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Trump Claims Victory over Debate Issue; U.S./Russia Near Deal on Syrian Airspace; Teen Beaten to Death at Church; Three Dead As Israeli-Palestinian Tensions Escalate; Trump And Bush Twitter Feud Over 9/11 Remarks; Clinton Answers Questions On Benghazi; Oregon "Hero" Describes Attack On Facebook; Dramatic Mudslide Rescue Caught On Camera; Source: Lamar Odom Wakes Up, Speaks To Khloe Kardashian. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired October 17, 2015 - 08:00   ET



CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks, Coy. All right, there is so much more to talk about with you this morning.

BLACKWELL: Next hour of your NEW DAY starts right now.

New this morning, details from the Oregon college massacre. For the first time, we're hearing what happened from the Army veteran being called a hero. He tells the story of how he saved others.

PAUL: And overnight, the Twitter fight between Donald Trump and Jeb Bush intensified. This morning both candidates are facing backlash for comments Trump made about George Bush and the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

BLACKWELL: And heavy rain in California leads to this.


BLACKWELL: A woman is trapped in her car when a mud slide hit, but she managed to take amazing video of the scary ordeal.

PAUL: We're always so grateful for your company. Thank you for being with us. I'm Christi Paul.

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell. Good morning.

PAUL: I want to start with this breaking news that we've been following all morning out of the Middle East. The rash of knife attacks and the growing tensions extending into the weekend now. Three more Palestinians have been shot and killed in separate incidents in Jerusalem and in the west bank city of Hebron.

BLACKWELL: Israeli officials say all the Palestinian attackers had knives and went after police officers and also a Jewish settler. This is video from an incident in Jerusalem.

CNN international correspondent, Phil Black, is in Hebron where two attacks happened. And Phil, I'm noticing you're quickly kind of looking over your shoulder. What is happening there now?

PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We'll show you straight away. So are where we are, is Hebron, essentially a Palestinian city, a Jewish settler community of some 7,000 people inside.

What we're seeing down here, down towards those barricades is where children really, teenagers perhaps at the oldest, pretty regularly hurling rocks, projectiles, in toward Israeli soldiers just around the corner there.

You can't see them from where we are standing here. It's a little calmer now. It was more violent through the morning. But all of this is a response to the same circle of violence we've been seeing repeated here.

These people are the on streets today because of two knife attacks that took place in Hebron earlier. Palestinians wielding knives, who tried to attack and presumably tried to kill Jewish settlers.

And in both cases, the Palestinians wielding the knives were shot and killed and the response is street violence. The last two weeks that was when this strange new phenomenon of knife attacks, street attacks by young Palestinians, teenagers, sometimes young men, attacking Israelis on the streets with knives and cutting implements.

And the human cost of that has been pretty high in the sense that seven Israelis have been killed since the start of October as a result of these attacks. Palestinians say as many as 30 more have been killed in the Israeli responses to those attacks.

What all this shows is that these knife attacks are continuing. That's what we're seeing here in Jerusalem here on the west bank today -- Victor and Christi.

BLACKWELL: All right, Phil Black for us there in Hebron. Phil, thank you so much.

PAUL: Let's talk about the 2016 presidential race now intensifying. Some Twitter feuds specifically between Donald Trump and Jeb Bush. After the Republican frontrunner took shots at President George W. Bush's record on 9/11. Here's what he said to Bloomberg.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When you talk about George Bush, I mean, say what you want, the World Trade Center came down during his time. If you --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hold on, you can't blame Bush for that.

TRUMP: He was president, OK? Don't blame him or don't blame him, but he was president. The World Trade Center came down during his reign.


PAUL: So Jeb Bush fired back tweeting, quote, "How pathetic for Donald Trump to criticize the president for 9/11. We were attacked and my brother kept us safe."

And it didn't end there particularly after CNN asked Trump about his comments later in the day. CNN's Chris Frates is here. I don't think I've ever seen Donald Trump walk away from a microphone.

