Return to Transcripts main page
Virginia Governor Says He Doesn't Believe He's in Racist Yearbook Photo; Interview with Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee; U.S. and Russia Pull Out of Cold War Nuclear Treaty; Securing the Super Bowl; Wander Must: San Antonio. Aired 11a-12p ET
Aired February 2, 2019 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[10:59:53] CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you so much for watching. I hope you make some good memories today.
Let's head over to our wonderful colleague Fredricka Whitfield. Hey -- Fred.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: I love that view -- Christi.
PAUL: Yes, it's gorgeous, isn't it?
WHITFIELD: It's a gorgeous stadium anyway but then for the Super Bowl it's, you know, gussied up and decorated just like one beautiful, almost like those Super Bowl rings. Ask Hines Ward to show you his ring.
PAUL: Yes. He's also going to let me wear one.
WHITFIELD: Oh my God. I love.
PAUL: But I said no, I'm too high up. If I drop that one, I'd kill myself.
WHITFIELD: See -- those rings just blending in with that beautiful view over the stadium. Perfecto.
WHITFIELD: All right. Good to see you guys. Thank you so much.
WHITFIELD: Enjoy Super Bowl weekend.
All right. It is 11:00 everybody on the East Coast. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.
NEWSROOM starts right now.
And this breaking news. Virginia Democratic governor Ralph Northam now says he believes it was not him in a racist photo taken for his yearbook during his medical school years. He now says that he has no plans to resign either.
This is the photo. Take a look. It shows one person dressed in blackface and another in a Ku Klux Klan robe and hood. The photo is on Northam's page in his 1984 Eastern Virginia Medical School yearbook.
A state lawmaker says Northam told the Virginia legislative black caucus that he can't recall which person he was in the photo. As the backlash mounted, the governor now issuing this apology last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOVERNOR RALPH NORTHAM (D), VIRGINIA: That photo and the racist and offensive attitudes it represent does not reflect that person I am today or the way that I have conducted myself as a soldier, a doctor, and public servant. I'm deeply sorry.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: Outrage is mounting by the minute. These are just a few of the people and organizations calling on Northam to resign, including key support from his own party, like the Virginia house and senate Democrats; and the latest, former vice president Joe Biden.
CNN's Dan Merica joining us now from Richmond, Virginia.
So this gets more confusing by the moment only because of the way the governor is handling it with his statements. And then, you know --
DAN MERICA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: Yes.
WHITFIELD: -- new words associated with the photo, the images; his history, reportedly.
MERICA: Yes. I mean -- a bizarre 24 hours here in Richmond gets even more bizarre with this recent reporting. My colleague, Ryan Nobles, spoke to a top Democratic official here in Virginia and as you noted has reporting that Governor Ralph Northam is now calling people in the state and is informing them that he does not believe he is the person in the photo and that he does not plan to resign.
Now he earlier had told people he was going to have a press conference sometime today. We do not know at this point when that press conference is going to be but you would assume that this would all come out from him in that press conference.
I want to read to you exactly what he said yesterday in that taped video because it directly contradicts what he is now apparently telling Virginia Democrats. He said, and I quote, "Earlier today a Web site published a photograph of me from my 1984 medical school yearbook in a costume that is clearly racist and offensive."
Now, the "New York Times" first reported this new development in the Northam story saying that he was calling these Virginia Democrats, but this all comes after really a whirlwind 24 hours here in Richmond where Northam is on incredibly shaky ground because as you noted, he has lost the support not only of Democrats in the House and Senate here in Virginia but now just this morning he lost the support of his own party. And Governor Northam is now behind me in the governor's mansion and is really and truly a man without a party.
As you also noted, there's been a cascade of calls from 2020 Democrats, prominent public officials of the Democratic Party urging him to step down including Kirsten Gillibrand, Joe Biden you noted, Kamala Harris, and a host of others called on him to resign.
There were protests actually outside behind me. Some still remain. They were chanting for the governor to step down and for his lieutenant governor, Justin Fairfax to take over. He's a 39-year-old African-American lieutenant governor. They were calling on him to take the helm of Virginia as soon as possible.
Now, during a brief chat with reporters they actually gave some speeches and I asked them how many of you voted for Ralph Northam when he ran in 2017. Nearly all of them raised their hand, nearly all of them said they would like their vote back -- Fred.
