

The plot initially involved three women. One of the women was killed in an operation by Russian security forces just on the weekend. But it would seem the location of the other two women remains unknown. And as you have touched on, there is another potential Black Widow threat as well. One woman, the widow of a known militant, is thought to be already in Sochi possibly planning an attack there. And all of this now really just a couple of weeks before the opening ceremony of the games -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And they already have, what, 25,000 volunteers gathering for the games, ready to it deal with these kinds of potential problems, is that right?

BLACK: Yes, that's right. Big numbers of both police and security forces, volunteers as well. The Russian authorities are not speaking specifically about these Black Widow threats, not talking publicly about them, anyway. But the reason we know about them is because they are talking to people on the ground. Workers in hotels.

We understand also volunteers, as well, possibly seeking their help. So, while publicly they say they believe all precautions are taken and that the games will be safe, they are clearly concerned enough about these specific plots to seek the help of people on the ground in trying to find these women -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Phil. We'll check back with you. Phil Black in Volgograd for us, not all that far away from Sochi.

Other news we're following. It's not another polar vortex but it's apparently close. The mid-Atlantic and northeast here in the United States had better get ready for some brutal weather conditions like these in North Dakota. Bitter cold and blowing snow heading towards the east. Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, New York City. They are all in the bull's eye right now.

We've got it all covered. CNN's Ted Rowlands is in Chicago. Zain Asher is in New York. Rene Marsh is over at Reagan National Airport here in Washington. All joining us to deal with these current problems. Ted, first to you. Set the scene in Chicago. How low will these temperatures plunge?

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Below zero, Wolf. And, yes, start with us because we're getting it first. We had the snow last night. The commutes into the city of Chicago were horrible today, two hours from O'Hare into the city. Normally it's about a 40-minute drive. You see the Chicago River is frozen for the most part.

And look down the Michigan Avenue Bridge here in Chicago. Normally around noontime, Wolf, this would be packed with people. But people are staying in their office buildings, eating lunch inside today, for the most part. Those that are out are bundled up. It is cold. We're in single digits right now. It's expected to get down around zero and significantly below zero when you add that Chicago wind chill. It is cold and it's coming your way.

BLITZER: All right, Ted Rowlands, we'll check back with you. Let's go to Zain Asher. She's in New York City which could get a significant amount of snow. It's already coming down, I take it, Zain. What's it like?

ZAIN ASHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Say, Wolf, it is freezing out here. What we're experiencing in terms of snow, it's a little bit of a light dusting. But here's the issue. It sort of comes at you sideways so sort of really hits you in the face. I can barely feel my cheeks right now.

I'm going to show you what the city actually looks like. I'm going to stand aside so you can actually see. New York City, those of you who don't know -- for those of you who don't know, this area of New York City --

BLITZER: Zain, hold on --

ASHER: -- (INAUDIBLE) is a major --

BLITZER: Zain, hold on one second because we've got an issue with your microphone. It's not really working oh very well. I'm going to -- we're going to fix that. We're going to get back to you in a moment.

Let's check in with Rene Marsh in the meantime. She's over at Reagan National Airport. It's not just in D.C. or New York, Chicago. There are a lot of cancelled and delayed flights, aren't there?

RENE MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Wolf. You know, at this hour, we are inching towards the 3,000 mark, as it relates to cancellations. But we want to put that number in context for you. On an average day, when you look at cancellations, we're talking about roughly 200. So, today already, we are way past that.

And then, if we compare to that storm that we saw earlier this month, the worst day on -- earlier this month, we were approaching 4,000 cancellations. So, we're not quite there yet with this storm, but we do expect those numbers to go up.

So, where are we seeing the most problems? We're seeing it at airports like Philadelphia, LaGuardia, in New York, JFK, Newark, and right here at Reagan airport in Washington, D.C. As far as the airlines go, we want to know -- we wanted to know who is seeing the most cancellations. At last check, according to Flight Aware, JetBlue seeing the most cancellations. They are saying they are sending their operations to and from New York and Boston areas -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Rene with the latest on cancellations and delays. Let's go back to Zain Asher in New York. Zain, all right, now go ahead and tell us what's going on in New York City.