CHRIS FRATES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, that was one of the biggest surprises last night, Christi. You're exactly right on this, the story doesn't end there because after a campaign rally last night, our own MJ Lee, she asked Trump if he in fact thought George W. Bush was responsible for the 9/11 attacks.

[08:05:07] Here is what he said more to your point didn't say.


MJ LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Mr. Trump, can you clarify, do you think that 9/11 was President Bush's fault? You said on Twitter that your comments about 9/11 --


FRATES: So shockingly quiet Trump there. You know, he regularly takes questions from reporters. So it was kind of unusual a little weird to see him walk away without saying anything at all, but he wasn't done.

A few minutes later, he took to Twitter instead. His first tweet, "At the debate, you said your brother kept us safe. I wanted to be nice and I did not mention the World Trade Center came down during his watch 9/11."

Then he tweeted, got a little testier, said, "No, Jeb Bush, you're pathetic for saying nothing happened during your brother's term when the World Trade Center was attacked and came down."

You know, Christi that last tweet had a kind of I know you are, but what "am I" feel to it, a real tit for tat back and forth here.

You know, also yesterday, it's worth noting that Bush said he had no idea what kind of leader Trump would be because Trump is always too busy talking about himself and not how he would lead the country.

So another thing to remember here, this is a Twitter feud that has been going on between Trump and Bush for months now. Trump has hit Bush on immigration, retweeted messages calling Bush crazy, calling on Bush to stop speaking, quote, "Mexican."

Of course, you know, Bush speaks Spanish. So this is just the latest chapter in this long running feud and we'll see if there is another response today from Jeb or if he's done.

But Trump really picked a sweet spot there on picking on George W. Bush who Jeb has always been pretty quick to defend.

PAUL: Jeb and a lot of Republicans I suppose are defensive in that regard, too, when it comes to 9/11. So it will be interesting to see if there is any change here because of this one. Chris Frates, we appreciate it as always. Thank you.

FRATES: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: What many called a strong debate performance and just a few days before she scheduled to testify before Congress, Hillary Clinton spoke exclusively with CNN's Jake Tapper in New Hampshire on a number of topics including Benghazi. Jake, good morning.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST, "THE LEAD": That's right. I'm here this beautiful Keane, New Hampshire where Hillary Clinton has pulled ahead of her challenger, Bernie Sanders in the first poll taken since the first Democratic debate.

We talked about everything from her marriage to Bill. They just celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary, to her Republican rivals whom she is preparing to face down next week.


TAPPER: You're scheduled to testify before the Benghazi committee in the House of Representatives in a few days. What are you expecting and how are you preparing?

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I really don't know what to expect. I think it's pretty clear that whatever they might have thought they were doing, they ended up becoming a partisan arm of the Republican National Committee with an overwhelming focus on trying to, as they admitted, drive down my poll numbers.

I've already testified about Benghazi. I testified to the best of my ability before the Senate and the House. I don't know that I have very much to add. This is after all the eighth investigation.

Other committees of the Congress, standing committees with very experienced members and staff have all looked into this basically just rejected the conspiracy theories that are still floating out there in some circles so I really don't know.

I will do my best to answer their questions, but I don't know what their objective is right now.


TAPPER: There are lots more to our conversation about Benghazi, her e-mail server, Afghanistan, making college affordable. You can watch it all this Sunday on "STATE OF THE UNION" at 9:00 a.m. and noon Eastern.

PAUL: And former NBA star, Lamar Odom, appears to have a change in his condition this morning. We'll be talking about that and how far the law goes in allowing his estranged wife, Khloe Kardashian, to make his financial and medical decisions now that it seems his medical condition is changing.

BLACKWELL: A lot of questions there. Also we have compelling new details in the Oregon college massacre. For the first timing we're hearing from the Army veteran being called a hero. He's telling the story of what happened that day, how he saved others.

Also ahead, firefighters are beginning to gain the upper hand on a massive wildfire in Texas.



BLACKWELL: We have new details this morning about that horrific campus attack in Oregon earlier this month that left nine people dead. Chris Mintz is the American veteran who was shot several times. He is now giving his firsthand account of what happened that day including the moment he came face-to-face with the shooter.