WHITFIELD: Oh, my goodness. Wow. And so, Dan -- there is with certainty that the governor is inside the mansion, and one would think he probably has a television set on, he is watching, he is answering phone calls, et cetera.
He did have interactions, telephone conversations with a variety of leaders in the world of politics.
[11:04:56] WHITFIELD: Is anyone saying that he is allowing any wiggle room while he is considering, you know, listening to the voices of resignation or is this defiance coming from the governor?
MERICA: I mean he is clearly hearing these calls. It's impossible for him not to, not just from folks out here who are chanting loud enough I would assume for people inside the mansion to hear.
But he also spoke to his predecessor, Terry McAuliffe, the former governor of Virginia who, I'm told they had a long conversation about the photo and Northam. And at one point McAuliffe told Northam he was going to call on him to step down and he later did that publicly.
So, of course, he is being pressured and told by people who matter in his life and matter in his political life that he needs to step down. This is a new wrinkle in this story what we're reporting just now, that now he is doubting that he is the person in the photo. That certainly changes things. And I have been told that McAuliffe and Northam have not spoken today and certainly not since this new reporting came out -- Fred.
WHITFIELD: All right -- Dan. Dan Merica -- thank you so much. We'll check back with you.
Let's talk further now. And joining me right now are the director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics Larry Sabato, and assistant editor at the "Washington Post" and CNN political commentator David Swerdlick. Good to see both of you.
DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Hey -- Fred.
WHITFIELD: Larry -- this is your backyard. You're there in Charlottesville, you know, Virginia at the UVA so to hear now that the governor does continue to refuse to resign, he either is hearing the chorus of voices and at the same time not listening to the chorus of voices. What do you believe is going on there inside the governor's mansion?
LARRY SABATO, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGNIA CENTER FOR POLITICS: Well, I can confirm the reports. Earlier this morning, I was told that when the governor woke up, he started telling people something he did not say last night, at least the people I have spoken to did not hear him say it.
That he wasn't in the photo. He wasn't in blackface. He wasn't in the KKK costume. Of course, that directly contradicts his own statement last night.
WHITFIELD: Right. His previous statement saying "the photo of me", an acknowledgment, "the photo of me", but then not making the clarification whether he was blackface or the one in the Klan robe. So continue your thought.
SABATO: Yes, Fred -- that actually explains according to my sources why he didn't say "I was the one in blackface" or "I was the one in the KKK costume because apparently he didn't recall the photo even last night. He wasn't sure which one he was.
I know it sounds confused and that's because it is confused. It is extremely confused. We don't know what's going to happen. I was told contemplation was a 1:00 p.m. press conference to resign and that has now been scrapped.
WHITFIELD: So David --
WHITFIELD: -- that he is not in the photo at all, that this is not a photo of him, you know, versus picking and choosing which one he is. I mean where do you believe he is in his mindset now? Is it saving his, you know, possibly trying to save his political life, feeling like he can still govern, people will forget about it? Or is it as simple as I really can't remember, you know, from a little over 30 years ago?
SWERDLICK: Good morning -- Fred.
So let's take these things in order. Top line. If he is one of the two people in the photo, if he is, then he will face unrelenting pressure from within his own party to resign and he should resign.
Let's say, though, that he comes out today and says that he is not one of the people, I think it is fair to hear him out, but it is hard to square that circle going back to what Larry said a moment ago. The idea that at age 25 in 1984 you would not remember whether you had dressed up at Halloween either in blackface or as a Klansman just is hard -- it's hard to square that circle. It is just hard to believe. But let's hear what he has to say.
I think though here's the thing going back to what he said last night that's important to keep in mind. The reason why so many people are calling for the governor to resign is not I think because people think there are no second chances in life or because there's no possibility of personal redemption.
It is because he is the governor of the commonwealth of Virginia. He's in a position of public trust. And in that position with this photo if he's in it, it is hard to see him as an honest broker on issues of race.
WHITFIELD: And so Larry -- it is perplexing as to why the governor wouldn't use his position, particularly since it appears as though, you know, he wants to keep it, why he wouldn't use his position right now to come on the air, come outside the mansion, try to offer some kind of clarification, improve his story or at least the narrative thus far.
[11:09:56] SABATO: Well, I agree with you, and he may well be planning that. We just don't know. I don't think he has even told some of the staff about it.
So maybe that's what will happen. He certainly will have to tell a fuller story sooner rather than later. And by sooner, I mean today. I mean, you know, by noon or 1:00 -- we're not talking about this evening.
