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New Day

Texas Executes Mexican National; Extended Cold Snap In Northeast; Sochi Security Concern; Iran: U.S. "Mischaracterizing" Nuke Deal

Aired January 23, 2014 - 06:00   ET



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: John Kerry has no right to try to change the lots of the Supreme Court and turn the keys over to the international community.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking overnight, executed. Texas puts a Mexican citizen to death despite calls from Mexico and the U.S. government to wait. They say it may put Americans overseas at risk. So, why the rush to kill?

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: CNN exclusive. Our reporter sitting down with Iran's new president and the country's foreign minister. What they say about the deal to dismantle their nuclear program and why does Iran's interpretation so different from the U.S.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: Epic freeze, brace yourself America, much of the country in for a week's long streak of brutally cold temperatures. Feels like 40 below in some areas and it's not getting much warmer anytime soon.

CUOMO: Your NEW DAY starts right now.

Good morning. Welcome to NEW DAY. It's Thursday, January 23rd, 6:00 in the east. Breaking overnight, Texas has executed a Mexican national despite protest from Mexico's government and the U.S. State Department. Edgar Tamayo is the man's name. He was convicted of killing a Houston police officer back in 1994, but now officials worry the execution could put American abroad in danger.

CNN's Pamela Brown joins us with the details -- Pamela.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is pretty significant, Chris and Kate, because it could have huge diplomatic implications. Let me just give you a background of the story. Edgar Tamayo, as you point out, a Mexican national, he was executed last night. Now back in 1994, he was convicted of killing a police officer named Guy Guttis (ph). And the Mexican government argued that after that he was denied access to consular assistance from Mexican officials.

And they say that prevented him from having the best defense possible during the trial. So since then, the Mexican government has been trying to hold off on his punishment, trying to convince authorities in Texas also the U.S. government has weighed in and said, we need to halt the punishment because this could have implications for American citizens overseas.

This violates the international agreement under the Vienna Conventions so both American officials and the Mexican government trying to weigh in on this to prevent the execution that happened last night. Despite that pressure, the execution moved forward after the Supreme Court denied a motion to stay his execution.

So clearly, Texas is sending a very strong message defying two federal governments and also in the midst of all this diplomatic pressure coming from Secretary of State John Kerry as well pleading with Texas officials to not move forward with this execution.

CUOMO: In fairness to Texas, obviously, they had the backing of the Supreme Court in their actions. What is the political statement from Texas in terms of why they aren't going along with the wishes of the Mexicans and the U.S. State Department?

BROWN: Well, the spokeswoman, Lucy Nash, basically said that, she spoke for Texas Governor Rick Perry saying the state was committed to enforcing its laws. It doesn't matter where you're from, if you commit a despicable crime like this in Texas, you are subject to our state laws including a fair trial by jury and the ultimate penalty, she said.

And you know, you have to think, this has been going on for ten years. When you look at -- the side of Texas on this, they don't want this to set a precedent if he was off the hook. He was convicted of killing a police officer ten years ago.

CUOMO: They have 20 years to figure it out, but obviously the U.S. State Department concern is when Americans are abroad, we're always saying let them have access to us, don't prosecute them all on your own so it gets complicated. An interesting story to follow. Pamela, thanks for jumping on it for us.

BOLDUAN: The other big story we're watching this morning, the bitter cold and the fact that it will be staying that way for a while. The cold isn't making it easier to dig out from Tuesday's snowstorm, that's for sure. Sheets of ice on the streets of New York are sending people sliding and slipping to the ground all over the place. I was one of them.

Now models show more snow could be on the way early next week. Meteorologist, Indra Petersons, is outside our studios this morning with much more on what we should be looking for -- Indra. I will say, I need different boots, I was all over the place.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: I think you were all in the same, but I think I have right now two triple layer jackets on and it's still not keeping me warm. We have this huge snowstorm. Great, it's out of the way, hardly the case. It is so cold that snow, record breaking snow is staying on the ground. Now it's all about this arctic air that is not going anywhere.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) PETERSONS (voice-over): Another frigid night for millions as bitter cold arctic air grips a large part of the country. For much of the east coast, the dangerously cold temperatures plummeting 20 degrees below normal through the weekend and windchills in the northern plains could be as low as 50 degrees below zero today.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The wind keeps coming at you, right in your face. So you clear a spot and it blows right over.