Nick Valencia is here now with these new details -- Nick.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Victor. You mentioned that he is a U.S. Army veteran and it may have been those instincts and that training that was the difference between life and death for Chris Mintz. Now for the first time we're hearing in his own words what happened that day.


UNIDENTIFIED CALLER: Dispatch as many ambulances as possible. We have upwards of 20 victims.

VALENCIA (voice-over): Chilling new details in the Oregon Community College massacre from shooting survivor, Chris Mintz, the Army veteran who has been called a hero for protecting others.

UNIDENTIFIED OFFICER: He's in the classroom.

VALENCIA: In a Facebook posting, Mintz recalled the day that he says started out as normal, but quickly descended in to chaos. He writes there was a bunch of yelling and that there were gun shots going off that sounded like firecrackers.

Mintz who says he sat in the front of the class says everyone got up and took off. I stopped and held the door open and waited for everyone to leave safely, he writes. He then says he took direction from a counselor that kept screaming someone needed to tell the people in the library and I told her I'd do it.

Mintz writes that he made his way back into the classroom area where he came face-to-face with the gunman. He leaned out and started shooting as I turned toward him, he recalled. This is how he described the shooter.

He was like he was playing a video game and showed no emotion. Mintz says the shots knocked me to the ground and felt like a truck hit me. He then says he was shot again while on the ground and that the gunman said that's what you get for calling the cops.

[08:15:06] Mintz writes that he told the gunman that he didn't call police and they were already on the way, he then yelled to the gunman, it's my kid's birthday, man. Mintz says the shooter pointed the gun right at my face and then retreated back into the classroom.

CHRIS MINTZ, OREGON "HERO": Hello, everyone. Doing well --

VALENCIA: A friend posted this video in the hospital. He's since been released and has this lingering question. I'm still confused at why he didn't shoot me again.


VALENCIA: He said that he decided to make that post on Facebook because he didn't want do any on-camera interviews with the media. He said this is not about publicity. He also on to apologize to those victims and the family members of the victims saying if this resurrects any painful memories, he's sorry.

Mintz was shot five times including one injury to the top of the shoulder that he says came within an inch of his heart. He's lucky to be alive, guys.

BLACKWELL: Nick Valencia, thank you so much.

PAUL: New this morning --


PAUL: Can you imagine being there? Flash flood rescue, dramatic video here out of Bakersfield, California. A woman narrowly pulled from rushing waters there after torrential rains triggered major mudslides and enforced this couple to abandon their car. Another round of rain is making its way to California and the west we

should point out. But take a look here. Thursday mud slides trapped hundreds of vehicles and drivers on highways including Interstate 5.

The mud was as high as 20 feet in some places. For those who were caught in it, obviously it was terrifying experience.

Overnight, I don't know if you've heard about, there has been a change in Lamar Odom's condition.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: His kidneys were all right. He's off dialysis and he's awake now.


PAUL: More on how he's doing and what legal rights his estranged wife, Khloe Kardashian, has to his estate and what happens next with him.

Also new details in the fatal beating of a 19-year-old inside the church where he worshiped in upstate New York, his parents were in court charged with first degree manslaughter and CNN was there.



PAUL: The governor of Texas has declared a state of disaster in a county near Austin after a wildfire burned more than 4,000 acres. The fire just 25 percent contained at this point has destroyed 38 homes already, forced the evacuation of 400 more. The area was the site of another wildfire four years ago and that destroyed nearly 1,700 homes and killed two people.

BLACKWELL: A New York teen who died in a church assault wanted to leave the congregation according to police, who say Leonard Lucas' wish led to a counseling session on his spiritual state. He was beaten during the session, which a witness said ended 14 hours later when people thought Lucas was dead while his parents have been charged with first degree manslaughter. A judge says the case will go to the grand jury.

PAUL: Joaquin Guzman, the drug kingpin better known as El Chapo was injured while evading authorities. This is according to officials who say they launched an operation to recapture Guzman based on intelligence they received. He got away, but not before sustaining injuries to his face and to one leg. Guzman proper out broke out in July. He has been on the run ever since.