Look, he has no allies left. I hate to say that. He's a nice person. And from my perspective, he has been a pretty good governor.
But facts are facts, and at this point he has lost virtually everyone in the Democratic Party. Forget about the Republicans. They're not going to influence him one way or the other, it is the Democrats. The ones who haven't fully called for his resignation -- Senator Warren, Senator Kaine, former Governor Wilder, who of course, is the first African-American governor in the country as well as Virginia -- they haven't explicitly called for his resignation but they issued some very tough statements.
I just don't know how he comes back. You have to have a party. You have to have a base.
WHITFIELD: And David and Larry, I apologize. I feel like I'm at a big disadvantage right now because I lost my audio to hear you. However, I can hear my control room. So that's the only way I can communicate with my control room right now, too. So if someone can give me air back, that would be great.
So David -- you got a chance to listen to Larry. Unfortunately, I did not. So if you could please add?
SWERDLICK: Sure. Ok. No. I agree with Larry that the statement and the clarification from the governor has to come today in the next few hours. He can't wait until this evening, he can't wait until Monday morning open for business the government because the issues here are too clear.
It is not like some nuanced situation where it's like -- well, maybe this was said or maybe that was said. Were you in the photo or were you not. If you were in the photo, why were you in it? And why as the governor of this state that just had the Charlottesville tragedy in 2017, why in a country where you have a president who says Judge Gonzalo Curiel can't do his job because he is Mexican American, when you have a president who was at one time the birther in chief -- why in that instance should you be the head of the Commonwealth of Virginia?
Maybe there are answers to that. But I agree with Larry, the answers have to come pretty fast.
WHITFIELD: David and Larry -- thank you so much. I want you to stick around if you could. We're going to work out the audio. I apologize for not being able to hear you. But I'm glad our audience has been able to hear you.
I can hear the control room. So we've got to work out a little technical problem here. We're going to be right back right after this.
[11:12:30] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
WHITFIELD: All right. Welcome back with this breaking news.
Virginia Governor Ralph Northam says he now believes it is not him in a racist photo taken for his yearbook while in medical school and that he has no recollection of taking it. However, that image is on his page as a 25-year-old in medical school.
I'm joined again by Larry Sabato and David Swerdlick. Thankfully, I think I'm going to be able to hear you now.
WHITFIELD: So this is very perplexing because the governor last night made reference to the photo of him -- Larry. And then today we understand the governor to be in the mansion and he has taken many phone calls from friends, from allies within the political sphere there in Virginia and beyond urging him to step down.
And thus far we are seeing that he wants to hold onto his seat but now the explanation has changed, Larry -- that he is not in that photo, that that photo is not a representation of him, even though he mentioned that photo in his statement last night. So how much of this is also a microcosm or some sort of representation of where Virginians believe they are, you know. And we're talking about just over 30 years in which this photograph, this depiction is on display and this is now just over a year, barely two years after Charlottesville which led to the death of a woman and on display, white supremacy, a lot of hate.
SABATO: Yes. But I think people understand that Virginians are very sensitive to this issue and should be. We all know the history of the Civil War, Virginia's role in it. We all know Jim Crow and Virginia's role in it.
Tragically, Virginia got worse rather than better. It led the Southern Manifesto, it led massive resistance to school desegregation in the 1950s, which I was born in 1952, so there are a lot of us still around who remember pieces of those massive resistance.
This is a highly sensitive subject. And probably more so than most states Virginians react very negatively to a photo like that which is just mind boggling.
You know, I'm sure the governor is under a lot of pressure. We have a hard time understanding this. We think of this whole thing as bizarre and we are just observers.
Imagine if you're governor and in a matter of hours -- this just started late yesterday afternoon --
SWERDLICK: Last night, right.
SABATO: -- in a matter of hours, everybody you know is talking about your resignation.
SABATO: I'm sure it is mind blowing.
WHITFIELD: Yes. And David --
WHITFIELD: -- he's a pediatrician. He was studying to be a pediatrician at the time. And if you are black and if you are a patient or perhaps any number of your children were to be treated by Dr. Northam at the time and now learning of this, you know, a very short space between being a practicing physician, of all people, and a photo like this while he was in medical school.
[11:19:56] I mean what are people to think? What is his lieutenant governor, a descendant of slaves, to think? People who served with him, who went to school with him at VMI -- what are they to think now?
WHITFIELD: Is this incredibly mind boggling or were there other displays that are tantamount to the image here?
