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Democratic Senator Wants Records On Trump Mansion Sale To Russian; Railroad Safety Official Resigns Over Possible Ethics Violation; Kim Jong-un's Sister Visits Seoul; Teen Wins The First Gold For Team USA; American Skier A Favorite To Win Gold; Record Breaking Snowfall To Cause Travel Delays; Over 45 Million Under Flood Watch In The Southeast; Sightseeing Helicopter Crashed In Grand Canyon Aired 6-7a

Aired February 11, 2018 - 06:00   ET





UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is another example of the White House being forced to deal with a crisis.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There has to be a zero tolerance towards that type of domestic violence.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president is being rather defiant in response to these accusations against two of his now former staffers.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: He said very strongly yesterday that he is innocent, but we absolutely wish him well.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Disgusting comes to mind. Disturbing also comes to mind.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's important for the president to acknowledge the victims.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are in the middle of a Sunday afternoon protest in Seoul. These people are angry about what is going on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Vice President Pence came here calling for maximum pressure and isolation of North Korea and instead the North Korean delegation was in the VIP box with him.


VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news this morning, one of the biggest tourist attractions in the country, three people are dead and four injured after a sight-seeing helicopter crashed in the Grand Canyon.

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Now, this is what we know. Local officials had to call the military in to get help with this rescue because it's dark. It's windy. It's rocky terrain where they are and that is really making things difficult for them. We will have more on this breaking news for you in just a few minutes.

Meanwhile, Democrats are demanding answers as the White House faces questions over the handling of two staffers accused of domestic abuse.

BLACKWELL: Yes, a dozen Democratic senators have sent a letter to Chief of Staff John Kelly and White House Counsel Don McGahn. The senators asked when the White House found out about the abuse allegations and why those staffers were allowed to keep their jobs until this week.

It's not only moral question. There are also national security implications. The letter asks should Rob Porter have been handling classified information with interim clearance?

PAUL: President Trump appeared to continue defending his now former staffers, this time on Twitter, saying, "Lives are being destroyed over a, quote, "mere allegation" and whatever happened to due process?" After that an attempt for the pivot to the president to the ongoing fight over immigration.

BLACKWELL: All right. Joining us live from Washington is CNN correspondent, Kristen Holmes. Kristen, so many questions and now Democrats are trying to get answers to those -- this White House is still in cleanup mode.

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Victor. Good morning, Christi. Well, that is absolutely right. They are a White House in turmoil which we have seen a lot in the past year. But that pivot to immigration you mention that and likely because of the outrage sparked by that first tweet.

This has really become a pattern for President Trump. He blames not the people conveying the crime, but almost the victim in a sense here and when these accusations are to his colleagues, his friends and even to himself.

Now people took issue with two parts of this tweet. One being due process. We know that both of Porter's ex-wives did contact the FBI and the other being these victims. There is no mention either when President Trump reacted to the firing the first time or the resignation, excuse me, the first time or in this tweet.

Take a listen to what a Republican Congressman Charlie Dent had to say about that.


REPRESENTATIVE CHARLIE DENT (R), PENNSYLVANIA: There has to be a zero tolerance towards that type of domestic violence that is being discussed in these two situations. That is very clear. Of course, we should be very sympathetic and empathetic to the victims and to the women who have been violated here subject of violence. That said, I think it's important for the president to acknowledge the victims. (END VIDEO CLIP)

HOLMES: That was a Republican Congressman. Now you have this letter from 12 Democratic senators. They want to know when White House Counsel Don McGahn knew, and Chief of Staff John Kelly knew. Was Porter handling classified documents without a security clearance and did Porter tell the security clearance office here, the FBI on this background check that he had these allegations?

Now this is what they are asking. I want to run down a timeline for you on what we know from White House Producer Kevin (inaudible). He says back in January or February of 2017, Porter asked Don McGahn about background check process. He said his ex-wives may present potentially damaging information.