BLACKWELL: After 76 years, U.S. Airways is now a thing of the past. The airline took its final flight on Friday. It's been phased out after a 2013 merger with American Airlines. Flight 1939, named for U.S. Airways founding year, departed from Philadelphia and made several connections before finally landing in San Francisco.

PAUL: Some encouraging news this morning for two-time NBA champion, Lamar Odom. His former college coach says Odom woke up yesterday afternoon. Remember he's in a Vegas hospital right now.

A source says Odom was even able to say hello to his estranged wife, Khloe Kardashian. The two signed divorce papers this year. The divorce has not been finalized and what that means is Khloe can make medical decisions for Odom after he was found unconscious in a brothel.

Our legal analyst, Joey Jackson, is here with us for more. But Joey, I think a lot of people are hearing this news that he is awake so what does that mean for Khloe's legal rights now?

JOEY JACKSON, HLN LEGAL ANALYST: Good morning, Christi. It always depends what it means and thank goodness he's awake and we don't know what that means really. Because what it comes down to is whether or not he has capacity, that is if he has the ability to make his own decisions, then he will make his own decisions.

Doctors will be guided by his judgments in the event that he's awake but not really responsive or not competent or not really able to make any type of decisions then, of course, Khloe will to the extent that she still technically is married to him.

And the way the law works is in the event of course that your spouse is in a position to make decisions for you when you're incapacitated, the spouse would do exactly that.

PAUL: OK, a lot of people, too, are looking at this brothel because we know that workers there claim that Lamar was using cocaine, cocaine, of course, illegal. The brothel is not. But do you see anything in the big picture here that would implicate the brothel of any sort of liability in this case?

JACKSON: There certainly could be, Christi, in two respects. One liability of course, we're talking about whether or not they were negligent in any way. And of course, while we're all responsible for our own independent conduct, I get that, certainly in the event that you know that someone is engaging in some use, in the event that that could go poorly or badly to what extent should you intervene.

In addition if you know that someone is maybe, you know, counter- indicating drugs, that is if they're taking herbal supplements with something else then to what extend if you are a place like that, do you have a duty to intervene?

So I think all that will be looked at and if there is any liability, then certainly that liability will fall upon the brothel that he was in. And of course, if there were any laws broken from a criminal perspective.

Not suggesting to this point that we know that they were negligent or to this point we know if they were any crimes that were committed, but certainly if there were, investigators will without question seek to hold that brothel accountable.

PAUL: All right, Joey Jackson, always appreciate your insight. Thank you, sir.

[08:25:07] JACKSON: Thank you, Christi. Have a great day.

PAUL: You too.

BLACKWELL: New rules for the upcoming GOP debate, details on how some of the candidates could find themselves on the sidelines for this one.

And Hungary takes a stance, no more refugees, border crossings are now sealed off.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We want to go to Austria and Germany.


BLACKWELL: And now a growing list of other European countries that are following suit.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My god, this water is going to hit us. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BLACKWELL: After this rain, all the water came out of nowhere and it came up quickly, terrifying scene in Southern California. The northbound lanes of I-5 now have reopened after flash floods sparked mudslides in the area.

Drivers there trapped in cars. Some for hours and hours starting on Thursday as hail found pounded the region and a boulder slid into the road.

Cleanup crews used street sweepers, but the southbound lanes are still closed. It's unclear how many people are still stuck on the highways if any. We'll have much more on this story throughout the morning.

PAUL: Also this morning, Hungary has closed its border with Croatia so that only legal entry now into the country is being restricted to official border crossings. This comes in response to the thousands of migrants and refugees crossing over its borders just in the recent months.

[08:29:54] BLACKWELL: Tensions escalating this morning in the Mideast. Three more Palestinians have been shot and killed in Jerusalem and the West Bank. Israeli officials say the Palestinians attacked police and the Jewish settlers in separate incidents. Now it's the latest wave -- latest in the wave, I should say of knife attacks that have plagued the region in recent days.