PETERSONS: Millions along the east coast continue to dig out of Tuesday's massive snowstorm. In Plymouth, Massachusetts, strong wind gusts creating 18-inch snow drifts. For road crews that's a tall order to keep up with the significant snowfall.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The roads still aren't cleared.

PETERSONS: Bitter cold temp turning slush into dangerous ice making driving downright treacherous.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A lot of ice, lot of ice.

PETERSONS: This car collided with a snowplow removing snow in Southern Massachusetts, sending the driver to the hospital. In New York City, one of the glass panels of the flagship Apple's door shattered after being hit by a snow blower. Further south, I-95 shutdown for hours in North Carolina after an 18-wheeler slid into oncoming traffic. The frigid temps could make the nation's propane shortage worse as the demand for gas grows.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's been delayed and this has gotten severe in some cases.

PETERSONS: And snow removal at Metlife Stadium in New Jersey is in high gear ahead of the Super Bowl. NFL officials do have a contingency plan though. They can move the championship game to an alternate date if another massive snow storm is forecast for the area that weekend.


PETERSONS: The thought of that is just scary, the thought that we may actually move the Super Bowl. We are going to give you the forecast at least for now coming up in a little bit. But let's talk about these temperatures. Notice still seeing single digit temperatures into the northeast, below zero, already into the Midwest. That's without the windchill. We know subzero once you add in the windchill into the north east.

In the Upper Midwest, we're talking about a good 20, 30 below again. This dome of cold arctic air, this guy's only going to be sagging south ward meaning that cold air is going to be south with it so as far as this outfit where I can barely turn my head right or left, I think I'm hanging out with this guy for a while.

CUOMO: Is it true that you're going to show us later on in the show the right and wrong way to fall on the ice. PETERSONS: No, I'm bringing Kate out for that.

CUOMO: Good move. All right, thanks, Indra. We'll check in with you in a little bit.

So they are 15 days and counting until the opening ceremonies at the Olympic Winter Games in Sochi. We are staying on this security story because it remains a grave concern. What do we know? Well, black widow suicide bombers are still at large in Russia. And adding to the reality of the potential here, the U.S. Olympic Committee and its European counter parts received e-mail threats of terrorist strikes.

Now while those threats are being dismissed by the IOC, they are adding to the fears of athletes and spectators who will be attending the games. CNN's Nick Paton Walsh is live in Sochi monitoring the situation. Nick, what do we know?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, as you say, Chris, it seems not a day really passes where another piece of information emerges adding to that sense of foreboding around the games. People are not talking about who's coming to play sport. They're really worried instead about the safety of the athletes who'll come.


WALSH (voice-over): Just under two weeks leading after the Sochi Olympic Games mounting anticipation, not about who will win the gold, but instead, concern about a possible chink in the game's ring of steel. The latest security threat, an e-mail warning of a terrorist attack sent to the U.S. Olympic organizing committee and several European countries.

But the International Olympic Committee quickly quelled security concerns telling CNN the e-mail contained no threat and appears to be a random message from a member of the public. The U.S. Olympic Committee is looking into it as well saying the safety and security of Team USA is our top priority.

As is always the case, we are working to ensure that our delegation and other Americans traveling to Sochi are safe. The White House however says that American travelers should remain vigilant.

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We have seen an uptick in threat reporting prior to the Olympics, which is of course of concern, although it is also not unusual for a major international event.

WALSH: President Obama and the Joint Chiefs continue to offer counterterrorism expertise to Russia with IED detection software, jamming equipment and war ships. All Russia needs is to give the green light.