Then again Porter's wives are interviewed by the FBI in that same time frame. They provide the details of their marriages and in the spring, the FBI provides a preliminary report including detailed provided by the wives to the White House Security Office.

In the fall of 2017, Porter is interviewed by the FBI and these domestic issues are brought up. He provides more detail and he tells McGahn about what his ex-wives are claiming. He denies that he has done any of this. So, this goes on and on.

And obviously, we know, in the recent weeks, Porter's ex-girlfriend called McGahn to express concerns about his romantic relationship with Hope Hicks.

[06:05:10] And we also know that in the fall of this year, Chief of Staff John Kelly was made aware of these allegations and of the fact it was hindering his security clearance process. That is the information we are being told from our sources at the White House, but again, this is clearly causing major turmoil inside of the White House.

BLACKWELL: All of the specifics that the White House did not want to get into late last week, we will see if they answer those questions from the Democratic senators. Kristen Holmes in Washington for us, thank you.

PAUL: Well, a defense of the man accused of abuse or harassment and not a word about the victims. You just heard it there. We have heard this before because there seems to be a bit of a pattern here. Remember what he said about his former campaign leader, Corey Lewandowski. Remember, Lewandowski was accused of grabbing a female reporter's arm so hard that he left bruises.


PRESIDENT TRUMP: He is a good person with a wonderful family, four beautiful kids and they are destroying that man over nothing. You take a look at that tape and she is grabbing me. Maybe I should press charges against her. She is not supposed to be grabbing me.

(END VIDEO CLIP) PAUL: Here is what he said about former Fox News Chief Roger Ailes after he was accused of sexual harassment.


PRESIDENT TRUMP: I can tell you that some of the women that are complaining, I know how much he's helped them.


PAUL: Ailes' ally and former Fox News personality, Bill O'Reilly, also accused of sexual harassment.


PRESIDENT TRUMP: He is a person I know well. He is a good person. I think he may -- you know, I think he shouldn't have settled. I don't think Bill would do anything wrong.


PAUL: Alabama Senate Candidate Roy Moore accused of pursuing teenagers even molesting an underage girl. The president not only defended him, he endorsed him.


PRESIDENT TRUMP: If you look at what is really going on and all the things that have happened over the last 48 hours, he totally denies it. He says it didn't happen and you have to listen to him also.


PAUL: And then the president, himself, as a candidate, he was accused by multiple women of sexual harassment and assault and here is what he said about his own accusers.


PRESIDENT TRUMP: They just come out, some are doing it for probably a little fame. They get some free fame. It's a total setup. I was with Donald Trump in 1980! I was sitting with him on an airplane! And he went after me on the plane! Yes, I'm going to go after you. Believe me. She would not be my first choice, that, I can tell you.


PAUL: Let's bring in Sarah Westwood and Julian Zelizer to talk about this. So, you know, he brought up due process yesterday as we were just talking about. Certainly, that is something that everybody has afforded, no doubt about it.

If President Trump, though, is so concerned about speaking to his base, we need to be very honest here. Domestic violence is happening to people who may be watching right now. They are living with it and then could be very well in his base. There is no socio-economic parameter where domestic violence stops. So, with that said, you know, there may be no proof that something happened at one point, but there is no proof that it did not happen in the early stages of this.

So, is there a political repercussion, Sarah, for the president dismissing allegations immediately?

SARAH WESTWOOD, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, "WASHINGTON EXAMINER": Absolutely. Because due process typically applies to a court of law and we are not talking about a court of law. We are talking about the privilege of getting to work for the president of the United States.

There is a higher standard for that than when a jury convicts someone of a crime. I think he is sort of conflating two different processes here. Once again, President Trump's messaging is out of sync with the rest of his White House.

Because the rest of his White House has been quite contrite about how this whole thing played out. They've admitted perhaps for the first time that they mishandled the initial response to what was going on and everyone else seems to be rushing to apologize and cover up what was a devastating mistake for the west wing, except for President Trump who seems to remain defiant in criticism of this decision.