ASHER: Hey, it seemed like we were having some technical issues. But, yes, you know, the snow is coming down sideways. It is just a little bit of light dusting right now but it's coming down sideways so it really does hit you in the face. And it hurts. I can barely feel my cheeks right now.

But I was going to step aside so you could actually see some of Columbus Circle. This is a major artery of New York City. Usually, on a Tuesday afternoon, this place would be packed with tourists. But right now, it looks as though New Yorkers are actually heeding to some of the warnings.

What they're really worried about is what's going to happen between 4:00 today and 10:00 this evening. That's where we're expecting eight to 12 inches of snow. We're expecting the temperatures to drop significantly. I don't know about you, Wolf, but I am someone who gets cold very, very easily. And when you factor in that wind chill, it's going to feel more like minus five degrees.

I do want to talk quickly about visibility because that's going to be a problem, especially when you factor in wind gusts as well. So, if you have the option in New York between taking a car and also taking public transportation, I would recommend public transportation because it's going to be safer but it also will allow the snowplows and sanitation departments to do their job.

But speaking to New Yorkers, though, they are a resilient bunch. They are -- they have been expecting this kind of weather. But Bill de Blasio -- Mayor Bill de Blasio did actually mention that if you are on the streets of New York and you do happen to see somebody who is without shelter or homeless, make sure you call 311. Obviously, in these kinds of temperatures, no one deserves to be outside and helpless -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. Zain, unlike me, you obviously didn't grow up in Buffalo, New York. So this --

ASHER: No, I'm from London.

BLITZER: -- is all new to you.

ASHER: Yes, yes.

BLITZER: So, go ahead, dress warmly and deal with it. It's not that bad. Not that bad, yet. All right, Zain, thanks very much.

The New Jersey governor, Chris Christie, is in the middle of the storm, literally and figuratively. He's being -- he just was sworn in for a second term though under a cloud of controversy. And his inaugural gala has been cancelled because of the snow in New Jersey.

Gloria Borger standing by to discuss this and more. We'll talk about the road ahead for Chris Christie.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The New Jersey governor, Chris Christie, was sworn in for a second term on this snowy day, also sworn in under a cloud of controversy. Christie took the oath of office in Trenton, New Jersey about an hour or so ago. During his inaugural address, he steered clear of the scandals facing his administration right now. The latest one involves allegations of using Superstorm Sandy relief funds to try to bully the mayor of Hoboken, Christie's administration strongly denying the charge. Instead Christie talk -- Christie talked about unity and responsibility. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: As your governor, I will always be willing to listen. As long as that listening ends in decisive action for the people who are counting on us to do our job. Because, you see, in the end, I have had no greater honor in my life than having twice been elected by my fellow citizens to be the governor of the state where I was born and raised. With that honor comes solemn obligations to make the hard decisions, to raise the uncomfortable topics, to require responsibility and accountability, to be willing to stand hard when principles are being violated, and to be willing to compromise to find common ground with all of our people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Chris Christie, his inaugural address. He clearly looks a lot better than he used to. Obviously, he's lost some weight. Got a nice haircut. But he's got some political problems right now.

On the investigative front, the New Jersey state assembly and the senate announced today they will now form one committee to look into the allegations against the governor. The New Jersey assemblyman, John Wisniewski, is chairman of the state panel probing the bridge closures. He's also a Democrat.

So what do you think, first of all, of the governor's speech?

JOHN WISNIEWSKI (D), NEW JERSEY STATE ASSEMBLY: I thought the governor gave a good speech. He talked about policies that he wants to pursue in the upcoming term. And I think that's perfectly acceptable and appropriate for a governor.

The thing that always gets missed, Wolf, though, is, how do we pay for these things? The governor mentioned a tax cut, he talked about education, but he didn't talk about how he'd pay for those things. And that's always the Achilles heel of every New Jersey budget.

BLITZER: You're the deputy speaker of the state assembly, but you're now merging these investigations with the senate. Walk us through how this will -- how this will go forward.