SWERDLICK: Yes, Fred -- that's one of the things that's so difficult about this situation is that people are left wondering do I really know this person.
Look, I sit here, I don't consider myself in a position to judge what is in Governor Northam's heart. Only he knows that.
And when I listened to his apology last night, it sounded sincere, and fulsome last night. But then there's this confusion this morning about him saying whether or not he's even in the photo, even though last night he suggested strongly that he was one of those people.
Here is what we do know -- Fred. We know that someone who's 25 is not a kid, certainly not in 1984. That was a grown man in medical school who, if he was in the photo, if -- he made a decision to dress up in either blackface or in a Klan hood. That's number one.
Number two is -- and I know I keep harping on this point but I want to emphasize it -- it's about, it is not about the personal, it is about the position of public trust that he is in. If he was in that photo, his friends, his neighbors don't have to shun him. His medical patients can make their own decisions about whether they still want him to treat them.
But when you're talking about being the governor of a state, a state that just this month honored in the legislature Robert E. Lee, which seems to me again a problem with separating personal views with people in a position of public trust. That's the problem I think that Governor Northam faces.
Can he be seen by all of the people of Virginia to be an honest broker on issues, particularly when it comes to race and all of the things that affects in the administration of his government?
WHITFIELD: Right. And again, I would like us to cue up, my producers if you can hear -- to cue up the apology from last night. Be in position to play that. That in contrast with what CNN is now reporting based on a conversation, a source having a conversation with him about no recollection of, you know, that photo -- that photo not being a representation of him. We need to have that at the ready.
David Swerdlick, Larry Sabato -- ok, hold it -- we do have that apology. Let's listen to it one more time.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NORTHAM: That photo and the racist and offensive attitudes it represents does not reflect that person I am today or the way that I have conducted myself as a soldier, a doctor, and public servant. I'm deeply sorry.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: All right. So Larry and David -- real quick, you know, your sentiments on that. There is criticism coming from lots of corners that that just didn't go far enough. There is an acknowledgment that he makes of that photo, but then saying it doesn't reflect the person I am today.
That in contrast now with the governor, according to a source telling CNN, that he says, you know, he wasn't in that photo. That photo is not of an image of him -- Larry.
SABATO: Well, you can't reconcile all of these pieces. And actually, there's a new dimension now of integrity. What is the truth?
I mean we know all of the problems with President Trump and the White House, but there's still a separate and I'd like to think higher standard in other places that people in positions of major responsibility have the obligation to tell the truth, especially on important matters and involving them directly.
So this is beyond strange. I can believe in evolution of one's racial views over the course of decades, though hiding this for all these decades doesn't help.
What I have a hard time understanding is how he could evolve from a position of acknowledging that the picture was of him last night and then this morning saying no, I wasn't even there. I don't remember it at all.
SABATO: Something is terribly wrong.
WHITFIELD: And you mentioned the President, we have not heard from the President. He has not commented as far as we know on this. However, presidential candidates have and have all, those who have spoken out, have all said he needs to step down.
David -- at what point must the President comment on this as well?
SWERDLICK: Well, the President of the United States should be the moral leader of the country and should be able to arbitrate these kind of issues or at least weigh in and provide some clarity, even if American citizens are going to make up their own minds. We'll see whether President Trump weighs in on this.
I agree with Larry, what he said a moment ago. I believe people can change and I don't doubt that Ralph Northam believes he is a much different person than he was 35 years ago, but if he was one of the people on that picture, I think it's going to be hard for him to hang on to his office.
WHITFIELD: All right. David Swerdlick, Larry Sabato -- thank you so much for now. I know I'll be talking with you again very soon.
SWERDLICK: Sure. SABATO: Thanks.
WHITFIELD: All right.
[11:24:56] Here also with me now -- a Democrat from Texas and member of the House Homeland Security Committee, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee. Thank you so much, Congresswoman for being available today.
So what are your thoughts on Governor Northam and his apology or statement last night and then today, according to a source saying, he is not even in that photograph.
REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE (D), TEXAS: Well, Fredricka -- I have to reflect on my own experience as a graduate of the University of Virginia law school and recognizing the history that the state of Virginia has really passed through over the decades and centuries.
Certainly in the last century, it was the state that had the segregated schools. And yet it also had the first African-American governor, Doug Wilder.
WHITFIELD: Doug Wilder.