So, it makes the White House looks like they don't have a handle on their communication surrounding this disaster and it makes President Trump look unsympathetic to Rob Porter's wives.

PAUL: I want to listen to Representative Charles Dent here who is a Republican. Here is what he had to say about what you're referring to, Sarah, the larger question here, perhaps.


REPRESENTATIVE CHARLIE DENT (R), PENNSYLVANIA: I saw this during the Michael Flynn case when there were red flags raised at the time, and those red flags were either ignored or just not seen by those who should have seen them. So, I think, really, that is the bigger question. They have to do a much stronger job of vetting people.


[06:10:06] PAUL: Julian, is there any indication what the White House policy is on hiring someone who may have some sort of violent past?

JULIAN ZELIZER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, we don't know what the policy is, but this case suggests this is not front and center of the kind of concerns that they have with personnel. And I think what you are suggesting and showed with that video.

There is a clear and consistent pattern from the president at least where when it comes to his own inner circle and when it comes to himself, he doesn't take these very seriously, these kinds of accusations.

So, I think this is exactly the question the senators want to ask, but the answer might be pretty apparent from the case.

PAUL: Sarah, any indication to, based on what Representative Dent said, that Representative Dent said, they were either ignored or they weren't seen by those who should have seen them? Does there seem to be a deficiency in what they know about who they are allowing into the White House?

WESTWOOD: I think the White House was in a really difficult position around the time of the transition and that position hasn't necessarily changed very much now in that a lot of the Republican establishment didn't want to be associated with President Trump during the campaign or even after his victory in the election.

And so, they struggled to find qualified candidates to fill these high-level positions and so many high-level Republicans working in Washington signed letters denouncing President Trump's candidacy and campaigned against him.

So, they had to accept people maybe underqualified for these jobs or who wouldn't pass a traditional vetting process because they just needed these jobs filled by relatively competent people in it.

So, it seems time and again they've been willing to look past the sorts of things in people's backgrounds that would typically disqualify them from White House jobs because they just needed people to work in the White House.

PAUL: So, Julian, in this Democratic letter, remember, there are also -- they are also contending this is a national security issue because Rob Porter did have temporary security clearance at the time. Is that an issue for national security?

ZELIZER: Well, it is an issue. He shouldn't have been handling that kind of material. This is an issue that has now emerged in other cases as well and it might be a way for the senators to elevate this from a question of vetting and a question of choice of personnel to a national security issue.

But, look, let's also remember it's not clear this is simply a vetting problem. President Trump has been the voice of the white male backlash and in some ways this is entirely predictable, his response, his decision perhaps months ago not to take this as a serious issue. And this is the personal and political strategy he has pursued for a long time. So, in the end, it's not as surprising as some people might think.

PAUL: All right. And real quickly, immigration, obviously, is something that is going to be -- is something that is on the forefront. Democrats want it taken care of. The president tweeted that he has identified three major priorities for his immigration policy, fully securing the border and ending chain migration and cancelling the visa lottery.

He's touting that Congress has to secure the immigration system and protect Americans. The question is he didn't say when. Sarah, any indication when that conversation is coming up in Congress? WESTWOOD: Well, there are already talks in Congress and they don't seem to be making very much progress. You have even some Republicans admitting that think they can only get to two of the priorities from President Trump's original four-pillared plan that he laid out in the state of the union and the two pillars being protecting DREAMers and securing the border.

The other two things, visa lottery program and chain migration are things that will be very difficult for Congress to get to because Democrats and Republicans are so far apart.

PAUL: Jeff Flake, though, had voted for the tax plan because he said he was assured that DACA would come to the table. Julian, I have 5 seconds. What do you say to that?

ZELIZER: Well, they are going to insist on DACA, the Democrats, and, in exchange, they have to give two or three of the pillars he wants and that is what this video is. This is an appeal to hardline restrictionists, and it is a demand in exchange for DACA. So, you're hearing the debate right in front of us.

PAUL: Sarah Westwood and Julian Zelizer, we appreciate you both so much. Thank you.