WISNIEWSKI: Well, instead of having two committees, instead of having two sets of subpoenas and potentially two sets of hearings where we call people to testify, it will be unified between both houses. We'll share counsel. Reid Shar (ph) will be council to the joint committee. It will make the effort more efficient, more effective and we'll get to the root cause of this abuse of power a lot sooner.

We're going to continue to wait. We issued subpoenas last week. They have until the beginning of February to respond. As soon as we get those, the committee will sit down and begin to analyze the documents and decide who comes next in terms of do we bring people in for testimony or do we need more documents.

BLITZER: What, in your opinion, Mr. Speaker, is more serious, a more serious problem for the governor, more serious problem for some of his aides? The closure of those lanes leading to the George Washington Bridge, supposedly for political purposes, punishment, if you will, for the mayor of Fort Lee, New Jersey, or the charges that the mayor of Hoboken have put forward against the lieutenant governor of New Jersey, that she supposedly was linking Sandy aid, Superstorm Sandy relief funds, in connection with getting approval for some major real estate development project in Hoboken? What is a more serious problem?

WISNIEWSKI: Right. Well, I think the more serious issue for this administration are the e-mails that go right into the governor's office authorizing the lane closure. I mean the lane closure was clearly not for any governmental reason. It seems to be for political or other reasons. That's not appropriate action for the governor's office. We need to understand how that came to pass in the governor's office, who authorized it.

On the Hoboken front, we have an allegation by the mayor. We have a strong rebuttal by the lieutenant governor. We don't have all the facts. We don't have all the details. So I think what the committee is going to focus on is the work we've started. These other issues may ultimately, we don't know enough about it, but we're going to continue to focus on the details we have, which are e-mails linking the lane closure directly into the governor's office.

BLITZER: And he has flatly denied any knowledge of those e-mails. He has fired those individuals who were sending those e-mails. But you're not ready to close the case on his personal involvement in that, are you?

WISNIEWSKI: Well, we need to get more facts. I mean clearly the governor said last week that he did not know about any of this until January 8th. Given the context of the election year and the high officials in his administration that were involved, it's really hard to believe that the governor did not know anything about these lane closures until January 8th. We don't have any document that says he ordered it. We don't have any document that says he knew it was ordered. But we do have an open question, how could this one woman in the governor's office come to think that she had the authority to close these lanes, and apparently have it come as some type of political payback? It's inappropriate behavior. It's an abuse of power. And then there was the effort to conceal it, to cover it up, which is even more troubling because a lot of resources were used to try to make it look like some governmental research project when, in fact, it was nothing more than an attempt to cover up the lane closure.

BLITZER: Assemblyman John Wisniewski, thanks very much for joining us. The assemblyman is the deputy speaker of the New Jersey State Assembly.

WISNIEWSKI: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much. Go inside, it's getting cold and snowy up in New Jersey right now.

WISNIEWSKI: It is. BLITZER: The gala tonight celebrating Chris Christie's inauguration, as a result, has been cancelled because of this winter storm that's brewing in New Jersey and the northeast. Symbolic, perhaps, as Governor Christie tries to weather the political storms he's now facing. Our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger, is here to talk a little bit about all of this.

What does he need to do right now, starting his second term, coming off a landslide re-election, to get his --

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Do his job.

BLITZER: Yes.

BORGER: He's got to do his job. He's got to prove to the people of New Jersey that he can be a bipartisan governor. I mean you heard his speech, Wolf. It was all about the coalition that brought him in to office, which was very broad. And also he's got to prove that he can get -- that he can get his work done while these investigations are going on, on a separate track. He talked a lot in his speech about the trust that people had placed in him. That's a big problem right now. When you look at some polls, nationally at least, 58 percent in one recent poll do not believe the governor when he said he had no knowledge of these lane closures. So he's got a lot of work to do there.

BLITZER: You know, a new Quinnipiac University poll has just been released, literally within the last hour or so, clearly shows he's lost some ground to Hillary Clinton in a hypothetical presidential contest in 2016. And let's be honest, the reason we're so interested in this story, because he was one of the front runners for the Republican presidential nomination.

BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: In December, look at how close it was, Christie, 42, Clinton, 41. Now, Christie, 38, Clinton, 46. Now, it's very early in this process. A lot can change. But it does show the political price he's already starting to pay.