JACKSON LEE: What I would say is this is an issue of whether or not this governor can lead this state that is going through such a tumultuous history of segregation, racism and divisiveness. But it's healed itself and has come to a point of not only electing this governor and governors before but electing now an African-American lieutenant governor.
And the real question has to be as to whether or not this governor can lead this state, whether or not he can heal this state. And if that is not the answer or the answer does not come back that he can, then I would think that the governor would do the right thing as many of his colleagues in the state of Virginia, congressional delegation has asked him to do, is to do the right thing. I think that that is what he should reflect on as he makes his decision.
WHITFIELD: If the state Democratic Party is condemning this photograph and asking him to step down, if the NAACP is asking him to step down. There are a widespread contingent, you know, of entities that are asking him to step down.
And if he refuses to do so, how in your view would he be able to continue to govern without that support, even if his policies are popular with Virginians, would he be able to continue governing knowing that Virginians are happy with his policies, but perhaps people are not happy with this image or this depiction of his history?
JACKSON LEE: You know, Fredricka -- that is the real question because it is noted that he's had good policies. I think what is baffling is the existence of the picture, the age of the individuals -- they were grown persons, I assume grown men.
And if he is one of those persons, they go at the very core of hurt for the African-American community and those who are empathetic. And that's the question I have asked. Can you heal your state? Can you stand on the history of the state of which they have moved past?
I mean this is the same state that at my campus two years ago individuals when I say the University of Virginia campus, individuals came and acted in the most ugliest of fashions, the most horrid of fashions calling out names of African-American Jews and others in a hateful manner. And that had to be healed.
And I can tell you that by the citing of that as one of the more horrific racial incidences around the nation, the history of the nation, it is still something that pierces people's heart. Can this governor lead this state in the healing process that I know is still going on? I would say as others have said to the governor that do the right thing and it might be that he would have to not be in office.
WHITFIELD: All right. Now let's take a very difficult turn, that to the showdown over the President's border wall. President Trump, you know, now growing seemingly frustrated with the negotiation process, lashing out at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in this latest interview with CBS. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I think that she was very rigid which I would expect but I think she's very bad for our country. She knows that you need a barrier. She knows that we need border security.
She wanted to win a political point. I happen to think it is very bad politics because basically she wants open borders. She doesn't mind human trafficking or she wouldn't do this because you know --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She offered you over a billion dollars for border security.
TRUMP: Excuse me?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She offered over a billion dollars for border security. She doesn't want the wall.
TRUMP: She's costing the country hundreds of billions of dollars because what's happening is when you have a porous border and when you have drugs pouring in and when you have people dying all over the country because of people like Nancy Pelosi who don't want to give proper border security for political reasons, she's doing a terrible disservice to our country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[11:30:00] WHITFIELD: So Congresswoman -- there's a lot of blame there. That doesn't say respect or willingness to work together. So is he essentially sign-posting that he is moving in the direction of declaring a national emergency; that he is bypassing any hope of negotiations of a bill that he would sign?
JACKSON LEE: Well, Fredricka, first of all, let me say that the words were shameful and inappropriate for a commander in chief. The Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, is third in line to the presidency. I wish the President would read his constitution. And she has every right to lead the Congress, to lead the House on views that she has.
As she speaks, appropriators are working to find a resolution -- those who are on the Homeland Security Appropriations Committee as I'm on the Homeland Security Authorizing (ph) Committee, Fredricka -- I have been to the border more times than I can imagine over the two decades that I served.
I know every aspect of the border -- those areas that you have no ability if you will to put barriers or fencing, those areas that are on private land, those areas that face the Rio Grande. What we are saying is we want to be appropriate, thoughtful, and listen to the experts dealing with the question.
The President wants a fight. He only wants to be political. He doesn't have any guardrail of leadership that allow him to sit down and understand to do the best plan.
Let me tell you what the President --
WHITFIELD: But he has changed his jargon a few times --
JACKSON LEE: Pardon me.
WHITFIELD: -- he has changed his jargon in that he'll say ok, if not a wall, then a fence, a barrier, et cetera. Kind of all encompassing. Does that make a difference?
JACKSON LEE: But he has said all those things, he has thrown them all up against the wall and then he comes right back again and says forget about it, I'm going to do an emergency order which has certain criteria which includes a national emergency, using the military, and it indicates that the country is in jeopardy, which we are not.
And so no -- he does not stick to all of the above. It is, there are at the border all of the above. Go to the border. There are barriers, there are steel fencing, if you will, there's the Rio Grande. He doesn't say that.