Be sure to watch "STATE OF THE UNION" with Jake Kapper today. White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway will be on the show as well as former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson. That's "STATE OF THE UNION" with Jake Tapper today at 9 a.m. Eastern.

BLACKWELL: We've got more on the deadly crash, this fatal crash in the Grand Canyon where three people were killed when a sightseeing helicopter went down and caught fire. The rescue efforts that are happening right now to save those injured survivors.

PAUL: And critics are raising suspicions over Trump's hefty $95 million mansion sale to a Russian back in 2008. We are going to have the former director of Government Ethics on to discuss.

[06:15:11] BLACKWELL: And the U.S. takes home its first gold in the Winter Olympic games.

PAUL: Coy Wire is in Pyeongchang with more on snowboarding sensation, (inaudible).

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Christi, Victor, I was right there among the friends and family members of the freckled faced kid, 5'5" and larger than life. What an incredible story and I'll try to help take you there in a bit on NEW DAY.


PAUL: Breaking news out of Arizona, three people have died and four others are injured after a sightseeing helicopter crashed in the Grand Canyon.

BLACKWELL: Now local police have called in the military to help rescue the survivors because the terrain is very rocky and you can probably hear how strong the winds are there. CNN's Polo Sandoval joins us now live with details.

[06:20:04] Polo, I had a third element of that trinity causing some problems for rescuers. The virtual darkness at this hour to try to get to those who survived.

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Victor. It is virtually the middle of the night here. This is a very rural part of the Grand Canyon and difficult to access there. Starting with those survivors, four of the seven people who were aboard that sightseeing helicopter, as you mentioned the weather and the terrain, it is rocky and rugged

Very difficult to access and to evacuate and air-lift those four people that according to the tribal police there, at least those four patients are described as being level one trauma patients.

This tour operated by PAPI describing itself as one of the largest sightseeing companies in the world on its website there. A helicopter that was being operated was manufactured by Airbus Helicopters, an EC- 130, a single engine helicopter.

It's very capable of transporting up to eight people and popular in the law enforcement and tourism industry. The National Transportation Safety Board going to be called in to investigate this crash as they try to come up with a cause of this deadly chopper crash.

We did look through NTSB records and they showed there was a helicopter accident that involved this company back in 2001 and that resulted in six people dead and one injured. The ultimate investigation they are revealing that that incident was pilot error.

So, it will be interesting to see what comes out with this investigation. Again, the crash took place yesterday evening. A sightseeing helicopter resulting in the death of several people. Four survivors of the seven people aboard this helicopter.

I can tell it was one pilot and six passengers so a total of seven people that were aboard this sightseeing tour in the Grand Canyon. We understand they have a support or assistance that arrived on the scene, but the main issue here, Victor and Christi, is simply airlifting these survivors from the scene.

PAUL: Polo Sandoval, thank you so much for the update and we will keep you apprised of what we learn throughout the morning.

BLACKWELL: Melee here of angry crowds. This is the streets of South Korea as the North Korean leader's sister makes a push for friendlier ties between the two countries. We will have details on what happened here in just a moment.

PAUL: Why the president's sale of a multi-million dollar mansion to a Russian billionaire is under new scrutiny this morning.


PAUL: Welcome back. It's good to have you here. I'm Christi Paul.

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell. Good morning to you.

A Democratic senator is raising questions over President Trump's Palm Beach mansion sale to a Russian billionaire in 2008. Senator Ron Widen wants the Treasury Department to hand over records of a $95 million real estate deal.

PAUL: Widen claims the property's appraisal value fell $30 million short of the sale price. Here is CNN's Pamela Brown.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you had any dealings with the Russians?

PRESIDENT TRUMP: Well, I've done a lot of business with the Russians.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The most expensive home ever sold in America.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In 2008 at the height of the U.S. housing collapse, Trump made a record breaking deal with a Russian oligarch known as the "Fertilizer King" Dmitry Rybolovlev.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He bought from Donald Trump a mansion about 2 miles from Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: I paid $40 million. I sold it for a hundred million dollars and I sold it to a Russian.