Donald Trump claiming victory over CNBC -- he says he's the reason the debate will be capped at two hours.


DONALD TRUMP (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We actually called Ben Carson and myself. We wrote them a letter and said listen, you can have it three hours we're not going to participate. I want to have a good show, I want to have it be good. It's not about me.

And I'm speaking for everybody but they have no power because they have no polling -- right. I'm representing the politicians. Can you believe it? And we won.


BLACKWELL: Well, one thing Trump does not have to worry about is his spot on that debate stage. A new CNN poll of likely Republican voters in South Carolina has him in the top spot 36 percent, doubling Carson there. Trump will be joined on stage by his fellow candidates who get at least 3 percent support in nationally recognized polls. Anything less and the candidates will be relegated to CNBC's version of the happy hour debate.

To discuss we're joined by CNN political commentator and host of "The Ben Ferguson Show", Ben Ferguson and CNN political commentator, former Reagan White House political director Jeffrey Lord -- also supports Donald Trump. Ben, I want to start with you. These new rules, you can have maybe six candidates there and everyone else in the afternoon.

BEN FERGUSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, and I think that's probably not a bad idea if you're one of the guys that's in the top, you're going to like that. It gives you more time to talk. And I think that's why you saw Donald Trump and Ben Carson say we don't need three hours. If it's going to be five, six guys instead of an entire stage of ten plus there is no reason to have three-hour debate.

I also think it's a smart move from Donald Trump because the longer he's on stage, the bigger the chance of a screw up and for somebody to be able to attack and to come after him. Same with Ben Carson; if you're leading, you want to limit your risk.

And two hours, that many people, that's enough time on stage. Remember the last debate he didn't speak at one point for over 30 minutes -- Donald Trump and they're talking policy. And so I think he realized I don't want that to be another talking point again moving forward. I want two hours -- that's enough time. I don't blame him. If I was his adviser I'd tell him to do the exact same thing and especially Ben Carson as well.

BLACKWELL: Jeffrey let me come to you with what we heard from one of the officials for the Republican Party. I have the note here from Sean Spicer who's the spokesman for the RNC. All debates include back channel conversations between the RNC, the campaigns and the networks. This was no different.

However, it is quite different because this isn't a back channel conversation. This happened quite publicly and as Trump said in his words, he won.

JEFFREY LORD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, you know, when he wrote "The Art of the Deal", one of the things he said as an element of the deal is use your leverage. Well, you know, he's ahead in the polls. Ben Carson is right behind him.

And so we heard him here, he called Ben Carson, they got together. I mean without the two of them, this debate would not be much of a debate. And there probably wouldn't be much of an audience for it.

So he did use his leverage here and he is very skillful with it. Two hours is plenty. I went back and took a look at the very first presidential debate, the Kennedy-Nixon debate and I think it was an hour. So, you know, two hours is plenty in this day and age and Donald Trump is also a pretty good master of television. He knows his audience.

BLACKWELL: You're a Trump supporter. Let me ask you about these comments he made about 9/11 and then President George W. Bush. He said that -- he just pointed out that it happened on his watch. Jeb Bush then tweeted out calling Donald Trump pathetic. Is it fair game to mention and to discuss that George W. Bush was in the White House when 9/11 happened? LORD: Sure. I don't really think there is anything remarkable about

this. Anything that happens on any president's watch gets debated for centuries. There are people out there still debating Pearl Harbor and Franklin Roosevelt. When the Bay of Pigs happened with President Kennedy, he held a press conference shorts thereafter, which it was a disaster and he said "I'm the responsible officer of the government." That's just basically true.

FERGUSON: But Jeffrey the difference -- the difference, though, is this. The Bay of Pigs is something that we planned. 9/11 was something that terrorists planned. Let's be real clear about that.

I mean to imply that George Bush somehow is responsible for the terrorist attacks that started planning literally years before -- let me make this clear -- years before it ever happened. The planning of it and the training happened even when Bill Clinton was in office.

LORD: Right.