But let me say what he doesn't say as well. He cost the nation $11 billion in the shutdown. The Democrats, leadership in the Democrats of the House voted on HR 79 and said that we won't do that. We don't believe in that. We don't believe in holding federal workers hostages.
We also raised their pay, which this president who feigns respect for the federal work force and the border patrol agents and border protection cut their wages by an executive order. We raised their wages by 2.6 percent.
So this president doesn't have a moral guardrail. We don't know what he stands for. We are working every day -- one, not to shut the government down, to present a plan that I hope reasonable people in the White House, chief of staff and others will look at this plan and tell the President the best thing he needs to do is to sign this plan, this appropriation, and open the government and pay the people.
There is no understanding of what the President stands for except name-calling and I can assure him that the Speaker of the House is a fighter against human trafficking, is a strong supporter for smart border security, has provided a pathway for her appropriators to fund as much as possible to make this nation safe.
And it has been safe with Democrats in leadership, focusing on how to safely secure the government without throwing things against the wall and saying anything and then coming back again and telling the appropriators and legislators no, I'm going to order an emergency order. That's not the way to go. If he does it, we'll sue him.
WHITFIELD: -- the way it's going thus far, are you seeing another shutdown on the horizon?
JACKSON LEE: I do not. I have said to my constituents that that will not be the way we will go, whatever process we have to use to ensure that this president does not contribute to THE shutting down of the government.
JACKSON LEE: We will continue to work, continue to negotiate for the American people.
WHITFIELD: All right. Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee. Thank you so much. Appreciate it.
JACKSON LEE: Thank you for having me. Thank you.
WHITFIELD: Both the U.S. and Russia are pulling out of a nuclear arms treaty that has been keeping the peace since the Cold War. We'll go live to Moscow and hear why the Kremlin may already be gearing up for a new arms race.
WHITFIELD: Russia says it is pulling out of a key Cold War era nuclear treaty and will begin developing a new intermediate missile. Russian President Vladimir Putin characterized the announcement as a tit for tat against the U.S. for saying it was also done with the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty. The announcements are sparking fears of a renewed arms race and a showdown between the two countries.
With me now Shawn Turner, former director of communications for U.S. National Intelligence and Susan Glasser a staff writer for the "New Yorker". Good to see you both.
So this treaty, you know, has been a center piece of European security since the Cold War. So what happens without it -- Susan? SUSAN GLASSER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, you know, there
really have been fears I think that this is the slow motion collapse of the post-Cold War order that we're seeing since 1987 when the treaty was in place. This was a significant issue, especially for our European allies.
[11:39:59] Intermediate range nuclear missiles are the kind that can travel so quickly and are particularly destabilizing since you don't have time to react or to figure out what to do.
You know, President Trump actually signaled a few months ago that he was unilaterally planning to pull out. This caused a huge problem with our allies who are behind the sentiment of challenging the Russians on this but fear that President Trump handed Russia an argument to make, which in fact, they have been making over the last 24 hours, which is that, you know, it was the U.S. that triggered the end of the treaty.
Now ironically there's a solid argument to be made that this is Russia. We have been warning about their violations of the treaty for years. Trump administration says there are 30 different times we've complained to Moscow about this, and unfortunately nobody really sees a way forward at this point. It involves China as well. So that's why experts are worried about a new arms race.
WHITFIELD: So Shawn, you know, the U.S. had been arguing that Russia, you know, was flouting this treaty anyway when it developed a new missile, you know, a few years ago. So why wouldn't the White House sanction Russia within the parameters of the treaty instead of scrapping it all together and claiming, you know, that it is not working?
SHAWN TURNER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes. You know, look, I think that the administration did the right thing in taking a look at potential courses of action to deal with Russia's continued noncompliance with the treaty.
As we know and as you mentioned, Fred, you know, Russia's 9M729 missile far exceeds the allowable ranges that are laid out in the treaty.
Now, that said I think that the administration may have come to the wrong decision here in deciding to go ahead and pull out of the treaty. I do think that there are a number of potential options available to the administration between the status quo of simply staying in the treaty and allowing Russia to flout the terms of the agreement and outright pulling out of the treaty.
I think it certainly is the case of Russia that the United States could have explored additional sanctions. I would have even been an advocate of exploring direct dialogue with Russia specifically over this issue simply because of the importance of this treaty.