BROWN: Rybolovlev would reappear during the 2016 election when according to McClatchy News his private plane was spotted in two U.S. cities where Trump was campaigning, Concord, North Carolina, and Las Vegas, Nevada.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It certainly looks suspicious that we have this leading Russian oligarch bird dogging our president on the campaign trail.


BLACKWELL: All right. Joining us now to discuss is Walter Shaub, a CNN contributor and the former director of the Office of Government Ethics under the Bush and Obama administrations.

PAUL: Walter, thank you so much for being with us. First and foremost, if President Trump was then a citizen, how much does this sale matter when it happened?

WALTER SHAUB, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, let's remember that the Whitewater investigation, which dominated much of the Clinton presidency, was similarly a land deal that occurred a long time before they came into government. So, it really seems to me that this is similar.

It's long since been established, the president, that what happened prior to coming in is now fair game, and one of the concerns about real estate transactions is that they are often a cover for money laundering.

In fact, a group called global witness issued a report picked up by Reuters this fall about suspicions regarding the types of deals that Trump's businesses have been involved in, at least in terms of who they have dealt with, rather than necessarily things they have done themselves.

So, you have a partner here where people are concerned about these transactions, and even those this transaction happened before he came into the presidency, this is the first president in modern history who has kept all of his conflicting financial interests. So, it raises a question, what else don't we know?

BLACKWELL: So, Senator Widen sent this three-page letter here to the Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin and he is asking for answers by March 9th. One of the issues you raised when you resigned, I believe back in July, was the issue of just simple disclosure. What is your degree of confidence that they will get the answers, that Senator Widen will get the answers he is looking for?

SHAUB: Well, you know, it's interesting. March 9th is a fairly generous deadline when the chairman of my oversight committee used to send us letters while I was at the Office of Government Ethics we were lucky if we could get two weeks out of them to respond. That may be an indication he doubts whether he is going to get a response because this administration has broken with the tradition of responding to minority members of Congress, among many other traditions that they have broken.

PAUL: The fact that the president has been in his position for over a year now, would you be surprised, however, if none of this had already been found out? I mean, certainly people are looking very closely at this president. If there had been any other issue, as you had mentioned just previously about how there is suspicion of money laundering in situations like this concerning real estate. Wouldn't something like that have come up already?

SHAUB: So, in fact, this one did come up. There was a lot of reporting last spring in 2017 about this particular sale and there was a lot of speculation at the time that the sale price was bizarre, given that the economy was in free-fall and people thought it was academic Armageddon.

The thing I think that is discernable in Wyden's letter is a note of frustration that it hasn't been investigated yet and we've had a problem with this Congress not conducting its constitutional role of oversight over the White House, many of them seem to be putting party before country, and so I think it's long overdue that this particular transaction be looked into.

BLACKWELL: All right. So, let me ask you about the fifth resignation from this administration in just the last several days. Heath Hall, acting administrator for the Federal Railroad Administration, he was the president's appointed deputy back in June. He resigned yesterday after allegations that he was -- while he was in this government position still working in private consultation in Mississippi.

From your perspective -- first your reaction to that, but also is this just from your view a single unethical conflict here or do you see what you saw -- what you described in the White House spreading and becoming more pervasive throughout the government?

SHAUB: Yes. This is a cancer that has metastasized and has done it faster than I would have predicted.

Back before the president was inaugurated I cautioned that his break with tradition of ethical norms was going to lead to problems in his administration. I just didn't predict it would happen this fast.

One thing I would correct is this is not the fifth resignation in this administration there have been a great many and when you add up the resignations and firings, it's just stunning how they are falling like, you know, flies. I guess that is a bit of a mixed metaphor there.

But it's shocking if this individual is continuing to work after he was in government. And he may have some ongoing problems because he had financial disclosure requirements and I'd like to see whether he disclosed all of this income from these outside work, if any, on his financial disclosure forms and there is also a statutory limit on the amount of outside earned income, somebody at his level can earn that comes with civil penalties if you violate it.