FERGUSON: And to imply well that happened and somehow is the fault of George Bush I think is one of the most shallow blows by Donald Trump so far. I think it's completely on out of bounds and it was uncalled for because you know this, everybody that would have been in office on that day, 9/11 would still have happened on that day. They had planned that for years. You can't imply that George Bush let us down.

BLACKWELL: All right. Jeff -- go ahead.

[10:35:01] LORD: He was the sitting president. I think that's all we're saying here.

FERGUSON: That's not what Donald Trump is implying and you know that. Let's be honest.

LORD: I haven't seen any evidence at all that President Bush knew this was coming and therefore was negligent. To be perfectly candid --


FERGUSON: Then why did Donald Trump imply that it was somehow his fault.

LORD: A lot of Democrats in the wake of 9/11 that somehow, you know, there was a memo in August and Condi Rice should have known and they were supposed to understand this. I mean it's just not so.

So I think all he's saying here is he's president of the United States, he's the sitting president, you're responsible for what happens on your watch. That's just a fact.

BLACKWELL: Let me ask you this -- Jeffrey. Why then walk away from M.J. Lee when she asked him to clarify twice? He heard the question. He made eye contact. And then he walked away.

LORD: I think he probably just wanted to leave well enough alone because, you know, one of the things he keeps saying he feels he's misinterpreted a lot by the press. He said this to me over a year ago. So I think at this point in the campaign, he decides, you know, if he said something and he just -- leave it alone and just keep going.

BLACKWELL: We have to wrap it there. Jeffrey Lord, Ben Ferguson - Ben, good to have you in Atlanta.

FERGUSON: Nice to be here.

BLACKWELL: All right. Thank you both.

LORD: Thanks guys. Bye.


PAUL: Thank you -- gentlemen.

The U.S. and Russia reach an agreement on avoiding clashes in the skies over Syria. Problem solved or is it still a long way to go before the conflict really is resolved? We have an expert in the region who has some thoughts on this.

Also new details about a bizarre case in upstate New York -- a teenager beaten to death at church and what role his parents allegedly played; a live report for you coming up.

First though, a family-owned business in Los Angeles is putting a new twist on an age-old tradition, they're making shoes by hand and using social media to spread the word.


RYAN CAMPBELL, CO-FOUNDER ZUZII: Being a family business, I think it has its challenges and its rewards. I'm Ryan Campbell.


R. CAMPBELL: And we're the co-founders of Zuzii.

A. CAMPBELL: We are handmade but we're manufacturer in Los Angeles, California. We produce babies, kids and women's shoes. I work with my sister and our mother who is a co-owner.

R. CAMPBELL: Our leather comes from Italy. Our sewing comes from the United States and we cut and sew and assemble all of our shoes in our studio.

A. CAMPBELL: When we started, we wanted to just be a kids' brand. We introduced our women's line. And now the request for men's sizes is overwhelming, so we're in development with that.

All of the shoes are sold on our Web site. We tend to lean towards social media for most of our advertising.

We see a customer post a photo that gets shared by two more customers that gets 1a thousand likes on it, and in the course of a day, we've been exposed to so many new people.

R. CAMPBELL: It was a lot more difficult than I had anticipated getting the company off the ground and required I would say and still to this day 16 hour days every single day. To see it grow with my sister and my mom by my side has been so exciting.


[08:41:47] PAUL: A possible breakthrough for the U.S. and Russia amid the conflict in Syria. A Russian general says a deal to avoid air clashes between the two countries should be signed soon. The news comes just a couple of days after a Russian warplane on a bombing raid in that region came within miles of a U.S. military jet.

Daniel Levy, director of the Mideast and North Africa program with the European Council on Foreign Relations is with us now. Daniel -- thank you so much for being with us.

Does this agreement pave the way, do you think, for more substantive conversations, maybe expanding conversation about Syria or other things with Russia and the U.S.?

DANIEL LEVY, EUROPEAN COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: First of all, I think there is a U.S./Russia conversation that is constantly ongoing despite what has happened over Ukraine, despite the fact that the personal relationship between the two leaders is clearly not a good one. There have been intermittent phone calls.