BORGER: And he's paying a political price with independent voters. Those are the people that he's saying the Republican Party, you need to attract to win a presidential race. I can get those independent voters. Look at what I did in the state of New Jersey. I got independents. I got Democrats to vote for me, as well as Republicans. So if you look inside these numbers, he's really losing ground with those independents.

What's interesting to me, Wolf, though, is that his numbers, as far as Republicans are concerned, remain pretty much the same. Republicans are sticking with Chris Christie. But it's those independent voter that tend to be so fickle. But they're against him now, they could always shift back, but he has to win it back.

BLITZER: Yes, the reason he had a landslide is because he did well with independents and the Democrats, too. Not just Republicans. BORGER: And he - and he - and he did well with women and he did well with minorities -

BLITZER: Yes, he did.

BORGER: Which is - which is something he saying to (ph) the Republican Party, we don't have a lot of.

BLITZER: Gloria, thanks very much.

Other news we're following. Affection among first families. Barbara Bush has some very kind words for a former rival and says the key to their relationship is not talking politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Updating you right now on the breaking news story. We've been following reports of a shooting on the campus of Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. The university's official Twitter account says one person is now in police custody. However, it does not say if anyone was wounded by the shooter. Purdue reports the gunfire broke out in the electrical engineering building. Police have cleared the building, but they continue to search the area. The university is asking students to shelter in place until police say there is no longer any threats. These are live pictures we're showing you, courtesy of our affiliate, WTHR. When we get more information, we'll update you, of course, on that story.

The former first lady, Barbara Bush, has been in the news lately for her motherly advice, saying she doesn't necessarily think her son, Jeb Bush, should run for president. Now she's making news for her opinion of the former president, Bill Clinton. While she admits that they are political adversaries, she also confesses she has a very special affection for Bill Clinton. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARBARA BUSH, FORMER FIRST LADY: My husband, Bill Clinton, and I have become great friends. And Bill visits us every summer. And we don't agree politically, but we don't talk politics. Bill's father wasn't around. And I think that he thinks of George a little bit like the father he didn't have. And he's very loving to him. And I really appreciate that. And when they went on that long tsunami trip, George told me Bill insisted he stay in the bed and Bill insisted that he was taken care of, and that was really nice. I love Bill Clinton. Maybe not his politics, but I -

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right, she says maybe not his politics, but I love Bill Clinton. Very, very nice words from Barbara Bush.

Let's discuss what she said a little bit more with our senior political analyst, Ron Brownstein, who's joining us today from Los Angeles.

There is a little family rivalry.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.

BLITZER: You probably remember the 1992 election when Bill Clinton, the challenger, beat the incumbent, George H.W. Bush.

BROWNSTEIN: Yes, I do. Yes, no, you know, we know from a terrific book a couple years ago by Mike Duffy and Nancy Gibbs at "Time." "The President's Club," that a lot of presidents have had rich relationships with their predecessors. But what really makes this extraordinary is what you mentioned, Bill Clinton beat George H.W. Bush in 1992 in a race that was not bean bagged, as the saying goes in politics, and yet they have built a very, you know, personable and productive relationship. Barbara Bush mentioned the tsunami relief. I mean the reality is that Bill Clinton and George W. Bush are almost exactly the same age. So the idea of Clinton seeing George H.W. Bush as a little bit of a father figure is not that far-fetched.

BLITZER: Yes, it's not that far-fetched at all when you know the history of both of these former presidents of the United States. And it raises the possibility, and it's certainly a possibility, Hillary Clinton could be the Democratic presidential nominee in 2016, and the former Florida governor, Jeb Bush, a moderate Republican, a conservative, he could be potentially the Republican presidential nominee. So how does that play out?

BROWNSTEIN: Yes, that would be extraordinary, right? 1992 wants its politics back. Well, look, as you noted, Barbara - and one of the problems Jeb Bush has is that his mother, Barbara Bush, on several occasions, has said, well, maybe the country has had enough of the Bushes for the time being. It's not clear that he is moving actively toward a candidacy.