So this is actually quite serious stuff. It's also completely unheard of. I mean, it is just truly a bizarre thing for him to have done.

One of the problems, is it's not a Senate confirmed position so it didn't go through the Office of Government Ethics and it's a smallish (ph) agency, which means that his own employees who are ethics officials, who are responsible for keeping him in line, and apparently he wasn't going to be kept in line by anyone.

PAUL: So I want to know if you can clarify something for me. Because according to our reporting, he was the acting administrator. President Trump had actually nominated Rod Batory but that nomination has been stalled since July because it does need Senate confirmation and at this point, there is -- this is another one of those positions where there is no permanent director in it.

So can you clarify that for me? And then because there are so many, as Victor said, I think it was referring to there have been five resignations over the past five days starting with Rob Porter.


PAUL: With that said, how effective can these departments be with all of these resignations that keep coming up?

SHAUB: Yes. Sorry there. I didn't hear the part about five days.

PAUL: No problem.

SHAUB: Yes -- no. This is concerning. This is a significant problem in this administration.

In fact I think in the State Department in particular, the people at the top, the very few people at the top are getting very lonely because there is so many vacant positions. And that is rampant throughout the government in this administration.

At one point I heard talk out of the administration publicly where they were saying maybe they don't need to fill these positions, which is just ignorant, because you need top personnel to carry out your policies.


And that is important because if you do have a political agenda, which hopefully, he has one, people voted for him, he is going to need people who are like minded in those positions running them. And then, you know, the Office of Government Ethics where I work just recently had a nominee and I do have to say it's a particularly good one. I'll give them credit for that.

So they do know how to do the job when they want. I think Don McGahn and the White House Counsel's Office has been focused on stacking the judiciary with judges that are fairly more extreme in their political views than you normally see.


SHAUB: And perhaps he has ignored the executive branch and now is going to start suffering consequences.

BLACKWELL: Yes. That nominee, Emery Rounds to take your former position there at the director of Office of Government Ethics.

Walter Shaub, always good to have you.

SHAUB: Thanks.

BLACKWELL: All right. Kim Jong-un's sister had lunch -- a lunch with the South Korean prime minister in Seoul. But the mood on the streets not so friendly.

Protesters chanted anti-North Korean slogans. We will tell you more about what happened there.



BLACKWELL: This is the protest on the streets of South Korea and the host of the Winter Olympic Games. Despite historic handshakes and symbolic supporting alliances and an invitation to visit North Korea from Kim Jong-un to South Korea's president.

PAUL: Yes but North Korean leader's sister as you know has been trying to make a connection with South Korea. Some South Koreans however are not hopeful about peaceful ties.


CHOI DO-SANG, PROTESTER: I'm very angry. Now I'm upset. I want America to I upset. I want America to demolish North Korea before Moon Jae-in, before the visit to North Korea.


PAUL: Will Ruger with us now, vice president for Research and Policy at the Charles Koch Institute.

BLACKWELL: Kim Jong-un's sister Kim Yo-jong is in the spotlight at the moment. What is your grade for her performance, her job performance there in South Korea?

WILL RUGER, CHARLES KOCH INSTITUTE VICE PRESIDENT FOR RESEARCH AND POLICY: Well, I think it's smart. It's good politics, right? Because she's young and telegenic and can present a different face for North Korea but we have to remember that she is an enabler of a bad regime, an evil regime that doesn't really respect the human rights of its citizens.

And so we shouldn't lose sight of that amidst this charm offensive.

PAUL: So, Will, do you think South Korea should accept this invitation she has given?

RUGER: Well, I think diplomacy, backed by deterrence is smart here, especially because the military options are not very good.

If you think about it, the United States has pursued a lot of policies around the globe that really haven't been working when we have used the military first and I think it's useful to really open up this notion of having diplomacy and Secretary Tillerson talked about this last year about having diplomacy without preconditions. And I think that is smart politics on our side.