Secretary Kerry and his counterpart Russian foreign minister Lavrov have continued to meet throughout the Ukraine crisis. On the Iran issue, you had Russia as an integral part of the negotiating team sitting opposite of Iran and President Obama when a very effective Iran deal was reached made the point that America and Russia had managed to work constructively. On Syria, of course, they are taking opposite sides in many respects on the Syria conflict.

I think at the moment we are still looking at arrangements being made for what is called de-confliction (ph). In other words, to make sure that we're both operating in Syrian air space, Russian and American militaries, Russian and American aircraft and the coalition on the American side that there won't be accidental clashes.

Beyond that the question, of course, is can America and Russia now have a serious and results-oriented political dialogue on Syria. We're not there yet, is my assessment. I think both sides are kind of looking at that option and asking, you know, is there a real possibility for some political progress, but we're not there yet -- Christi.

PAUL: What about Russia's motives here in Syria. A lot of people are skeptical about what they really want. Is this about as it has been suggested by some, expanding the Russian Empire, do they want territory here?

LEVY: Well, I think it's hard to make a credible claim that contemporary Russia is really an imperial power. Certainly when seeing what has happened in Ukraine, certainly the Russian leadership thinks in terms of spheres of influence. But I do not think that is unique to Russia.

[08:44:52] I think Russia looks at the ability to have a foothold in the Middle East in terms of its interests, in terms of what that might give it in negotiating power with different states, in terms of what that might do for possible energy routes and exports to European and other markets.

But when you think about what are Russia's motivations, things are often complex -- Christi. So I think there is probably more than one motivation in play when it comes to Russia's position in Syria, when it comes to America's position in Syria, when it comes to others' positions.

And I think the starting point should not necessarily be where do we go with the motivation question, but what can we actually do? Where do American and Russia interests converge? And they do converge. Neither side wants ISIS and other extremist violent groups to be successful. Neither side wants the Syrian state to collapse further. Both sides probably want to see de-escalation in fighting and that might give you a starting point for elaborating a political platform that at some stage can deescalate this crisis.

PAUL: All right -- very good. Very good points. Daniel Levy, we so appreciate you being with us. Thank you.

LEVY: Thank you -- Christi.

BLACKWELL: Beaten to death at church. That's what witnesses say happened to a teenager in upstate New York. His own parents are now charged in this crime. We'll tell you what we've learned overnight about this disturbing case.


[08:49:58] BLACKWELL: New details this morning in the fatal beating of a 19-year-old inside the church where his family worships in upstate New York.

PAUL: And the boy's parents are now charged with manslaughter. Authorities say the beatings were part of a counseling session.

CNN's Jason Carroll has the latest.


JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Victor and Christi -- the case surrounding what happened inside this church behind me now will be heading to the grand jury. Police call it a savage beating although the motive for the beating still somewhat unclear.


CARROLL: Bruce and Deborah Leonard did not testify during the hearing today. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The charge is manslaughter in the first degree.

CARROLL: Instead, they sat and listened to damaging testimony about what allegedly happened in that church counseling session. In the end, their 19-year-old son Lucas was dead. Their 17-year-old son Christopher left in serious condition.

Daniel Irwin, a deacon at the Word of Life Christian Church, told the court he saw Bruce Leonard strike both of the boys inside the church's sanctuary. He said "Leonard hit his son Lucas several times. I heard the sound of a strike. Stop. Then it started again."

Irwin also told the court he saw Lucas was bleeding from his leg, moaning and rolling back and forth on the floor. Irwin then said he also saw Leonard strike his younger son, Christopher, five or six times with something that looked like a belt.

He recalled the beating went on for 14 hours starting around 8:00 Sunday night and lasting until 10:00 a.m. the next morning. When asked why the beating finally stopped, Irwin said because Luke was dead at that point. He said several church members including Leonard's own brother Christopher and his father tried performing CPR but it was too late.

Would you like to elaborate a little bit more about what happened inside and tell us about your experience?