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We are offering the Russians any assistance that they might require or request in a situation like this. WALSH: In the light of multiple terrorist threats, some carried out in regions surrounding Sochi. Sweeps continue for the so-called black widow suicide bombers. One woman killed in a gun battle over the weekend. Another believed to have already bypassed the security corridor of Sochi.


WALSH: The Russians are doing what they can to try and alleviate that sense of foreboding ahead of the games. The prime minister saying they're dealing with the threats every day in this region. That certainly a fact and also today, they alleviate one of the sentences against Putin critic's business partner (inaudible).

That's to try and ease some tension around political tension, all of Southern Russia, a deeply volatile region for a decade now. They fear something may well slip through in the weeks ahead. Back to you, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Nick, thank you so much for that. All right to a CNN exclusive now, Iran's foreign minister essentially calling out the White House. Telling CNN that Iran's nuclear agreement with the west does not include the dismantling of its nuclear program. He is insisting the Obama administration is mischaracterizing the deal. Listen to White House spokesman, Jay Carney, describing the agreement earlier this month.


CARNEY: The agreement marks the first time in a decade that Iran has agreed to specific actions that halt progress on its nuclear program and roll back key aspects of the program.


BOLDUAN: All right, let's bring in chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto, now who spoke with the foreign minister live from Davos, Switzerland this morning. So, Jim, this is a very big statement that Zarif is making here. This cuts to really the core basis of this agreement you would think, over Iran's nuclear program. Are they having two different interpretations or is this something more to do with internal politics?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, I think it's a combination of both. Both countries have internal politics they have to deal with, internal opponents to this agreement. So both countries have been speaking to those internal audiences. You know, this is a different kind of leader for Iran. He's relaxed, easy going, but he's also unbending in his positions. Listen to how he described it to me.


MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF, IRAN FOREIGN MINISTER: The White House tries to portray it as basically a dismantling of Iran's nuclear program. That is the word that they use time and again. And I urge you to read the entire text. If you find a single, a single word that even closely resembles dismantling or could be defined as dismantling in the entire text, then I will take back my comment.


SCIUTTO: Another point, Dr. Zarif made is that this deal is reversible, that this is an interim nuclear agreement that is a step towards a longer term agreement. Until then, both sides can turn back.

BOLDUAN: So Jim, what should folks take away from this, what the foreign minister is saying? Do you get the sense that this means that there is less to this deal than many first thought?

SCIUTTO: I think, Kate, this shows us exactly what this deal is and what it isn't. It is still a landmark deal. It is still further than these two sides have been able to reach on a nuclear agreement in 10 years, but it's hitting the pause button, not the delete button on Iran's nuclear program. Right now, you have six months to negotiate a longer term agreement. Until they reach that point, this is really just a pause.

Doesn't mean it's not significant, but it does mean that both sides can turn it back. Also, to be clear, as that's happening, both sides have internal opposition and they have to speak to that opposition, which is part of the message you were hearing yesterday from Dr. Zarif and a point the White House made in response to our interview as well.

BOLDUAN: An excellent and a very important interview that you were able to secure for us. Thank you so much, Jim. We'll talk to you soon.

All right, coming up in just a few moments, we're going to speak with CNN's Fareed Zakaria. He had an exclusive sit down with the president of Iran, Hassan Rouhani. We want to hear that.

CUOMO: Now to a plot to bomb a U.S. embassy. Luckily Israeli officials say they foiled the attempt on the U.S. post in Tel-Aviv. They say they've arrested three men with links to al Qaeda who are accused of planning to blow up the embassy as part of two prongs suicide attack. CNN's Ben Wedeman is live in Jerusalem. What do we know?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Chris, what we know is according to a statement issued, a man in Gaza using Facebook and Skype recruited three men here in Jerusalem to conduct a variety of attacks. One of the men received computer files from the recruiter instructing him in the manufacture of explosives. He was to receive military training in Syria. He was then to return to Israel where he would hook up with what Israeli forces are calling foreign terrorists who were to have entered the Israel with forged Russian passports.