You have to remember, that this is a treaty that got rid of all the SS 20 missiles that were in Europe back in the 1980s and one that between the United States and Russia at least, and a few other countries, at least still had the appearance of preventing some slowing down of the proliferation of additional missile technology.
WHITFIELD: So Susan, you mentioned China. And China warned today, you know, that abandoning the treaty could quote, "trigger a series of adverse consequences". So what would China's main concern be?
GLASSER: Well again, remember China has an enormous land border with Russia itself. Right now they're partners. In fact, the Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said the other day on Capitol Hill that they have a closer partnership than at any time since the 1950s.
That being said, of course, there's a natural rivalry there. And it's something that they would have to think about. China, as you know, has long had a contentious relationship with India which also shares a land border with China.
And so, you know, what I think we're seeing is a real destabilization of the international order. And so, you know, it concerns me that it is not just a U.S., USSR world anymore and we don't have the international infrastructure in place to deal with it.
WHITFIELD: All right. Oh, go ahead Shawn -- yes.
TURNER: Yes. To Susan's point, I mean this is really a good point because this does represent an opportunity for the United States. I mean there's a lot of concern over what this means in terms of the U.S. pulling out. But there's also the opportunity for the United States to step forward and actually lead in the international community here.
If China was in this agreement right now, they would already be in noncompliance with the agreement. We know that Russia is in noncompliance. We know that several other countries around the world are in noncompliance with this particular agreement. So it's an opportunity for the U.S. to step forward and as a nation, as a global community that we need to address this issue directly.
WHITFIELD: All right. Shawn Turner, Susan Glasser -- thanks to both of you. Appreciate it.
GLASSER: Thank you -- Fred.
WHITFIELD: We'll be right back.
WHITFIELD: More than a million people are descending on Atlanta this weekend to take part in the Super Bowl festivities. Dozens of local state and federal agencies have joined forces to provide security both on the ground and high above Mercedes-Benz Stadium where the big game will be played.
CNN's Kaylee Hartung has more on this massive undertaking.
KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): This is an aerial view of Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the home of Super Bowl LIII, courtesy of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the same officials known to patrol the U.S. border.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We consider the Super Bowl to be a national security special event. This is a tier 1 level 1 event.
HARTUNG: That means more than 50 federal, state and local agencies are working together in careful coordination, each with a specific role to play.
The Air and Marine division of Customs and Border Protection, they're enforcing a temporary flight restriction within a 30 mile radius of the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in downtown Atlanta on Sunday.
(on camera): But there are exceptions for that no-fly zone.
DAVID GRANTHAM, CUSTOMS AND BORDER PROTECTION: Some aircraft will be allowed inside the TFR. Some of the military aircraft, the law enforcement. But the key thing is everybody who is operating inside of here, the airliners and so forth, they've been cleared by us.
HARTUNG (voice over): If any aircraft should breach the no fly zone, this Black Hawk along with six others will work to spot it and intercept it. Fighter jets are on standby if a threat arises.
GRANTHAM: It's a different mission but it's one we're very familiar with, intercepting aircraft, stirring aircraft away from sensitive areas. This is what we do day in and day out.
WHITFIELD: All right. Kaylee Hartung, high above there on the stadium -- thank you so much.
And we'll be right back.
[11:49:50] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
WHITFIELD: All right. Welcome back.
Here's a look at this week's "Wander Must".
San Antonio, the must see city known for history, culture and tacos.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: San Antonio is the greatest place on earth. It's got history. It's got culture. It's got tacos.
One of the more popular attractions is market square or the Mercado -- the largest Hispanic market in the United States. The river walk is about a 15 mile stretch of hike and bike trails right through the heart of downtown with the shops and the restaurants. And then goes all the way down to the missions.
[11:55:02] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do not leave San Antonio without coming to the West Side, getting your taste of the puffy taco. A puffy taco is a home-made shell. Press it. Put it in the fire and it becomes puffy. And then the magic happens.
It's delicious and so Texas.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The UNESCO World Heritage site was given to San Antonio because we have five Spanish missions. And that's the largest concentration of Spanish missions in the world.
If you come to the Alamo, you probably see people in historical costume. It's called living history. It's interactive. And that's why it works.
If you're here at night, you might want to see "San Antonio, the Saga" by Xavier de Richemont from the Main Plaza Conservancy, a light show that shows the history of San Antonio. Everybody needs to come to San Antonio.
[11:55:55] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)