CARROLL: Outside court, Irwin would not comment about his testimony, nothing about the motive for the beating nor about allegations that the counseling session was ordered because Leonard wanted to leave the church.

The Leonards are facing manslaughter charges in the death of their son, four others including the boys' stepsister Sarah are facing assault charges -- all have pled not guilty. Police say they have not concluded why the session turned violent. Bruce Leonard allegedly told investigators his sons may have molested children who belong to the church.

But police say there is no indication of that whatsoever. They say seven children here from the church were taken into protective custody. They were interviewed. They were examined, and police say there is no indication any of them were sexually assaulted.

CHIEF MICHAEL INSERRA, NEW HARTFORD POLICE: The deceased and his brother are victims in this horrible crime. And I want to put out there again there is no evidence that these brothers did anything. They are at this point true victims.

CARROLL: Deborah Leonard's attorney believes his client is also a victim saying Deborah did not have the physical strength to beat her sons. Deborah Leonard claims she only took part in the beginning but that other church members held the brothers down while the beating took place. SCOTT MCNAMARA, ONEIDA COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: I have indicated

before and I will continue to indicate that we are looking at other charges and if other people should be charged, we will present that evidence to a grand jury.


CARROLL: The D.A. now has 45 days from now to present its case to the grand jury and as you heard there by the time the D.A. does that, expect more charges, more possible arrests -- Victor, Christi.

PAUL: Good heavens. We'll keep you updated on that story, of course.

Meanwhile, Johnny Football in a little bit of trouble with the law this morning. Can Johnny Manziel repair his reputation to retain his spot in the NFL or will the Heisman Trophy winner prove to be just too much of a liability for the Cleveland Browns. BLACKWELL: And find out which country next wants to introduce medical

marijuana and how a new law is in the works to make growing pot a legal reality.


BLACKWELL: Australia's government is making key moves to legalize the growing of medical marijuana. Now, officials say that changes to existing legislation that bans the cultivation of weed will be introduced to parliament. And despite these potential changes, growing cannabis for recreational purposes will still be illegal.

PAUL: New details this morning on NFL quarterback Johnny Manziel and his latest run-in with police. Officials say earlier this week, the Heisman Trophy winner was pulled over after a dispute with his girlfriend and it was during that stop that he Manziel to police, yes, he had been drinking. No charges were filed. During the offseason, Manziel spent ten weeks in rehab though over an unspecified condition.

We've been asking you all morning, who is the biggest Heisman disappointment? Well nine-year NFL veteran and CNN sports anchor, Coy Wire, has been listening to a lot of folks talking.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR: Yes, yes -- great conversation this morning. And Manziel has been a disappointment -- right. Control, composure, poise -- that's what you want in a quarterback and he just hasn't shown that. He has great physical talent, but he hasn't shown it.

So was he the biggest or has he been the biggest Heisman disappointment of all time? That was our question we posed to.

Let's get to some of your responses.

Jay said "If off the field counts, it's O.J. hands down." Now O.J. had a great NFL career, but we know off the field that hasn't been the case.

Mark, "Biggest Heisman disappointment was Andre Ware." Now Andre Ware he played three years in the league, only started six games and played in the CFL.

Tayne said "Reggie Bush had to give back his Heisman. Matt Leinart was a bust and USC hasn't been the same without either of them.

Darryl -- now in response to someone from last hour, Darryl says "Charlie Ward was not a Heisman bust. He was a very gifted athlete who was able to choose which sport he wanted to play professionally." So that was a good take.

And one more we'll see, Tab here says, "It's ok RGIII, I hear Gino Torretta's insurance agency has an opening. #HeismanBust"

That burns this morning you guys always keep us laughing and smiling. Thanks for your interaction this morning.

PAUL: We love it.

BLACKWELL: Always appreciate it.

PAUL: Coy Wire.

BLACKWELL: Coy -- thank you.

PAUL: Thank you so much.

WIRE: Welcome.

BLACKWELL: All right. That's it for us this hour. We'll see you back here at 10:00 Eastern.

PAUL: Yes. Don't go anywhere, "SMERCONISH" starts for you right now.