BLACKWELL: Let me get you to respond to something the Vice President Mike Pence said. "There is no daylight between the United States, the Republic of Korea, and Japan on the need to continue to isolate North Korea economically and diplomatically until they abandon their nuclear ballistic missile program."

After the warming we've seen between the North and the South over the past couple of days do you agree with that, is there is no daylight in that alliance?

RUGER: Well, whether there is daylight or not I think things are going to be bumpy ahead as long as two things hold. Basically that the United States wants denuclearization of North Korea and while the Kim regime in North Korea thinks nukes are their trump card, the thing that is essential to their regime especially after they saw what happened in Libya and Ukraine when regimes were cooperating with non- proliferation efforts.

And so they think that nuclear weapons are so critical to their survival. And as long as we insist that we want these gone, things are going to be bumpy and so, again, that is where I think we need to think about other options, especially since deterrence can make us safe and then let's use diplomacy, I think, to get, you know, further interests satisfied on our end.

PAUL: Is there anything beneficial to South Korea becoming closer to North Korea in the sense of, you know, keep your friends close and your enemies closer kind of context?

RUGER: Yes. Again, I think that that diplomacy is necessary, given that the military options are so undesirable, especially for South Korea that would face the brunt of the problems if a war or conflict started on the Korean Peninsula. And again, I think that why we need a little bit more realism than just kind of these bromides about, we are just going to isolate them, we are not going to actually try to work towards a solution to this problem.

BLACKWELL: So you brought up the military and South Korea. These military exercises between the U.S. and South Korea three weeks ago before of course the opening ceremony of the games, they were paused for a moment and U.S. defense said that they will begin immediately after the Paralympics end in South Korea.

Now that we are seeing this invitation coming from North Korea, this acceptance to possibly go to Pyongyang, do you believe that those games will resume -- I mean, those exercises will resume immediately after the Olympics?

RUGER: Well, there's an old roman saying that if you want peace you have to prepare for war and I think that is smart politics too, right? That is realism. But, again, we have to make sure that we are not doing the kind of things that harm our interests, particularly because what we really need to do is simply to deter North Korea.


That is what we have done with evil regimes before if you think how we dealt with China under Mao. This is a place that killed millions of its citizens and yet they still chose and approach the United States that kept us safe, that relied on deterrence and didn't rely on things like bloody nose strikes that could unleash the dogs of war.

PAUL: All right. Will Ruger, we appreciate your perspective. Thank you for being here.

RUGER: Thanks for having me.

PAUL: Sure.

BLACKWELL: All right. So let's stay in South Korea where the U.S. has now won its first gold medal of the winter games. PAUL: Coy wire witnessed it all. All right, Coy. How was it?

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Hi, guys. With the wind chill, it is negative five here in Pyeongchang.

I got this t-shirt. I wet it and put it outside. In five minutes it turned to cardboard.

That didn't stop Red Gerard from heating things up here. We're going to tell you how the young man made history here and bring you all the sights and sounds coming up on "NEW DAY."



PAUL: So for the second Olympics in a row, the U.S. has won its first gold of the winter games in the men's snowboard slopestyle. And just like the first time it was a gold medal upset.

BLACKWELL: All right. Coy Wire is live in Pyeongchang this morning.

And, Coy, Red Gerard is the man who's bringing it home. Well, teenager.

WIRE: Good morning, Victor and Christi. Seventeen-year-old, yes, Red Gerard or Red-i-o as his family was chanting around me. He's a 116- pound freckled face kid who's now the youngest American male since 1924 to become an Olympic winter champ.

So second to last entering his final run the kid from Cleveland let loose and dazzled the judges to take gold. I was amongst about 20 of his friends and family who traveled halfway around the world to be there and they absolutely erupted, tears, disbelief. When Red finally hugged mom and daddy, picked up his little sister, Asher, looked her in the eyes and said, I love you, Ash. That's what it's all about.

All right. The youngster admitted he didn't know how big the Olympics were going in but now he told me he gets it. This journey has been all about the people he loves most.