He would then provide them with explosives to carry out suicide attacks against the U.S. Embassy in Tel-Aviv and other targets around the country. Now what's significant, Chris, is the claim that, if this is accurate, the direct involvement of al Qaeda. That would really be a first in Israel. A source told CNN today, I cannot tell you if the al Qaeda leader spoke to the recruiter in Gaza. But the way he operated was coordinated with Ayman Al-Zawahari. Back to you guys.

CUOMO: Very important, Ben, in terms of understanding just how far the tentacles of al Qaeda reach especially if it goes into Israel as you mentioned. Thank you for staying on it -- Mich.

PEREIRA: On our top headline right now is related to that al Qaeda leader. Urging opposition forces in Syria to stop in fighting and unite against the Syrian regime. His five-minute plea was posted online on militant web sites. This development is coming at a sensitive time as members of the Syrian government and opposition get set to meet face to face tomorrow at those peace talks being held in Geneva.

New this morning, the NSA's program to collect phone records in bulk has yielded only minimal counterterrorism benefits, is illegal and should be shut down, so says an independent federal privacy watchdog in a 238-page report released today. In a speech last week, President Obama said that while he wanted to find a way to end the government collection of bulk data, the program's capabilities should stay.

Got any burning questions for Edward Snowden? Well, the man who leaked startling information about NSA surveillance tactics will hold a virtual town hall today at 3:00 p.m. Eastern. This is his second official question and answer session that will be open to the public.

New developments in the Governor Chris Christie investigation. Aides to Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer have been questioned by the FBI. Zimmer accused Christie's administration of holding back Sandy funding if she didn't green-light a development project that Christie wanted.

Meantime, the governor resumes his public schedule today following the snowstorm with an announcement on education.

Trending right now, a discovery some 3,600 years in the making. Archaeologists say they have not only discovered the tomb and skeleton of a previously unknown pharaoh, they say they found the first proof of the shadowy, forgotten Abydos Dynasty. The team leader for the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology found writings with the pharaoh's named King Senebkay.

I was a bit of a budding archeologist, paleontologist back in the day, this stuff fascinates me. I wanted to be one. I thought it would be fascinating that they can discover these things.

CUOMO: The whole Abydos Dynasty has always kind of bothered me can't rate to read up on the various journals.

PEREIRA: I'm here to help fulfill those dreams for you.

CUOMO: Thank you very much.

BOLDUAN: Can't you just see Michaela dressed like an archeologist.

PEREIRA: And the little -- then the mummy comes and the dust storm.

PEREIRA: Well, that's when I need you.

CUOMO: That's a scary part.

BOLDUAN: That was a movie.

CUOMO: Oh. Never mind.

BOLDUAN: Coming up next on NEW DAY, another CNN exclusive: a rare one-on-one, you see right there, with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. Is he prepared to dismantle his country's nuclear program? Or does he have something else in mind?

CUOMO: Do you remember the man shot to death after texting in a movie theater? His wife is sitting right next to him. Imagine what she is dealing with. Well, this morning, we'll know. We're going to hear from the young Florida mother, coming up.


CUOMO: Welcome back to you.

So, while much of the world has a representative in Geneva right now for the U.N.-led conference on Syrian peace, the United Nations has barred Iran. Why? Because Iran supported transitional government to help end that country's war.

But now in no small irony, Secretary of State John Kerry appears to be opening the door to Iran's participation. A critical moment, and great timing for an exclusive with the leader of Iran, President Hassan Rouhani. And that is what we have for you this morning.

Joining us live from Switzerland is host of "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS", CNN's Fareed Zakaria himself.

Fareed, great to have you. Great timing for this interview.


CUOMO: So, first, lay out for us the pros and cons of having Iran involved in the Syrian peace process.

ZAKARIA: Well, the biggest pro by far is that we have no leverage with the Syrians. This has been our problem from the start. We think there should be a political deal, some kind of negotiated settlement, maybe a transition to elections, maybe a cease-fire.