RED GERARD, TEAM USA GOLD MEDAL WINNER: I kind of know they are always going to be there for me and they are just kind of happy to be here. I mean, they were having a great time, as you guys probably all saw.

Excuse me. But I got a Snapchat this morning at like 8:30 when I was taking a bus up and they were all shotgunning beers on the way to the mountain. So I would say they have been having a good time, yes.


WIRE: And I'm sure they are still having a good time indeed. Now another American who is favored for gold alpine skier Mikaela Shiffrin set to compete in our first of several events here in Pyeongchang. The 2014 gold medalist attacks the slopes in a manner that makes you say, is this girl even human? But we caught up with her and it turns out she is not completely without fear.

Listen to this.


MIKAELA SHIFFRIN, TEAM USA ALPINE SKIER: My biggest fear is disappointing people and that is where the external pressure comes into play. Where I get in the starting gate, I'm like, you know, woo, here we go.

I don't want to disappoint anyone and that is when I feel the pressure, but I'm starting to be able to separate the two and that is really important for me to actually be able to enjoy the sport.


WIRE: We love giving you a glimpse inside the minds of these incredible competitors. We also love capturing the spirit of the moment. And I have to give a shout out to our meteorologist Allison Chinchar who told me this t-shirt trick. I put it -- water on it and in five minutes it froze to a solid piece of ice essentially.

It's incredible times here. Team USA has their first gold hopefully, many more to come.

PAUL: That does not look comfortable.


PAUL: But you know what? When you do what those people do, I mean, I'm watching them especially Red and thinking, oh, my gosh. I don't even know how he does it.

And to be there (INAUDIBLE) --

BLACKWELL: True respect.

PAUL: -- what a seat you've got. Coy Wire from Pyeongchang, thank you so much, sir.

BLACKWELL: All right. Record snowfall in the Midwest is expected to cause problems for drivers today. A strong storm is continuing to sweep across the Midwest. We will tell you where it's the worst.



BLACKWELL: A lot of people are struggling with some rough weather. Winter storm bringing record snowfall to Chicago and advisories are stretching from Texas to Maine. PAUL: Yes. And in the southeast, there are 45 million under a flood

watch right now.

CNN meteorologist Allison Chinchar is watching all of it. Good morning.


It's part of the same system but we start with the snow. As you mentioned, yes, we have winter weather advisories from Texas all the way up to Maine. But the heaviest snow, at least for right now, is really centered around Chicago and it's been snowing there for days.

In fact, today makes the ninth straight day of measurable snow in Chicago. That ties the record. And more snow is expected to continue as you can see throughout much of the day today.

The heavy snow will continue to push over towards Indiana as well as into Michigan as we go through the rest of the day. But the southern side of this storm also has some pretty big implications because here we are talking about incredibly heavy rainfall and also some very strong storms down to the south, especially along the Gulf Coast.

Now the main threat, at least in the short-term, is going to be localized flooding. Over 40 million people under that flood threat and we also have to keep in mind not just streets being inundated by water and that leaking into other areas but also the rivers.

Right now, we have 75 rivers that are currently at minor flood stage. Seven are at moderate stage and we do have one river that has already crossed over into that major flood stage threshold. It's because of how much rain we expect to get.

Here you can see, especially around state like Georgia, Alabama, and Florida, you're going to get multiple waves of rain. And the problem there, Victor and Christi, is when you get those multiple waves you get incredibly high amounts. So widespread across the Southeast.

We are talking 2 to 5 inches but there will be several spots that could pick up in excess of six to eight inches of rain in the next 48 hours.

BLACKWELL: Wow. All right. Allison Chinchar, thanks for watching it for us.

We are starting this hour with breaking news out of the one of the biggest tourist attractions in the country. Three people have died, four others are injured after a sightseeing helicopter crashed into the Grand Canyon.


PAUL: These are some of the first pictures we are getting of what happened there.

Local police have called in the military now to help rescue the survivors. And you can see why.