These are all great ideas. There's only one problem. We have no way of getting the Syrian government to agree to do it.

There are only two countries that have any leverage with Russia, with Bashar al-Assad, the ruler of Syria, the Russians, and most importantly, the Iranians. And so, having them at the table, having them inside the tent would have probably been a good idea because we have one more point of leverage that we could have used.

CUOMO: OK. So that's why it's important to have them in Geneva. But, of course, the greater context is the entire U.S.-Iran ongoing negotiations. Now, we've got a big development on that front. We have Kerry trying to push for thinker involvement. But at the same time, now, controversy surrounding what the deal is with Iran.

You do an interview with the president. Supposedly they are going to greatly scale back on what they make in terms of nuclear capabilities. And he gives you a very different answer.

Let's play that part of the interview.


HASSAN ROUHANI, IRANIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): So in the context of nuclear technology, particularly of research and development and peaceful nuclear technology, we will not accept any limitations. And in accordance with the parliament law, in the future, we're going to need 20,000 mega watts of nuclear produced electricity and we're determined to obtain the nuclear fuel for the nuclear installation at the hands of our Iranian scientists. And we are going to follow on this path.

ZAKARIA: So, there would be no destruction of centrifuges? Of existing centrifuges?

ROUHANI: Not under any circumstances. Not under any circumstances.


CUOMO: I mean, Fareed, what is the deal? That's supposed to be the whole underpinning of moving forward from the United States perspective, is that they scale back. They dismantle all these stuff we've been hearing.

How do you interpret what you just heard from the president?

ZAKARIA: Well, I was as struck by it as you were. This strikes me as a train wreck. This strikes me as potentially a huge obstacle because the Iranian conception of what the deal is going to look like and the American conception now look like they are miles apart. The Iranian conception seems to be they produce as much nuclear energy as they want, but it is a civilian program, and you can have as much monitoring as inspections as you want.

The American position is that they have to very substantially scale back the enrichment of uranium and the production of centrifuges.

Now, for the fist time you have the president of Iran unequivocally saying, there will be no destruction of centrifuges. He also make clear in the interview with me that the two heavy water reactors would continue in operation.

So this seems like -- you know, this is still born -- this negotiation -- I'm not even quite sure what they're going to talk about if these are the opening positions. And it's very hard to walk back from as absolute is a position as the president of Iran laid out.

CUOMO: And then, we've got this baffling response Jim Sciutto got from a senior administration official saying, we expected that the Iranians would need to spend this for their domestic political purposes. We're not surprised their doing that.

There's a different between spinning it and saying there's no deal, isn't there?

ZAKARIA: Well, there are many ways you could have answered that question which would have left room for maneuver. You could have said, well, I'm not going to get into the negotiations right now. Or you could have said, we intend to contain the capacity to produce, enrich uranium. Or, you know, but I'm not going to discuss numbers with you.

But what he said was, we will not destroy a single centrifuge. We will not shut down any reactor.

And as I say, the American position is that there has to be some substantial rollback. The Americans are pretty clear that they know it won't go to zero, but they're also pretty clear that it cannot be what he was describing, which is all existing capacity and continuing to build more in addition to what they have.

CUOMO: It makes you wonder if the Iranians are spinning their people or the U.S. just are spinning their people in terms of giving perceptions to the optics of what's going on here.

Fareed, thank you very much for the insight. You should watch Fareed's entire interview with Iranian President Rouhani. It will be Sunday at 10:00 a.m. Eastern on "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS". Very interesting what Fareed gets the president of Iran to discuss in terms of what it means when Iranians say, "Death to America". The answer may well surprise you.


BOLDUAN: All right. Chris, thanks so much.

Let's take a break.

Coming up next on NEW DAY: The first public comments from the wife of a man who was gunned down in a Florida movie theater. Her heart- wrenching words will move you to tears.

Also this ahead, the Arctic cold contributing to a propane crisis. Crisis are soaring and 12 million people are already affected by the propane shortage. We have what you need to know, coming up next.